This article couldn’t come at a more convenient time. With the COVID19 threatening our lives and economy, I have been thinking about the rules and strategies I used when I started the photography business that allowed me to be where I am right now.

In the beginning, I was very lost and had some vague ideas of things I should have done to make it all work. It all started back in September 2013, when I moved to Brussels and decided to dedicate my life to photography. Let me tell you a short story about how taking action and being patient allowed me to build up and run a business from scratch and be able to achieve my dreams of being a professional photographer.

My background is computer engineering, and I worked in Italy as a software engineer for about four years before I decided to change my life completely. After volunteering for nine months in Poland, working with children in a kindergarten, I decided to move to Brussels and start my photography business. My situation allowed me to make this move because I had time in my hands, no family commitments or children, some money saved, and lots of motivation to start this new ride.

To be able to “survive” and make it all happen, I had established some rules within myself on how to administer my time, efforts, and money. If you are starting a business from scratch, or if you are facing difficult times with your current freelancing activity, these rules/tips may come handy to you like they were to me.

1. Be aware of your expenses.

I was lucky enough to start with some money on my savings account from my previous corporate life, and it wasn’t much, barely 5.000 EUR or something like that. I knew that I had to be very careful with my expenses, as I had no idea how much time it would take me to make some revenue with my new photography business.

My rule was to record every expense and review them at the end of the month. Recording my costs forced me to think better before spending money, and everything was highly scrutinized and questioned before spending.

The habit stuck, and I still manage my money very carefully. Without a doubt, controlling my expenses has been one of the most important aspects of keeping my business healthy throughout the whole process.

2. Practice like Slash from Guns and Roses.

I once heard that Slash used to practice guitar for about 12 hours per day when he was a kid. I don’t know if this is true or not, but by seeing how he plays now, I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the case.

My rule was to take pictures every single day. If I wanted to be a photographer, I needed to take pictures. Every. Single. Day.

There may be faster ways of getting to a place, but what you cannot deny is that practice eventually leads to mastery. By giving myself the time to go out and take pictures, I refined my eye and got closer to photography as a way of expressing myself.

3. Get in touch with locals and get discovered.

I didn’t know anyone when I got to Belgium, so meeting the locals was an essential aspect of growing my business. There were several ways of doing this, and they allowed me to know more people and build my network.

My rule was to volunteer and seek opportunities for free to expand my network. If I want to get new opportunities and gain experience, I need to tell the world that I am ready for it.

I volunteered for a couple of organizations as an event and portrait photographer to build up my portfolio, which allowed me to put my work and name out there. 

4. Learn from the ones who made it and improve.

Let’s face it. There are many things we do not know. To gain experience, I had to follow and learn from those who had made it — dead simple. I got in touch with a couple of local photographers and was able to become their official assistant for photo shootings. An experience like this is invaluable, and it taught me tons about the business of photography.

My rule was to learn as much as possible from well established professional photographers. I looked up local and foreigner photographers that had a robust portfolio, and learned from them as much as I could.

Every day, I decided to invest in improving my skills, either by learning new techniques with my camera, reading articles about photography, learning something about starting your business, or improving my skills with retouching tools. Take the time to invest in yourself.

5. Be patient.

Last but not least, patience plays a primordial role in your business. Taking things for granted and hoping great things will occur to you because you deserve it will lead you nowhere.

My rule was to take action, little by little, and understand that things don’t come easy. I was motivated to carry on, no matter the adversities, to make it happen. Of course, with a sense of rational to not fall into death traps.

By taking action every day, little by little, you can build up a robust business that stands on solid grounds. No-one is entitled to anything, no-one owes you anything, and only you can take control of what you think and what you do with your time. Seize the moment and move forward.

Final thoughts

Starting a photography business, or any business, is no easy task, and there are many variables to consider. Still, with enough motivation, the right mindset, and by taking action, you should be able to start your professional photography adventure and achieve things you would have never imagined.

Are you a business owner? Are you a photography freelancer? I would love to hear about your experience and what were the rules you applied to your beginnings, if any. 

I’ll be writing more about entrepreneurship and starting a photography business in the coming weeks. If this is a topic you enjoy, be sure to come back and subscribe to my newsletter to stay tuned. Thank you for your time!

* You can also visit this post by our friends at Pixpa to know more about how you can start your photography business.


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