It’s true. Every job has its pros and cons. The trouble was, my old office job as a marketing manager seemed to have more than its fair share of negatives. The thought of being in that routine until the sweet release of retirement scared me a lot. Don’t get me wrong, plenty of people enjoy their office jobs working for others. For me, however, it ticked none of my boxes in terms of goals, ambition and happiness. So one day, I took the plunge (and no, I don’t mean I jumped off a bridge!).
Having been a pro photographer for a number of years now, I can say, without hesitation, that making that leap was the best decision I’ve made. All my boxes are now filled with chunky green ticks.
But is it all I dreamed it would be? What do I know now that I wish I had known back then? After all, every job has its pros and cons.
The 5 Worst Things About Being a Professional Photographer
No Guaranteed Income
Long gone are the days of ‘Internet Monday’, where I would sit back in the chair in my office and just settle myself in to the week. No longer can I distance myself from my work duties, switch off at 6pm and still walk away at the end of the month with a healthy pay-cheque. In fact, when you do start making a nice living from photography, there’s always that sense of being in a ‘success bubble’, which could burst at any moment. Admittedly it’s not a fear that’s on the forefront of my mind, but it’s definitely back there.
Doing Everything Yourself
I thought management in an office-based 9-to-5 job was full on. The advantage of that scenario was having colleagues around you to delegate to and teamwork with. Not any more! From personal finances and tax, invoicing and contracts, correspondence and sales enquiries, social media and promotion, website updates and spreadsheets, blogs and videos, photo editing and occasionally taking photos… it’s all just waiting there for you. Every day!
As a pro, photography equipment is a significant financial burden. There’s always a temptation to upgrade or expand your collection – whether through necessity or just wanting the latest and greatest. In fact, I don’t think I’ve met a professional photographer who doesn’t have a wish-list of equipment. I agree, photography is no different to any other profession in that sense, but that sure doesn’t help cushion the blow when it’s purchase time.
80+ Hour Weeks
It’s different when you work for yourself. Long days and late nights don’t bother you as much. The hours you put in usually yield some form of reward down the line. But the times when you’re on an 80 hour week, working in to the early hours, day after day and throughout weekends are still a downside, which ever way you look at it.
This was a downside I wasn’t expecting, although I have no doubt it’s the same for most people who work for themselves. Yes, you end up meeting more people than you ever might working in an office-based job, but you never quite build the same friendships compared with when you work around the same people ten hours a day, every day. I miss that a lot.
The 5 Best Things About Being a Professional Photographer
Living Your Dream, Your Way
I’m one of those people you hate because I love my job. Even after several years of being a photographer, the buzz of being on-location at an exciting photoshoot hasn’t worn off. Not necessarily due to the assignment content, but because, armed with just a phone and a laptop, I’ve created a career for myself. Even sitting in the car, driving on the motorway to meet a client still excites me. What’s more, you have the power to choose when and with whom you work. Essentially you can create your own job description for the career you wish to have.
Freedom & Flexibility
You know that feeling when you book a day off and you’re all too aware everyone else is at work? You feel guilty that you should get back to the office. I still get that feeling to this very day, even though it’s been six years since I worked in one.
Yes there’s the worry of not having a guaranteed income, but on the flip-side is the potential to earn very lucratively. I agree, money isn’t everything, but for me it’s always a motivating factor. I think it’s the same for every self-employed person out there. There are so many areas for income in photography – from photoshoots across numerous different sectors, selling prints, blogging and making YouTube videos, to running tutorial courses and seminars. You really do have the option to expand or specialise as you feel fit.
Never Knowing What Might Happen
I used to sit in my car during my Monday morning commute to the office, knowing exactly what the day, week and month ahead had in store. Boy did that shatter my enthusiasm! Now, however, I wake up not knowing who will call, what photoshoots could appear on the horizon, where I might travel to, or who I will meet. I love not knowing.
Making a Difference
The process and creativity behind a great image or photoshoot is always motivating and exciting. But it’s when you deliver your work to a client and see it being used. That’s when you get a real kick out of this job. Whether it’s commercial photography being showcased on global websites and advertising materials, or a landscape which has gone viral on social media, or simply a photo of a father and child which the family have hanging in their living room – there’s a true sense of pride when you see your hard work making a difference.
You see, I’ve always had a personal wishlist when it came to my career. Now, doing this job, I can tick off each item in that list and that far outweighs any negatives that come with being a photographer.
Author – Oliver Pohlmann