Photographer Ming Thein recently posted a discussion on his blog about the process of turning pro. If you don't know him, his architectural photography is quietly phenomenal, with a subtle Miksang influence and flawless post production technique. He writes a good blog, too.
For a unique perspective he shares this post with Robin Wong, a photog who's mid-stream in his journey of turning pro, and together they reflect on both the pitfalls and the tricks to being successful. On point that can't be emphasized enough is how to think about and manage cash flow.
"The reality is that most material work tends to be planned anywhere from one to six months in advance, and some clients may not pay for a month or two after that – which means your cash flow cycle should really be six months to a year once everything is stable."
An even bigger take-away in the piece is using smaller short-term jobs with quicker turnaround with the larger "meat" of your work. This can sometimes mean taking on jobs that don't typify your work. Ming may take the job, but he doesn't add it to his portfolio.
"Everything I’ve done up to this point has that question at the heart of it: is it core to what I want to shoot and what I want to be as a photographer? If no, unless I really, really need the money, I don’t do the job – and even then, I don’t tell anybody about it. So the answer is – let’s call it ‘identity building’ – must happen directly or indirectly, all the time. In practical terms, this means 3-4 hours a day answering email, making content for the site, maintaining the other social media channels (FB, IG, Twitter) etc. And that’s of course on top of the actual shooting and admin and logistics."
It's a long read, but a good one for anyone thinking about the leap.