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Self-employed With Photography?

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Loki_D_Wolf, Aug 27, 2008.

  1. Loki_D_Wolf

    Loki_D_Wolf Guest

    Howlo all. :) 

    Well, I figured this is a nice place to ask a few questions for what I'm about to jump into. I have the foundation but am looking for your experiences.

    Let me give you all a little background on me. I have already registered my company name (see signature). I have my EIN. I have the bank account setup. And of course some other details (supplies, structure of company, etc.)

    My goal: to sell my photos online via my website as a full time job. For my peers I ask a couple of questions:

    Do any of you sell your photos?

    Do you sell them online via a website?

    How is it working out for you?

    Are you making enough profit that you can do it full time?

    Did you dive in or you just gradually let it grow into a full time job?

    This is of course just scratching the surface but I think that this forum is just an excellent place. And from all the reading I've been doing here I value the comments. All input is appreciated! :smile:

    Thanks in advance!
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 27, 2008
  2. Rule #1 when starting a photograph business is "don't quit your day job". Photography is extremely competitive.

    Making a living off website sales alone is highly unlikely. Consider the hundreds of millions of photographs you are competing against on the internet. How will you market yourself and be competitive against them? You will be competing against all of the major hitters in the market - Getty, Corbis, Alamy, fotoLibra, Black Star, etc, etc, etc.

    You need a very solid, well conceived plan for getting your business off the ground and continuing to market your work. What will be your product? Who will be the market base you target? How will you reach them? What price will you set? What is your cost of doing business (CODB)? Does the price point cover the CODB?

    Here are a list of things you need to consider before setting up your photography business:
    • save for retirement
    • save for a emergencies
    • save for children's college
    • pay for food for the table
    • pay for rent or a mortgage
    • pay for utilities - phone, electric, gas, tv, water
    • pay to operate a car - gas, insurance, maintenance
    • pay for a loan to purchase a car
    • pay for computer and software upgrades
    • pay for camera equipment upgrades
    • pay for camera equipment repairs
    • pay for materials that go into the products you sell
    • pay for all your office tools and supplies
    • pay for all your office expenses
    • pay for marketing your product
    • pay for a vacation for you and your family
    • pay for health insurance for you and your family
    • pay for insurance for your business and equipment
    • pay for health care or to support a loved one who falls ill
    You should very thoughtfully sit down with a pencil and paper and write down every possible expense you can conceive of for a given year. Be honest in your numbers, and be conservatively high. Take a look at your monthly bills today. You may be shocked at how much you spend every month and every year. Include your self employment taxes, health care costs, vacations and sick days, retirement savings, etc. Corporations cover or supplement a lot of these expenses when we are employed by someone else. Self employed people have to cover all of these expenses out of their own income.

    Next you should make a detailed list of all the products you intend to sell. How would you price them? How many of each would you have to sell to cover all of your expenses? Can you price them competitively relative to the market and turn over enough volume to cover all of your expenses? Don't assume that you will sell the necessary volume every single month. Can you be disciplined enough to save extra in good months to cover the lean months? Where will you get the seed money to start your business?

    I am not trying to discourage you from operating your own business. I am trying to set your expectations properly so you will be more likely to succeed. Establishing your own business is a very serious undertaking. It requires discipline, diligence and responsibility. You will likely work much harder being self employed then you will working for someone else, but the rewards can be far more enjoyable.
  3. rrx3


    Jun 14, 2008
    Wiltshire, UK
    I am retired and am thinking of doing the same. I researched widely and found that, for a full time job, it will be more miss than hit.
    You should really try and get your photos published elsewhere, do some craft shows and then exhibitions. Try and get your name 'out there'. Competition will be fierce. Try and get into a 'niche' and get your 'style'. Charge fully and fairly for your work - never work for free or practice - if you are going pro you should be past this.
    Join some picture libraries.
    Practice, practice and get your workflow sorted. Never leave home without a camera.
    Good luck!

    <EDIT> Walter posted while I was typing. If I had seen his post, I would follow his fine examples before taking my examples..
  4. What kind of photos are you hoping to sell?

    In my experience, making a full time living in photography isn't easy at all. Weddings/portraits used to be a great money maker, and still is for many, especially the higher end shooters, but the middle and lower end are now competing with every uncle bob with a DSLR.

    As far as making a living selling online, I seriously doubt it will work. I agree with Walter, don't quit your day job, if you have one. Do you have the photographer's market book? If not get one today.
  5. A few questions to think about-

    Could you do it full time? Is it something that is enjoyable part time, but would become a ball & chain if you had to do it to eat and live? Do you have a family, or hope to start one? Could the photog career and a family co-exist for you?

  6. Loki_D_Wolf

    Loki_D_Wolf Guest

    Always Be Prepared


    Some things I already knew and some don't apply. A simple example, car is paid for. But sure I understand expences alone. And I know it won't be an overnight task. I don't expect that either.

    An example of my photos are what is in my link. I don't want to get long winded but I feel it's unique enough because most "photographers" to me are just graphic designers. But looking at 9 pictures probably doesn't say much, I know. Still, some photoghers get a photo and enhance it until you forget it was an actual picture. But hey, if that works for them more power.

    I have a full time gig and hope that I can either go PT (if they have that here) or find something that can help keep the ends meeting but be PT. And by no means am I discouraged! I knew this was coming. There are some things posted that I do have to do. And fortunately I have considered most things posted.

    So thanks again. I do think it can happen. As the saying goes, build a better mouse trap and the world will be at your door. We're not all the same. :wink:

  7. Is that the actual name of the book? I wouldn't mind taking a look at this one.
  8. Yes John, it is called the Photographer's market. Has loads of info on where and who to sell your photos to.
  9. Loki_D_Wolf

    Loki_D_Wolf Guest

    sniff, sniff

    I'll definitely hunt that down!
  10. Yes, I second purchasing "Photographers Market" by Donna Poehner. It is an annual publication that comes out every fall. If you wait a couple of months, the 2009 edition will be out.

    As for your car, don't think about the car that is currently paid off. It won't last forever. What then? What if you get into an accident and have to replace it? What if it begins to require more frequent repairs as all cars do when they age?

    Glad you are accepting all the advice as us looking out for you. We all want you to succeed.
  11. Loki_D_Wolf

    Loki_D_Wolf Guest

    Reading is fundamental

    Thanks for the complete title. And no offense, I do understand you're basically trying to tell me in every way prepare for everything.

    The car will last forever though! LOL It's a 1990 Nissan 300ZX. I'm in a Z club and it's being restored. But I have other means of transportation as well. :wink:

    But rest assured I will take your advice and thoroughly look at everything because I don't want to fail. Too much invested already to turn back now. :biggrin:

    My biggest concerns are: marketing (non-stop of course), pricing, and profit. So that book will be had. Don't even know if I can wait for the 2009. Howl much does it usually cost? I mean I'll get both if I have to.
  12. You can purchase 2008 Photographer's Market from Amazon or at any major bookstore. You can pre-order 2009 Photographer's Market. It is due in October. It lists for $30 most places. It lists over 1,500 publications and outlets for marketing your work. Each listing includes what subjects the publication uses, how many freelance (stock) images they license per month or year, who to contact, what formats they accept, how much they generally pay, and whether they accept cold submissions.

    Other books I recommend on the business of photography:
    Richard Weisgrau is the former President of the ASMP - American Society of Media Photographers. John Harrington is a well-known and highly respected photographer in Washington DC who really knows business. He also writes the Photo Business News & Forums. Tad Crawford is an attorney and photographer.
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 27, 2008
  13. You have as good a chance as any of the other millions of photographers, go for it. Nothing like a dream. I would look for additional venues other than an online website as starting out you have no name recognition and no reason why anyone would pick your images over the next wonderful photographer down the street. I say that in all sincerity no matter how good you feel your images are.
  14. Loki_D_Wolf

    Loki_D_Wolf Guest

    In the beginning...

    On that note there are several things I'm doing here. First, I'm in contact with different business like coffee shops and such to hang my photos up in their shops. I know one in particular that helps photographers and painters market like that.

    There is also something here in San Antonio called "First Fridays" where the first Friday of every month you can rent a table and basically sell whatever. I've seen photographers, jewelers, even singers selling their music. I want to print pictures and market that way as well.

    And September in particular is photographer month here so I'll be networking and such with that as well.

    I'm open to a few other things like portrait but that's really it. Believe it or not I don't like doing the event thing though I've done it. In my link are some past works I've done. So I have a small resume. :) 

    I'm into acting and that has also helped because I'm asked to do behind the scene photos as well as cast shots. Right now I know some things shouldn't be free but as it's been stated, I'm just getting started. :wink:

    Oddly enough, though I know not entirely, it reminds me of acting. In some respects it comes down to networking and sometimes who you know.
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