Bride And Bridesmades With Sunglasses

If running a photography business full-time makes you drool just thinking about the possibility, you’ll probably want to wipe your face, then let’s have a chat before you decide that going full-time tomorrow is your best bet at success. If you’ve got a 9-5 (ok, I know it’s realistically more like 8 to 6 for most of you guys), you may have it better than you think. There are plenty of reasons to stick with your day job for a while – at least until you get your photography business ready to catch you when you jump.

Test The Waters
With your photography being only a part time job, you’ll feel more free to experiment than if you had made the move to do photography full time and got stuck making due with your photography business because you have to put food on the table. Being able to experiment with your photography business will mean that the chances of you loving your business years down the road will be a lot higher.

One of the first things you’ll want to start experimenting with is your style. How do you want your images to look? Going right along side that is the type of photography that you’re wanting to do. Do you want to stick to weddings and seniors, or maybe you’re better with kids. You never know until you try.

You’ll also be experimenting with market demand and pricing. See how many clients you can land at a certain price. Adjust packaging and prices if you need to, and try to land more clients. If your business isn’t taking off, be thankful that you didn’t quit your day job. You may think that the reason you’re not getting the clients is because you have to do your photography at weird hours. That may be true, but it’s unlikely. Even for full-time photographers, the weekend and evening sessions are often the big money makers. If you can’t book sessions outside of normal business hours, you’re probably not going to be able to book sessions in the middle of the day.

Build With Care
Often full-time business owners face the frustration that time may allow you to find a good solution, but finding the best solution may take longer than what you have. As a part-time business owner, you’ve got an advantage because you’ve probably got the time to find the best solution to most of the problems that the business may throw your way.

Because you’ve got more time to test the waters, you can keep what works and drop what doesn’t. If you didn’t find what you were looking for, you experiment using something else until you find what works for your business. For example, let’s take a look at your pricing. If you find that adding birth announcements to one of your newborn packages increases your bottom line, then keep the birth announcements in that package. If you find that your customers don’t care about getting proofs, take the proofs out, and save some money. Of course, if you find that customers start throwing a fit when you no longer include a wall portrait, you’ll probably want to put the wall portrait back in. The adding and subtracting process is simple, but some studios get in a bad spot financially and feel that they have lost the ability to experiment. That’s the danger.

As you build your photography business part-time, you’ll also be choosing the right software and implementing the best policies (again, based on what works for your studio). Plus you have the liberty to find the right clients and let them start spreading the word about your studio themselves. Another benefit is that you’ll be able to give yourself an education in photography business by reading books, watching DVDs, and finding information on photography business 100 different ways.

Don’t Sweat The Financials
One way to start your photography business out on the wrong foot is to load up on loans and max out your credit cards. Working part-time with your photography studio, you shouldn’t have to stack up on debt to push your photography to the next level. If you are borrowing money to fund a business while you’re still working full time somewhere else, there’s a problem somewhere.

With your full time income plus what you bring in with your photography on the side, there’s a lot less financial pressure. You’re probably going to be in a better position to buy the things the studio needs to grow when you’ve got extra income coming in. You’ll also be in a better position to buy the stuff that you want (ie lenses and cameras).

While you’re still putting in hours at the corporate office, you’ll also be forking out less for those frustrating extra business expenses. You don’t have to pay for advertising unless you want to. And here’s a big one – you don’t have to pay for your own insurance. Honestly, the health insurance issue was almost a deal-breaker for us. I almost didn’t go full-time with the business because insurance was so high.

Failure To Launch
Just to be clear, I’m not saying you should stay with your full-time corporate job until you retire. I’m also not saying that you’ll be completely prepared for the transition to full-time work with the studio. What I do want to get across though, is that investing a couple years of part-time work into your photography studio will go a long way in making your photography business closer to the dream job you really want.

What about you? When did you know it was the right time to go full-time with your business?

22 Responses to “Advantages To Being A Part-Time Photographer”

  1. Monex says:

    ….Are you looking for information and ideas on how to name your photography business. Choosing a suitable name..for your photography business is a crucial step towards positioning your new venture for success…..A name forms the foundation of your brand and the strength of your brand will help determine exactly what kind..of reputation your photographycompany will develop going forward. For photographers like business owners in..other industries reputation is the key to maintaining your customers as well as getting referrals through..them…..In the following article we have set out some advice and ideas that photographers may consider when business names for a new startup…..

    • TJ says:

      I agree that choosing a business name is a big choice. We chose our name because 1 it’s unique, and 2 it’s easy to tell that we’re a personable studio (our studio name is the owner’s name).

  2. Chadrack says:

    Hi Larissa, your post is straight to the point. Starting a business on part time definitely have its advantages. I truly love your idea of not sweating the financials. Presently I’m running my online business on part time. I have a family to take care of plus other responsibility. So keeping the my full time job for now is good for me as I can make ends meet while building my business up. Of course when the business picks up and can pull in the desired returns dropping the paid job will not be a problem.

    • TJ says:

      Definitely! When the part time job starts producing a full-time income, it’s time to start thinking about how you want to spend your days. Even then it may make more sense to stick to the full time and have an extra income, but that’s a decision that everyone has to make on their own. Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Amr Boghdady says:

    Good tips TJ
    I’m about to finish my first photography course, and I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to do any photography work besides my 9 to 5.
    Here in Egypt, the best paying photography jobs are for the weddings, which normally extend till 2 or 3 am (we never have any day-time weddings here). I doubt I could ever stay out that late and still manage to make it to work on the following day :D

    • TJ says:

      Wow – that’s pretty late. Here weddings are some of the highest paying jobs too. Most of our weddings start in the middle of the day, and we’re usually leaving most weddings around 9 pm although sometimes we stay as late as 11 pm.

  4. Lyka Ricks says:

    Yeah!…. I think this is a great venture…. If you have the Genuine Interest plus the Right Attitude, you will find ways to have your start -up capital on this.

  5. Tracy Wong says:

    You’ve definitely made some good points here, but when I started off doing photography part-time, I barely had any time to develop my business on my spare time.

    I did make progress, but it just seemed to move along so slowly. I also took on a postion as an assistant at another photographer’s studio to gain more exposure to running the business; I think in a way it really helped but it also took up more of my own time to work on my own business.

    • TJ says:

      I’m with you on the lack of time. I think what I really want to get across is that going full time right away may not be the best way to go if you’re trying to put food on the table. Hope to see you around again soon!

  6. John Rocha says:

    This is really quite a complicated issue – almost about how you spend your life. I’m always a bit puzzled by the either/or approach to things. Of course time is limited but what happens if you have a number of talents or ambitions? I find, looking back, that I’ve had and am still having is what is now called a ‘portmanteau’ career – different things at different times in different places. The worst thing I think is being in a job where you always feel you’d rather be doing something else. Some things go together better than others – some photographers are also film makers, some are writers and so on, some teach photography and practice. There are lots of possible mixes. One clear point from your post is that it really does pay to take a bit of time and not to over commit yourself. Decent equipment is helpful but it’s not what photography is about.

    • TJ says:

      I’d agree that it is a complicated issue. I guess the bottom line that I’m really trying to get across is that going full-time with photography may not end up being as much of a dream career as some people think. I’ve seen a pretty common attitude that going full time with a photography business is the sure secret to instant financial success and personal happiness. I’ve known only a few people who have gone instantly into full-time photography and been successful. On the other hand, I’ve known lots of people who have “given it a try”, and were completely dissapointed.

  7. Dustin says:

    If you do it in your free time then it is awesome because you can make some extra money!

    • TJ says:

      Yea, as part time, it’s extra income, so that’s definitely nice. As soon as you start relying on that income to pay the mortgage though, your perspective on sessions becomes more of a have-to make money situation than a bonus.

      Thanks for the visit and comment!

  8. Ann Karen says:

    I love photography. I feel that I have fashion for it. But time won’t permit to take some courses for me to learn it. How I wish someday, I’ll be able to take photography class.

    • TJ says:

      There may be other good options for you to learn. There are educational DVD’s and YouTube videos that may be what you need to get started. Plus you can definitely hang out here, and you’ll hopefully get some decent information. Do you already own a digital SLR? Is there any topics in particular you’d like to start with?

  9. Kristeen says:

    This is some GREAT advice. Thank your for highlighting it.

    • TJ says:

      Thanks for stopping by! Did you make the transition from part-time to full-time? Are you still waiting for the right timing? In my opinion, it’s better to wait for the business to have the clients to support you before making the jump. Talk to you soon!

  10. Patricia says:

    Thanks, this was just the reassurance i needed that I can stick with my full-time job and “ease into” photography.

    • TJ McDowell says:

      Wow – that’s awesome that my blog is making that much of an impact! I think you’ll really be happy easing in to your photography business. It’s so much less stressful, and the stakes aren’t as high. Let me know how it goes and if there are any questions I can help you out with along the way!

  11. Shelby says:

    I’m really struggling with the time thing too! I’ve been doing the part-time thing for 3 years now. Each year, growing more and more…in my style, my clients and business sense.

    Now, I have so many phone calls for photo shots and actual sessions that it is getting to be too much. I do set certain times that I can do the sessions, but it seems like I should give more time to my photography at this point. I’m really concerned about leaving my full time job though since I have the mortgage and little ones.

    How do you balance that transition? I really believe in great customer service, but I feel like I’m not delivering everything I can because I’m so busy right now.

    • TJ McDowell says:

      That’s the same situation we found ourselves in multiple times in our career. Different times had different solutions though. Yes, it did eventually mean that I ended up coming home to work with the studio from my full-time job, but we couldn’t do that until our numbers indicated it was a good time to make the switch. Another good solution is to raise your prices. That will cut down on the volume, and you’ll be making more for your time. Once you hit close to $100K in business in a year, shoot me an email or leave another comment, and we’ll talk about the transition to full-time.