My Photography Side Hustle

Air Traffic Controllers In ControlView from the visual control room, air traffic tower.

Turning my photography passion into a satisfying side hustle

Since I love photography and people say I have a knack for taking great photos, I thought I'd turn my photography passion into a satisfying side hustle whilst working my day job.

Here are a few tips that got me started.

  • Build a portfolio. The first step was to build a portfolio of my work. This was to show potential clients what I'm capable of. I also created a website, blog, and social media account to showcase some photos.
  • Finding my niche. What kind of photography was I most interested in? Did I want to shoot weddings, portraits, events, or something else? Once I found my niche, I started to target potential clients.
  • Set my rates. How much did I want to charge for my services? My rates depend on my experience, skill level, and the type of photography I'm requested to do.
  • Market myself. Once I had a portfolio and rates set, it was time to start marketing myself. I like to network with other photographers, join online forums, or advertise my services.
  • Provide excellent customer service. Once I started getting clients, it was important to provide excellent customer service. This meant being responsive to emails and phone calls, being on time for appointments, and delivering high-quality photos.

With a little hard work and dedication, I was able to turn my photography hoppy into a satisfying side hustle.

In the interest of transparency

Just for interest and transparency, when are some working photographers not photographers? Answer: When they're working their day jobs. My photography work, it is never a labour, some rational for choosing to be a freelance photographer. Firstly, some myth busting to debunk some peoples opinions that I monetize from my second job. Oh, how I wish that were the case. At best, any income just about covers the cost of new and replacement gear. Going freelance was not about earning extra money to make ends meet, nor was it to receive extra income to help pay off debt. The benefits of freelancing for me promotes self-improvement and spurs creativity, there is nothing better than a little advancement and looking for creative ways to develop your life. Finding other opportunities other than the day job to show the world what you got! With that second job I learn new skills my current job does not teach me; it is important to continually challenge yourself in order to further advance your abilities.

Additional work commitments, day job

Yes, I enjoy additional work commitments outside of my photography interests. Activities centre on the aviation sector within the travel industry; the upside means both my day jobs are varied and interesting. As an operational front line member of staff, I have the responsibility of working in a non-landside environment, this is a privileged pleasure I hold dearly. Occasionally I am called to participate in the documentation process of airside safety occurrences; this involves support photography for visual reference to airside & aircraft incident reports. (Seemed like it was relevant and on topic, so just thought it was worth a mention!) It is hard to imagine a workplace more constantly active than an airport, so whilst I work in the industrial side of the travel sector, my professional circle is limited to other individuals in the sector: engineers, planners, air traffic controllers, pilots, safety professionals. Taken together, all of us establish a “harmonious” professional operation on the airfield. 

Strangely enough, working in such a diverse and dynamic environment helps in many of my photography surroundings, drawing from an operational skill base and applying those skills in certain photography situations has helped outcomes on occasion. By committing to two occupations I feel I produce benefits for both. Quite simply, working both jobs makes me happier and leaves me more fulfilled. It also helps me perform better at each job.

In the beginning, my day job salary supported my photography business and still does to an extent. With no track record as a photographer, nobody was going to hire me to photograph their wedding and financing high end camera gear was out of the question. It was not money that motivated me to progress as a photographer in the first place, it was my passion for the creative arts and visual story telling that got my attention.

When starting out as a photographer I took baby steps so that I could gain experience in this new industry. My day job not only afforded me the initial outlay to purchase basic equipment, but it taught me essential skills to succeed as a photographer. A good photographer should be someone who knows how to work to tight constraints, establish a timeline, deliver a service, and fill in the gaps when all is not black and white. So, after photographing a few small intimate weddings, newly engaged couples, and brides-to-be started to reach out to see if they could hire me as a photographer.

At the same time, for someone who works in a live industrial environment all day, it’s exciting to immerse oneself in another sector and go “behind-the-scenes” and interact with agents, designers, and other creative professionals and make acquaintances in different circles. “I’ve never been around people who have so much fun at work.” Since my clients have a great experience it only helps me drive enthusiasm at work, so my airport and photography careers are mutually beneficial.

Note: Promoting oneself as a part-time freelance photographer erns you the label “weekend warrior”. Yes, this is sort of true in my case; I can accept that as a natural result of my situation, however, most of my days off are during the week, :)

Further Reading: About John Gilchrist - The Photographer