So photography is a free trade. After years of discussions, photography has also been a free trade in Asia since the beginning of 2014– as in much of the rest of the world. In plain language, this means that anyone who gets a business license can become a photographer and work as a professional. The “training photographer” is no longer an obligation. So the question is no longer whether you can become a photographer. But should you also become a photographer?
The fine difference between can and should
Become a photographer because you love your camera and friends tell you your photos are great?
I know a lot of people with a lot of talents. People who invite us to dinner and the evening feels better than in a hooded restaurant. Because the combination of private atmosphere and excellent cooking skills cannot be beaten by any restaurant.
Does that automatically mean that each of them is a professional chef and should open a restaurant tomorrow?
The difference between cooking for friends and running your own restaurant is – and we are sure to agree on this quickly – enormous.
This is not much different in photography.
The fact that you enjoy taking pictures your photos are good and that you as a photographer no longer need training does not automatically mean that you will also enjoy working as a photographer. And believe me, “talent” is overrated when it comes to success in your new profession.
“Hey, this is supposed to be a motivational article about getting started in professional photography. And then that?”
Yes, we have to get through that now. This one time only. When that’s behind us, the beautiful part comes – become a photographer. Before any other step that follows this, should be the thorough consideration of whether one is really ready to do this step into professional photography. And we’re not talking about training as a photographer or not yet. That will come later.
Since the commercial opening in Asia in 2014, searches online show a clear pattern.
If you type “become a photographer”, you will automatically find: photographers become lateral entrants, photographers will become photographers without training, become photographers, photographers become prerequisites, training photographers, freelance photographers, etc.
Logically, becoming a photographer without training is possible. But not without knowledge, preparation and education, in whatever form. Taking beautiful photos alone is simply not enough. The figures speak for themselves:
“More than 1/3 of all small businesses do not survive the first year. 80% do not survive the first 5 years.”
In Austria alone, almost 9,000 photographers are now registered with trade The fact that only a part of them can make a decent living is almost logical and obvious.
Of course, for most of these tragic cases, a false or non-existent calculation of their fees is responsible. But that alone would be too short-thought.
If you want to be one of those who can do it, you’ll have to think differently than 90% do.
Becoming a photographer does not mean buying a camera, so taking a few photos and selling them.
First of all, it means starting your own business!
That means paying taxes, paying SVA, dealing with the business side and pricing, creating a job for yourself, getting equipment, having running costs, sitting in front of screens longer than you can imagine, taking countless losses for every success experience and accepting an enormous responsibility. But if you love this job, there is certainly no better one!
The (misunderstood) ToDo list
Most people like photography mainly 2 things and consider this to be the only task of a professional photographer:
- Buy equipment
Sure, they’re part of it. But they only make up a few percent of what a photographer does. If you want to limit your passion to these 2 points, then you should not become a photographer, but are really better advised to stay an amateur. Even as such, you can make exhibitions and show your work. But you are 100% involved in photography, not 10% like a professional photographer.
Still not very motivating?
Because only when all this is cleared up and you are really sure that you want to take the adventure (and the word I don’t use lightly here :)) become a photographer. If it’s really your dream to turn your hobby into a profession, to live off photography and you have no doubt that you really want it, we can take the necessary steps to achieve this goal. (By the way, this list assumes that you can already take pictures. The part should, of course, still be on this list.)
The actual Todo list
1 Choose a genre
Portraits? Landscape? Architecture? Report? … Which area or areas of photography would you like to make and offer. Becoming a photographer does not mean photographing everything that jumps in front of your lens, but having a clear niche and getting really good in it. I would not recommend more than 2 areas. Only one area would be even better. So that we don’t misunderstand ourselves, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t photograph everything you enjoy. But think about what kind of photography you want to be paid for and what you just do to do it just for fun. The two areas can be separated quietly.
This also has the nice side effect that you can keep your hobby / passion for yourself and that photography does not become exclusively a job.
In addition, from the beginning, you will think about what makes you and your work special. What sets you apart from the millions of other photographers in the world? What’s the only thing about you and why should someone give you money for a photo of you. Invent yourself and your work as a “brand”. This makes you tangible for potential customers and they remember you.
2 Become a photographer = become an entrepreneur. The commercial part
If you want to become a photographer, you are about to build a business. Take this seriously. Take care of the commercial matters. That is (for me at least) the more unpleasant part. Get a tax number, hire tax advisors (do this from the beginning, save an enormous amount of time and hassle. It will bring you more than it will cost you) to make price calculations (and don’t worry, that’s the hard part to start with for almost every photographer).
Sign in SVA, create invoice templates, etc… Even if it’s not the funniest part, or because of it, it’s one of the most important.
See this part as a pleasing part of your work. It later becomes the part with which you saduce your existence and which allows you to live from your passion.
Even if you don’t like him, treat him well.
Don’t forget to worry about insurance.
Your equipment must be insured, otherwise you will be left without a livelihood in case of damage or theft from today to tomorrow. You also have to be insured against accidents at work if you inadvertently injure someone in your work. (Lamp tripods sometimes fall over when you re-rumble them I just say).
Not to mention legal protection insurance and liability insurance in case– which we do not hope, someone should sue you. Or you should have uncollectible bills.
Luckily, I haven’t used any of the insurance companies yet, but I couldn’t sleep quietly. When something happens, everything is really at stake.
Spend money vs. invest
The commercial part also includes an important point that many people understand too late: there is now a difference between investing and spending money.
As an employee, you may still be used to spending money.
You get salary, you buy something from it, then the money is gone.
End of story.
As a self-employed person, however, there is also something like “investment”. Of the money you take with your work, you have to invest a part in your company. In equipment, in office or studio, in knowledge and further education. That’s part of your job now.
Investing means spending money on something that helps you make more money from it. Sounds self-evident? But for many, it’s not, or too many just don’t think about it.
“I can’t afford a tax adviser, I’m just starting out” is one of the phrases I hear the most. The opposite is true. You’re just starting, you can’t afford to go without tax advisers. This will be one of your first really important investments.
The same applies to investment in continuing training.
And I don’t mean equally expensive business courses!
They are justified. But of course, you have to be able to afford a good coach or course. And at the latest there, the matter usually gets tight, especially at the beginning.
That’s why I’m working on my “Team”. A live coaching in which I give you everything that has worked for me in the last 10 years along the way. Regularly, live and with question/answer hour to better respond to your needs. Not only can you be more careful with your investment, you’ll also benefit better from it in the long run.
3 Find your “why”
Of course, as an introduction, this sounds a bit weird. “I want to be a photographer, why should I ask myself why”…
I don’t mean “why” because “I want to quit my job, my boss is an a***h and I want to live off photography.”
This is a result, not a why. Just as money is a result, not a why.
I mean the really intense discussion of the question “why do I do what I do and why do I like to get up in the morning”.
Because the bokeh of your new full-frame camera is so beautiful and you’re looking forward to the results?
This may be a reason for you in the short term. But in the long run, it doesn’t make you happy.
I do not want to go too far in depth here either. Just so much: If you know your why and it’s a strong why, it will have a huge impact on your success or failure as a photographer in the long run.
My work as a photographer became successful the moment I decided for myself “I want to help other people first and foremost”.
I know. Sounds like a miss election and the famous answer “World Peace”.
But you will see the stronger your own “why”, the better you will be able to communicate that to other people, the more people will show up in your life who have the same “why” as you, the more customers you will have who want to work with you precisely, the more satisfaction you will have in your job and life,…
Oh and by the way, all the numbers are going to go up, which we are constantly chasing far too much.
Likes, followers, orders, fees, (so unfortunately the taxes, but who had to pay a lot of taxes was allowed to earn a lot before that 😉
How do you find your why?
We could talk about this for a very long time for the time being but this one will help you:
First, ask yourself – and take some time for it – “why do I want to be a photographer”.
If you have an initial answer, for example “because I love working with the camera”,
then question this why again: “Why do I love working with the camera”.
Your answer might be “because I enjoy capturing my view of things.”
And again you ask “Why do I enjoy it”.
“Because It allows me to make other people think”…
Etc. This is just one example of where your path takes you I don’t know. But one can say on average we should question our “why” at least 5 times in order to come to a “real” why. Just as children instinctively do
4 Portfolio and website
Your photos can still be so beautiful, if they are not also beautifully presented, the effect is completely lost.
Your website is your online business card and your best sales staff!
Every potential customer will take a look at it.
Show him that he is in good hands with you. Both with the visual impression of your website and photos, as well as with the texts and what you show you.
With WordPress and a good template, you can build a decent portfolio at a reasonable price right from the start.
The portfolio website with Squarespace becomes even easier.
You can afford a designer later. (And I would recommend this just as much as I would recommend to our customers to book a good photographer and not Uncle Fritz ;-))
Be tough on yourself when selecting the images for the portfolio. Show only the best, not too much, not too little. Throw out, which is not 100% your own demands. And prefer to set the bar higher than deeper.
Website as a sales representative
However, your website does not just serve the purpose of a digital business card. It is also an important means of finding and retaining customers. Properly done, you can directly target potential customers on your website, get in touch with them, and keep reminding them of you and your services.
A beautiful website with beautiful pictures alone does absolutely nothing for your business. I know you don’t believe me if you’re still in the beginning. I didn’t want to believe anyone at the time.
But I’ve experienced it first-hand or on my own website, and now I know it’s just brutal truth.
A beautiful page with beautiful pictures is simply not enough.
You need to know what exactly the purpose of your website is, you have to strategically work out the way of your customers, think carefully what you would like them to do on your website, then measure and adjust it meticulously.
Then you will see that your website will be your most valuable first employee who will help you reach out to the right customers for you and guide them to you.
These customers will not just contact you, they will be in the right mindset and you will not have to “sell” anything anymore.
5 Write a blog
It doesn’t necessarily have to be the Tips & Tricks blog, it doesn’t have to be elaborate Making Of movies, you can blog about a lot in photography. It’s definitely worth it.
If you think “Who needs a blog, there are so many” – you need this blog. Blogs make you more tangible as a person and a photographer (see point 1, you as a brand).
It also takes you personally and in your job to pass on your knowledge. “Those who teach learn twice,” Goethe said
I’ve learned one thing in all the jobs I’ve done – writing helps you manifest some things. And if it only serves this purpose, then you have already won.
6 Tell it to All and Everyone
If you really decide to become a professional photographer (this also applies to all other self-employed), then call yourself that from now on. No half-hearted names, no “I’m trying grad …”. Nothing there, you’re a photographer from today. Point. Nobody has waited for you to finally show your pictures and work for customers. Nobody knows about it. Tell it to Allen.
Distribute your business cards (they don’t deserve a point of their own, generally fall under marketing tell from your website, go out and find potential customers, just give someone a coffee again. Online is good and important, but personal contact always wins. If someone wants to book a photographer and knows one only from his website, an Andren whose work he may have told over a coffee last weekend, guess who he will call.
7 Every customer is the most important (but none is king)
Treat every job and every customer you get as if it were the biggest and most important job a photographer has ever received. Because that’s what he is for you right now. Especially when you start. And for the customer himself, the order he gives you is the most important anyway.
All advertising, portfolios, exhibitions, books and publications are nothing compared to the good old word of mouth. You build up your portfolio and your reputation in the first few years. If the results are good and the customers are satisfied, things will work earlier than you think and better than you think.
But! As important as customers and good cooperation is, the adage “the customer is king” should be banished urgently. The idea behind it is not entirely wrong, but how it is interpreted and lived by most people – especially in photography – is a real catastrophe.
My collaboration with my customers is exactly what the word is. Cooperation. This does not mean that someone pays amount X and without ifs and buts, at any time immediately gets what they want afterwards. This simply means that we will first identify exactly what each of us is bringing to this cooperation.
Don’t get it wrong, that’s definitely not a call to arrogance. On the contrary. Be nice, be accommodating, treat your customer as you want to be treated. However, there is no question of subservience. And whoever behaves beside it as a customer is not a king, but simply someone who behaves beside it.
Respect is not a one-way street.
8 Photographers never stop – learn and share your knowledge
In photography, you can literally never stop learning. There are always new ideas, different approaches, inspirations, techniques … Those who stop learning will remain standing. Not only does it ensure that you continue to develop as a photographer, it will also enrich your life. And that’s what you wanted, right? Not a job that bores you, but your passion.
Read blogs from other photographers, invest in online courses, invest in your work. And at the same time pass on your knowledge to those who are not yet as far as you. You will wonder what comes back for it. Together you always get further than if you lock up your knowledge at home and keep it well.
It’s best to find a mentor or several, people who are already successful in what you want to do. And then listen to them, read their blogs and books, go to their lectures, etc. Investing in knowledge pays off most of all investments. If you are faced with the decision objective or knowledge, choose knowledge.
Just a few examples of good intestitions in knowledge:
My Team – Growing Together – Regular Live Coaching with Question/Answer Hours to solve your problems together as they arise.
Learn to flash – If you’re not quite saddle-proof when dealing with the lightning, you should definitely be. Lightning can mean you can create your own lighting mood no matter where you are. If the available light isn’t beautiful enough, you just make your own if you know how. An absolute advantage with any customer job that will often be worthwhile for you.
By the way, a first, very simple step would also be to share this article you are reading and also to help others on their way to self-employment 😉
9 Find a sport
No joke. You’ll spend more hours in front of screens than you could ever imagine. Write and read more emails than ever before. And only 10% of your time spend taking pictures. Staying physically fit will be urgently needed. (I write this here with a bad conscience, sleep deprivation and a dad’s belly. Perhaps a so-called “self-reminder” :))
In addition, in most sports you learn what will be necessary for your new career – perseverance.
Speaking of perseverance – you won’t always be top motivated. Let yourself be motivated, inspire and exchange a lot with colleagues if possible. You will see that you are not alone 😉
If you’re waiting for motivation and inspiration, that’s maybe the problem. Just start with something (literally meant). You will see that motivation arises in the process. If you just wait, nothing will happen.
10 Be a (good!) Entrepreneurs
A point i haven’t understood 100% for far too long, like most people in creative industries. We want to be artists, artisans, or at least “creatives”, but we don’t really want to be entrepreneurs.
We don’t want to “sell” anything. That sounds so horrible to us. It may be. But if you find yourself in this mindandy mindand and you want from life what you offer as a service or product, then this includes the very clear decision to take responsibility for the sale of your services or products now. Becoming a photographer means becoming an entrepreneur.
Most photographers still mistakenly believe “good work is the only marketing you need.” This is one of the main reasons why so many are sinking and failing in discount price wars. Those who do not know the value of their own work and can communicate and sell accordingly have no chance. Not nice, but true.
If you take a job in a company that does bad marketing, that sells their product badly, then you won’t have that job for long because the company doesn’t make money and can’t pay you.
It’s best to understand now, immediately and on the spot that you’re your own company and your only employee. So if you don’t sell, you won’t be able to finance yourself (your rent, your family, etc.). You have to think entrepreneurially. Point.
This list is (yet) not complete. I’m going to keep expanding them and write my own articles about the points in the list, so look over every now and then so you don’t miss the updates.
This question from the 1000 questions also fits in with this: low-cost providers and pricing
Have you read these 8 dots and thought “sounds great, go!”. Then you should become a photographer, it will make you have a tremendous fun to start your own photography business.
I wish you good luck!
P.S.: If you’ve read it up to this point, the chances are pretty high that you’re serious and have what it takes to go the long way ahead. With my “Team” we can go a bit of the way together and you can benefit from my experiences and mistakes that I have already made for you: