For Photographers

5 Tips for Starting a Family Photography Business With a Full-Time Job

April 12, 2023

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 Just your average Mom trying to keep the chaos as organized as possible! I'm an enneagram two, a coffee addict, and a firm believer that warm sunshine and salty air can cure all. 


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If you’re dreaming about launching your own business while you’re still clocking in from 9-5 every weekday, you’re not alone. Starting a family photography business while working a full-time job requires an investment of time, energy, and money — but in my opinion, it’s well worth it to follow your dream. Whether you have goals of becoming a full-time business owner or you just want to scale back your day job down the road so that you can enjoy your creative work, there are a few tips that will make the juggling act a little bit easier (and a lot less stressful). 

Tips for Starting a Family Photography Business While Working Full-Time

Manage your schedule well. 

To effectively balance a full-time career and a passion project (that you’d like to become your full-time career), you’re going to need to get really good at your calendar system. Thankfully, Google Calendar, Apple Calendar, and lots of other common systems allow for tons of customization that helps you keep things organized. I recommend creating 3 calendars: one for your day job, one for your personal life, and one for your photography business. You can view all of these calendars simultaneously, which keeps you from double-booking or overextending yourself . 

The key to growing your family photography business (or any “side hustle”, really) is devoting yourself to it while keeping your priorities aligned. A clear schedule helps you learn how much time and energy you truly have to build your new business. Busy is great! But burnout is avoidable. There’s no perfect formula or right answer: just find the schedule that works for you without burning you out. 

Keep your “first things” first.

The beauty of this is that you get to define your own “first things.” Of course, you’ll want to prioritize your current 9-5, your family and friends, and your daily rhythms like doing the dishes and throwing in a load of laundry. But outside of that, you get to decide what matters most to you! Growing a business while working full-time creates a busy schedule, but it shouldn’t consume your entire life. Don’t forget to take time to move your body, cook something delicious, take time for your hobbies, and of course – sleep! 

As you’re making your “first things” list, don’t forget to add this non-negotiable: YOUR PHOTOGRAPHY CLIENTS. There are many elements to building a successful family photography business, but people are always priority number one

To build loyal customers, you’ll need good communication and good systems. Make sure you know what they’re looking for from their photos long before they show up to the session! And afterward, deliver digital images or prints professionally and on time. When they’re happy with their experience, they’ll tell others – and just like that, you have happy clients AND free marketing. 

Start with the basics. 

When you’re just beginning to build your photography business, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Build your brand, purchase the essentials, and book sessions. Those three simple pieces will generate growth before you know it! 

Not booking families from your marketing efforts yet, or just need to build a bigger portfolio? Try model calls! These sessions are a great way to capture your own vision for your photography brand. You can choose the location, color palette, and time of day — then, all you have to do is cast the roles! Plus, lots of families would be thrilled to get photos taken at a discounted rate or for free in exchange for you building your portfolio. 

When it comes to photography gear, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. But all you really need to start is a quality camera, a good lens or two, and hard drives. I outlined my top essential picks on the blog recently

Learn from the experts. 

As you’re learning how to build your photography business, you’re also learning how to manage your own company — and yourself — for what may be the first time. Look for courses from photographers you admire, and soak up what they have to teach you. But don’t forget to expand outside of this industry, too! 

No matter what kind of business you want to build, creating a daily routine and managing your schedule well are keys to success. Learn from expert thinkers about how to build a good life, not just a good business.  Two personal favorites: Atomic Habits and Time Management for Mortals. Those two totally changed the game for me! 

A group of photographers are taking pictures of a family of four while attending a workshop while they are starting a family photography business

Know when to scale. 

So, you’ve got your essential gear. You’ve built a schedule that works for you. You’re creating a high-value customer experience. How do you know when it’s time to grow – and when it’s time to wave goodbye to the 9-5? 

Wise scaling means knowing when you are and when you aren’t ready to take the next step. There’s no automated timeline or “readiness” scale that works for everyone! You’re on your own journey, and that’s what makes your business amazing. But if you’re thinking about taking the next step toward growing your family photography business, here are the questions you should ask yourself. 

Do I have a system that allows me to produce consistent, quality work for clients?

A system makes all the difference between stressing or missing deadlines and showing up to each session confidently, from dreaming up a vision to sending off the final images. To keep my clients, contracts, and timelines in order, I use Honeybook. It’s such a valuable tool to me that I included it in my essential gear round up. Get your workflow established and stick to it! You’ll rely on it even more as you scale. 

Do I have the physical bandwidth to take on more clients?

Most photographers would love more clients, but get honest with yourself. Does your schedule allow for more shoots? If not, consider what else you may need to cut out to take on a fuller photo schedule (before handing in your two weeks’ notice at work). 

Am I mentally ready to commit to owning and running a small business? 

It takes discipline and grit to be self-employed. You’re suddenly a social media manager, an accountant, a marketer, a customer service rep, and a creative — and it’s just you out there, handling every problem! Don’t get me wrong: I adore it over here in business owner world. But I want to be honest about the discipline and investment you’ll need to make if you’re going to make it a full-time success. 

Am I growing my income before growing my reach?

Scaling wisely means growing your income — aka raising your rates — before you book associate shooters, invest in a studio, or grow your reach. If you’re going to quit your full-time job, try to replace a significant portion of your full-time income! You’ll be able to take the leap with confidence if you know you’re bringing in what you need with consistency. Don’t jump into expenses like other shooters or studios until you’re happy with your income level! 

That’s it, my friend — my top 5 tips for starting a family photography business while holding down a 9-5. It’s not easy, but I really do believe it’s worth it. And you already know I’m cheering you on.

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