Moving From Hobby To Business: What It Takes To Get To The Next Level

This post is Day 5 of 30 Ways In 30 Days To Redesign Your Life With Photography. This series seeks to provide you with practical steps to get you from wherever you are today, to exactly where you want to be – this year! If your goal has always been to take your photography to a whole new level, hang on and start enjoying a new lifestyle you’ve always dreamed of.

A hobby can be different things to different people.

It might mean taking a camera along on vacations and to family events, snapping up a few images.

It might be taking a few portraits or shooting a few weddings for people you know, making very little, and doing it more for a portfolio.

However you define it, I tend to look at the way the IRS defines it.

The IRS presumes that an activity is carried on for profit if it makes a profit during at least three of the last five tax years, including the current year. A person should be able to able to determine if its hobby or business by asking the following questions:

  • Does the time and effort put into the activity indicate an intention to make a profit?
  • Does the taxpayer depend on income from the activity?
  • If there are losses, are they due to circumstances beyond the taxpayer’s control or did they occur in the start-up phase of the business?
  • Has the taxpayer changed methods of operation to improve profitability?
  • Does the taxpayer or his/her advisors have the knowledge needed to carry on the activity as a successful business?
  • Has the taxpayer made a profit in similar activities in the past?
  • Does the activity make a profit in some years?
  • Can the taxpayer expect to make a profit in the future from the appreciation of assets used in the activity?

For me, your photography turns from hobby to business the minute you decide you want it to be a business. If you feel you can in any way generate income from taking photographs, and you are ready to set out on the adventure called entrepreneurship, then you are ready to start a photography business.

Move Out Of Your Comfort Zone

Once you’ve made up your mind to take photography to the next level, you have to do more than declare it. And in many ways that’s what this series is about. Going into photography isn’t about taking photographs non-stop, and spending your time behind the camera and in front of the computer. There is so much more to a photography business, including:

  • Marketing
  • Sales
  • Management
  • Production
  • Tax authority
  • Accountant
  • Employer
  • Janitor

Yep, you have to do all the jobs, not just the one’s you love. And if you’ve worked for someone else your entire life, you might not have a clue how to do it all. That was my case. Both of our parents had the “job” mentality. All of our siblings had the “job” mentality. And all of our friends had the “job” mentality.

But a funny thing happens though when you decide to make a change.

You start asking questions, finding different resources, and looking in different directions for support. And pretty soon you find someone to latch on to, to learn with, and to grow with. And they become dear friends. We have many friends like that, and still meet with them to this day. We built our businesses together, from scratch, with no support other than what we learned and taught each other.

Focus On The Prize

One of my favorite quotes is:

“Entrepreneurship is living a few years of your life like most people won’t, so that you can spend the rest of your life like most people can’t.”

It’s sitting on my desk and greets me every morning. Why? Because it’s the epitome of running your own business. Many people dream of the day, but they simply won’t give up what they have in order to reach for something more. It might mean not sending your child to a summer camp all her friends are going to. Or it might mean turning down a trip skiing with a group of friends. Or it might mean hanging on to a car for 10 years, instead of getting a new one every few years.

Yep, I’ve been in each of these situations in the past. In fact I’ve also turned down new clothes, new furniture – even every day desires – simply so I could afford a new marketing campaign or a new software package.

But what has always kept me going is knowing how the end looked in my mind. I have a goal that’s worthy of all the effort I’ve put into it.

I know what I want to achieve. I keep that goal in mind. And every day I do a little more to reach out and move towards that goal. It’s not about what you can accomplish today; it’s about what you want to accomplish in your lifetime. And what you can accomplish at every time frame in between.

Evaluate Yourself Realistically

According to the US Consumer Electronics Industry Today, Digital America 2010 report, digital imaging is at an all time high.

  • The number of photo enthusiasts is increasing every year
  • DSLR market continues to grow
  • Shooting video is at the top of popularity
  • Young adults and teens are driving a new wave due to Smartphones and social
  • More mobile features are available than ever before
  • Accessories are growing both by volume and revenue
  • Photo merchandise still maintains popularity

But while there is a huge potential for things within the photographic industry, the potential as a traditional photographer has changed. It’s morphed into something completely different than even 5 years ago. And any time you have an industry that has morphed and changed, you have a huge opportunity to do well – and to fall off and die if you aren’t willing to change.

So how do you consider yourself as an entrepreneur? Are you skilled enough at this hobby that others will gladly pay you for what you do? Are you differentiated enough that people will look at you and say WOW? Or do you simply do what everyone else has done in the past?

Do you see yourself in the future as a photographer? Or as a business owner? There is a huge difference between the two, and its better to realize that now.

If you see yourself as a business owner, congratulations. You are on the road to success.

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