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Making a living

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  • Making a living

    If you tried, could you make a fulltime living from photo restoration?
    Yes, I'm already doing that very thing
    Yes, I plan on doing that very thing
    Maybe, but I'd need a lot more jobs
    Can't be done, but it's still fun
    Learn by teaching
    Take responsibility for learning

  • #2
    Without a doubt, if I really put my mind to it, in time I could make a living doing restorations. But that's not in the plans at all. I'm a firm believer that if you want something bad enough, you can get it, at least in our country.



    • #3
      I tend to agree with Ed. The main thing to consider is how large an area you have to draw customers from and can that customer base afford the price one must charge to make a living. I suspect that reprinting from scans would also be a part of a "Restore" business. I am retired and live in a rather remote area with a very limited population yet I am able to do enough business to afford new toys now and again, so I suspect that if a person had the ambition and desire and lived in a more populated area, they could probably make a "go of it". Tom


      • #4
        I have used for getting digital photographic prints made and been happy with their quality and turn-around time as well. I hadn't heard of, but will certainly check them out. Ofoto looks a little more expensive ($3.99 for an 8x10), but also offers 16x20" or 20x30" sizes. (I haven't ordered any of those, so don't know how the quality is on the larger ones or how they're shipped.) Just thought I'd throw in another possibility for printing.

        Also, as for help getting a business started, here in CO we have the Small Business Development Center which gives cheap ($35) workshops on everything from Business Planning to Marketing on the Internet to Taxes and Recordkeeping to Small Business Marketing. I've taken a few (in a previous incarnation) and found them to be very informative. I don't know if other states have anything similar, but you might want to check into it.

        Also, the U.S. Small Business Administration has a ton of information on a wide variety of topics, e.g. the business plan.

        Oh, I almost forgot the main topic of the thread: I sure HOPE I can make this a full-time business! I've been searching for a way to work from home and this certainly seems ideal to me. But, I haven't made a business plan yet and I feel like I need a lot more knowledge and practice before I start really marketing myself. So, I have only dreams to work towards so far.



        • #5
          I'm unrepentently insecure, so I sometimes think people don't read older threads. This is one I particularly want everyone to participate in, so I'm bumping it.
          Learn by teaching
          Take responsibility for learning


          • #6
            I voted maybe. I live in an area with a large population...I just have a hard time marketing myself. I'm not much of a "sales type", so I would probably need someone helping me with the marketing end of things. I have been pretty busy lately with one large job and a few smaller ones, but it's in no way enough work to make a living, although I only started a few months ago with actually trying to make some money off of restorations.

            Finding the work is a very different challenge from what a freelance graphic designer would go through. In that business, most of your clients are businesses or ad agencies and they become repeat customers if they like your work. For photo restoration the clients are generally individuals (unless you can get work through a museum or insurance agency), so you have to market yourself a bit differently.

            I'm not really sure what the best way to go about doing that is yet...maybe we could look at what other "freelance" types do. I once knew a woman who made a living making wedding cakes out of her home and she got all of her business via word of mouth!


            • #7
              I think this is a good thread, and to keep it going, I'll add my two pennies again. I think that any reasonably intelligent person can make it. If you try, and can't make it, you need to find out where your shortcomings are. If you need to be a better salesman, find a way to get educated about selling. If you just aren't good enough with Photoshop (or whatever), pur the time in to get better. Target your shortcomings, then work on them. When I took a professional photography course (not cheap), I remember one of the instructors saying "Do you think education is expensive? Try being uneducated". That saying stuck with me, and I fully believe it.



              • #8
                Ed - I think you are right about targeting shortcomings... I have no problem with Photoshop but I don't seem to have a saleman's bone in my body! I think most of that stems from fear. I'm not a real outgoing person by nature so I should spend some time overcoming that and learning some selling techniques.

                I guess once you can start getting your foot in the door the work, if it's good, will sell itself in a lot of ways.


                • #9
                  I feel that there is a living to be made from restoration but I too suffer the same problem. I' not good at promoting myself. I've done quite well out of it so far but would love it to become fulltime. I've had enough work to keep me pretty busy lately but I've almost completed all the jobs I have and don't know when the next one will come in. I just have to complete that composite photo of the two girls and their mother (another thread) and I'm out of work for now.
                  I've just added a new product,well I really should say am in the process of adding an new product to my business. I made a prototype CD clock with a photo on it, a customer happened to see it when she was picking up another job. She asked about the clock and liked it so much she ordered two then and there, even before I had worked out the pricing or any details for them. I didn't make much profit on the clocks but now I know what to charge in the future. So it looks like I may have found a way of using all those old demo CD after all. hehehe


                  • #10
                    Since I hack at restoration as a hobby, I can't speak from actual business experience, but I'll toss in my .02 because this is an interesting subject.

                    A "full-time living" is a relative term.

                    There's a pretty big gap between eeking it out (just barely getting by) and living comfortably. A lot, too, would depend on lifestyle, dependents, location, etc. So I guess my copout reply to the $64 question would be, "It depends."

                    Doing a quick scan of the Seattle area yellow pages, it appears photo restoration (in my area) is offered in conjunction with other services. That might be an indicator right there...Unlike the local grocery stores that have a captive audience (people have to eat), there isn't the same "need" for restoration work.

                    As others have stated the challenge of "getting ongoing new business" is not trivial, not just from the perspective of developing and implementing effective sales and marketing skills, but from a time perspective as well.

                    If I had to make a living at restoration (only), I don't feel confident that I'd be able to do so w/o offering other services as well. That said here's a couple thoughts on how I might approach "getting business."

                    Though you can't beat word-of-mouth referrals, there's nothing like a potential client source that continually renews itself. I'd make a run at somehow getting my foot in the door with local public and private schools for contract photo work (traditional school pictures) or specialty stuff like proms or graduation pics, etc.

                    Doing a little pro bono work for churches might provide opportunities to market to congregations.

                    Plugging into the "newborn" market would seem to be another potential source for ongoing business.

                    Hanging out at local events (sports, theater, classy restaurants, whatever) and taking 'complimentary' pictures of couples, buddies, etc. might be an effective way to market. Most people like having their pics taken... When you get names/addresses for mailing the 'complimentary pics,' this provides marketing opportunites.

                    Doing something similar (with preapproval from parents) at local soccer fields or ballparks (taking pics of kids "in action," not just the cheesy sitdown or team shots) is probably something parents would pay for and, again, would provide additional restoration marketing opportunites.

                    Now that you've read this far, you know why I actually DON'T DO restoration as a full-time business! My compliments to those who do. Isn't great to do something you truly enjoy!



                    • #11
                      Salesmanship consists mainly of treating your clients and/or potential clients as you would want to be treated. By this I mean be honest, avoid high pressure type tactics, obfuscation and exaggerated claims. If you are genuinely interested in your clients, their photos and helping them preserve their treasured memories and project this by your atitude and demeanor, you will not loose many sales. Those who use any tactic to get a sale are better suited to Carnival midway type work than serious Professional type vocations. It takes time to build up a successful business and the best advertising is word of mouth coupled with some exposure in newspapers, flyers etc.. Telling yourself " I'm no good at this or that" is to be avoided. Rather, just resolve to be honest and friendly with your customers and they will respond. Just give it time. Integrity and honesty are your best advertising tools. Tom


                      • #12

                        I agree with everything you've said here. It's based on time tested practices of successful businesses.

                        Just about everyone has heard of the Nordstrom success story. They built their business and reputation on truly exceptional customer service and a "no questions asked return policy." For example salespeople in the shoe department would greet customers "by name"; salespeople in clothing departments kept personal notes on customer preferences and (literally) sent hand written notes with notification of upcoming new items or sales. Now, that's service worth telling others about (and it worked).

                        If walk-in, word of mouth or traditional advertising are not sufficient to generate enough business to "make a living" and one wants to stay in business, then other forms of creative promotion and salesmanship are warranted. ("If you always do what you always did, you'll always get what you always got.")

                        I hope you didn't interpret my 4 a.m. rambling thoughts to suggest antics such as running in front of people, snapping a photo and shoving business cards in their faces. (After rereading my post, perhaps you [and others] did.) If so, those types of tactics would turn people off faster than a cold bucket of water in the face. (Wait a minute... water would cool them off... but you know what I mean.) Nobody would like to be treated like that.

                        If, on the other hand, you approched potential customers, introduced yourself and briefly explained a service that might be of interest to them and then offered a complimentary sample, that might lead to a business you wouldn't get otherwise.

                        Bottom line: Honesty, intregity and customer service are essential to succeed in any business. Thanks for sharing your wise words. I wish more of the businesses I normally deal with practiced what you preach, and I mean preach in the positive sense. Isn't it too bad these days that "exceptional service" is the exception and not the rule?

                        I think I'd have a heart attack if I pulled into the local 7-11 for gas and an attendant ran out, pumped my gas, checked my oil, washed the windshield and put air in the tires without being asked, without expecting a $5 tip and w/o paying an extra half buck a gallon. There I go dreaming again.



                        • #13
                          The Courage To Go For It!

                          Yes, I am focusing on this business exclusively for my work. I am gearing my initial marketing towards individuals in my community & family. I see a tremendous potential revenue source in publicly funded photo archive preservation & restoration. In my area, the local historical society has a mountain of important photos that are being poorly preserved. I am in the position to grow this business slowly at first since there is so much to learn and to consider regarding all the aspects of a well run photo restoration service.

                          I am so interested in sharing and developing production strategies with all of you who have experience in film output and lab services. I think Giclee prints have great potential. And of course, I think this new Epson 2200 is going to be great.

                          RetouchPRO is certainly a fantastic resource. Thank You Doug for your tireless work. I hope you make millions of dollars doing this.

                          I kind of see a pie chart where photo restoration is a third, and my fine art print sales is a third, and a small framing studio all interact and thrive. I have worked in framing but it has been a long time. The hardest part for me is believing in my vision in the fine art realm. In the end, it is all the same. I have been developing a set of Botanicals two of which have apeared in the Members Gallery. More ways to make money than there is time to make it.

                          Last edited by Gerry Monaghan; 05-06-2002, 08:49 AM.


                          • #14
                            For me, retouch and Restoration are a component...

                            My wife/girlfreind/partner and I have a small creative services business. She is graphic designer and I am a commercial photographer. Together we we offer a variety of graphic arts services including restoration and retouching. Our shop is in a small town historic district so we have a fair number of antique photos come in for copy and restoration. There is a pretty eclectic community of artists and authors here and we get some interesting ad work which usually involves photography, retouching and sometimes rather extreme manipulation. Some months we log $75.00 for a quick scan, clean and print and that's it; other months I sit here working on images non-stop and the invoices add up to $2000 or $3000.
                            The fact is, we can't make a living on JUST retouch/restoration but it is a significant component of our business.

                   I didn't actually vote on this survey because my answer is, "Yep, sort of, but we have to do other related stuff too".


                            • #15
                              Funny this thread pops up today. I just today put in my notice at the photo lab I work to pursue my own interests. Im lucky enough that I have made enough contacts in the last 5 years that I hope I can make a go of this. I am glad I offered exceptional customer service, and most of my clients were very happy with me, and know me by name.

                              If not, at least I can plan on working temp work until I get enough business that I can work at home.

                              The lack of health care, and the amount of taxes I will have to deduct from my profits is scarey, but Ive been itching to do this for over a year now. And I hope the time is ripe enough.

                              Im just lucky I can photograph, retouch, restore and even throw in graphic design and web design... So Im hoping something will pay off.

                              Wish me luck.

                              THE SCAREY THING!!!! And this is important. One of the MAIN reasons I am leaving. Kodak has come out with facial recognition software and has incorporated into an AUTOMATED facial retouching program. ITS IS CRAP!!! And my employer has bought it hook line and sinker. I have seen it, offered advice, and no one ever listened to me. So today as they bring in some mega computer that can barely run the program, I put in my notice. BEWARE PEOPLE!!! BEWARE!!!!!


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