This post that I found via Steve Coleman on Facebook lays out the cold hard facts of starting a wedding or portrait photography business in 2011. You can certainly apply most of it to commercial and editorial photography as well. Photographer Laurence Kim takes his MBA and 20 years of business experience to explain how the photography business compares to other career options.
First, the options you may or may not have for building enough wealth to live the American Dream (live a middle class or better lifestyle, send your kids to college and retire at a reasonable age).
1. The Investor – Use money to make money.
2. The Professional – Advanced degrees command high fees.
3. The Corporate Employee – Climb the corporate ladder.
4. The Public Employee – Job security and a retirement.
Finally the photographer.
Zero barriers to entry – A camera and a cheap website then you’re off.
Zero leverage/scalability – Your are trading your time for money. Stock used to provide leverage but that’s dead.
Zero equity-building- What’s Joe Smith Photography worth when you decided to retire. Zero.
Zero benefits – Buy your own health insurance and match your own 401k.
Laurence’s conclusion: “I actually can’t think of a worse business than photography.” And the bottom line: “from a wealth-creation standpoint, photography is a lousy career.” Yikes!
Yeah, I know what you’re thinking, I’m different, I’m going to become the next Dan Winters. Sober up for a second and read his post (here). The key here is not just making a living at photography, but a career: enjoy life, raise kids, retire and die happy.
I rarely give in to the devil on my shoulder and write about failure, but I’m feeling the negative energy people are sending me and this post was too honest to pass up. Everyone needs a kick in the pants once in awhile.