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Avoid These Mistakes: 7 Ways To Fail As A New And Part Time Photographer

success failure

I know ...When you fail, you learn. You just pick yourself up and press on.

Yes, I still make some bad decisions as an established photographer. Yes, I still fail at things I try. But the point of this post is to encourage new photographers to make a solid attempt to NOT set themselves up for failure as a new photographer. In other words, bypass a lot of the initial mistakes that others are making and have at least one foot somewhat planted on the ground.

1) They are selling themselves short by setting prices too low. Doing a 60 minute session for $60 may seem like it's a $1 per minute, but that's not the true reality once the numbers are crunched. (Rather than go on and on here: See A Post From Last Week)

2) They do what everyone else is doing. They should at least make some conscience effort to be different than other photographers out there.  So many new photographers that start by doing weddings and families and weddings and families ...oh and weddings and families. I get it because it's a little easier (sometimes) to get this type of work by reaching out to friends, family and neighbors. If the photographer is X dollars and the next photographer is the same X dollars and so is the next one and the next one and the next one, then what is one photographer doing different than the other. FYI, "I give great service is not the answer." How about proving through images (photographers are in the image business) that the images are more creative and by showing an understanding of how to use light to get amazing images. Oh, the photographer doing that should not charge $60 for a 60 minute session either. Hint: Charge More!

3) They are not spending any money in their business because they don't have it to spend or they don't believe in spending money for their busines. This is a huge mistake (in my opinion) that even established photographers make. Yes, money should be spent wisely and a local newspaper ad is likely a waste of money. BUT one of the cheapest ways to spend money on any business these days is Facebook Advertising for a Facebook business page. The ROI may not be noticeable at first but it's a low cost way to help a new business get noticed online. FYI, Facebook is my #1 social media revenue generator, but mainly through building relationships not because of the occasional ads that I run. However, I think my ads keep me in front of people which helps build my brand. There are other ways to invest in a photography business like joining a BNI Group. It's not cheap at  $595 for the first year as of this post, but it is a solid way to help your business grow "IF" you find the right group. Hint: People that can help connect you with your target market.

For a few more ideas to ponder both FREE and PAID, take a look at a previous post I wrote.

Bonus On Advertising And Marketing:
I had already written this post but decided to add this additional information because I came across something on Facebook from a photographer that wrote something similar that stated (paraphrased) "Photographers that spend money on advertising to bring in clients are lazy and advertising is a waste of money." He further stated that he was only spending 2 to 3 cents on the dollar. Well for anyone that knows basic math, that's 2% to 3% of revenue. So he is obviously spending money on advertising.

Ad budgets will vary (see Entrepreneur article) by industry, by sales volume, potentially by length of time in business based on a referral base, etc. A good range is roughly 5% to 12% of revenue which means on $100,000 in annual sales that the ad budget would be $5,000 to $12,000 per year or on a $1,000,000 in annual sales it would be $50,000 to $120,000  and on $10,000,000 in annual sales that the ad budget wold be $500,000 to $1.2 million. If the company is a startup and has NO SALES or LOW SALES, then the percentage will likely be much higher because there is nothing to really go off of.

Don't waste money on marketing and advertising, but to think that a business can flourish early on with just word of mouth may be too optimistic.

4) They expect amazing results with a camera on auto mode and a kit lens. Yes, it's true that a camera and a kit lens can yield some nice results if the operator knows how to use it all properly, but there is a reason that established professional photographers usually shoot with higher end gear and one of those reasons is better quality results as a general rule. However, most full time pros that stay busy have a massive amount of knowledge as well. A new or part-time photographer may not be able to afford better gear just yet which is another reason not to do $60 sessions because of how long it will take to save to get the gear. And, yes, any photographer at any level should do the best they can with what they can afford. I get it. That's how I started. Even now, I cannot afford a $45,000 H5D Hasselblad.

Here are 4 of my past blog posts that should help Gear and Experience, It's Not The Gear, The Glass and Prime Lens.

5) They don't know how to edit images nor value what editing can do. No matter how good a photographer is, it is rare that images straight out of the camera look as good as an image that has gone though post processing (editing). Photoshop, Lightroom and many other programs will help a photographer enhance their work. Here's a site that will edit images at affordable rates and here's a site to learn about editing images.

6) They don't invest in learning more about photography and lighting whether it's FREE or PAID. Yes, I'm a formally trained photographer. No, you don't have to have a degree in photography or be formally trained to be a full time professional photographer. However, it's a good idea to at least do lots of FREE training using YouTube and/or buy books off of Amazon and/or find a local class/workshop or use paid online training. Don't just wing it with auto mode and a kit lens.

7) They don't work hard enough to grow their business. Most full time professionals didn't just have it all handed to them on a silver platter. In my case, I work my ______ off to keep things rolling. People around me see how busy I am ( and I'm very thankful ) but most of them don't see how hard I truly work. I'm not complaining. Busy is better than the alternative, but to stay busy full time, it takes a TON OF TIME investment and often a FINANCIAL investment as well. Most new photographers have more time than money and more time than business. An investment of time often becomes a direct reflection on how busy a new photographer will be. A part-time effort may only lead to staying busy part-time. At the same time making a full time attempt to stay busy doesn't me a new photographer will stay busy every week full-time. One things for sure though, minimal effort will likely lead to minimal work.

Happy Shooting!

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David Williams

Short Bio About The Author: I'm David Williams a professional commercial photographer focusing on corporate and business clients with some personal branding, lifestyle photography in the mix. My love for photography began in late 1981 while still in High School. I started making money with his camera in 1982. Brenda, my wife, and I started working together in photography in 1988 shortly after we met. Brenda and I married in 1989 and have two adult daughters. Please be sure to get a quote for services if needed. Call or Text: 919.723.8453. Please reach out to connect with me on LinkedIn.