Running a photography business can be hard. You need to spend a lot of time being creative, while making sure you are paying attention to the various components that make up the business of photography (like how to market your photography store, building a content plan, or managing your social media).
Not all photographers are self-employed, but many start out as freelancers, and/or hobbyist practitioners. Photographers often have a “real” or “day” job to focus on.
Maybe that side business is in a completely different field, or maybe it’s directly related, but either way, photographers have to find a balance between getting out and capturing their images, and the day-to-day responsibilities of managing their business(es), and their life.
We are lucky enough to work and connect with many amazing photographers, and they’re ever-ready to share what they think about TruLife® Acrylic with us.
With that in mind, we thought we would tap into that resource, and ask them some of these tough, true-to-life questions. In hopes of some answers to help like-minded aspiring professionals navigate the business of photography.
Some of these tough questions include: How do/did you do it? What were/are your biggest challenges? What did you learn about how to run a photography business and how do you prioritize all the various components that make you successful?
Let’s hear what they have to say…
Work-Life Balance: Levi Sim
Levi Sim is a full-time photographer. He is also a writer and editor for Photofocus, along with being a teacher. Don’t forget husband and father.
How does it all fit?
Work-life balance? Oh, you mean that mythical creature all creatives pursue? Yeah, I used to believe in it, too.
If you’re like me, you awake at night with an idea for a picture that keeps you up as the details of making it happen come pouring in. You get up before the household to go make pictures in the pre-dawn light. You stay out late to catch golden hour in the evening.
You take off in the middle of the day for story time at the elementary school. You take family vacations whenever you want but always schedule time to photograph the places you visit.
Where does work end and life begin?
It’s never really balanced—never 50/50—and rarely is it a nine to five work schedule. But you must make time for the important things in life, which are the people in your life.
The way I do it is that if it’s on the calendar then it gets done. I just have to make time to consult with my wife and ensure that the music recital is on there and that the family events are written down.
Of course, she makes sure that the workshop I’m teaching at the dude ranch in Montana (the one where she and the kids get to come play for a week) is scheduled well in advance.
It’s never really balanced, but it gets done (usually), and if that means my kids see more sunsets and sunrises than other kids, well then that’s just fine, too.
Work-Life Balance: Lewis Marroquin
Lewis’ story was one of the catalysts for this particular TruLife Big Question.
He has to travel a lot in order to realize his creative vision. That’s not surprising because he is a professional wildlife photographer. We have talked to him many times about his thoughts on photography (not to mention why he loves TruLife Acrylic face mounting so much!), but it wasn’t until we dug deeper that we realized “professional photographer” isn’t the only hat he wears.
Many recognize me as a professional wildlife photographer, and that is exactly what I am, but what most are not aware of is that I am also a full-time Sales Executive. I am also a Project Quotations Specialist for the commercial and residential lighting industry. In short, my full time employment covers the cost of living, which includes my family as head of household, daily living expenses, and medical insurance etc.
I am married with no children. The photography income goes towards my purpose as a wildlife photographer. A percentage of the proceeds of my images goes towards donations to wildlife and nature conservation.
My photography income also helps to fund my trips, and covers expenses of camera equipment, camera insurance; all related to my photography.
Aside from prints, I perform other photography services, as well as photoshoots.
However, thanks to my day job, I have the power to focus on my primary goal as a photographer: dedicate my time bringing awareness of our precious endangered wildlife and habitats that are at risk. To use my artistic talents to inspire, and hopefully move others to be more conscious of our natural world.
The number one challenge in achieving that goal is time and money. In regards to money, there is a significant amount of time and thought spent towards budgeting and saving. I make sure that every trip is paid off in full before traveling, and I don’t want to generate any form of debt following each trip.
I live in Los Angeles, and most of my photography requires some sort of travel, so whether my destination is close or in a distant place, I save accordingly.
I take advantage of my day job to boost my savings to travel on safari and plan every trip at least a year in advance so that I am sure to make full use of funds.
Time is where the true challenge comes. It takes dedication, discipline and a well thought-out schedule. In my “spare” time, I enjoy reading about how to become a better person, and this includes being successful in life.
One of the key insights is time management. I start my day at five in the morning every day to meditate, followed by a cold shower. I then focus on my photography business, take care of my financial responsibilities and then head to my day job, along with doing some reading before going in to start the day.
By the time I start my day job, I am already feeling accomplished simply by having started early. In the evenings, I dedicate time to spend with my wife, go out to run whatever errands need to be taken care of and, once back at home, I dedicate some time to working on an image or two.
That said, weekends are the time I dedicate my focus on images. Whether capturing images or processing them. I prepare for the week so that during the week, I am organized with what needs to be done. I am both highly organized and analytical. It’s what makes me successful in both my roles. It takes discipline and dedication, however it can be done.
Working as a team with my wife helps tremendously, she compliments me and I believe most of my success and inspiration to keep going comes from her.
The challenge is life itself. The unexpected twists and turns we all can relate to. What has helped us, is living a simple eye. Simplifying in certain aspects opens the doors to possibilities that one would never think they can accomplish or experience.
Traveling to Africa for example is very costly, but it’s amazing how much you can save, if we simplify in areas of our lives, cutting down on certain unnecessary expenses can create opportunity in both money and time which can certainly play a big role as a wildlife photographer with big plans.
Every individual is different, every situation is different. But the two key elements, time and money management, are vital, if one wishes to pursue having both a photography and day job, and yes, still have time to dedicate to the most important things in life: family and friends.
It can be done, and at a pace that we don’t burn out. Have a goal and keep your eyes focused on that goal, so that every time you’re tempted to buy something, or plan something, you always think “how will this affect my goal and how will this affect my family?
Time truly is my main challenge. It continues to be that way due to the unexpected things that occur in life. That’s just how it is. I strive to take each day at a time, keep learning, and stay positive. I wish I had a mentor, but most of my experience as a photographer has been self-taught. Trial and error.
I have many awesome photographic journeys prepared in the near future and are happy and grateful for whatever God has to offer me in life as a husband, a family member, friend, a sales executive and wildlife photographer. So far I’m pleased with my journey. 🙂
Work-Life Balance: Aaron Goulding
Any kind of balance can be a struggle. It won’t always be easy, and the road to balance is not paved with certainty.
Just ask Aaron Goulding:
Photography for me started out as a hobby then lead to freelance photography for multiple magazines, which then led into Art.
I decided after many years that I really enjoyed the art aspect of photography more, which warped into a full-time career of taking photos, opening multiple galleries, and running them as well as staffing them. It’s a serious grind! But I found that if you can balance it all, which I struggled with, then you will survive.
Ultimately, the stress of it all became too much for me and my family, so I have admittedly closed my gallery locations, but remain very active with freelance, portraits, and online art sales.
My greatest struggle was finding time in between all of the hats I wore to actually get out there and get new material. It is/was no easy feat but if you want it, you have to go get it!
Work-Life Balance: Jason D. Little
A lot of us spend so much time trying to achieve work-life balance, or lamenting the fact that we don’t have it. Sometimes, though, you have to be ok with imbalance. Sometimes that’s what being creative brings with it. Striving for it isn’t a bad thing, but it’s part of the process. The journey.
Don’t let it get you down!
From Jason D. Little:
Such an interesting topic, this whole balance thing. I’ll be honest, I don’t think I’ve got it all figured out. I’m fortunate enough to be in a position (thanks again in large part to the wife) where I can pursue my passion.
It’s a hodgepodge, but it’s all photography related. I’ll sell a few prints, do a few portrait shoots/headshots, I do quite a bit of writing for Light Stalking (in addition to the Adobe Lightroom presets I develop for Light Stalking’s sister site). It all works well enough for now.
Of course, I’d like to do bigger things in the sense of maybe selling more prints, maybe something like teaching/workshops, get more portrait/headshot clients. But the business side of things is not my strong suit, so I’m kind of left to figure that stuff out on my own.
My experience leans HEAVILY toward the creative, which obviously creates a lack of balance. For someone like me, I think there will always be a greater emphasis on the creative side no matter what, but I definitely want to be better at balancing the creative and the business.
Work-Life Balance: The Answer for Photographers?
As discussed, the very nature of a creative endeavour suggests that it can become all-consuming at points.
Anything freelance-based or consulting-oriented won’t have the consistency or security a “regular” day job might possess. But that’s the choice solopreneurs, freelancers, and artists are often making: Their road might not necessarily be less-traveled, but it’s certainly missing a lot of the signage and infrastructure other roads generally have.
And that’s ok. Striving for balance, paying attention to everything you have going on: that seems to be the goal. You might experience balance at times, and then wobble. Perhaps you’ll fall down. Based on what our respondents had to say, as long as you keep getting up and focus on your goal, some kind of balance will be forthcoming.
Check out our TruLife® Acrylic Featured Photographers to read all the nice things they have to say about TruLife® Acrylic, and don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter so we can deliver recent blog posts, along with any TruLife product and program updates, right to your inbox.
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This article is intended for educational purposes only and does not replace independent professional judgment. Statements of fact and opinions expressed are those of the author(s) individually and, unless expressly stated to the contrary, are not the opinion or position of Tru Vue or its employees. Tru Vue does not endorse or approve, and assumes no responsibility for, the content, accuracy or completeness of the information presented.