Join Skip Cohen for an in-depth discussion in this video Full time vs. part time, part of Running a Photography Business: Pricing Your Work.
- So, let's get into a little detail about the difference between full-time and part-time. The first question you really have to ask yourself is are you ready to go full-time? There's a huge commitment involved when you go full-time and it's just possible that there may be some added benefits to just staying part-time for a while longer, or maybe never going to full-time. I don't want to discourage that from your dreams, 'cause it's wonderful when you can go full-time, but you need to respect the differences between both. In fact, 50% of the wedding photographers in the industry today in the U.S. market are part-time photographers.
Now, that number comes from a Kodak survey done probably 10 years ago or longer and I don't believe it's moved one point since then. Maybe it's even gone a little bit higher as the Uncle Harrys and soccer moms of the world have started to create a little revenue stream from some of their own work. So, the question when you start to think about part-time versus full-time is start by asking yourself, alright, how's my day job? For a lot of you, your day job gives you some incredible benefits.
Your day job has consistency, you're really good at it. Many of you do enjoy your day job and giving it up could create a hole, at least in your heart, maybe even in your pocketbook, and there's some consistency there that might make taking a look at your day job and hanging onto it and then continuing to build your photographic skill set, so that your part-time job also becomes a revenue producer. Most important of all, just like toddlers, you've got to walk before you can run.
And when you start to look at your full-time job versus part-time, one huge benefit is health and insurance benefits. Your health and insurance right now are paid and if you don't realize it, and this number's probably gone up going back from my corporate days, typically, your benefits account for 18 to 20% of your base salary. So, if you want to know what the value is of your vacation time, your health insurance, your life insurance, if you've got it, and some of your other benefits that you get with the company you work for, take your total gross salary and add on 20% more.
Now, letting go of that and going off on your own as a full-time photographer puts the responsibility to pay for those benefits on you, and especially if you've got a family at home, and right now they're being covered by all of your health and insurance benefits through your company, that's a big consideration to think about when you're talking about the revenue you need to make. Another benefit is the fact that you're getting regular paychecks. That's a huge benefit. When you go into business on your own, you're suddenly looking at, alright, when am I getting paid for this assignment, what am I doing to create more clients, what am I doing to create more business? You have to start to pay attention to your aging on your accounts receivables.
For example, you build a particular client and you're waiting to get paid. You're going to become your own bill collector. In addition, when you're going from part-time to full-time and giving up your day job, you're giving up that interaction with other people. Now, that was one of the hardest things for me to get used to, 'cause I went from a corporate environment in a business office with all kinds of people and staff that I worked with suddenly to a home office where Molly the wonder dog is the only person I've got to talk to most of the day. Now, Sheila's home and I'm at home, and my wife is there, and that's great, but there isn't the same kind of interaction as you have with other people in the office and being able to bounce ideas off of people.
So, the interaction becomes a really important thing for you to consider, because you're going to give it up and at the same time, it means that you've got to have a certain level of discipline to pay attention to building your business. Another advantage of your day job is the structure you've got. You want to respect that structure, because when you start your own business, and this is a good example of one of the things I was worried about in 2009 when I started, I didn't have that structure anymore.
In your day job, you know exactly what time you need to be at work, you know exactly what time, most of the time anyway, you're going to be headed home. When the weekends come, that's it, it's a clear slate, you're typically enjoying your weekend, you're not necessarily thinking about work and involved in the projects that you may have started earlier in the week, because they're all going to be on your desk on Monday morning. I don't remember who told me this quote. It's somebody's father who said to them "you shouldn't go full-time until you can't afford not to!" Now, the bottom line is, with that double negative in there, the time to look at going full-time as a photographer is when your revenue and your client base is getting so strong part-time that you're actually having to turn business down and step away from the business in order to maintain your day job and your lifestyle and time with your family.
When it gets to that point where your part-time business has become such a strong foundation, that's the time when you really want to consider going full-time. Over and over again I have seen photographers jump into it too early and then they wind up struggling and worried about revenue, because they didn't build up enough business, and enough of a reputation and recognition within their community on the front-end as a professional photographer before making the leap and suddenly having to pend on that skill set to build their business, their profitability, and the revenue stream they need to be able to maintain their lifestyle.
- Understanding revenue
- Looking at target demographics
- Understanding your target audience
- Identifying your real costs
- Deciding which products and services to offer
- Pricing your products
- Working with key suppliers
- Controlling your costs