Starting a photography business, but where to start?

If you’ve wondered if you could start your own pro photography business you aren’t alone. I’ve wondered the same thing myself, and decided to write a series of posts about how I’m answering that question. I don’t know if I’ll actually decide to be a full time pro; that’s part of the fun; I get to find out, and you get to come along for the ride, and we both get to teach each other lessons about what works, and what doesn’t.
But first, a little background on me…

A few years ago I left my full time job to become an IT consultant. I left behind the world of steady paycheques and silly corporate management practices, and traded them for the enticement of high risk / high reward self employment. So I’m not new to the idea of working solo, and without a net. And my first lesson was that I had just traded my ’employer’ for a ‘client’… and had the realization that they are pretty much interchangeable.

Along the way I got a LOT of questions about ‘How did you start?’ and ‘Could I do that?’ and a few ‘Wow was it scary?’. The answers I used to give were quite different than todays answers. I used to answer with ‘I took a leap – that you could do too – and yes, it scared the pants off me’.
But when I look back now, I see things differently, and I answer differently.
It wasn’t one big leap; it was a lot of little steps. And it’s not for everyone; if you tend to lay awake at night and worry, it may not be for you. And the reason I didn’t lay awake at night was that it really wasn’t all that scary after all.
Lately I’ve been considering photography as an interesting way to earn a living. It’s something I enjoy doing; it’s an incredibly creative outlet, and it has a different pace than office work. And the older I get the more I ask myself if this brick wall I’ve been bashing my head against is ever gonna give. I think we all know the answer to that one!
So how should I start? Dip a toe in on Tuesday nights? Drop everything, get a big loan and go whole hog? I need a plan!
Lucky for me I’ve spent a number of years managing projects, and that’s exactly what this is – a project. It needs to define itself, but it needs to recognize external constraints. It will have a beginning and end. It may even get a budget if I’m feeling good about it!
So I’ll share what I can about project management, and we’ll see if we can keep use that to keep this adventure on course. And there is absolutely a magic sauce to this stuff too, and I’ll share as much as I can about what’s in mine. Feel free to chime in with the ingredients for your sauce, too!
The very first thing in the magic sauce is knowing how to start. Don’t worry about if you should start or not – at least not yet; we’ll come back to that. For now, let’s focus on the how. I’ve seen a lot of project teams flounder at this stage; they don’t seem to know what specific things they should be doing; they can’t agree on anything, and nobody want to make a mistake… so nothing gets done (except, perhaps, some pointless meetings).
The answer is beyond simplicity; it’s almost zen. Clear your mind – this is how to begin any project.
‘Just Start’
Really! Just start doing something. I’ve seen all kinds of methodologies, diagrams, and ‘experts’. But this always works. Why? Because very, very quickly the actual ‘first steps’ become apparent. And if you can keep things a little loose at first you’ll find that things will fall into place where they should be, not where some book or process says they must be.
I’ll let the dust settle on that thought until the next post, where I’ll describe how I ‘Just Started’, and the steps that I chose to take to get me here.
And where is ‘here’? ‘Here’ is what I’m doing with photography today.
Right now, right this minute, ‘here’ looks like Heidi; I just finished this image of her tonight:

Pentax K20D, smc DA* 50-135mm f/2.8 ED [IF] SDM @ f/8, ISO 100, 1/160th sec.

1 Response to “Starting a photography business, but where to start?”

  1. 1 triggersnappy
    May 22, 2009 at 4:11 pm

    thx for the inspiring piece. i got made redundant from a job i hated (working with people i loved) now have the opportunity to launch into photography fulltime. what’s the worse that can happen?

    i fail, and go back into workin another deadend job for the job security but having giving my passion a go =)

    @trigg3snappy aka jOsephine Ki Photography

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