When Should You Quit Your Job to Turn Professional Photographer?

Turning pro photographer is as scary as it is exciting and it’s really hard to know when to pull the plug on your other job(s). Some personal thoughts follow and they don’t apply only on food photography, but can be extended to any photography genre or even other types of creative solo businesses.

I think you should not consider letting go of your daily job(s) until all the following three conditions are met. This is of course just my personal opinion and it’s far from being a rule of thumb. More than anything, I believe it’s a good way to start thinking about these questions.

1) Your photography income covers 75%+ of your current cost of doing business (your break even point)

No matter how large the income you get from sources other than photography, I think once your photography generates 75%+ of your break even point across the year, you could seriously consider letting go of your other job(s). So, for example, if your break even point is at $50k on a yearly basis, once your photography business alone makes about $37k, you could consider taking the leap of faith. Please keep in mind that the breakeven point is calculated based on the fixed costs and not the assignment-related costs, as those costs need to be covered by the client on top of your fee and should not play a role in your calculations. See also my other blog post about the CODB.

2) Your net photography income has grown steadily in the past 3+ years

You should have a strong feeling that you can totally make it and that feeling should be backed by a solid trend. Your business is growing, your clients are always very happy to work with you and want to continue to work with you. The longer the trend, the better, of course.

3) You have 12+ months worth of savings at the current standard of living

I think you should have enough liquid money to cover all your expenses for 12+ months without lowering your standard of living. Let’s assume that’s the case and also assume that your photography business is covering only 75% of your total cost of doing business. That translates into having a total of four years available before running out of money (if you only cover 75% of your total needs, you’ll need to take 25% of your savings every year to fill the gap between 75% and 100%, so your savings will last for four years). In this scenario you would need to be fully covered by your photography income by the end of the fifth year in order not to have cashflow problems.

I had about 12 months worth of savings when I started turning down all the engineering assignments I was getting and dedicated all my energy and resources to making it as a professional photographer.

When Is It Time To Pull The Plug?

It’s really tricky, extremely personal and there are no rules that will guarantee you success. The uncertainties are limitless, in good and bad. The way I see it, you are weighing the satisfaction (and the worry) of feeling that you’re running only on photography versus the frustration (and peace of mind) of still being stuck with your other (boring) job(s). It took me about 6 years to fully transition from engineering to photography. I took my time because I valued the peace of mind more than the fact that part of my income was still coming from engineering.

Needless to say, these are only scenarios and are far from being rules you should live by. As I wrote earlier, it’s a great way of brainstorming about your business and making yourself very familiar with your numbers and what is expected of your business in order to be successful.

Thoughts? Please share your experience with the community by commenting down below. If you enjoyed this information, please share it on your own channels.

Thank You and Happy Shooting!

Why You Need To Master Your Technique. And Do The WORK.

What Is Luck?

According to Seneca, luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.

I could not agree more. If you want to make use of the luck you might ‘get’, you need to be ready for it. How do we get ready for it as professional photographers? We master the technique by acquiring all the skills and keep perfecting them. And this process is never supposed to stop, it’s part of our evolution as photographers and artists.

As Steven Pressfield says in the famous book ‘The War of Art’, technique is not a substitute for inspiration and genius, it’s what allows the inspiration and genius to be used to make art once they present themselves. He also suggests that the professional, by working on the technique, creates room for more inspiration to come.

Learning What You Love Is Easy

I believe learning your craft is relatively ‘easy’, because your passion fuels all that effort (if that doesn’t happen to you, maybe there’s not enough passion there) and you enjoy doing that. What is normally more problematic is approaching the other aspects of your business with the same energy in the absence of passion.

The Pros Do The Work

I doubt a lot of photographers have a passion for all those things that a professional photography business requires, yet all those things (bookkeeping, branding, marketing, advertising, networking, outreach, etc) demand so much work and effort. I’d say they stand for at least 50% of the total work needed in order to run a successful photography business. How do we bring ourselves to doing those? By creating a structure and routines in our daily life and that, too, requires a lot of work.

Are you willing to put in the work required? I think it’s an aspect that is very often neglected by amateurs and semipros who are considering transitioning into professional photography. Technique is essential to the professional photographer and we should constantly refine it, but technique alone is not enough in order to turn pro.

Recommended readings:

The War of Art - Steven Pressfield

The Artist’s Way - Julia Cameron

Outliers - Malcom Gladwell

Thoughts? Please share your experience with the community by commenting down below. If you enjoyed this information, please share it on your own channels.

Thank You and Happy Shooting!

Why Being Organized Is Critically Important - Part 1

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Are You Organized?

I didn’t use to be, because getting organized is very boring and seems like a waste of time in the beginning, when all you want to do is food photography (or any other type of professional creative endeavor). Yes, it takes a lot of effort to get organized, but do we have a choice? Not really, if we want to become professional photographers. I can assure you that, in the long run, that effort will repay itself so many times over and you’ll be very happy you did that.

When Did I Get More Organized?

When my prospects and clients started to grow in number I realized I wanted to figure out a way to structure and streamline my processes for sending quotes, contract and invoices. You can of course do all this through any piece of software and create a pdf, but it felt better to try and find help through some online platform that was designed just to do that. I’ve been using 17Hats for quite a few years and I find it perfect for my needs. I’m not saying it’s the best one or the least expensive one, I’m just saying it gets the job done and I haven’t felt the need to look elsewhere. So far.

You can do a lot of things with it, including email and bookkeeping. I only use it for:

- Creating and sending quotes

- Creating and sending contracts

- Creating and sending invoices

You can easily create templates for the items above and make your workflow really smooth and fun (as fun as a very boring task can be, at least). I do not use the actual email integration (you could handle all your emailing from this platform if you wanted to), but I do use the functionality for managing the three things when dealing with clients or prospects.

How is this different than sending a pdf attached to an email?

This tool (or an equivalent one, there’s several out there) will allow the following:

- Your clients can electronically accept quotes and sign contracts

- Your clients can pay you electronically both via credit card and e-check/ACH (this option is extremely cheap).

- As the number of invoices you send out increases, it becomes really hard to keep track of payments and this tool gives you total control over that, including the possibility to send payment reminders.

If you’re interested in this tool, check out the tutorials they have created and please do browse around and see if there are other tools you might like better.

Why Is This Important?

Ultimately, this tool not only does make my life easier and more organized, but in particular, it elevates the quality of service I offer, as a professional food photographer. I believe you should continuously (I’d say even ‘obsessively’) aim at offering a service that goes way beyond your amazing food photography and makes you stand out because of the incredible experience people have when they work with you. There are thousands of photographers (pros and amateurs alike) who create incredibly stunning images, but only a fraction of those will deliver an incredible experience to their clients. We should be in that subset of photographers.

Thoughts? Please share your experience with the community by commenting down below. If you enjoyed this information, please share it on your own channels.

Thank You and Happy Shooting!

You Must Track Your Personal Spending

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The key to profitability? Know your numbers!

That applies to business as much as to personal spending. In fact, as a solo-preneur, your personal spending and all costs related to you as an individual (things that are not business related) are going to be a pretty large indirect cost for your business in the form of your salary. That’s why you need to know what your personal spending looks like and where your money goes. Check out my other blog post about the cost of doing business.

How much do you spend on the following items on a monthly or yearly basis? I strongly encourage you to take some time and do this exercise.

Food - Clothing - Utilities - Transportation - Vacation - Leisure - Home - Insurance - Etc

I track my personal expenses through this app I’ve been using for years and it works great for me. You can easily customize the categories that are relevant to you and track your expenses by recording each transaction and mapping it into the correct category.

This is extremely useful because it is so easy to just spend money and don’t have a clear idea of where the money went at the end of the month or year. Certain expenses are easier to track because they are fixed, such as rent, insurance, utilities. Others are a lot more variable and those are the really tricky ones, they can add up to a lot of money and that’s why it’s key to keep track of them.

Make it a habit to record your transactions so you know where your money goes and you can make changes to specific areas of your life, if necessity arises. Such a practice is extremely important for photographers and creative entrepreneurs who might have a very unstable revenue stream and need to quickly adapt to changes in order to make it through the rough patches.

Thoughts? Please share your experience with the community by commenting down below. If you enjoyed this information, please share it on your own channels.

Thank You and Happy Shooting!

You MUST Back Up Your Work. Always!

What are your backup routines?

https://www.francescosapienza.com - Food and Restaurant Photographer - New York - NYC. Francesco Sapienza is an international food and restaurant photographer based in New York City. Among his clients: The New York Times, Eataly, Lavazza, Union Square Hospitality Group, L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon.

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Quotes are really important and this is how I normally structure them.

https://www.francescosapienza.com - Food and Restaurant Photographer - New York - NYC. Francesco Sapienza is an international food and restaurant photographer based in New York City. Among his clients: The New York Times, Eataly, Lavazza, Union Square Hospitality Group, L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon.

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I Think Capture One Pro Is The Best Tool For Tethering

https://www.francescosapienza.com - Food and Restaurant Photographer - New York - NYC. Francesco Sapienza is an international food and restaurant photographer based in New York City. Among his clients: The New York Times, Eataly, Lavazza, Union Square Hospitality Group, L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon.

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My view on how food photographers (and artists in general) should price their work. Pricing by the hour makes no sense!

https://www.francescosapienza.com - Food and Restaurant Photographer - New York - NYC. Francesco Sapienza is an international food and restaurant photographer based in New York City. Among his clients: The New York Times, Eataly, Lavazza, Union Square Hospitality Group, L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon.

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A lot of photographers and artists in general (I used to be one of them) have no idea of what their numbers are. This blog post can help you take the most important step toward profitability.

https://www.francescosapienza.com - Food and Restaurant Photographer - New York - NYC. Francesco Sapienza is an international food and restaurant photographer based in New York City. Among his clients: The New York Times, Eataly, Lavazza, Union Square Hospitality Group, L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon.

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https://www.francescosapienza.com - Food and Restaurant Photographer - New York - NYC. Francesco Sapienza is an international food and restaurant photographer based in New York City. Among his clients: The New York Times, Eataly, Lavazza, Union Square Hospitality Group, L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon.

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https://www.francescosapienza.com - Food and Restaurant Photographer - New York - NYC. Francesco Sapienza is an international food and restaurant photographer based in New York City. Among his clients: The New York Times, Eataly, Lavazza, Union Square Hospitality Group, L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon.

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https://www.francescosapienza.com - Food and Restaurant Photographer - New York - NYC. Francesco Sapienza is an international food and restaurant photographer based in New York City. Among his clients: The New York Times, Eataly, Lavazza, Union Square Hospitality Group, L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon.

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Getting paid can be hard, but there are easy yet very effective things you can do help with that.

https://www.francescosapienza.com - Food and Restaurant Photographer - New York - NYC. Francesco Sapienza is an international food and restaurant photographer based in New York City. Among his clients: The New York Times, Eataly, Lavazza, Union Square Hospitality Group, L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon.

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My top ten tips for Food Photography.

https://www.francescosapienza.com - Food and Restaurant Photographer - New York - NYC. Francesco Sapienza is an international food and restaurant photographer based in New York City. Among his clients: The New York Times, Eataly, Lavazza, Union Square Hospitality Group, L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon.

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https://www.francescosapienza.com - Food and Restaurant Photographer - New York - NYC. Francesco Sapienza is an international food and restaurant photographer based in New York City. Among his clients: The New York Times, Eataly, Lavazza, Union Square Hospitality Group, L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon.

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So many photographers out there barely read the terms when working for someone. You really need to know what ‘Work Made For Hire’ implies.

https://www.francescosapienza.com - Food and Restaurant Photographer - New York - NYC. Francesco Sapienza is an international food and restaurant photographer based in New York City. Among his clients: The New York Times, Eataly, Lavazza, Union Square Hospitality Group, L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon.

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https://www.francescosapienza.com - Food and Restaurant Photographer - New York - NYC. Francesco Sapienza is an international food and restaurant photographer based in New York City. Among his clients: The New York Times, Eataly, Lavazza, Union Square Hospitality Group, L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon.

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So many clients out there have no idea of what usage rights are and they need our help to understand how creative work should be priced.

Francesco Sapienza is an international food and restaurant photographer based in New York City. Among his clients: The New York Times, Eataly, Lavazza, Union Square Hospitality Group, L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon.

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https://www.francescosapienza.com - Food and Restaurant Photographer - New York - NYC. Francesco Sapienza is an international food and restaurant photographer based in New York City. Among his clients: The New York Times, Eataly, Lavazza, Union Square Hospitality Group, L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon.

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