Episode 4: Are you Good Enough to Make Money With Photography?
With Sarah Petty
Are you actually good enough to make money with your photography and start a photography business? Can you replace your income so you can quit your day job? Are you good enough to look people in the eye and tell them you’re a professional photographer? These are the lessons I learned about how to start a photography business, even when I thought I wasn’t good enough. And it might just shock you.
How to Stop The Guilt of Making Money with Your Photography Business
I was raised to believe that you have to get a degree in college to be qualified for something. So, I got a business degree and I started my career at Coca-Cola. I had a marketing degree, worked in the marketing department, and everything felt like it was in place. When I decided to do photography, I had no formal training. I had no idea how to start a photography business, which is probably what created all of my head trash. I told myself I was not good enough, not qualified, and an imposter photographer. I told myself there would be no way to make money with my photography business.
I felt really guilty. I felt like I wasn’t allowed to just pick up a camera and decide to be a professional photographer. Not to mention, making money from selling my photography. But, there I was, paying taxes on the income from my photography sessions. People would ask me what I did, I would say, “I’m a photographer,” and they would always ask me where I studied. I didn’t go to school to get a four year degree in photography. That’s when I’d start to feel like an imposter
Getting My Photography Business on Track
I was tired of listening to this head trash, so I decided to make a change. I found a top photographer whose style I really loved and admired. I looked up his number, picked up the phone, called him and said, “Hey, could I pay you to come and study with you for a day or two?” He charged me $3,000, and I was willing to pay just about anything. That’s a lot of money, but I knew it was the investment I was going to have to make. In the end, it’s what I had to do if I ever wanted to get good enough to make money with my photography business.
I got a day and a half with this professional photographer. When my mom and I drove to go meet him, it felt like we were going to see the great, powerful Oz. We dug right into lighting and some technical stuff as soon as I got there. Then, when we had lunch, I started asking him questions about his photography business. I wanted to know how he was making money, getting clients, how to start a photography business, and how he made his success.
The One Rule Every Successful Photography Business Needs to Follow
I realized very quickly, this professional photographer was just guessing when it came to business. He was a highly acclaimed photographer, but in his small town, nobody knew that. He actually told me he had a second job to pay bills. I lost hope in ever becoming a professional photographer. That is, until I had an epiphany. I realized that right then and there, this amazing photographer wasn’t making money. All the head trash I had about being an untrained photographer wasn’t even relevant. You could be the most trained photographer in the world but still have to have a second job on the side just to pay the bills.
Write this down. It’s not about being a great photographer, but it’s about being a great business person. That doesn’t mean I’m not telling you not to work on your craft. I’m just saying that if all you do is work on your craft, you’ll never be able to make money with your photography business. The truth is, I worked on my master of photography degree from the Professional Photographers of America. I wanted to prove to the bully inside my head that I was good enough.
Why You Don’t Have to Fail as a Photographer
Whatever you need to do to improve your photography skills, that’s great, but keep working on the business part at the same time. Because of my marketing background and training, I was able to get access to some really amazing top photographers. They would teach me photography, and I would pick their brain on their systems, and then I would help them with their marketing. It really stretched my budget.
I love running my photography business, and I hope to be doing that until I physically can’t anymore. If I had never gotten past the voices in my head, I never would have found my passion. So, when your internal voice is telling you you’re not good enough, know it isn’t true. If you listen to it, all it’s going to do is hold you back.
This may surprise you, but you don’t have to pay your dues in photography school. That’s another “failure” your brain is going to try to put in your way. Our brains are hard-wired to keep us from failure. They want to protect us from taking risks so we don’t get hurt. Back in our caveman days, this kept us from getting eaten by predators. But, now as an entrepreneur, I want you to start identifying that you can change this conversation in your head.
How to Stop Letting Fear Hold You Back From Starting Your Photography Business
Most of the time, it isn’t fear holding you back, but it’s anxiety. Anxiety is the worry about an outcome you don’t desire, and you might want to write that down. Don’t give energy to an outcome you don’t desire. Fear can serve us because it saves our lives from walking off a cliff or in front of a car. But, anxiety steals our dreams.
What you need to know is that if you can start to believe in yourself, you can be learn anything. So, put your car in gear and start moving, even if it’s in reverse first. It doesn’t happen overnight. It doesn’t happen without investing both time and money in yourself. It doesn’t happen without surrounding yourself with others who believe what you believe. But, one thing I know for certain, Dorothy, is that you’ve had the power all along.
I'm Sarah Petty
I’m a photographer living in the middle of a cornfield (central Illinois), momma of three teenage kiddos (plus a cat & dog) and an educator for all things photography business. Favorites: Earl Grey Tea (not coffee!), anything orange and clothes that are made for tall girls