Now that it is 2014, I can look back and go over the good and bad things that I ran into. I'll start with the bad.
The Bad:Starting up is the second hardest thing with moving your photography from a simply hobby to something more. The amount of money to become a legitimate name to sell items was crazy. That alone took 7% of my earnings the first year. Getting an EIN, getting the tax number, application fees, license fees, fees, fees, and more fees. I started of not thinking this was a great idea, but it was. Make it your first year goal to make double your fee's, cover any cost through the year, and you can call it a successful year because you didn't spend one dime on photography (if you don't purchase any gear).
Time is the hardest thing for me. I work a full time job that can take 40-60+ hours a week of my time, all during the day hours. Since I like to take wildlife and landscape photos, this is the peek time for me to do that. So that narrowed my time to days off and weekends. Weekends I had to balance with family and friends, and last year they got the tail-end of the deal. I did two weddings, over a dozen portrait sessions, and some volunteer work. One wedding was about a total of 50 hours for all of the editing and live coverage, so you put that on top of the 40 I already work there isn't much time for a social life. I decided weddings are not something that will be in my 2014 goal, unless it is for a direct friend.
Selling photos was the third hardest part. Pricing things is one of the trickiest things. You don't want to be to cheap to not be taken serious, and you don't want to be to expensive to not get the sale. Pricing your prints to where if someone really wants it they will buy it is the goal. I think I found the price point mid year through, but it had very little profit in it for me. This made me re-think of what I wanted to do with my photos, which is covered in the Good part!
The portrait lens I purchased; paid off. Quarter of my camera body; paid off. Web hosting, licensing fees, and operation costs; paid off. Extra gear I purchased this year; half paid off. I made more money on this the first year than I thought I would. I was almost able to come off this year as even, and I probably could have if I didn't turn down as many gigs as I did. Look above at the time paragraph in the Bad Section above.
I had fun. Once past the bad part of getting everything started up, I had a lot of fun. I met a lot of fun people, learned more than I thought a was available, and really found something I enjoy doing. This first year was simply a test for me to see if this was something I wanted to get into, and at the end of the year to see if my interest is the same as it was a year ago. To my surprise it was not, it is actually more than what I started out with. I'm looking into buying hunting blinds, camo gear, booking cruises/tours to get out of Wisconsin photographs, and doing youtube videos on how I edit my photos. This is something I really want to do and for the longest time it was hard for me to concentrate on anything but work.
A New Year. I'm continuing to go through with selling my photographs but at a different level. I sold over a 150 prints, ranging from 4x6 all the way up to 24"x36". Those large photos are extra special to me as I know they are being hung up where more than just the family can see them. They found that photograph to be something special that they wanted on their wall to make them feel happier and anyone else that walks by and looks at it. So instead of just selling prints, I have now decided to sell this more as an art instead of as a product to get out. The smallest print will now be 8:x12" and the largest is 40"x60" and also removed a lot of the "just have it on there as an option because it's cheap".
So hopefully the above gave you an insight of what I had to go through last year and helps you decide if you are ready to take the next step in your photography. I can already see the first question; "How much time total last year did you spend on photography". Well, I was always on my computer looking at my past images and playing with them. If we put that to the side and count the actual time photography for money and for product; less than 1000 hours. Which ends up being just over 40 days out of the year, so if we round that out to actual days worked; about quarter of the year was spent on photography.
If you have any questions or comments feel free to leave them here, or visit my facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/StevenSantamourPhotography
I hope you had a great 2013 and hope you take 2014 by the grip and get your photographs you dream of! My New Years resolution is to get more wild life photos, which requires blinds and traveling.