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10 things to do BEFORE you quit your day job!
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10 things to do BEFORE you quit your day job!

by liana on August 25, 2008

It took two years and a swift quick in the behind for me to loose the “day job” that I’d had gotten comfortable with.

Now I’m living the dream-life immersed in all the things I LOVE (photography, teaching, wedding stuff galore, lots and lots of travel to exotic locals, etc)… but I must say the saying “the grass is always greener” really does have some truth to it.

While my life may seem all wonderful, luxurious, and dream-like to some… the honest truth is there are sacrifices on both sides of the spectrum whether you’re working for yourself or trudging through the 9-5 corporate America job.

Thanks to numerous recent emails about wanting to help me fulfill my #56 of my 101 to do in 1001 list…. I’m going to soon share my $0.02 on what an aspiring pro photographer should do to get started. If you want to read part ONE of this two-part post, scroll down for “The Grass Always Greener”

1. Be able to answer the questions: WHO you are, WHY you do what you do, and WHAT makes you different than the 1001 others in your market. If you do not know this or do not communicate it well to clients then you’re going to have a hard time getting off the ground.

2. Make a personal budget and have a salary goal determined.
You’re likely going to have to make some lifestyle changes in the first few years of business. If you’re in any kind of debt, consider waiting to take “the jump” until after it is paid off and you have 3-6 months living expenses in an emergency savings fund. Read books like Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover and Your Money Counts for more info. Our personal salary budget calculator that comes with the Profit Center DVD walks you through this step too.

3. Get Educated. There are SOOO many more options out there today than when I got started. If you need to know about lighting go to a lighting seminar. If you need to know how to design albums or use photoshop, go to a Photoshop User training or shadow a designer. You can find out about what types of workshops are offered by checking out forums such as Open Source Photo and the Digital Wedding Forum. If you want to know about the BUSINESS side of things, come join us at a Photo Biz Boot Camp! Get training ONLY in the areas you plan to take on yourself. Do NOT try to do it all!!

4. Practice, Practice, Practice. Go out and shoot for FREE if necessary to gain maximum experience necessary to master your craft. Learn how to use your equipment don’t just shoot on Auto!! Most photographers and others in the industry will welcome your help if you can pitch it to them as just that… an added hand during an important event, not a drain on their resources and time!

5. Understand ALL of your business expenses ahead of time. Insurance, equipment, licenses, supplies, adverting, accounting, your salary, employee salaries, and education are all part of what makes up business OVERHEAD that is part of the Big Equation. Image processing, storage, retouching, designing, prints, album binding, image hosting, transportation, time, and 2nd shooter fees are all part of the COST of SALES that make up another part of the Big Equation. You MUST know what these costs are, how they work together, and how to price and budget according to these costs if you want to make sure your business makes it past that 1- and 5- year mark. Most small businesses fail in the first year because they do not understand and account for these things and are not making any $$. Most business schools teach managerial accounting and small business finance or check out classes offered by PPA or our own Photo Biz Boot Camp/ Profit Center DVD to learn the “Numbers” as I so fondly call them 🙂

6. Be the Brand. Take your answers to #1 and develop a brand that you can stick with for a lifetime and possibly beyond. If you plan to have the business grow and have other staff to hire out, then make sure the brand allows for this. Hire professionals to do the designing and programing for you. If you want to see how involved the process is and how to go about developing your own distinct brand, we put all the info and resources about this on HERE.

7. Have an online presence.
Website, blog, links on popular wedding directories and associations so clients can find you and get all the information they need to hire you. Make it consistent with your brand too. As I am now in the process of planning my own wedding for 2009, I’m finding out how IMPORTANT this is to put as much info out there as possible to make it easy for clients to get the info and hire you. If you make it difficult for them to hire you, they won’t.

8. Do TEST shoots to build your portfolio and client base. Before anyone paid me to do a High Fashion Bridal session, I had to be able to show them what it is and get the word out about it. The best way to do this? Do a TEST shoot… find someone (model, friend, potential client) that is willing to trade their time behind the camera for some free images. Have materials ready for them to pass on to friends and family and a referral system in place so it’s easy to build that word-of-mouth network.

9. Build VOLUME and have jobs on the books BEFORE you take the plunge. When I finally decided to take the jump back into full-time photography, I made a goal of booking 10 additional weddings before I could put in my two weeks. Let everyone in your network know that you’re looking for the clients. Be proactive about calling back leads and finding the right clients.

10. Ask yourself the MOST important questions… why am I making this change, how will this make my lifestyle better, and what is my exit plan? If you think this will make you rich quick, give you infinite vacations, or let you retire early without much work put in… think again. It’s a rough, very-saturated market and you’ve got to be good at both the ART of it AND the BUSINESS part in order to be run a successful small business in this industry. Know your true motives before you make any big changes and have those goals in place. Have an end in mind before you start!

I’m sure there is SOOO much more that I could say and would love to hear the advice of others who have been through this as well.


{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Chris Enzaldo August 27, 2008 at 1:42 AM

Liana, you rock. Thanks so much for your wisdom!

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