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Questionnaire: is Photography the Right Career for Me?

By: J.A.J Aaronson - Updated: 4 Dec 2010 | comments*Discuss
Photography Self Employment Self

Many people see photography – and particularly freelance photography - as a very desirable career. In the first instance, it is seen as an artistic choice – a way to avoid the daily rat race in favour of creativity. This is a viewpoint held almost exclusively by people who have never been self employed.

Self Employment

In reality, it is very difficult to make a living in freelance photography. There are very, very few full-time freelance photographers in the UK, and these individuals are in that position because of ceaseless hard work, remarkable talent, good luck, or a combination of all three.

That said, photography can be a very rewarding career – if not necessarily financially then certainly artistically and emotionally. Unless you are contemplating joining an established firm (for example a newspaper – and you would be very lucky to get a job in photographic print journalism in the current climate), however, you must be prepared for a significant proportion of your time to be taken up with administrative tasks such as accounting, tax and marketing. This series of simple yes or no questions will help you decide if this lifestyle is for you.

1. Do you specialise in a particular field of photography?

You are more likely to succeed in the photography business if you can position yourself as a leading player in a certain specialism.

2. Are you confident that you can produce images of better than professional quality?

As a photographer you will be providing a service, and it is vital that you can complete the work to a suitably high standard.

3. Do you have any prior experience of self employment?

Self employment can be a shock, particularly to those who have been in standard employment for all of their working lives.

4. Do you understand the legal responsibilities of a self employed individual?

Where previously your employer will have taken care of things like income tax, that responsibility will now fall on you.

5. Are you free of a mortgage, or other debts secured against your home?

Sticking to strict repayment schedules can be difficult when you do not have a guaranteed monthly income.

6. Is there another individual earning in your household?

Being self employed and the primary breadwinner can be difficult, particularly if you have children.

7. Are you aware of the equipment that you would need to do your job?

The required equipment varies wildly from discipline to discipline, and it is important that you are familiar with this kit before you begin taking on jobs.

8. Could you finance any required equipment purchases?

New equipment can be expensive, but you are likely to need to invest at the outset.

9. Are you comfortable negotiating with clients?

Particularly at the current time, customers are likely to wish to negotiate over price and service. You will need to assume responsibility for dealing with this process.

10. Do you consider yourself sufficiently familiar with the sales process to close a deal?

Unless you have an agent (which is highly unlikely in the modern photographic world) you will need to deal with all of the marketing and business aspects of photography. You must have enough knowledge of the process to perform these tasks effectively.


If you have answered 'yes' to all or most of these questions, then freelance photography may well be the right career for you. If you have answered 'no' to more than half then you should certainly think again. Consider your options, work on the areas that you have identified as weaknesses in this questionnaire, and consider your options in six months time.

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