Quitting Your Day Job: Knowing When It’s Time To Go Full-Time

Business Tips August 20th 2014 10:09 AM 13 Comments

Quitting Your Day Job

This is a un-sugarcoated look into what life is really like when you walk away from the steady paycheck and enter the world of being self employed. I will be sharing my experiences, thoughts, and anything else that comes my way as I navigate the waters of being a full-time photographer. I also hope to interview other full-time photographers to share their experiences with you as well. To see the rest of the articles in the series, click here.

Knowing When It’s Time To Go Full-Time

I have been going back and forth with myself on deciding to write this article. Making the decision to run my photography business full time is not a decision I took lightly or one you should take lightly. It’s truly a life changing decision. Going full-time with your photography is not like moving to another company; no, it’s about a complete life and mindset change.

I Know How You Feel

I’m on your side; I want you to follow your dream. I know how it feels to get up in the morning and dread the workday ahead of you at your day job. I was there.

My first and only job in the television industry was a dream come true. I won’t mention where I worked, but if I told you, I know you would think it was an awesome place to work. My first three years were amazing; I loved every second of it. I worked horrible hours, and didn’t have many weekends off, but I loved what I was doing. Three years ago though, I started to realize this was not a lifestyle I could live the rest of my life, and when I looked out into the future, my career options were limited there. Naturally, I started looking for a new job in the industry, but I had no luck thanks to a weak economy.

One Day I woke up….

One early morning (I’m talking 3am here, people), I was getting ready to go in for a 12-hour shift at my day job. For some odd reason, I was staring at myself in the mirror, (weird things happen when you are up that early) and I didn’t like what I saw. I was not upset with myself, no, I just didn’t like where I was going. I realized during that early morning haze I was in, that I was not going to ever be completely happy at my job, and was done trying to find another job in the industry. I needed to make a change. I needed to pursue the dream I always had long before I went to college or got a “real job.”

I knew it was time to be my own boss and use my creative mind to make a living.

I decided to start slowly. I purchased the best gear I could afford, built up the best portfolio I could, learned more about photography, took all the steps to create a legal business, and create a two year plan to go from part-time to full-time.

chris-nachtwey-nyc-wedding-photographer-knowing-when-to-go-fulltime

Challenges

My day job presented so many challenges: I worked crazy hours, didn’t have weekends off to book jobs, assist, or second shoot, and trying to get time off was really difficult. I found it within myself to overcome those challenges to book what I could, do whatever I had to do to get time off, and booked some family portrait sessions, and a few weddings.

With my small portfolio, I began marketing aggressively to book weddings and portrait sessions for the 2014 season and planned to leave my day job in May of 2014, no matter how much work I had booked. I met my goals, booked more work then I expected, and everything is working out just fine for me.

chris-nachtwey-ct-wedding-photographer-knowing-when-to-go-fulltime

Are You Ready To Live Your Dream?

1. You Have Consistent Work

This is something that might seem obvious. If people other then your family and friends want to pay for your services, that’s a good sign that it might be time to do photography full-time. I’m not talking about once in awhile jobs; I’m talking about multiple sessions or weddings a month.

I was there, but due to my job, I had to turn the work down. For me, that was a sign that I could start to build a client base and make good money doing my photography full-time. I knew the only way to grow my business was to leave my job that didn’t allow me the time to book all the clients who wanted to work with me.

REWIND: QUITTING YOUR DAY JOB PART 7: MANAGING CLIENT EXPECTATIONS

2. You Want To Own A Business

Being a full-time photographer is much more then just making images. It’s marketing, writing contracts, keeping track of finances, blogging, and a slew of other things. If you really want to go full-time, you need to want to run a business full-time first. If you want to deal with all the things that come with running a business, then that’s a good sign you might want to go full-time.

3. You’re Confident

This is a big one. You need the confidence in not only your images, but also yourself. You need to be confident that you can actually run a business, and be a full-time photographer. There is no surefire way to get to that level of confidence. For me, the confidence came when people other then my family and friends said how much they loved my work and were willing to pay for it.

4. You’re Fearless

To make the transition to full-time, you honestly need to be fearless. You can’t fear failure; you have to believe you will not fail. You will be nervous about leaving the steady paycheck and benefits of a day job. It’s ok to be nervous about the transition, but being scared of it is a bad sign. Being nervous is natural, but being scared of it is not.

I can speak from experience, being part-time was a piece of cake, being full-time is harder than you think it’s going to be. If you fear the work and possibility of failing, do not go full-time. It’s OK, being a full-time photographer is not for everyone.

5. Only You Know When It’s Time

In the end, only you, and you alone, know if it’s time to move from part-time to full-time. Some people jump right into it without a plan (I don’t suggest that), others plan for years and still never make the jump. You are the only one who knows if being a full-time photographer is right for you.

I’m young, don’t have children, and in the end, have just myself to take care of. If I had a family, I might have not gone full-time. I foresaw a small window in my life to make the transition, allowing me to get my business to the point where it needs to be when I do have a family. This window I’m currently in means I can work all day and night if I need to, I can take any job I want, and I can make my business what I want it to be for the long haul.

You might not be in the same position, and that’s why only you know if it’s time to go full-time. There are many successful photographers that are part-time and run extremely profitable businesses. I chose to go full-time, but if I were only part-time, that would have be better then not making money with my photography at all.

chris-nachtwey-ct-wedding-photographer-knowing-when-to-go-fulltime-2

Conclusion

After reading this, please do not go hand in your two weeks notice on a whim. Take some time to really, and I mean really, think about going full-time. Being full-time is full of challenges, unknown variables, and lots of work (I mean this, you will work so much it’s not even funny). If you’re ready to make the jump, I congratulate you and wish you all the success in the world. If you’re thinking about it, give it some more time. Don’t jump until you know deep down in your heart you want this lifestyle.

Till next time, keep shooting, building your business, and embrace the hustle!

Advertisement
Chris Nachtwey

About

Chris Nachtwey is a full-time wedding and portrait photographer based in Connecticut. He is the founder and creator of 35to220 a website dedicated to showcasing the best film photography in the world. Chris loves to hear from readers, feel free to drop him a line via the contact page on his website! You can see his work here: Chris Nachtwey Photography

13 Comments

  1. Brandon Dewey

    Another great article in a great series of articles .

    8
  2. Rafael Steffen

    Thanks so much for sharing all there is behind a strategic decision such as this one. Thanks to this article, people will know what steps to take before making the right step and avoid bad decisions.

    4
  3. Mark Iuzzolino

    Great job in describing your decision. I’m patiently waiting for that time when I’ll make that decision.

    5
  4. Matthew Saville

    Hmm, getting up at 3 AM for a 12 hour shift? Sounds like wedding photography. Oh wait…

    7
  5. Uday Arunachalam

    Thank you for your articles, gives people (like me) who are still considering to take the leap towards part-time/ full-time photography business abundant amount of inspiration….Please keep it coming

    4
    • Chris Nachtwey

      Happy you’re digging the series Uday! Yup, I have plenty more to write in the future! I love inspiring photographers everywhere!

      2
  6. Jesse Rinka

    Chris thank you for writing these articles. I am currently stuck working behind a desk M-F/9-5 and have recently begun the early stages of planning my escape. I do shoot for a bridal studio and also shoot portraits and events for my own brand but I am limited to weekends. I know being able to make the leap is certainly not something that will happen overnight but becoming as educated as possible in all that is involved with running a successful photography business has become a priority for me while I continue to book jobs on the weekends. I do feel I have reached that point where I’m limiting the work I can take on b/c of my full-time job. In any case, there are a lot of helpful tips here that I’ll be making good use of. Thanks again.

    2
    • Chris Nachtwey

      Thanks Jesse! Took a look at your 500px, you have some good stuff! Keep grinding, things will come together for you. Reach out anytime.

      2
  7. Brian Drumm

    Great read. I’ve been so on the fence with this for a few years now. Every time I feel like NOW is the right time, something comes up that sets me back.

    0

Leave a reply

Advertisement