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Becoming a full-time wedding photographer is not as easy as it seems and even once you achieve financial success, there’s no guarantee that it’s going to continue year after year.
In this podcast episode, I’ll share with you my criteria of what it means to become a full-time wedding photographer and why I strove to achieve that.
We’ll chat about some of the perks of being your own boss and making a living as a wedding photographer, as well as some of the challenges and realities of doing this full-time.
Yes, it offers a flexible schedule and time to enjoy other things in life but it can also be high pressure due to the income uncertainty we often face.
Do you have a roadmap set out of how you are going to go full-time and have you set attainable goals to help you achieve that? Are you willing to make sacrifices for the time spent with family and friends to build your business and how do you envision your life once you go full-time?
I’ll be asking you a number of important questions to help you reflect on this and determine whether you REALLY want to become a full-time wedding photographer.
Is your ultimate goal to become a full-time wedding photographer? In this article, we’ll break down exactly what that means and discuss some of the considerations you should keep in mind when striving to achieve this goal. I’ll ask you some questions to get you thinking about the realities of life as a full-time wedding photographer and the challenges of being your own boss.
Whether you’re a hobbyist who’s just getting started in wedding photographer or you’re juggling a conventional job while working part-time in the industry, I’ll share with you my insights of what it means to be a full-time wedding photographer and how you can make it your profession too.
I’ve been a full-time wedding photographer for around a decade now and it’s something I’m extremely passionate about. Not only am I able to capture images that make a difference in the lives of my couples but I’m also able to share my knowledge with other wedding photographers to help them create a successful business.
So what do I consider a full-time wedding photographer to be? Firstly, being a full-time wedding photographer means that wedding photography is your sole income and you’re making enough money to meet your financial goals.
That means paying all of your bills, your rent or mortgage, as well as covering the costs of running your business, such as buying gear and paying for your insurance.
It’s having enough to invest in the future of you and your family, as well as having something left at the end of the day to do other things that you enjoy. That might be taking an annual vacation or eating out a few times a month.
Or it might be buying something that you really want. You want to be making enough that you can meet all of your daily expenses and have something left to indulge in your hobbies or guilty pleasures in life.
Being a full-time wedding photographer also means that you can maintain this financial stability for successive years, which is one of the toughest aspects of the industry.
The uncertainty of not knowing how many bookings you’re going to get each year can be stressful and is not something you can just leave to chance. Marketing your business to be successful takes hard work and ongoing effort.
So being successful doesn’t mean you are able to meet your financial commitments and goals one year, then not the next. It’s maintaining that success and income, again and again, to ensure you have some level of financial stability in your life.
For each of us, the reasons why we are passionate about being a full-time wedding photographer might be slightly different. For me, it was knowing that this was something I really enjoyed and was passionate enough about to invest my time and resources into building my business.
There’s no point going through all the stress and struggles of building your wedding photography business if the passion isn’t really there.
In addition, it was being able to make a difference in the lives of the couples that I worked with and their family, creating lasting memories of their special day that they would look back on for years to come.
More recently, it has also meant making a difference in the wedding photography community by being able to share my knowledge and help others achieve the success that they want.
Thirdly, wanting to become a full-time wedding photographer was about being able to make a living doing something I really loved. Even today, people are often surprised to hear that you can make a career out of being a wedding photographer and this is something that I’m really proud of.
I can largely set my own schedule and be my own boss, providing I’m working enough hours to meet my financial goals of being a full-time wedding photographer and create a successful small business.
Tied in with having this financial stability and being a small business owner is having the flexibility to do other things that I love. It might be going out for a day hike or heading abroad to travel - things that would've been a bit more difficult if I had a conventional job and a boss to report to.
I love being able to determine my own hours and set a schedule that enables me to get my work done while enjoying other hobbies in my life.
When I was going through a dark period in my wedding photography business, it was looking back on these reasons why I wanted to become a full-time wedding photographer in the first place that got me through.
I realized that I didn’t want to lose all these benefits of being a wedding photographer, despite the challenges I sometimes faced.
Things like not spending hours in traffic getting to and from a 9 to 5 and being able to indulge my creative side. Yes, there were perks to my engineering profession that I don’t have being self-employed (like medical benefits) but not enough to outweigh the reasons why I love being a full-time wedding photographer.
So before you set in stone your dream of becoming a full-time wedding photographer, there are a few things you should ask yourself:
Outline the reasons why you want to do wedding photography as a career and fulltime. It might be that you love being in the wedding environment or you like the idea of being your own boss. Perhaps it’s going to offer you the lifestyle that you want or fill a creative void that you’ve been missing in your conventional job.
In addition to enriching your life, it might be the financial side of things that is appealing and the idea of being able to make a lot of money in a single day.
Remember to keep in mind all of the other work you have to do aside from shooting weddings to create a successful business and receive the financial gains you might hope for.
For others, it might be the recognition or job status of being a wedding photographer and the opportunity to build a brand and reputation that is solely yours. You might want the opportunity to shoot high-profile or destination weddings while being able to showcase your creativity at the same time.
It’s important to keep these things in mind when times get tough and don’t forget why you wanted to become a full-time wedding photographer in the first place. Also, try to establish what your criteria for being a full-time wedding photographer is so you know exactly what goals you’re aiming for.
So you’ve established the reasons why you want to become a full-time wedding photographer but do you have a game plan for actually getting there? Have you set out a roadmap of how you are going to transform from being a hobbyist or part-time wedding photographer into establishing this as your sole form of income?
It might start out with buying a camera and photographing a few weddings, then building your online reputation and making a certain amount of income in a given year. It might be leaving your conventional job or setting up your own studio space from which to market your business.
It might take months or even years to get there but you need to have some plan of attack, rather than just wandering aimlessly and hoping that you’ll meet your financial or business goals.
You need to set short-term, attainable goals and even daily tasks that are going to lead you to your ultimate goal of becoming a full-time wedding photographer. Otherwise, you’ll end up wasting lots of time and even money with no guarantees of actually getting there.
Once you’ve established what steps you need to take to become a full-time wedding photographer, figure out where you are right now in your roadmap.
Are you just taking those initial steps or are you somewhere in the middle? Have you fallen behind and, if so, what caused it? Were you unrealistic about the goals you wanted to meet or are you slowly progressing to where you want to be?
Analyzing exactly where you are in your game plan is a great way to determine if you’re actually on track or if you need to rethink your goals and how you’re going to go about achieving them.
When you set this goal of becoming a full-time wedding photographer, how did you hope your life would change? Would it be more fulfilling, less stressful or with greater flexibility to do the other things in life that bring your joy and satisfaction?
If you’ve already achieved your goal of going full-time, how did things change for you when you left your conventional job and did you meet your financial goals? Were there any negatives or things you miss about your old life?
Taking on a full-time wedding photography schedule often means less time with your loved ones. Are you ready to make the sacrifices that often come with being a small business owner?
Even if you leave your conventional job and go full-time for one year, that doesn’t mean you’re going to be able to maintain that number of bookings or financial income every, single year. Can you see yourself sustaining the schedule of a full-time wedding photographer and doing all the necessary marketing and advertising that it may require?
What if you have a slow year and make less income? How is that going to affect your life and the lives of your loved ones?
Are you going to be able to deal with the pressures of income uncertainty year after year or what will you do to prevent having a slow year in the first place?
And in the worst case scenario, what if something happens to you and you can’t physically work as a wedding photographer, full-time or at all? Do you have a backup plan or alternative means of income to fall back on?
Even if you have the passion and a solid game plan in place, there are many reasons why you might not achieve your goal of becoming a full-time wedding photographer. Life will go on and there are other industries you could work in but how will you deal with that?
Do you have a safety net when it comes to finances or are there other professions that you might be interested in pursuing?
Remember that sometimes it’s just not the right time or situation for you to flourish, whether it be financially tied to family requirements or having other debts to pay that prevent you from taking the risk. But people will always be getting married, so it’s something you can come back to if the time is not right.
My main goal is to help you go full-time and become a successful wedding photographer but it’s important to keep in perspective what that actually means. You need to think about the pressure and realities of being a full-time wedding photographer and how that fits into your lifestyle, schedule, and financial situation.
Determine why you want to become a full-time wedding photographer in the first place and how you envision your life if you achieve that, as well as how you are going to make it work financially with your other commitments. Most importantly, when times get tough, remind yourself of why you wanted to do this in the first place.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on why you want to go full-time or how it’s affected your life if you have achieved that goal. So don’t hesitate to send me an email.
Watch my FREE video explaining how I made $150k+ in the second year of my wedding photography business.