MOVE FROM PART TIME TO FULL TIME WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHY
Alrighty lads and lassies, let’s pow-wow about what you need to do to pull this off. I’m talking to you, Hobbyist Photographer. You, the weekend warrior who is getting close to that magic day when you quit your day job and start the hustle. Here’s what you should know to move from part time to full time wedding photography.
Every full time photographer has one: the transition story. The tale of how they went from a hobby photographer to a full time moneymaker. Mine is probably known to most, but for those of you new to the blog, here ’tis in a quick paragraph.
I graduated college with my super edgy accounting degree and then promptly got my CPA license. Eh… promptly is more like two years of studying, test-taking, and pulling my hair out (it all grew back… thanks genetics). I then went to work as a senior financial-statement auditor and then as a senior tax accountant for four years, all while shooting weddings on the weekends. Eventually 2012 came around and I finally earned enough from my photo hobby to replace my CPA income. YAS! After a soul-searching trip to Iceland, I gathered my thoughts and quit as soon as I got back.
WHEN TO QUIT THE DAY JOB
This is the hardest question to answer because you have to reconcile the emotional with the rational. You SO badly want to quit – that’s the emotion – but you have bills to pay – that’s the rational. I was probably too conservative in my approach, preferring to wait until photography income matched the amount I was earning as a CPA. Let’s talk real numbers shall we? For me, a CPA in California with 3-4 years of experience, was earning $60,000/year. So I waited until income from photography was about that much. Not exactly, but pretty close. Did it take patience? Hell yes. But I could sleep at night knowing I’d be OK financially.
For most of you reading this, the idea of 100% replacing your current income with photo income might seem like a far-off distant future. It did for me. But remember, growth in this area is exponential. One or two solid weddings can be used to book four or five more.
It’s a grind. I’m not gonna lie. You have to work your day job while finding time to shoot and edit. Casey Neistat sums this section up best – WORK HARDER. When you think you’re spent, when you want to turn on Netflix and put Lightroom down, think of where you are and where you want to be. WORK HARDER.
Tony Perkis is a man who believes in you*
CHECKLIST FOR QUITTING THE DAY JOB
Here are a quick handful of things to consider before quitting your day job.
1. Health insurance. If your employer provides it currently, you’ll need to find a way to be insured after you quit. Try and get on your parent’s plan if you’re under 26. If you’re over 26, use the healthcare marketplace to find out how much it’ll cost for your own plan. I pay $324 a month, for reference. Remember it’s a tax deduction, so that will save you about 15-20%. See my tax deduction post to understand what that last sentence meant.
2. Seasonality. Consider when you’re quitting in relation to wedding season (if you’re a wedding photographer). Don’t quit when cash flow from photography is at it’s lowest. Maybe wait till summer.
3. Retirement account. Remember that when you become self-employed there’s nobody other than you to help grow your retirement account. People who work for companies usually have retirement covered by some kind of pension or 401K. You’re on your own here in SE Land. Be sure to prioritize this because you want to have the option of retiring someday – whether you do or don’t – you at least want the option.
CHECKLIST FOR WEEK ONE
Here’s what you do on Week 1 of self-employed life.
1. Apply for an EIN. This is basically a social security number for your business. It’s free and literally takes five minutes to apply for online. Google “EIN IRS” and the first irs.gov that comes up is the trail you follow. Be looking for an SS-4. That’s the form you fill out online. Once you get the EIN, use this anytime you fill out tax forms for your business… like 1099s. Check out this article on 1099s if you’re wondering what those are all about.
2. Open a business checking account. It’s super important to keep your business and personal lives separate. Most local banks offer free business accounts. Be sure to check those out along with some of the bigger brand banks.
3. Keep track of expenses and income. Seriously guys, get yourself a subscription to QuickBooks, FreshBooks, 17 Hats, or even a well-made Excel sheet and keep track of your transactions. You’ll thank yourself next tax season. And save or scan all receipts for business expenses. Super important.
GO. FIGHT. WIN.
Getting to a point where you’re able to quit and make your hobby a business takes hard work, for sure. But when you’re finally self-employed, that’s where the real hustle begins. How well you do – how successful you are – is 100% tethered to the amount of effort you exert. This can’t be overstated. Write it down. If you do good work – if you answer emails on time, edit and deliver on time, stay creative, be productive, stay organized and efficient, post often and engage with your audience – YOU WILL DO GREAT. It’s scary as hell but even more rewarding.
As always, feel free to share this, leave comments, and maybe if you’re reading this and you’re already full time, just drop a couple lines below and let me and others know your transition story. We’d love to hear it.
thank you for sharing. you made my work easier…keep growing
On my way on becoming debt free and persuing my dream career…
I won’t become a wedding photographer but your text inspired me to become greater and to have faith in the unknown!! Thanks!
By the way, your pics are on the wall in our house in SA! They look great! I love them!
Hey Brandon! Thanks for the encouragement! My husband Royce told me about you. I love the photos and look forward to checking out your blog more!
Awww thanks for the kind words friend 🙂 Say hey to Royce too! He is missed!
Thanks for the helpful advice, Brandon! I wish I read this before I paid $200+ for a DBA, unless that’s something I still needed to do? (EEEK!) My transition story has taken a lot of faith because replacing a 40k job for maybe 15k in photography a year has been interesting to say the least. the timing of your post couldn’t be better because throwing in the towel is always creeping at the door, so I most definitely appreciate the motivation! -Rita
Hey Rita! Thanks for the kind words! Usually a DBA is required whenever the business you’re starting isn’t Your Name Photography. Typically not necessary until you apply for a business checking account. GO FIGHT WIN! haha 🙂
Amazing post! I needed this, Well on my way but there’s always a little doubt. Thanks for the boost to keep on track and work the game plan.
Thank you Brandon for this informational blog! I’m a good friend of Allison Mchenry’s. You actually photographed me in her wedding. She just told me about your blog & it couldn’t have come at a better time. I just quit my day job in Sd (sales for a tech company) and moved to SF to pursue my passion of photography. Your post gave me very valuable information I hadn’t thought about. Thank you! I will stay tuned & look forward to sharing my “transition story” once I’m transitioned! Just entering the grind stage now. Congrats on your success & if you ever need a backup photographer in the SF area, please reach out. Cheers- Sarah
Hey Sarah! Super rad, I’m so glad it helped 🙂 Hit me up on Instagram! I can always use second shooters up in SF.