Don’t Jump Ship Yet! Start Your Own Photography Circus Before You Leave Your Job
Are you ready to run away from your mundane 8-to-5 job and become the ringmaster in your very own sensational circus as a full- or part-time photographer after reading our blog post at the end of February, “Independence Day…in February?”
If so, before you trade in your badge for the life you have always wanted as a freelancer, here are suggested actions to take to begin as the CEO of “You, Incorporated” on the right foot:
- Get busy on your breaks. Though it may feel like you are working two full time jobs, start your new business before you leave the windowless office. Take care of little tasks like registering for state and city tax licenses, opening bank accounts, and ordering business cards now so you gain legitimacy as a business owner as you walk out the corporate door.
- Transform the scribbles on your beer-stained napkin into a Fortune 500-quality business plan. Without a manager standing over your shoulder and barking orders at you, it’s time to get “S. M. A. R. T.” when it comes to running your own circus. Formalize what you seek to accomplish in the next three months, one year, and three years, testing your goals to make certain they are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Tangible. The statement, “I will make $1,000 from photography print sales by December 31, 2013,” is S. M. A. R. T. while “I plan to win the lotto tomorrow” is not. Once you have set a course, write out the specific steps and resources you need to get there. Then, complete one step a day towards your goal.
- Showcase your talents. Build a professional-quality portfolio of work that accurately shows off what you can deliver. Post relevant examples of your photography and tear sheets of published work that demonstrate a recognizable style and focus that potential clients will notice and purchase.
- Don’t act like the government. When it comes to making money as an independent, it’s not rocket surgery: the “goes-IN-tus” to your bank account must be greater than the “goes-OUT-tus.” In other words, your income must be greater than your expenditures. Track sales and expenses to not only give Uncle Sam his cut later in taxes, but to also make sure you can cover your incoming bills. And no, you still don’t need that expensive new lens.
- Expose yourself. Although streaking down the street would certainly attract attention – albeit the wrong kind for business success – awareness is always the first step in making sales. If customers do not know of your products and services, they will not buy either. To build your network, provide educational presentations throughout your local community, join professional organizations, and be active in social media outlets. Volunteering your time for worthy, related causes can also often generate significant income over time. Never underestimate the value of exposure. (Pun intended for those who use histograms.)
- Learn to how to increase your “goes-IN-tus.” Take a marketing class right now. Not next year. Not next week. Now. Though the thought of using your left-brain during lectures may make you break out in hives, at least go rub shoulders with ambitious marketing majors who might be interested in supporting the sales work for your business in the future.
- Schedule the fireworks for your own Independence Day. Whether your sought-after day of freedom is two weeks away or a year off, circle the date on the calendar. Having a light at the end of the tunnel can breathe new life into you until you say “adios” to your stuffy gray cubicles walls.
- Burn the ships after landing. In 1546, upon reaching the shores of Mexico, Hernán Cortés did not make failure an option. When you land your new freelancing career, neither should you. Replace the voices hemming and hawing about what will happen if you fail with more productive thoughts about what you can do to succeed. Heed the advice of automotive pioneer Henry Ford who aptly suggested, “Whether you think you can or can’t, you are right.”
Now are you ready to enter your very own big top? In a future blog post, “Staying Afloat in Your Photography Career,” we’ll explore the best ways to not only stay on the tightrope, but to also how to give a spectacular performance in your new career.
<shameless plug>If you would like more hands-on guidance in planning your successful transition to a photography career, join me for the Arizona Highways Photography Workshop “There’s No Business Like the Photo Business” on June 22-23, 2013. Visit the Arizona Highways Photography Workshops website at www.ahpw.org/workshops/2013/Phoenix-Arizona-No-Business-Like-Photo-Business-Workshop-2013-06-22 for more information and to register.
If you’re content with keeping photography as a hobby but would like more information on how to sell the photographs collecting dust on your hard drive, then join me for the 1-day Arizona Highways Photography Workshop, “Selling Your Work Without Selling Your Soul” session. Though the April 13th class is now full (waitlist available), a new session on June 1, 2013 has been added to the schedule! For information and registration, visit www.ahpw.org/workshops/2013/Phoenix-Arizona-Selling-Your-Photography-2013-06-01. </shameless plug>
Whether photography-related or not, if you’ve made a transition from one job to another, what tips and tricks that helped you make a successful transition to a new career would you offer to someone who is considering a change? For those of you who are considering a change, what’s your biggest fear or obstacle preventing you from making the leap? Leave us your thoughts in the comments below!
Spot on Colleen!—-it may take some time, and a lot of travel, grit and persistence… but folks can make it.
This is a great article.
To support the point you made, the late Galen Rowell spoke about “the size of the rat” leading to your success. From the “Inner Game of Outdoor Photography: “The rat refers to the voracious creature gnawing at a person’s stomach from the inside that drives him or her to repeatedly leave the comforts and security of civilized life to challenge him or herself in the natural world. Without a big rat, a person stays home with the family and is content to be a shopkeeper.”
In other words, if you want something bad enough, you’ll figure out a way to get it.
I’ll have to take your workshop one of these days if and when I get more into stock photography. Right now it’s not in the business plan. 🙂 We’ll see. Either way, a workshop with you would surely be an entertaining hoot. I like your message about goals being S.M.A.R.T. Great write-up overall.
Thanks David! I’m glad to hear you have a business plan! And I’d love to see you on a workshop in the future sometime…that way, you can teach me all about photography! 😛
Great write-up, Colleen! I haven’t made the jump yet into full-time photography, but I also haven’t committed to it as you say one should do. These thoughts give me a lot of things to think about as I move forward with my photography.
[…] Are you ready to run away from your mundane 8-to-5 job and start sailing your own ship as a freelance photographer after reading our blog post at the end of February, “Independence Day…in February” and our April post advising “Don’t Jump Ship Yet! Start Your Own Photography Circus Before You Leave Your Job!“? […]
[…] Don’t Jump Ship Yet! Start Your Own Photography Circus Before You Leave Your Job: youcansleepwhenyouredead.com/wordpress/dont-jump-ship-yet-start-your-own-photography-circus-before-y… […]