How To Keep Your Part Time Photographer Business Moving Forward While You Still Have A Day Job

Do you have a day job to pay the rent – and spend your evenings and weekends doing what you love, hoping one day to turn it into something more? Yep, that describes probably the majority of photographers out there at some point in their careers.

That’s where we started. It can be really tough though to keep up your stamina and your spirits when you’re working long hours at the office, only to come home and start it all over again with more work piled up in front of you. Especially when the tiny details seem to get the better of you. Its easy to ask “is this all there is?” as you begin to look for the day when you can enjoy your life too – not just work seven days of the week.

Yep, we have been there. And I’m so grateful we stuck out the odds and made it into the business we have today. Here are a few things that helped us. Make sure you have them in your own life too.

Write Down Your Goals – With Dates

Writing down your goals is probably on every small business website and information guide you’ve ever written. And while the advice may get old, the concept shouldn’t. Its there because it works. Yet if you have a goal list in front of you, have you added dates to it as well?

Rather than having a vague idea of what the future holds, put it to the test. A goal of “I’ll quit my full time job by December 31st of this year” is a lot more motivational than “I’ll quit my job someday”.

Putting a date to things creates a sense of urgency. It allows you to think beyond the basics and find ways to get things done.

Write Down Your Achievements

I write all of my goals and to-do’s in a spiral notebook. I check things off as I complete them. And I also add details to how the project was completed or how I took action to make it work.

Then I can look back over the months and years and actually see how much I’ve accomplished. There is something gratifying about it. When you hit a low and feel like you’ve done nothing, retrace your steps and see what you have accomplished. You will be amazed. And it will help you move further with more complicated, advanced priorities in the future.

Find Regular Work Hours

As much as you desire to turn your part time gig into a full time career, if you don’t take care of you along the way, it will never happen. Try to find a few hours a week to work solidly on your business. It may mean getting up an hour earlier so you’ll have an hour before you drive in to your job. It may mean working over your lunch hour if you can do so at your current job. Or it may mean working into the evening – with no time for television or simply doing nothing. Schedule it. Its easier to get things done if you know you have certain hours to do it in. Its also easier to give yourself a break and really enjoy it.

You should also devote a portion of the weekend to your business, and schedule yourself some time off. You may decide Saturday’s are for your business while Sunday’s are for family time. Or working long hours one weekend so you can take the next off. The key is seeing clearly the time you’ll devote to your business and actually following through with it.

Cut Down On Other Commitments

When you move something new into your life, other things must move out. With 24 hours per day, you’ll only be able to fit so much into it. That may be putting a hobby on hold and in the closet for awhile. Or saying no to extra projects at work or at your children’s school.

As your business becomes more successful, you may even see if your full time job is willing to allow you to go part time. Instead of 8 hour days, how about 5 or 6? This way you can slowly make the transition and make sure its working while you move to your new, full time career.

Above all, don’t worry about saying no, especially to the people you’ve said yes to in the past. Simply say “I’m very busy at the moment and I’ve promised myself I wouldn’t take on any new commitments.” They will understand.

4 thoughts on “How To Keep Your Part Time Photographer Business Moving Forward While You Still Have A Day Job”

  1. Dear Lori,

    Thank younfor all the help you have given to me and my husband with your ebooks on establishing a thriving photography business. We are in the beginning stages of setting-up our wedding photography business. We are currently going through the legal aspects of setting the business, getting insurance, and trying to define the right type of business we want to establish (s-corp? Partnership? LLC?).

    We have just shot a couple of weddings of friends (as wedding gifts) and we have done several portrait sessions for family and friends. But I have to admit that our friends weddings were more the small, intimate type, not the ones in huge, fancy venues. My question is, how can we build-up our portfolio? I read in the PhotoMint website an advice on approaching other photographers and ask them to let us second shoot. Is this a giid advice? If so, how should we approach the photograpers in town that are well stablished, have been years in business, and are like the “signature” photographers that all families aspire to get? I know one of them is like 3rd generation photographer in the family, and the other one in town is the “I’m an artist” type, and for her Facebook posts we know she hates the rookies coming and trying to “steal” business when she has been 20 years working her butt off. Wouldn’t they see us as a threat to the business (altgough I’m thinking to target weddings beyond the limits of our town)?

    If they say “yes” and allow us to second shoot a wedding to build-up our wedding portfolio, do you have any advice on the Do’s and Dont’s of a second shooter? How will the right to use images work in this case? Will we have shared rights over our images?

    Thank you for all you do for us, emerging photography entrepeneurs.


    • Hi Veronica

      Your portfolio is always a difficult thing when you start. I do agree that you should try and second shoot if possible. If you have others in your home town that might feel threatened, can you venture out to another town not too far away? We hired all kinds of assistants – we had regulars, but always kept a few in mind for when we needed it. All you can do is ask. Yet in many cases, you might not be able to use these in your portfolio – it will simply give you insight for your own business. The key then is to just start selling and shooting. You can also shoot and sell pieces to get your portfolio going – i.e. find someone willing to do an engagement, an extra bridal portrait, trash the dress, etc. Whatever you want to do and sell in the future, find a way to do a shoot to have them in your portfolio. You only need to show one thing to get the next client, and build from there. Yes, you’ll never get the “million” dollar wedding upfront. But that’s a good thing. You need to develop your style and systems along the way, as well as your ability to handle that kind of wedding.

      I don’t have much on second shooters here on the blog – I’ve now added it to my list of future topics however!
      But the short answer is talk with the photographer and find out what they want. If they “hire” you, they will definitely have their own systems and ways of doing things. Keep communication open, give them what they want, and always try and anticipate what they want. And if you are far enough out of town and not in true competition, just make sure you get in writing how you can use your images for your own business.

      Hope that helps.

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