Even though this post is more focused on photography, it would apply to most of the creative professions. Most of us start photography as a hobby and then into a business. At least I belong to the same. When starting out photography as a business, most of us go through the confusion whether to continue their other job, or to quit and take up photography as a full time profession. Many of us also fail to recognise exactly when it is right to quit our other job / Source of income.

In this post, I would like to speak about why its important to have another source of income when starting out, or even when established as a photographer.

1. Photography as a full time profession

Photography as a business works on the principles of any other business, falling in the service industry, whether its a shop, product, service, all businesses operate on certain principles of business. Sure, there are minor differences, but as a whole, the general structure works the same. And just like any other business, starting out is not so easy. Especially if you don’t come from a business background or your studies don’t relate and wish to earn your total income through this business.

Looking at the established professional photographer, it sure seems that its a profession where we can easily survive, but we mostly fail to consider the amount of marketing, hard work and most certainly the amazing talent these photographers have put forward for years, which made them catapult to the position they are in right now.

As honest as I can be, any business starting out will not be able to suffice your total expenses. And especially in the creative industry, its even more tough as there is always an “uncle” or “cousin” of the client who can do it for free. (I am sure all of you creatives must have encountered such clients :p). This presence of that “uncle” or “cousin” pollutes the perception of clients in favour of saving money, failing them to understand the experience and talent that goes into each creative person’s work. And in this age when a DSLR is so easy to acquire, its even more competitive.

My point is, its possible but very tough to earn all your income from photography alone, even for numerous established photographers.

2. Equipment

Almost every creative profession needs equipment which does not come for free! but when selling this, no client seems to consider these costs. Photography is no exception, the cameras, lights, tripods etc etc the list would just keep on going, are EXPENSIVE! now I am not saying you need the best & most expensive equipment. Sure, its the photographer not the camera and all those motivational lessons, but to be honest, equipment has its place and sometime or the other you would definitely need to get good equipment to improve your quality of work. Its the move from 98% to 99% quality that makes all the difference. And not to mention, their service and maintenance charges.

Having another source of income would most certainly help you in this and upgrading your equipment sooner.

3. Your style

Every photographer, or creative, is hired for their style of work. Aesthetic, creative sense, or however you want to put it, basically for the stamp that represents its them! Now, there are many ways to develop your style and the internet is filled with that information. The easiest I can tell you is you need to understand that everyone of us is unique, our DNA is our stamp of uniqueness, and when you listen to your creative brain speaking, thats when your work is your style.

How does this relate to having another source of income? as previously said, when starting out, most of us fail to recognise a proper time to quit their regular job, and mostly, its very early and hence we are now in a situation where we have to pay our bills and we have no other source of income. This mostly leads us to take up every project that comes our way, to survive. And in developing our style, and making our name in a business, its as much important to know when to say “NO” and when to work for free to build our portfolio. Taking up every other project that comes your way will honestly, not help you in making your mark! and if you have another source of income, you won’t be clouded by the worry of bills and will better be able to judge a project for its value to your portfolio and being true to your creative self.

4. Personal Projects

When working as a commercial photographer, of course, you are hired for your style. and for your service. When a client needs something from you, you sometimes have to bend a little according to their needs. Sure, the work still looks and feels yours, because its you in the end photographing, your DNA! but again it is with a mix of someone else, your client, their products, their faces, whatever your subject is.

Personal projects on the other hand is 100% you! of course you would need a good team for it too. Maybe for the makeup, hair, model etc etc. but in terms of concept, the look of the final photograph, the project itself is you, in all your glory and creativity. And personal projects are in my opinion the purest form of self expression for an artist.

Having another source of income will most certainly help you in funding for these projects, without as much limitations. Especially when starting out.

5. Gaining experience to include in your own photographic journey

You should know that commercial photography is not necessarily solely client paying you for a photoshoot. There are hundreds of streams of income in a photographic service. Prints, retouching, books, etc.

Having another source of income, job, business, will help you gain experience in how industries and departments connect. In understanding the common ground where various industries and departments meet, which can be your marketplace as a photographic business/service.

A short example would be, you can be an editorial photographer at the same time offering retouching services to a high end fashion brand at the same time offering fine art prints to art collectors. Maybe!


Summarising, having other sources of income is definitely helpful and beneficial. I have different sources of income myself even though I can survive and pay my bills solely by photography business. But it never hurts to earn more right?

let me know in the comments what other ways of income you have, how you merged two departments finding your common ground for marketplace.

Cheers & have a great week!