Inevitably, the diatribe I get from new photographers is... "but, I can't afford the fancy equipment, the fancy blog, the fancy website, yada yada yada yada."
Who said you needed these things? Not me. I certainly didn't have any of those things when I started out. What did I have? I had a hand-me-down Olympus OM10, 35mm with manual focus and manual advance. I just gave people photos as gifts after family gatherings or weddings. My photos ended up on their walls and on their coffee table, and THAT was how my business started- even before I knew my business was starting.
I actually didn't set out to become a professional photographer- people just loved my work and asked me if I could work for them.I had no website. All of my images were being posted to Shutterfly galleries (after I finally got a small point & shoot digital camera and learned that labs would scan my film to disc), just so other out-of-state friends and family could see them. I did headshots for people who wanted to be actors, models, and performers - simply because they were my friends and I had the technical know-how of working a camera with depth of field. They paid for my film, and my processing, and I even got a little extra to help me upgrade my lenses and buy more batteries. Eventually I was asked to photograph a wedding and I knew I couldn't photograph a wedding without an auto-focus SLR to get the results I wanted, so I just asked to be paid enough to cover the cost of a 35mm Canon Rebel and an extra flash. They got all of their images to scrapbook, and I put a few on a basic "dot mac" website, as well as on a photo.net free gallery and on a flickr gallery.
That was how I started as a professional photographer- no website, no fancy lab, no fancy gallery, no fancy lenses, no fancy cameras, just whatever I could put together with what I already had. Of course, that's not how my business or my equipment looks now, but that's what got me to where I am now- where I can own all the professional equipment I want to own, where I can hire people to help me, where I can go to the workshops I want to attend, where I can pick and choose the clients I want to work with, and where I can take vacations and time off when I want to rejuvenate.
The reality is, if people want to pay you for the work you're already doing, with what you already have, than it's a good sign that you have enough talent and skill to earn a living from your craft.Whether you have the talent and skill to run a business and turn a profit is an entirely different subject, but you most certainly can rely on the economic engine of people wanting to hire you for your talent to be a good judge of whether you can become a professional. Actually, this is how many entrepreneurs start out- by simply sharing their passion with other people and creating from their heart. Anytime someone says "I will pay you to do XYZ for me"- it means that you have a talent or skill that is valuable enough and desirable enough for other people to pay for it. The key to being profitable and making a living from it, is to always spend less money than you make. If you only make a little but spend even less, than you're creating good business habits that will help you sail easily toward long term success and a great retirement plan.
Anne Ruthmann is a lifestyle & wedding photographer from Boston, MA. She spent 10 years practicing marketing & management in corporate and non-profit businesses before pursuing her passion for photography as an independent small business. She loves helping others find smarter solutions to business problems. Follow her on Twitter to see her daily adventures and thoughts.