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The First Steps to Becoming a Full-Time Photographer

If you clicked on this blog post it’s probably because you’re on the verge of going full-time as a photographer which means congratulations are in order. Starting a business from the ground up is no easy feat, and I’m sure you’ve worked hard to get to this point.

One thing I love about art and photography is that anyone can do it. It obviously takes a lot of time and effort to become great at it, but generally because of the proliferation of digital cameras, photography accessories and education, anyone can learn about the art and business of photography, which is a beautiful thing. 

The looming question is, "What happens when photography becomes more than a hobby?"

This is something I’ve been helping new photographers answer for quite some time, so I wanted to give you a few tips!

Build a Strong Online Presence

If you think about the photographers that stick out in your mind, it's probably ones that not only have a beautiful portfolio, but that show up in more ways online. You've seen their face, know their voice, have had a glimpse into their world and seen the behind the scenes of their lives. Showing up in a personal way builds connection that a portfolio alone can not.

Additionally, social media is often the first place clients look when seeking out someone to hire. Think of social media as your first impression for your clients. How do you curate the work you share? What kind of messages do you send through your words (captions, stories, bio, etc.)? How does your personality come across? Do you show up in a way that showcases who you are and invites connection?  Are you sharing content that is representative of your brand and ideal client? Is the content you share inspirational or educational?

 Building an online presence and community takes time, but look at the pages of some of your favorite creators, and notice common themes. Ask others to review your page and see if you share those same themes, or if there are ways you can fine tune your content to be more representative of who you are, and foster connection with followers and future clients. 

Seek Out Quality Education

If your photography business started as a hobby, and you have never had education from someone further along in their journey than you I would highly recommend investing in education of some sort.

I still use the skills I learned years ago from professors and mentors in my photography business today. Investing in knowledge has never led me astray, if anything it’s made me a better photographer and creative, and put me on a faster track to success and growth. There are several ways you can invest in education without the sacrifice of tons of time or money.

Rise Photo Academy is my online photography education platform that I developed especially for photographers like you who are seeking to learn and grow in their business. 

Joining Rise gives you access to over 15 photography courses, a community with hundreds of photographers and a discount to my online shop. It’s a one-stop-shop for all things photography. If you’re new to running a photography business full-time and you could use some education on camera settings, posing, editing and more, you can join rise here.

Online courses aren’t the only way to further your education. You can always listen to podcast episodes from industry leaders and soak up knowledge from free content on social media.

Another option for hands-on education would be to shadow a professional photographer! This is something I prioritized before starting my business and it made all the difference. Getting a “behind the scenes” look at engagement sessions, wedding days, and the entire photography process helped me understand things from a much more hands on perspective, and start my own business with so much more confidence.

Make it Legal

I’m not a CPA, or a business advisor so I will leave the details of this step up to the professionals. However, I’ve been around the block a few times when it comes to establishing businesses and if there is one thing worth noting it’s that legalities matter!

If you are collecting income from photography (even if it’s from a side hustle) it is legally required to be reported, even more so if you’re taking your photography business full-time. 

If you’re anything like me you’re already defeated at the thought of having to figure out the technicalities behind owning a business. But as someone who has done it a few times, I can assure you that it’s not as hard as it seems.

I would recommend getting connected with a CPA and reviewing all necessary requirements for owning a business and tracking your finances. It may cost you more than you’d like to spend upfront, but trust me it will save you from potential crises later on.

Along with legalities, having contracts in place are crucial. I’ve heard one too many horror stories from photographers who neglected to put contracts in place early on. Contracts establish clear guidelines with your clients and give you something to fall back on if things were to go awry.

I have several contract templates on my shop that make it easy to plug and play for your specific business and clients. There are contracts for weddings, portrait sessions, and more. And they are some of the most affordable on the market. Check them out here!

Turning a photography hobby into a business is a passion I love talking about and have been teaching for years. If this blog was helpful, and you want to know more about taking steps toward running a successful photography business, I'd love for you to check out RiseThere are courses covering everything mentioned in this blog post, and so much more. I'd love to have you in the community!

Best wishes as you navigate building your business and as always, I’m here to help!


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