5 Signs You’re Ready To Turn Pro As A Photographer

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You’re finally ready to turn pro. Congratulations!

Are you ready? Do you know what to expect?

You’ll be banking your entire livelihood on your skills as a photographer … or so you think.

Being a good photographer is a small piece of a larger professional puzzle.

Our list is by no means a complete list, but this should give you a good starting point to start thinking about what is involved in jumping from amateur to pro.

Pull the reigns on those ambitions a little bit and let’s make sure you’re reading those tea leaves correctly.

You’re finally ready to turn pro. Congratulations! Are you ready? Do you know what to expect? You'll be banking your entire livelihood on your skills as a photographer … or so you think. Being a good photographer is a small piece of a larger professional puzzle. Pull the reigns on those ambitions a little bit and let’s make sure you’re reading those tea leaves correctly.

You Have Style

As a professional photographer, you need to define your photographic style. Without it, you’ll get lost among thousands of other beginner photographers. To stand out from the crowd of competitors, identify what makes you different in your niche.

Professional style is important if you want to turn pro.

It could be high-contrast boudoir photography, or natural light black and white family portraits, or cinematic-style senior photo shoots.

Be self-aware. When you know what your style is (and is not), you can articulate and deliver the unique value that will warrant the prices you charge.

You Have A Focused Portfolio

It’s going to be difficult to find new clients without having something to show. It’s going to be even harder to find new clients if your portfolio isn’t for anybody. Or even worse … it’s for everybody.

The big idea is this; your portfolio is a representation of who you are as a photographer. You may have a lot of interests, but not every interest needs to go in 1 portfolio.

If you’re a good photographer, but you’re not familiar with finer aspects of running a business, get ready for a lot of headaches.

Before you turn pro, you should know who your audience (or client) is and what they will expect from a photographer they want to hire.

Bonus Tip: “But how can I create a solid portfolio when I don’t have any clients yet?” you say.  The answer is easy; start offering your services for free. Local charity events and meetups are a great place to start. They get great images for their brochures, and you get to build your book.

You Understand How To Build A Business

When you are a professional photographer, shooting takes just around 10% of your time. The rest of your time will be spent communicating with clients, marketing your business, editing, fulfilling orders, etc.

We’ve explained these before, but these points are worth repeating because they are timeless. They are also the foundation of every good business:

  • Relationships are the key value you provide to customers – people like to buy from people they like.
  • Quality is subjective – you rarely beat a competing vendors quote on quality alone.
  • Pricing is a factor of quality, your relationship with your prospect, and the perceived value of your service – if you’re a joy to work with, your fees are a non-issue.
  • Referrals are the lifeblood of over 75% of our clients business.
  • Treat every customer like it’s your only customer.
  • Your technical prowess and Lightroom chops are of no interest to your customer – your ability to deliver on time, on budget, and with quality work is what matters.
  • Pick up the phone and dial – calling past customers, prospects, friends, and associates to tell them you are looking for projects works wonders to build relationships and opportunities.
  • Follow up – leave no email unanswered, no phone call unreturned, and no meeting missed.
  • Research your competition. They are researching you.

If you’re a good photographer, but you’re not familiar with finer aspects of running a business, get ready for a lot of headaches.

Before you turn pro, you need to learn business and marketing.

You’re Not Afraid To Tell People About Your Work

Photographers need to be their own salespeople. Be prepared to tell the world why your work is worth the money and why you’re better than the photographer around the corner or down the street.

Doing this can be tricky. You want the business, but you don’t want to be a schmuck and disrespect all the other photographers in town.

Do this; articulate your unique value.

Don’t do this; talk about how much better you are than everybody else.

Don’t forget to make your website search engine friendly and put together your brand identity. Use social media sites, like Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest to spread the word about your services.

Nobody can have all the answers or be fully prepared for every situation.

Don’t forget to make your watermark work for you, too.

You’re going to have to get yourself out there because nobody else will. If you’ve figured out how to do this with class and dignity, you will be able to acquire new leads for your business on a regular basis.

You Have Some Money Saved

Of course, how much money you need will depend on what kind of photography you do, but starting a business is not free.

Before you turn pro, you should have some money put away for proper gear, a marketing budget, a studio for photo sessions, and a slew of other costs (don’t forget the legal fees, too!).

It can be overwhelming to itemize a list of what your costs will be, but you have to start somewhere. Jamie Swanson has a good checklist for anybody looking to get a top-level view of what the startup costs of a photography business are.

What Other Signals Are There?

Starting your own photography business is a leap of faith. Nobody can have all the answers or be fully prepared for every situation.

Check in with yourself and be realistic about where you are when it comes to these 5 things.

Let’s say you’ve been nodding your head this whole time. You’ve got all these things down pat.

In that case, plow forward and don’t let anything stop you. Nothing ventured, nothing gained!

We’ll be here for you, too. As soon as you’re ready, we’ve got 5 key things your photography business should be built on that you need to know.

Dreams don’t work unless you do.

Nancy Young

Nancy is a passionate freelance writer and blogger. She writes tons of inspirational articles on web design and photography, despite the fact that she is an economist by education. She enjoys traveling, reading and meeting new people. Nancy believes in the magic of written words to inspire and motivate.