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Many photographers dream of blending their artistic passion with a steady income. It’s certainly possible to achieve these goals through photography, but it takes time, hard work, and sacrifice. 

Before you leap into full-time photography, take time to evaluate potential risks and rewards. While some people believe that you should jump headfirst and the rest will fall into place, we don’t all have a cushion to fall back on if things don’t go according to plan. 

It’s important to ensure that you’re making a wise and sustainable decision. In this post, we’ll outline key points to consider before you dive into photography full-time.

4 Questions to Answer Before You Quit Your Day Job

A calendar with a date highlighted that says "Quit Job", also pictured is a highlighter

Building a side hustle while working a day job is great, but you may reach the point where you want to devote more time and energy to growing your side hustle into a successful business. You can be your own boss, set your schedule, and feel passionate about the work you do. But first, consider the following questions to make sure it’s a smooth transition.

1. Are you ready for the “business” part of running a photography business?

Your talent, passion, and creativity have made you an excellent photographer. But these qualities alone won’t necessarily make you a successful business owner. To run a full-time business, you’ll need to manage marketing, finances, client relationships, contracts, scheduling, and more.

Don't worry if you don’t know much about running a business yet, you have countless powerful business resources right at your fingertips. Give yourself time to take a few business courses, do your research, and fully prepare before launching your business. Find some great course recommendations in this blog post

2. How long will your savings last?

When starting any new business, it takes time to turn a profit. Understand that you’ll need at least a few months to establish yourself as a photographer, build your clientele, and make back the money you’ve invested in your business.

Will your savings allow you and your family to be financially secure for several months? If not, build up a financial cushion of several months before quitting your day job.

3. Are your expectations realistic?

Running a photography business won’t always be sunshine and rainbows. A lot of the time you spend on your business will consist of client communication, marketing, and editing. If none of that sounds appealing to you, having a photography business may not meet your expectations.

And as mentioned above, your business won’t be wildly successful overnight. It takes a lot of time and hard work, even for the most talented and passionate photographers. It’s important that when you quit your day job, you do so with reasonable expectations, so you don’t end up disappointed or regretful.

4. Are you willing to put in the time and effort to succeed?

Similarly, make sure you’re willing to work hard for your business, including the parts that don’t involve taking photos. For example, on average, there are 9 hours of backend work for every 1-hour photoshoot. This includes photo editing, culling, communication with the clients, marketing, accounting, etc.  

Are you prepared to make mistakes, forgive yourself, and learn? Are you willing to go through both the highs and the lows? The path to running any successful business is filled with setbacks and obstacles along the way. Assess your capacity to manage these experiences and bounce back. Setting your expectations makes the hurdles a little easier to jump.  

Remember, the idea here isn’t to discourage you but to set you up for success. Sometimes, talented photographers think their photography skills will automatically propel them to a thriving business. They imagine a life of taking photos all day, having a blast, and making lots of money. 

These dreams can become a reality, but they don’t form a complete picture of life as a full-time photographer. Starting your business with the full picture and the right foundation (e.g., business knowledge and savings) will make for a much smoother transition to being your own boss.

So, how do you move forward? Here are nine recommended steps to take to get started. 

9 Steps to Take Before Going Full-Time

A notebook, keyboard and pen. The notebook says "Are you ready"?

If you’re mentally prepared to quit your day job, don’t rush to give your two weeks’ notice just yet. First, take these steps to create a firm foundation for building your photography business.

1. Account for What You’re Giving Up

You’ll gain plenty of benefits when you start your business, but you should also account for what you’re giving up. 

First, you no longer have a guaranteed paycheck. Instead, photography is a somewhat seasonal business. How will you adjust to this change? 

Next, what is your plan for healthcare and retirement? 

Without paid leave and sick days, what will you do in case of an emergency or if you need to take an extended leave of absence? 

Pro Tip

Having solid plans in place will allow you to successfully overcome obstacles as they arise.

2. Set yourself up for success

Setting your business up properly is important. Remember you are a skilled photographer not a qualified accountant, so you should hire one right from the beginning. Working with a certified accountant (CPA) will ensure your business is set up correctly and in the end, you often end up saving money and saving yourself many headaches. 

When you start your business, you and your account will want to: 

  • Determine the best business structure (sole proprietorship, LLC, corporation, partnership) 
  • Work on a financial analysis of your business plan
  • Choose the best accounting software or bookkeeping service
  • Open a business bank account
  • Make sure your accounting procedures comply with government regulations and requirements (very important!)
  • Creating a plan to keep personal and business expenses separate

Pro Tip

To make sure you are selecting the right choice for your business, it is highly recommended to make an appointment with a CPA or Financial Advisor. Not only can your CPA help with starting your business, but they can also help your business as you grow, including with IRS audits and taxes.

Pro Tip: To make sure you are selecting the right choice for your business, it is highly recommended to make an appointment with a CPA or Financial Advisor. Not only can your CPA help with starting your business, but they can also help your business as you grow, including with IRS audits and taxes.

3. Set Up a Business Bank Account

Now that you’ll be setting up your official business, it only makes sense also to set up a business bank account - something your CPA can assist with as well. This is so you can easily separate business expenses from personal expenses. Having a business bank account also simplifies tax preparations and gives you the option to accept credit card payments.

Pro Tip

Make sure to research business bank accounts vs. personal bank accounts. Some banking institutions will charge certain fees business, while others may let fees slide while you’re getting started. Ask your accountant for their advice.

4. Crunch the Numbers

Set your prices before launching your business. Start by crunching the numbers to ensure your pricing is profitable. Calculate expenses like equipment, repairs and maintenance, travel, accounting fees, taxes, subscriptions, insurance, and any other costs of doing business.  Your accountant can help you make sure that you are accounting for all of the expenses you will incur but don’t rely on them, crunch the numbers yourself. 

You have to factor in the amount of time you spend on planning and executing a photoshoot; culling, editing, and retouching images; preparing the final product for clients; marketing; communicating with clients; and any additional time you invest in running your business.  

There are several ways you can structure your photography fees:

  • By the hour: This structure is usually for events.
  • By the session: Create “packages” for your clients, including xx hours of shooting plus packages for prints/digitals.
  • For products: What products will you offer your clients (digitals, prints, greeting cards, albums, frames)? What percentage markup will these have? 

Pro Tip

The average photographer returns a 19-25% profit margin. So make sure you account for all of your expenses!

On that note - make sure what you are left with will pay you a decent hourly wage! Remember that on average, for every 1 hour of shooting, there are 9 hours of additional work (culling, editing, travel, prepping for the shoots, communicating with clients, inquiries, marketing: including social media, website, networking, invoicing, financials amongst other things. 

5. Check Your Equipment

Ensure you have all the equipment you need and that it’s in good working order. This may include a camera, backup camera, batteries, memory cards, computer, light sources, tripods, backdrops, props for photoshoots, software subscriptions, etc. 

Pro Tip

You want to have an emergency savings fund set aside for equipment repairs or replacements when just getting started. That way, you won’t have to take from your personal funds to support your new business.

6. Set Up Social Media

Social media is an excellent tool for growing your photography business. Set up Instagram and Facebook pages for your business, as well as other types of social media you’d like to use. TikTok and Instagram reels are very popular and engaging for audiences right now. Grow your following if you don’t have one already. An established following makes it easier for more potential clients to find you, and it represents you as an established photographer. 

Pro Tip

While growing your social media presence, make sure to tout your social channels on emails, business cards, and in conversations with everyone!

7. Update Your Website

Having a website is another way to reach clients, convey important information about your services, and showcase your beautiful work.If you don’t have a website, set one up before launching your business. 

Your website should include:

  • Pricing
  • Packages and services
  • Examples of your work
  • Information about how to book you

Make sure your contact information and your service locations are included on your site. You’d be surprised to realize how easy this is to forget to add!

Pro Tip

Once your website is up and running, be sure to update photos and information on the site regularly. This will keep clients coming back to view the latest examples of your work and keep them engaged with your business! Also, this helps boost your Google SEO (Search Engine Optimization)!

8. Plan Your Client Management Workflow

Create a plan for managing booking, deposits, contracts, and client communication. If there are any tools you need to acquire or systems you need to set up, get these processes in place now. Having a smooth workflow will make running your business far less stressful. It’ll also help you respond to clients efficiently and effectively, ensuring happy clients and repeat business.

Pro Tip

If you need help with all of this, Picsello is a must-have tool and can help with all of this and so much more!

9. Strategize on How You Will Get (and Keep) Clients

You may feel like you have more than enough work lined up for right now but always keep thinking ahead. What about next month, the next three months, and beyond? Do you have enough business to keep you going beyond just the immediate month? What about the slow times?  How will you make sure those clients keep coming back? This is a question that you will need to ask yourself when you start your business full-time. Having a solid plan in place from the start will help you succeed.  

A huge asset for keeping your business successful is creativity. Here is an article that outlines simple, useful, smart ideas to get clients..for this weekend, no less! Take some of these tips and see what will work for your business. Is your business seasonal? How will you get clients during those slower months? 

Pro Tip

When sending out emails to your clients, use messaging that has a sense of urgency to make them book fast! Make the client feel special and ‘in the know’ by mentioning that they are the first ones to be offered this fantastic offer. Always make your client feel like they are #1, because they are!

Final Thoughts

Running a photography business can be immensely rewarding, enjoyable, and profitable. Remember that on your most challenging days. 

But quitting your day job is a big decision that you shouldn’t rush into. 

First, answer the four key questions in this post.  Then take the eight steps that were outlined, and you’ll have the right foundation for a successful transition to full-time photography.  

You’ve got this and Picsello is always here when you need the extra help!
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