Ahh, to be a professional photographer: you decide your own hours, meet lots of interesting people and fulfil your creative potential while getting paid…. right?
Well, sort of. You also become an accountant, a sales person, a marketing executive and a debt collector, and sometimes the things you do to pay your bills don’t feel very creative. So is it worth it? Of course; just be prepared to learn some unexpected truths about being a pro, such as these shared by the photo management and Canon Project1709 experts at Photoventure in their latest guest post.
1) Most of your time is spent NOT taking pictures
You might think that professionals are at it all the time, but the truth is you spend just as much time, or more, on all the bits around the taking of the pictures: not only do you need to drum up business through cold-calling, networking, emailing and being social online, you also need to keep you blog fresh to maintain your SEO ranking.
Then there’s the small matter of making and sending invoices, chasing up the ones that don’t get paid, doing your accounts and filing your tax returns – and that’s before we’ve even spoken about the pre-shoot meetings, pitches and portfolio showings. Get the picture?
2) Assistants aren’t for everyone
People apply for assistant roles for many different reasons, not always because they are interested in your particular field or in learning how you run your business. It’s not uncommon to see assistants networking with your clients or being lazy or too mouthy on set, and no matter how good your assistant is, you will be spending a significant amount of time instructing them in how you do things.
If you get a good assistant, this exchange can be immensely fruitful for both of you, but don’t expect your life to be made easier from the moment you hire someone.
3) Self-employed is not the same as ‘free’
Chances are that if you take the plunge and become a photographer, you’ll become your own boss. Great, right? Time to stop worrying about being late in the morning, put your feet up on the table and take a two hour lunch break… if you want to fail or spend all your evenings and weekends making up for lost time, that is.
To be your own boss means you sometimes have to be that strict, controlling and profit-driven person you used to curse at your old job – the boss! There is no way around it, you’ll need the same amount of self-discipline as you do in a regular job, and more time.
4) You never know how much money you’ve got
You can do your accounts to decimal accuracy every month but you won’t be able to predict how many of your clients forget to pay your invoice, or how long they take to ‘set you up in the system’ the first time you work for them.
Your balance at the end of the month will sometimes be one of life’s big mysteries, but the best way to maintain faith in your ability to sustain yourself is to stay on top of the paperwork so you know exactly what’s due when, and who needs reminding.
5) You need to manage expectations
Not all clients appreciate that it takes time to edit, or that you have other jobs to do this week. While you are happily working away, your client could be getting irritated that they’ve not already received the pictures you took yesterday.
Or they might have seen you snapping away all day and expect hundreds of images to choose between, only to get disappointed when you send them the 20 best ones.
Always be clear about what you offer and when it can be delivered. You can save yourself a lot of unnecessary disappointment and bad reviews by telling people what to expect.
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