Photography is an art form, and there are so many people who are passionate about it. Some are brilliant at their craft but it's still only a hobby for them, and they struggle to generate any sort of income from it. When an individual chooses to become a professional photographer, it's important to treat it like a business, a trade that generates income. It's one thing to be good at your craft and another thing to be able to sell it to paying clients.
Passion helps in any profession. But it is not enough, it's important to also build business skills to acquire clients and generate income.
If you are reading this article, then one of these 2 things is true: either you want to become a freelance professional photographer, or you are one but just can't figure out how to make enough money in spite of being good at your craft.
Now, let's break down the profession of photography into two parts:
Part 1: Being Good At Your Craft
If you want to be a good photographer, you attend photography school, apprentice under a well-known and famous photographer, and learn the tricks of the trade from your master. This part is beyond the scope of this article, there are several other resources that will walk your through this, our main focus here is on the business side of things.
Part 2: Selling Your Services And Making A Living From Your Passion
Every business involves:
1. Acquiring a Customer at a Profit. (Profit equals Revenues minus Expenses)
2. Managing Money: Making sure you get your money on time to pay your bills. Don't worry we will keep money matters simple, you won't need to go to accounting school to learn it.
3. Image Management and Branding: Creating an image and an aura about yourself that will allow you to charge more than the competition.
Let's start with Acquiring Customers...
The 3 questions you need to ask yourself are:
How Much Should I Charge?
During your early days, you may charge less or even do it for free till you build a nice portfolio and a strong database of clients. Once you gain a reputation, you may slowly and steadily buck up your pricing.
What Is My Area Of Focus?
Is it commercial, weddings, nature, fashion, events, or something else? It is always better to be a specialist that focuses on one specific area, During your early days, you may dabble and experiment in multiple areas, but eventually it's important to focus on something specific and high-paying (or strike a balance between money and passion).
Where Can I Get Clients From?
Life would be very easy if clients just knocked on your door. Just because you're a good photographer does not mean that clients will find you.
Initially, your first set of clients will come from:
Family and friends
Your mentors and teachers
Once you've decided to be in business, make an announcement on your social networks, you may even want to send text messages, emails, Whatsapp messages to all your connections, you never know who might be interested in your services. I recommend sending the first round of promotion to family, friends, mentors, teachers, specifically your inner circle because they are people who are interested in your success, and might go the extra mile to give you referrals. Besides, people are always compassionate with a newbie :)
Your next round of clients could come from:
Once you start acquiring and keeping clients, it's important to start managing your money well. At the very least, you should have a ledger that has 4 columns - Date, Client Name, Amount Paid, Expenses Incurred, Total Income (which is Amount Paid minus Expenses incurred). These are just the basics for people who are not familiar with accounting and never went to business school. This is a good start but eventually, you may want to start doing more by learning financial statements.
Now that you know how to acquire customers and manage money, it's time to start managing your image. You could get a nice website, put up your portfolio on it, and create a nice profile on Behance and other social networks specifically meant for photographers. Image management is a whole subject by itself, there are several books available on Amazon and other websites that could help you get started.
Finally, remember photography might be an art but making money out of photography is a business. Always keep your eye on the business side of things. When you can balance art and business, you can truly live a lifestyle that you always dreamed about.