10 Tips for Turning Pro in 2020

If your goal for 2020 is to become a full time professional, make sure that you start doing these things now. 

2019 is certainly drawing to a close. I am in the final throws of shooting the last few big campaigns of the year before taking a break over Christmas. If you are looking at making the jump in 2020 to being a full time professional photographer, then now is a great time to get a head start on all of the new years resolution. It is easy to put things off until a standard start time, but there is not need to wait until the 1st of Jan for a career change.

You could get a good chunk of the grunt work done now whilst still in full time employment or education and get a real head start of those who are putting off the work until the new year. 

Start Block Working

Block working is the biggest change that I have ever made to my work/life efficiency. Thanks to block working I have been able to continue to write for Fstoppers, start a YouTube channel, and have a day off a week. If you haven’t heard of this before, in its simplest terms, it’s doing all similar jobs together. For example, I am currently writing 10 articles for Fstoppers and next week I will be adding all of the digital assets and uploading them all. It saves on set up and pack down time on jobs. It might sound a bit buzz wordy, but it is very much worth doing, especially whilst you are jugging a full time job on the side. 

Only Check Your E-mails Once a Day

This goes for texts, social media, and pretty much any forms of communication. I have a rule that I only check and respond to messages once a day. If I replied to them as they came in, I would spend all day chatting to people online. Don’t be held hostage to your inbox, be in charge of it and use it on your terms. If people urgently need you, they will call.

Get a Workspace

Granted, if you are starting out you probably want be in a position to buy or rent a studio space, but you should certainly make sure that you have a small corner of your house set aside for work. Preferably away from where you do most of your relaxing. You will be so much more efficient and happy if you can separate work from play. Watching Netflix on the sofa with your laptop on your knees wont cut it in the professional world. 

Set Goals

I know it sounds a lot like going back to school again, but once you become freelance, it is easy to fall back into the same old day to day slog. Without having a tutor to boss in place to keep you motivated and on track, it is really important that you have a set of targets or goals that you can keep yourself accountable to. It might be worth finding a buddy/fellow freelancer and meeting with them once a week to make sure that both of you are keeping on track and completing the work that you need to in order to achieve your goals. It is certainly something that has worked well for me in the past.

Don’t Shoot Unless You Can Justify How it Will Make You Better

If I see another photographer claiming that they will get better by shooting more, I might cry. The act of taking more photographs wont make you a better photographer, it will simply make your faults and short comings better practiced. If you really want to get ahead of the masses, every time you pick up your camera there should be a reason for it. Yes, it might be that you need to pay rent tomorrow, that is as valid a reason as any. Although it can also be that in todays shoot you want to work out exactly how to calculate hyperfocal during a high pressure shoot to ensure that for every single portrait that you shoot you have the tip of the nose to the ears in focus. Working out where to set the focus in order to achieve this and how to alter you camera settings as you move closer and further away for certain shots. Then the most important part is reviewing this before working out where and how you need to spend more time perfecting the skill. 

Cash Cow or Portfolio Work Only

Once you are a professional, there are only two types of shoots that you should be saying yes to. Cash cows and portfolio shoots. If the job wont give you loads of money (relative to how badly you need that cash, we have all been skint and taken naff jobs to make ends meet) or an image so good that it will boost your portfolio, then kindly decline or point the person in the direction of someone who may be interested. Every time a proposal of a photo shoot comes your way, vet it for cash cow of portfolio potential before going any further. 

Stop Buying New Camera Gear

I don’t know you and I don’t know what camera gear you have, but assuming you have a camera and a lens, don’t buy anything else until you make money. If you are a hobbyists, go and buy what ever you want, but if this is going to be your business, then you need to carefully plan your purchases to receive a return on that investment. Whilst you still have a day job, use the money that you start to make now from photography to carefully re invest in gear. Don’t go and blow your wages, savings, or worst yet, credit card on the latest and greatest camera gear. I promise you that it wont help. 

Get Your Files Organized

Do not do what I did: Have a handful of hard drives that you have time to sift through to find images, then get super busy, throw another 10TB of data onto them and suddenly realize that you do not have a clue where anything is. Even if you are yet to start a proper storage system, when you do, make sure it is future proof. I have lost so many weeks of my life trying to find badly stored photographs because I left it too late to get my files in order. 

Set Up Email Templates

There are several emails that you will find yourself sending out all of the time. Invoices, chasing invoices, confirmations, contracts, and a host of other dreary and dull admin related responses. Write them once, save them, and then use them as templates for ever more. No one should have to type an invoice reminder email from scratch.

Get on Workshops

I might be against investing in gear, but I am certainly not against investing in knowledge. That $3500 camera that you lust after will be long gone in a few years time, where as that amazing workshop you attended will be there forever. And the images you create because of it will be far greater than any camera upgrade. If you do have any spare money, go and invest it in an education. 

What would your tips be for turning pro?

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