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!