Tag Archives: part time business

Part Time Paradigm

Better backgrounds

There are a growing number of photographers choosing to operate on a part time basis

There was a time when the difference between a professional photographer and an amateur was that a professional got paid and an amateur did not. Times have changed and the lines between the two have blurred. Professional now refers to a quality of work, not whether you get paid. There are many people who generate professional quality photography work, but have a main income from another source. When I was growing up, if you wanted to be considered a professional photographer, then photography had to be your main vocation. Again, times have changed. Today there are many photographers whose main source of income is from non-photography work but their work is of professional standard – I call this the Part Time Paradigm.

I have recently read David Du Chemin’s book – VisionMongers – which addresses the issue of ‘making a life and a living in photography’. It is an excellent book. In the early chapters it considers the issues around whether or not to make photography your primary vocation. He explains that it is not easy to make a living in photography, and gives some great examples of people who are succeeding. This week, I’ve also read a post on The Digital Photography School which considers the benefits of part time photography. Both of these have lead me to today’s post on Beyond Here.

Is the Part Time Paradigm real?

Often people consider how well a photography business is doing by whether the photographer is conducting their photography business full time, or how much work the photographer has, or how many staff the photographer has. I come across this thinking nearly every week, and only in the last year have I realized the power and the benefits of part time business. The Part Time Paradigm is real, and lots of photographers are living it. Maybe you should consider it too.

What does it look like?

Money laundering

The benefits of the part time paradigm are more than financial

Firstly, the photographer has another source of income, normally from a job. This provides them with a steady income and lets them operate their photography business outside of their job commitments. Secondly, there is a range of photography work they can be doing – stock, wedding, family portrait, landscape … the list goes on. Thirdly, whether they are ‘professional’ or not now has a mixed meaning. It could refer to how they conduct their business, or the quality of work they are producing. Importantly, it doesn’t refer to whether they get paid or not, or whether that is the only way they spend their working week.

Why operate like this?

The main reason for operating in the part time paradigm is often overlooked. It is possible to be passionate about photography and have an interest in something else. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Think about it for a moment, a doctor might love photography, and it doesn’t mean they hate being a doctor. Equally a bus driver can love driving buses and love photography. When I boil it down, professions used to define us. This made it hard to change. Today, your profession doesn’t have to define you. You can change. You can be a doctor today and a photographer tomorrow. Or you can be both at the same time.

Interestingly there is still a line of thinking that you can’t be taken seriously unless you are operating as a full time photographer. To me, this is a notion of the past and thousands of photographers are living the part time paradigm. Perhaps a lot more should?

What are the benefits of the part time paradigm?

The benefits of the part time paradigm include:

  • financial stability by having multiple sources of income.
  • you can invest in equipment not promotional material. For full time photographers, it is very hard to justify investing in equipment compared with investing in promotional material to generate more business. In the part time paradigm you don’t have this conflict, you can buy the gear you want.
  • effort can vary. A full time photographer needs work year round and generally won’t go for very long without camera in hand. The part time photographer can vary their work with the season or with their mood. They can dip in and out. Work lots this month, take next month off.
  • you can stay true to your creative vision. Under the part time paradigm you do not have to shoot family portraits on the weekend to keep money coming in. If landscapes at sunrise are your one true love, that’s all you have to shoot in the part time paradigm
  • being able to live a life of variety. It is possible and legitimate to love photography and love something else. It is possible to do both. Shoot weddings all summer, focus on your other interests all winter.

Do you believe you have to operate full time to be a successful photographer? What’s your take on the Part Time Paradigm?

Succeed in Photography Business

Photo business

Financial success means different things to different people

People get into photography driven by a love of making images, not a love of dealing with business issues. It is passion and creativity that drives us, not a desire to spend hours doing book keeping or other business tasks. I see plenty of photographers who produce brilliant work but struggle to make a living. That leads me to consider – can non business minded people succeed in photography business?

This is a big question – so where do we start? We need to start by understanding what success means to you. What is your definition of success? There are as many answers to that question as there are photographers, but the only answer that matters is your own. What is your definition of success?

Is success:

  • to be able to call yourself a professional photographer regardless of whether you make any money?
  • to make enough money to fund your gear purchases?
  • to make a significant supplementary income to add to another primary income source?
  • to make an income equivalent to the national average income?
  • to make three times the national average income or more?

Lets look at each of these.

Success Level 1 – Calling Yourself a Pro. If success is to be able to call yourself a professional photographer, regardless of the income generated, then yes – this can be achieved without much business knowledge. If you want to reach this level of success, focus on acquiring pro standard equipment and get a nice website. You may not have too many clients knocking down your door, but you will have some nice gear to use, time to shoot personal projects, and a nice website to display your images. You can also look into membership of your national photography body.

Photo business

Business skills can be learned as your photo business grows

Success Level 2 – Fund Your Gear Purchases. If success to you is to be able to generate enough income from your images to fund your gear purchases – this too can be done with limited or no business skills. If you would like to do this, I would recommend looking into micro stock photography sites and selling prints online. In both of these models you simply upload your images to the site and they do the work to attract buyers and complete the sales transaction. Keep in mind that any sales generated are likely to be slow to start with and build over time. You will need to be patient. If your goal is to generated a few thousand dollars each year then this is a legitimate way to do it – and thousands of photographers are doing this. If you are interested in using micro stock photography to get here, you may be interested in this post.

Success Level 3 – Making a Significant Supplementary Income. By a significant supplementary income I mean greater than $10,000 per year. I expect you would need another source of income in addition to this. Perhaps you work full or part time and run your photography business outside this. If you hope to reach this level of success it will help if you start to learn some business skills. At this level you may be using micro stock photography to provide some of that income and you may be taking on some commissioned work. It could be weddings or family portraits or other client work. At this level it helps to have an understanding of business structures, so you can consider what structure suits you best, particularly if it is going to continue to grow. You would also benefit from some understanding of invoicing, book keeping, marketing, and tax.

Success Level 4 – Making the National Average Income. At this success level, if you are running your own photography business, you will need to have some business skills. In addition to the skills mentioned above you’ll need to have a good understanding of marketing your business, and that will probably include a good understanding of social media and online marketing. This will ensure you generate a pipeline of future clients which sustains your business into the future.

Photo business

It is possible to achieve high income through photography but it will require business skills as well as photographic skills

Success Level 5 – Making 3x the National Average Income or More. If success to you means generating an income three times the national average or more then you will need business skills. In addition to the skills above you may need to also understanding issues related to contacting and sub contracting, employing staff, contract law, pricing, and you will definitely need a strong marketing plan. You possibly will need to invest time and effort into generating partnerships – perhaps with wedding venues, or advertising agencies. At this level it is likely your photography skills will need to be very strong as well. That’s my take on what is required to meet these levels of success. I see many photographers producing great images but not succeeding financially. If you are one of these, my recommendation is to invest in building business skills, not photography skills. It is also possible that investments in the business need to be into generating new clients, rather than further investments in equipment. That might be advertising or a new website or promotional materials.

In summary, you can achieve success levels 1 and 2 with limited or no business skills. If you want to ‘get serious’ and move to levels 3, 4 and 5 you will need business skills. If you are starting out it is absolutely legitimate to work your way up through the levels. If you believe you are not business minded – don’t worry, business skills can be learned along the way. If you are determined to succeed, the skills can be learned. Equally, if you have strong business skills you can get started at level 4 and 5. There is no tried and true formula here – you can make it your way based on your own skills and knowledge.

These are my thoughts about whether non business minded people succeed in photography business. Here comes the disclaimer – I’m not a business adviser, or financial adviser, or any type of adviser. I’m a photographer. Please keep this in mind and seek your own expert advice. Can non business minded people succeed in photography business? What do you think? What is working for you?

Three Tips for Getting Started in Small Business


Having a clear plan and commitment is key

Since 2008 I have been running a photography business as well as working a full time corporate role. This post covers three tips for getting started in small business.

There are a myriad of issues to consider when you are getting started in small business. Here are three tips which have been useful for me.

Tip #1 – Decide the operating and income model

This step is all about defining what you are going to do and how you are going to generate income. You need to be clear on exactly how the business will operate and where the revenue will come from.

For me, back in 2008 I decided that I would start my photography business by focusing on stock photography. I could shoot images on weekends, and edit and upload during the week around my other commitments.

Being clear on this step is very important. How will you generate income?

Tip #2 – Give it Time

A lot of new businesses are born with what we perceive to be a great idea and start with an explosion of energy. Unfortunately, it often doesn’t take long until the reality doesn’t match the dream.

I recommend taking time when you have the brilliant idea. Rather than beginning with enormous energy, take time to think through the plan. Reflect for a moment – even at this early stage. After some thought, if it still looks as good a week later and you feel passionate about the business, then it is time to start.

Tip #3 – Plan Your Time

This was the key for me! I set aside 2 hours each week night to work on my photography business. I stuck to the same 2 hour period for the first 2 years.

It is remarkable how much you can achieve in 10 hours per week when you are focused and it is part of your daily routine. That time was spent researching and planning stock photography concepts, editing, uploading and keywording images. The photo shoots happened on the weekends.

The habit of setting aside time and working the plan was key! Without a plan and commitment your business may fall over.

Are you running a small business? What have been the keys to your success? What lessons have you learned that others may learn from?