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Running Your Photography Business & Having a Day Job

Running my own photography business is a dream job.  But it’s not the only one I have.  I have a regular, 40+ hour/week job in a completely unrelated field.  Sound familiar?  At some point, many photographers find themselves working 2 jobs – either they are building up their photography business (and bank account) for the day when they can leave the day job behind or they’ve chosen to do both simultaneously for a variety of reasons.  The trick is not being able to do both – the trick is being able to do both, stay sane, get a normal amount of sleep each night, and enjoy yourself (that includes having a personal life!).

I started out like a lot of photographers – working my day job while building my photography business on evenings and weekends.  For me, when my photography business grew to the point where financially I could leave my day job, I made a surprising choice (surprising to me and surprising to other professional photographers).  I chose to keep my day job (which I love) and continue to run my full-time photography business.  It’s not always an easy feat, but through trial and error, I’ve found a way to make it all work.

Be Honest with Your Employer

Having a great employer for my day job was an important first step.  I have been working at my day job for 12 years and running my photography business for 7 of those years.  Being open and honest with my employer, talking about my needs in running my photography business, and negotiating additional vacation time (I take off about 40-50 days per year), has helped me blend my two work worlds.  Doing this in advance and keeping my employer informed about when I will need time off for client meetings, destination weddings, workshops and conferences, prevents any misunderstandings or hard feelings.

My employer is encouraging of my photography business but also considers me an indispensable employee and was open to negotiation in order to keep me a happy employee.  I was also willing to give certain things up such annual raises and reduced bonuses in exchange for the flexibility and I went armed with those ideas when I negotiated my extra time off with my employer.  Since my employer has been generous with me, I strive to always go the extra mile and try to be as available as I can be when I am not committed to a photography job.  That means going in on a weekend every once in a while or working late when a big project is due.

Organization Matters

Keeping a good calendar is necessary to make sure nothing ever overlaps. Before I commit to a photography job, I need to make sure it does not overlap with any day job commitments.  After a photography commitment is made, it gets top priority so the time needs to be blocked off from the day job if it conflicts with my regular hours.

It can be daunting running a full-time photography business while keeping down a day job, even if you have an employer who is as flexible as mine.  I learned quickly that I cannot do everything unless I work round the clock between the two jobs!  I found some amazing partners to help me handle those jobs I could and wanted to outsource.  Pictage handles all of my consumer orders, printing, and album design.  Photographer’s Edit culls and edits all of my wedding images.  ShootQ keeps me organized and allows me to communicate easily and efficiently with clients and inquiries.

Lookout for YOU

It is easy to become a workaholic and spend every waking hour when you are not at your day job working on your business.  This is the fast track to burn out.  I make sure to schedule trips to visit family and friends out-of-town and nights out with friends regularly.  I schedule these things in advance and have committed to not reschedule play time for work time.  It keeps my work/personal life in balance and I know from experience that play time is just as important as the hours I spend behind my camera or my computer.  When the balance gets out of whack, it is easy to become overwhelmed.

I also know my limits and stick to them, even though this can mean turning down business on occasion.  I know that I cannot shoot 2 weddings in one weekend and be ready for work on Monday morning.  I know that if I shoot 10 portrait sessions on the weekend, I cannot promise my clients they will have their proofs in 7 days.  Being realistic about what I can do and realizing I am not Superwoman was a hard lesson learned but one that has made a huge difference in my sanity (and the amount of sleep I get!).

Being involved in my photography community through my PUG and the Forums provides me with support, friendship, inspiration, courage & advice.  I know a big part of my success is directly related to the friends I’ve made in the photography community.

I know that working a day job and running a business at the same time is not for everyone.  But I’ve found a balance that brings out the best parts of both situations.  I get to do the photography work that I want to do; I don’t have to take every job or do work that I don’t enjoy.  At my day job, since I’ve reduced my hours and have a lot of leave time, I get to concentrate on the work I enjoy the most and delegate the rest.  And by having a careful balance between work life and personal life, last year, I took 14 trips (some work, some pleasure, and some a mixture of both), photographed 12 weddings/events and 50+ portrait sessions,  volunteered my time for the Presidential Inauguration, Operation:Love ReUnited, and other organizations, planned monthly events with friends, and had my most successful year at my day job.  I don’t say this to brag about how great my life is (although I do love my life!), but to show you that it is possible to work a day job, run a business and have a life.  It just takes a little bit of planning and great partners to help out.

Written by Jessica Del Vecchio

Head shot photo by Angela Anderson

The NEW ShootQ is Complimentary while in Beta mode for the next few months.  Enjoy!
The NEW ShootQ is Complimentary while in Beta mode for the next few months.  Enjoy!