A mentor is not a requirement to becoming a full time professional photographer, but a mentor can likely save both time and money vs. doing it the hard way: Trial and Error.
Building a photography business is like putting a puzzle together. There are lots of pieces, but putting them together takes time. A mentor can save you time and money, but having or hiring a mentor doesn't mean that building a photography business will be easy. It will simply be easier than taking the hard way.
What if you could find a mentor that would be willing to give you the true inner workings of his business as long as you would sign a non-compete? How valuable would that be? I'd say that it would be hard to put a price on if you had access to the true nuts and bolts are every moving piece of how a photographer went from zero to a full time income.
FYI, I'm not talking about what sounds like the full scoop because I think there are many photographers that share top level things that they are fine with the general photography population knowing, but I am not convinced that anyone gets deep down into there true inner workings. There may not even be anyone willing to do that: I simply thought I'd toss it out in case you want to approach a potential mentor with the idea.
Here's some free mentoring advice:
Getting key direction that will be helpful to your photography business growth, even if it's not the deep down nuts and bolts, will still make a difference. So I'll share a few basic ideas to help you along the way to becoming a full time professional photographer.
1) Work Hard - Whether you have actual paying clients that keep you busy or not, you should work a minimum of 40 hours per week to grow your business provided that you are not already doing a full time job. Then, you may only be able to put 20 hours per week into your photography business. However, whether you have the clients or not, you should put in the effort in growing your business. Personally, I work far more than 40 hours per week.
2) Spend Money But Wisely - Unless you get lucky, I think you will have to spend some money on growing your business. It's up to you and your budget (whatever that is) to decide what you can spend. I'm also not suggesting that you max out your credit card(s). In the beginning, try to do the best you can with your expenses without going into debt.
3) Do All The Free Stuff You Can Do - Social Media, Blogging, Local Business Networking and anything else that you can consistently do for free which also falls under #1 of working hard even if you don't have the clients. Time might be money, but in the early stages, you will likely have more time than money as you build your business.
4) Never Stop Learning - Whether it's online or offline, reading a book, watching a video, doing practice shoots to test new ideas, working with a mentor, etc., you should never stop learning no matter how good you think you are or how busy you get.
5) Find A Mentor - Someone that you know, like and trust that you can have coffee with a couple of times a month or get together with at least once per month for coffee or lunch would likely be very helpful. Most of us likely think of a mentor as someone that will take us under their wings so to speak for free, but a mentor is a trusted adviser which also means that a mentor could be someone that you pay for advice like a CPA, Attorney or actually someone in the photography industry that can help you get to the next level. However, if you want to do it the hard way by reinventing the wheel, that's completely up to you.
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