A professional photographer is perceived as someone who has the pure pleasure of getting paid to snap pictures all day. Though I have been a professional for over thirty years, my working life has never been that simplistic or idyllic. So, earlier this spring I tracked EVERY thing I did for seven days. I do mean everything. For anyone considering “going pro,” a few minutes spent looking at my detailed list of one week’s labor will be real eye opener.
In February of 2013 I was in India, with my wife, who was on a Fulbright fellowship. In some ways it was not a typical week at all. It was bit more relaxed than usual since we were nearing the end of her fellowship. On the other hand, it was very typical week where I was working in a dozen different roles.
I kept a spread sheet open on my laptop for seven days straight and every half an hour I noted what I was doing. Although I am compulsive I do not actually work in half hour blocks, but I thought that this system was the most reasonable way of keeping track of my time and activities.
I broke my time down to eight categories to keep things simple, In no particular order:
Sort, answer E-mails: 13.5 hours over 7 days
Travel/travel preparation: 9.5 hours over 7 days
Stock, commercial work and other paying work: 16 hours over 7 days
Assist wife on her project: 10 hours over 7 days
Photographing/editing for my own project(s): 14.5 hours over 7 days
Promotional/Marketing/Social Media: 17 hours over 7 days
Sleep: 54 hours over 7 days
Personal time: 33.5 hours over 7 days
So, if you add up the numbers, I worked 80 hours during this particular week, which was in most ways pretty typical for me. I was taking pictures less than 10% of the time. I was managing my stock business, taking care of other paying work, using social media and doing other self promotion for 20% of the time. My travel time was bit lower than usual, as was my time answering emails. My time helping my wife was bit higher than usual, but in the aggregate this was a very typical week.
If you want to see the break down in excruciating detail, down the PDF of the week’s activity. This exercise is not meant to scare anyone away from going pro. Rather it is designed to give a realistic breakdown of how a typical pro uses their time.