Oh Shoot! Podcast 10 Steps to Becoming a Full Time Photographer in 2024


In this episode of Oh Shoot! podcast, Cassidy Lynne shares a 10-step plan to go full time as a photographer in 2024. 

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10 steps to becoming a Full Time Photographer in 2024

Before we dive in, first I want to add a disclaimer that this is not an exact template. It doesn’t work the same for everyone. It’s something I would love for you to follow and see how well it works for you. This is the kind of outline that I followed in my business! 

Step #1 Create a Killer Portfolio

Step one is to create a killer portfolio. I want to see you emphasize your locations and the outfits. It’s so important to find your style and to continue to shoot. You need to learn your lenses, manual camera settings, and working with lighting. The more you photograph the better you’re going to get! Even for me, the more I shoot this year, I’m going to get better no matter how long i’ve been doing photography. 

Set-Up Shoots & Go to Content Days 

A portfolio is absolutely key right now. In order to grow your business to go full time, you have to have photos that represent what you want to be shooting. You might be thinking, “I want good photos and I want to book my ideal clients but how do I get those photos if my ideal clients aren’t booking me?” To create a killer portfolio you need to set up free shoots and seek content. 

Whatever niche of photography you want to go into, focus on that when creating your portfolio. Create the content you want to see in your portfolio and create your own shoots if you need to. Focus on the models, the outfits, the lighting, the location, and your editing. You don’t need to have your style set in stone right now. As long as your work is consistent, that’s what people are going to look for. Whatever work you show is their expectation. Another thing you can do is seek out styled shoots and attend content days to build your portfolio.

Step #2 Set up the back end of your business

The back end is probably the most daunting part of creating a successful full time photography business but it is the most crucial part in seeing growth and long-term success. To set-up the back end of your business you need to: 

  • Create your website.
  • Set-up CRM software like Honeybook (customer relationship management).
  • Create a pricing guide, welcome guide, location guide, etc.
  • Become a legal business with an LLC.
  • Get a business bank account.
  • Add a contact form to your website.

The backend is going to be what helps make your business function. It’s the bones of your business. You need to be prepared for when people want to start booking you. 

Create Your Website

Once you have photos for your portfolio, you can make your website. You don’t need anything super fancy and don’t need to pay thousands of dollars for one. It just needs to communicate your style, your photos, your pricing, your location, a little bit of about you, and how someone can get in contact with you. The bare bones.  

Set-up a CRM Software like Honeybook

The next thing is setting up your CRM software like Honeybook (Get 50% off Honeybook for the year through my link!). I have said this a million times on my podcast but Honeybook is one of those things that I wish I set up right away in my business.

When you are setting up a successful full-time photography business you need one place where all your info is and for me it’s Honeybook. When someone replies to one of my emails I get a notification in Honeybook. When someone schedules something with me I get a notification in Honeybook. When I need to email a client or look at my calendar I go to Honeybook.

Add a contact form to your site  

Tying into your CRM software is your contact form. It’s an easy way for you to collect info from people who want to book with you and get more details about them. In a contact form you can ask people their preferred session date, how they found you, their budget, etc. You can make a custom contact form that goes on your website in Honeybook. When someone is interested in working with you and fills out a contact form, it’s going right into your Honeybook system where everything is. It is a key part in getting your back end set-up. 

Creating Guides 

Another thing for your back end is creating pricing guides, welcome guides, location guides, etc. This ties into client experience where you want to make sure your client is taken care of. When I first started my business I created a client experience workflow of the different steps that I want one of my clients to go through when they work with me. 

I laid out all the contact points like when they were going to get emails from me, guides, phone calls, etc. Lay that all out so when someone does book you it’s a great experience right off the bat. Part of that is creating guides. For example, having a guide where you tell people your pricing or an outfit guide where you tell them what outfits would be good to wear. Those are great things to set up on your back end.

Become a Legal Business & Get a Business Bank Account

Next, becoming a legal business is huge. Anytime you start making money from photography is when you should create a legal photography business. I recommend creating an LLC to make it simple. You also need to have a business bank account and in order to create a business bank account you need to have an EIN number. You get an EIN number once you file to become an LLC. After you file an LLC, then create a business bank account. The business bank account is where all of your money is going to flow in and out from your business. You can see your income and your expenses. So those are great starting points for becoming full-time and becoming a legal business in general.

Step 3: Branding

What colors do I see in my images? 

Step three is important to do after you do step one because you’re going to use your portfolio to see what your branding should be. You want to ask yourself, “What colors do I see in my images? What’s the vibe of my images? Is everything super bright or earthy or is it true to color? If there are specific colors that you want in your branding make sure those are represented in your work. For example, if you really like pink, you need your work to incorporate that color! Really look at your portfolio and ask yourself what you see and from there you can get your branding. 

Create a Branding Kit of fonts, colors, and a logo. 

A branding kit is basically the fonts, the colors, the logo you use in your business. Potentially, I would recommend splurging on and finding a designer who can help you with creating a logo, and choosing fonts and  colors. If money is not an option right now for branding then go look on Pinterest for branding kit ideas and create that in Canva. You can pick out three fonts that go together and pick colors you like. You can create a logo for yourself. Once you have the money, you can invest it in branding.

Head Shots of You 

Along the lines of branding is head shots! Every photographer needs good head shots! It’s key to becoming full time because how are people going to book you consistently if they don’t know what you look like? If you don’t even have a photo of you on your website, you need to get new head shots. Set up a branding shoot or set up a tripod so you can take your own head shots. You don’t need a ton. Headshots will uplevel your business and help you appear more professional.

Step 4: Create a KILLER online presence & community. 

Being present online is huge for marketing. How are people going to hear about you? How do you want people to hear about you? Yes, people can hear about you through word of mouth and having clients refer you to their family and friends. However, you don’t want to rely solely on that. People want to see who you are, your personality, and know your story. 

Starting by creating an Instagram feed is important because it’s someone’s first impresssion of your work, so curate your feed. 

Daily Engagement 

 Daily engagement on your socials is key for creating a good digital online presence. To keep people engaged keep alternating your content and don’t always post the same thing. Next, always having content to consume and engage daily with your audience. Offer opportunities for people to engage whether that’s via a question box or poll or replying to comments. 

Daily engagement is going to be huge for creating an online presence and also being consistent with it. One thing a lot of people are not willing to do is be consistent. Consistency is going to help you grow. It’s going to help you grow your business, your bookings, and your online presence. 

Unique Posts 

Do not post the same thing over and over again. It’s like that concept of when you post the same thing and expect different results. You need to keep trying different things until you see what works. You have to be unique and think outside of the box. 

Always refine your content and take note of what performed well and what didn’t. The most successful people online are going to tell you that the reason they grew a platform so big is because they saw something that worked and then repeated it. That’s literally all it is, is creating creating an equation for yourself that equals success. 

Showing Your Face Online

You have to show your face online! As a business owner that’s going to take it from being just a business to showing that you’re also a person. As photographers we capture some of the most intimate moments of people’s lives and they don’t want to just hire anybody. They want to know the person they’re hiring.  Photos of you are so important so people will care about you. So show your face online!

Social Media Plan 

The last step of growing an online presence and community is that you need to have some sort of social media plan. A social media posting schedule is different for everyone  based on your schedule and on your ability to create content. If you’re not full time yet, and you have another job you have different time available. So whatever is feasible for you for showing up online, create a posting schedule for that! I don’t want you to get to the point where you’re so over social media that you get burned out. Make sure your schedule is actually something that is attainable for you.

Step 5: Create Scarcity.

Creating scarcity is a really good marketing technique. Show your booked and busy. We’re at the point in our full time plan where now we’re working on getting the bookings. We have everything set up. Now we need to get our name out there and need people to actually book us.  Scarcity is really going to help with this. 

For example, someone I follow has a schedule where Tuesdays and Thursdays are open for sessions and three weekends a month are open for weddings. She’s open about that and she’ll post, that she has this date and this date available, so reach out if you want it. 

Creating scarcity helps people make the move and book you. Always show that you’re busy even if you’re not busy with actual client work. Show you’re updating your website or doing self-portraits. Whatever it is that you’re doing, you want to show that. It does create this mindset that you’re busy as a photographer and your time is valuable.

Step 6: Build an email list. 

Step six is to build an email list. Email lists are so nice because they’re a direct line to your customers and people who are interested in working with you. 

Create a Freebie

One easy way that you can create an email list is to create a freebie. Maybe your freebie is five tips for what to wear to your session and from there you might collect emails from people who are interested in a session and care about what they’re wearing. If you want people local to you, you could do a freebie on your favorite places to propose in Grand Rapids, Michigan or Miami, Florida. Freebies are going to help you build your email list because to get the freebie they have to give you their email. 

Building an email list is super important when you start offering mini sessions or if you open your 2025 books or if you have five dates left for 2024. Those are things you can email out to people. You could also do a newsletter and share what you’ve been up to as a photographer. Creating some sort of community is key with this email list. You want to give people the feeling that they’re getting an inside look into your business.

Step 7: Build a business that runs itself

Step number seven is making a business that runs itself through automation. After all the other steps, now you’re at the point where time becomes an issue. Maybe you’re working another job and you don’t have a ton of time to do things. 

Email Templates 

A few ways that you can save time and automate your business is having email templates. If you get asked certain questions a lot, have an email template prepared. You can create an initial inquiry email template. You can create email templates for the week before the wedding or your gallery delivery email template. You’re going to create email templates so those things you send over and over again are just automatic and already written. 

Create Automations & Workflows

You’re going to create automations and workflows in your CRM. Basically, you can have Honeybook trigger certain action items when a client completes something. For example, when they pay a retainer then you can send an officially booked email. Or 3 weeks before a session date, you have an automatic email sent with an outfit guide. Small things like that help your business run smoothly and give your clients a great experience at the same time. 

Scheduling Links

Having scheduling links for phone calls and sessions is a great way to automate your business. Take out the  back and forth of figuring out dates and send them a scheduling link instead. You can automate your editing. Maybe you use AI for culling and editing if that’s something that you struggle with. The ways you can automate your business are really up to you!  These ideas are a lot of relatively cheap and free options that are helpful when just starting!

Step: 8 Start working on big picture items.

Step eight is to start working on big picture items. Now that you have all the other steps set up, you’re probably getting bookings. This is the time to start working on big picture items.  The big picture things are going to help grow your business. Maybe you’ve always wanted to go to a workshop, content day, or invest in education. Maybe you want to switch your style or try a new preset. Maybe it’s buying a new lens. The big picture items are going to help you in the long run in your business!

Step 9: Evaluate what’s working, what’s not & make changes.

Step nine is evaluating what’s working and what’s not working and start to make changes. The key to being full time is being able to say this isn’t working and I’m going to try something else. Or I’m putting too much time into this and it’s not even getting me results so I’m going to try this instead. 

What part of the booking process is broken?

One thing to think about is what point in the booking process is broken for me? Maybe you’re getting inquiries but like no one’s booking or maybe you’re not even getting the inquiries. You have to look at your client funnel and ask yourself where is the problem happening? IF you’re getting the inquiries, but you’re getting ghosted there’s the problem right there. Your initial email is the problem. If you’re hopping on phone calls with people, but then they don’t book with you, then it’s the post-phone call or during the phone call that’s the problem. 

Be objective & look for what needs improvements

The most successful people that are full time can see their processes and see them from an objective perspective. They make changes based on logic rather than emotion. When you get emotionally attached to the things that you’re doing it can be really hard to break away from that. Really look at your processes and your client experience from an outsider’s point of view. See where things are going wrong. The key is asking yourself, “Where can I make improvements.” A big thing that I didn’t even mention is maybe the thing that needs to be fixed is Instagram. Maybe you’re getting the same amount of views on everything or getting no likes on stuff. Where can you make improvements so that you can see a change? Once you start to fix what’s broken then you’re going to get that consistency and then will get the full-time bookings.

Step 10:  How do you know you’re ready to go full time?

Step 10 is evaluating things until you’re ready to go full-time and that evaluation process doesn’t stop once you go full time. It continues! Once you go full time it’s not rainbows and butterflies. It’s when the real work starts honestly. 

So when you are ready to go full time or you’re thinking about going full time a couple of questions to ask yourself:

  • First, am I meeting my goals financially in photography or do I think I could meet my goals once I go full time?
  • Are you meeting the amount of weddings or sessions that you want to book this year? 
  • You might feel ready to go full time if you’re confident in what you’ve built and booking is going great.

There is no pressure to be full time

If you’re reading this and you’re in a space where you feel a lot of uncertainty and a little bit of pressure, I just want to let you know that you don’t need to feel the pressure to go full time. I know super successful photographers who just do it part-time because they like the stability of another job or they like the routine of having another job. That is okay. Full time photography is not for everyone and entrepreneurship is not for everyone. Remember it’s not just taking photos editing and delivering them. There’s a whole business you have to run with it. So that’s just a little reminder that I want to send you off with! 

Keep me updated if this helps you!

I hope this gives you little bit of motivation and some steps to go and get some work done this year. Let me know if you go full time and if this episode really helped you! Or if this episode has sparked a little bit motivation in you to start working towards going full time, I’d love to know!  Send me a DM on Instagram and I would love to cheer you on and stay updated! 

Show Notes

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