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Author Topic: Career change opportunity  (Read 9405 times)
Joe Hardesty
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« Reply #20 on: August 25, 2003, 12:38:40 PM »
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What does everyone think about the idea of buying an existing photo business? It would give immediate cash flow and a customer base, but am I better building my own customer base and not spending the money to aquire one?
Jack,

Earlier in this thread you said:

"My interests are first and foremost fine art landscapes. Is it possible for anyone to make a living just doing fine art?

On the practical side I find commercial photography the most appealing of the others you listed, but since we are talking about a hypothetical career move I'd like to discuss everything from a fine art standpoint. If I'm nuts please tell me so."

Since you are talking about an existing photo business, I assume you mean commercial, portrait, or wedding. But your passion is with landscape/fine art. I would be very concerned that the new business would consume you. Yes, you would have a photo business, and probably succeed at it, but you may not have any time left to pursue the aspect of photography that you really love.

But it all depends (isn't that the answer to everything), if it was a small operation that left plenty of time for your fine art interests, it could certainly help pay the bills and generate some traffic for your landscape gallery.

Just thinking out loud here...
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Dan Sroka
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« Reply #21 on: August 22, 2003, 11:28:36 AM »
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I thought of a little metaphor for Jack's decision. A hobby is like having a girlfriend (or boyfriend, whatever your situation). You have fun, you go out and do things, you spend money, and there is very little responsibility. Turning a hobby into a career is like getting married. You'll now be with this hobby every day, whether you are in the mood or not. You'll have more responsibilities, more planning, more compromising. But you will also have the opportunity for a deeper and more satisfying relationship.

So, if photography feels more like a feel-good fling, then don't get married to it. But if you feel that it could be "the one", then go for it.

:-)
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Jack R
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« Reply #22 on: August 25, 2003, 12:20:57 PM »
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Steven- Good luck to you! You are doing it right by slowly stepping in, unfortunately I didn't have the time available to do that, and now I find myself in a position of "5hit or get off the pot"!

Joe, thanks for sharing your experience. Thats a great approach- wives can be incredibly clearheaded when husbands are distracted ; )

What does everyone think about the idea of buying an existing photo business? It would give immediate cash flow and a customer base, but am I better building my own customer base and not spending the money to aquire one?

Thanks,
Jack
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Jack R
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« Reply #23 on: August 25, 2003, 08:43:06 PM »
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Joe, you have hit the concerns on the head. My fear is the (commercial) business might keep me too busy to do what I like- fine art. Perhaps it's best to go it alone and concentrate on what I enjoy.

Edward, you make a good point- how much of a lifestyle change can I afford to make. I know if I didn't have a family I'd be content with 20-30k yr. I grew up in a poor family and never really missed what I didn't have. I'd like to send my kids to college without it being too big a burden on them or me. Of course the sooner I make a replacement income the less I can afford to make as I will be able to bank more now. Hmmmm. A lot to think about.

Jack
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Hank
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« Reply #24 on: August 17, 2003, 10:23:00 PM »
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Long ago I loved to fish so much that I went through a couple of college degrees in fisheries, fishing all the while. Once I graduated I got a job in fisheries, and in short order I quit fishing altogether. It simply wasn't fun to work all day, then play in the same venue. It took several years to rediscover my love of fishing, and it was a long process to learn the distinction between work and fun. Now, even after a full career in fisheries, I still love fishing.

Somewhere along the way I also fell in love with photography and become a serious amateur, then part-time pro. Upon retirement from fisheries I became a full-time pro photographer. Having been through the whole cycle once already, I have not lost my love of photography while going pro, but it took my prior experience and a lot of thoughtful effort to prevent that from happening.

Whether attempting to become a pro is a good answer for you involves a lot of really personal variables, and whether or not you can do it in 5 years involves even more, including local demographics and your willingness to market yourself and your work.

If it were me I would accept the 5 years as a providential gift that would allow me to pursue a dream, but I think I would know the answers to the questions long before the time span expired. In your shoes I would give it your best, but I would also be prepared to pursue another course if it didn't work out, either financially or personally.

Frank talk, but you will have to come up with your own answers based upon a serious study of yourself and the local variables.

Hank
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Joe Hardesty
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« Reply #25 on: August 18, 2003, 01:47:03 PM »
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So, what about marketing- what kind of photography has defined your success and how do you market it?
Jack,

Where do your photographic interests lie? Portaits, commericial, fine art, stock, nature, etc. etc. They each have their own unique marketing strategies.

For example, I do fine art and stock. Fine art fuels my creatvity and stock helps pay the bills. I do virtually no local advertising or promotion unless my work goes into a local gallery. But I have friends who are commercial and wedding photographers who spend a lot of time and money developing clients and drumming up business.

Give us an idea of where you are headed and you get much more reliable and relevant advice.
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TonyGamble
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« Reply #26 on: August 19, 2003, 02:44:11 AM »
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In no intended order of importance.

Be sure you are able to enter the world where the customer is always right. For many of us it is a new world and often a very frustrating one.

Be prepared to accept that you are unlikely to sell photographs from exhibitions. Most photographers sell their services and images as the result of commissions. Selling stock shots to libraries is what most people think of first - hence there are a lot of photographers all competing for the same market.

Don't be afraid of offering your services very inexpensively to get started. Building up a portfolio of commissioned work will be your first step. When it looks impressive the next client need never know what the previous clients have paid.

Tony
London UK
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Jack R
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« Reply #27 on: August 19, 2003, 10:29:34 AM »
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Jack, I assume you meant "2003 Photographers Market" : ) which I already have and have been studying. I appreciate all your advice! The gallery info is great and I never thought of opening my own shop in our local tourist area, but it's a very interesting idea- one I really need to look into. I probably don't have a large enough portfolio for a photo rep but perhaps this would be a good idea as I progress. As for publishing, thats another area I really need to dig into as we have several magazine and book publishers in the area.

I have no fear of the business and marketing end, my previous avocation has taught me most of what I will need. It would be nice to hear from Michael on this as I know he has changed careers many times as well.Thanks for all your input!

Thanks all!
Jack R
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Joe Hardesty
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« Reply #28 on: August 19, 2003, 01:33:21 PM »
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One note about dealing with galleries, I have found that a personal visit is much more effective than submissions by mail. My point being that I would drive 3-4 hours to meet with a gallery owner in person rather than just sending the photos. I think there are two aspects at work here:

1. A one-on-one discussion is much more productive than email and phone calls. Plus you get a chance to visit the gallery and see what they like, and compare the quality of your work. Of course, you are also more likely to get immediate feedback, instead of waiting and wondering if you work made it to the right pile.

2. You can present your photos in the most positive manner. Often galleries will just ask for slides or 8x10 prints, but if you go in person, you can take matted full-size prints that really show off your work. Then leave a package of slides or smaller prints with them.

Again, others may have different experiences, and not every gallery allows it, but IMHO a visit is much more productive than any other type of submission. During a visit where the owner said "I like your work but it's not our style", I have even been given references to other galleries that they felt my want my work. Now I have a name and a referral when calling those galleries. That type of referral has never happened after a rejected mail-in submission.
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Joe Hardesty
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« Reply #29 on: August 19, 2003, 04:39:33 PM »
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The gallery info is great and I never thought of opening my own shop in our local tourist area, but it's a very interesting idea- one I really need to look into.
Hi Jack,

Now when you open your new gallery, I hope you're going to save a little space for some of your old pals (wink wink) here in the LL forum, right?

But seriously, if you live in a tourist area, you might want to consider providing space for other selected photographers. The commissions on sales could help defray your expenses. Or, all though I have never heard of this being done, you charge rent for hanging images with a lowered commission on sales.

Just thinking out loud here.
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d2frette
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« Reply #30 on: August 22, 2003, 11:04:27 AM »
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Your burned out in your current career and one day you are offered a "severence" that will last you 5+ years allowing you to enjoy your current lifestyle and beyond without any time constraint other than family.

Jack -
If you are burned out, you spend 40+ hours/week in a job you don't enjoy, then take the "money and run." Seriously, I know you have a family and responsibilities, but don't you think you can find another field you enjoy?

Say it takes you 1 year to find that field, then you have 4 years of base wages + wage increases + severance (less 1 year of living expenses).

You tell me:
- Would it be worth it financially? Probably, but not necessarily.
- Would you gain 40+ hours of time back that you will enjoy (either at a new job or with your family)? Probably.  
- Does that mean you have to do photography as a career? Nope! That's a different obstacle.

I'd love to have that opportunity. I'd also love a 1Ds.    But since I don't have either, I'll be happy for you that you have this opportunity. Good luck!

- Dave
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David M. Frette.
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Joe Hardesty
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« Reply #31 on: August 23, 2003, 08:54:16 PM »
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Hi Jack,

When reading your most recent post tonight, I realized that I was in a very similar situation about 20 years ago. I had always worked for other people and was wrestling with the idea of going into business for myself. My wife came to the rescue with some valuable advice, that for once I was smart enough to follow.

She said you just have to do it and give yourself a chance to succeed. She suggested I choose a starting date and then give myself 6 months in the new career to see if it would work. About 2 weeks later, I got up on a Monday morning and started my new career. I didn't just dabble in it to test the water, nor did I sit around and think about it. I did it. There was nothing to keep me from taking time off whenever I liked, but I did not. I had a business to run and a career to build.

The six month trial date came and went unnoticed, because I had built the business and it was working. I was happier than I had ever been and even making a little money.

So, I would suggest that you pick a date, and on that date you begin your new job as a professional photographer. Order your business cards and get down to business. I've got a suspicion that whatever trial period you set for yourself will go completely unnoticed--you will far too happy and way too busy.

Whatdaya think?
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