Author Topic: Want to move out to take a gap year (18 year old)... How much money do I need?  (Read 5599 times)

precrime3

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Currently, I'm a high school senior looking to graduate in 20 days and I've thought, seriously thought, of taking a gap year. It's a recent thought that I've came up with and honestly the idea of it makes more sense and appeals to me the more that I think of it.

I live in Alabama, if that helps in terms of regional costs.

So I told my parents, and they totally shut me down. Didn't even listen to my side, or look into how it could help me.

The purpose of the gap year would be to spend a significant amount of time in a spanish speaking country (3-6 months) to just learn Spanish. Probably somewhere like Guatemala with a low COL.

Spending the rest of the time either volunteering,traveling, or going to another low COL spanish speaking country is an interesting idea as well.

The other purpose would be to more fully dedicate myself to my photography/videography, which started as a side hustle but has quickly become more profitable (and fun!) then my part time job as a cashier.

I started merakivisualmedia.com sometime in late 2016, which started out making a $100 here and there from senior portraits and has quickly grown to the point where I'm booking weddings (1 confirmed, another 2 potential) in just the month of May. Already got inquiries for one in June, and as I continue to market and snowball off previous weddings, I think that will only continue to accelerate. With that being said, I think I have the potential to make enough money to live a year by myself, especially if the majority of it isn't in the states.

So I wouldn't have a car, which would be necessary, as meeting up with clients on location would be a necessity. I still need maybe $2,000 - $3,000 in camera gear before I believe I have all the creative tools I need to achieve any kind of shot that I'd like, but those purchases don't need to be all at once.

I'm looking at potential places to move into with a roommate, but no clue how much that would be.

Ideally I would want 6 months savings and a car, to get moved out. So I guess the question is..

How much should that be?

mozar

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Did you already get into college? If you did you can ask them if you can delay school for a year. If I were you I would instead figure out how to get a full scholarship to an art school.
To figure out how much money you need look at apartments for where you want to be Alabama, Guatemala, etc. Craigslist rental section is a good place to start. Add food and utilities, etc and you've got a monthly budget. Multiply by 12 and that's how much money you need.

precrime3

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Did you already get into college? If you did you can ask them if you can delay school for a year. If I were you I would instead figure out how to get a full scholarship to an art school.
To figure out how much money you need look at apartments for where you want to be Alabama, Guatemala, etc. Craigslist rental section is a good place to start. Add food and utilities, etc and you've got a monthly budget. Multiply by 12 and that's how much money you need.

Yeah, Troy is able to defer my scholarship for a year. Already checked with them. I think I'd be majoring in Accounting with a minor in photography, which I think will help me greatly.

And will check there. What's a ballpark number I should give myself? $5,000 for the car and $7,200 for 6 months expenses?

GizmoTX

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Why do you need a car if you're going to another country?
What $ do you actually have available?


wanderin1

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Kudos to you for getting a photography business up and going before youíve even graduated from high school!

If you have the initiative to do that, you have what it takes to make this gap year happen. The challenge is that youíre trying to do so many things in this one year: move out of your parentís home and buy a car, make the photography biz happen, learn Spanish in Guatemala, and volunteer elsewhere in central America.

Focus instead on doing just a couple of these things, and make them real successes. For example, ride the high season wave of wedding photo opportunities at home through the summer. (Ideally, without moving out of your parentís place or buying a car) Head to Guatemala in the fall (the weather will be better then anyway). Depending on budget and interest, volunteer, travel and/or study in central America through the new year, then come back to the US in early spring to crank up the photography biz again for wedding season, and get ready to head to university.

Here are resources for research:

www.numbeo.com  This website crowdsources current costs for locations around the world.

www.allittleadrift.com/countries/guatemala  Info on Guatemala and studying there, by a well respected travel blogger (who also started an international volunteering organization)

As far as your parents, most parents in this kind of situation are scared that their kid will 1) never make it back to college and have a limited life as a result and 2) run into serious troubles while out of the country.

The only way to convince them is to listen to their concerns, and respond to their concerns as best you can. Consider a first sit down where you just listen to their objections, without trying to answer them. Think about what theyíve said, and sit down with them again with responses to their objections, and concrete plans for each of the things you want to do. Is there a teacher or another adult who can see the positives of these experiences for you? Consider getting them involved in the second sit down. Keep in mind that handling your parentsí objections like an adult will go a long way in itself to convincing them that youíre ready for this.

Good luck!


precrime3

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Why do you need a car if you're going to another country?
What $ do you actually have available?

Right now, around $1100. And the car would only be necessary if I come back from leaving the country ( I don't stay out of the country for the entire year)

Kudos to you for getting a photography business up and going before youíve even graduated from high school!

If you have the initiative to do that, you have what it takes to make this gap year happen. The challenge is that youíre trying to do so many things in this one year: move out of your parentís home and buy a car, make the photography biz happen, learn Spanish in Guatemala, and volunteer elsewhere in central America.

Focus instead on doing just a couple of these things, and make them real successes. For example, ride the high season wave of wedding photo opportunities at home through the summer. (Ideally, without moving out of your parentís place or buying a car) Head to Guatemala in the fall (the weather will be better then anyway). Depending on budget and interest, volunteer, travel and/or study in central America through the new year, then come back to the US in early spring to crank up the photography biz again for wedding season, and get ready to head to university.


I could do that. Just keep doing shoots in the summer, when I have money saved, just get up and fly out to GUA for the remainder of the year. It would seem a little tricky as I was getting ready for college, but really not. I like the idea.

I'm not really sure why they're so against it either. I think it's due to the fact that they feel some sort of "momentum" is lost if i stop school and come back to it, or like how I'm the first grandson on and they want me to be a "role model" of sorts.

Honestly I'd rather have a role model that took a gap year with a full ride waiting for him anyways, to pursue his passion. Either it becomes wildly successful so he has something to get him throuhg college, or he figures out it's not the thing for him and he still goes to college, for free.

Gets the accounting degree with a minor in photography, and starts over. Or who knows? My expected major could change again.

From what I've read online, I just really feel a year in the "real world" would help me tremendously. While some some kids need to stay in school, I honestly think I'm one of the best kids that could do something like this. Scholarship will be waiting for me when I get back so I see no way how this could hurt me. I wish my parents just understood this, and actually tried to see where I'm coming from.
« Last Edit: May 03, 2017, 07:17:39 PM by precrime3 »

wanderin1

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If you can't sell them on the gap year and Guatemala, consider making study abroad part of your college program.

precrime3

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If you can't sell them on the gap year and Guatemala, consider making study abroad part of your college program.

It will be for sure, one way or another. It was before I even considered a gap year.

mozar

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If there is absolutely no way of getting through to your parents, move out. As long as you live under their roof you have to follow their rules. You just need a place for a few months before you head to South America and it will be really cheap once you get there. I would delay the car purchase until you get back.

Re: Study abroad tends to be a rip off. You spend 10k to "study" for 2 weeks or you could spend 10k for six months plus in South America. You can look into volunteer and work opportunities when you get there.
Another idea is that if you are into videoagraphy you can get a drone. You can connect with tourism boards in other countries who are looking for drone footage for their ad campaigns. A person who does this is Eric Conover on youtube. https://www.youtube.com/user/erikconover

I also want to mention something called a working holiday visa. It is a work visa that you can only use when you are under 30. It's a special agreement the US has with a few other countries. https://www.gooverseas.com/blog/americans-guide-working-holiday-visas

If you want to live for free for awhile in another country there is Wwoofing. It's pretty easy to get into. I just made some calls once I got to New Zealand and got two weeks free lodging in exchange for selling avocados by the side of the road.
http://wwoofinternational.org/

Lastly if you want to change your major to photography look into taking marketing, business classes and IT classes (improve your website etc.)
« Last Edit: May 03, 2017, 08:38:52 PM by mozar »

precrime3

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If there is absolutely no way of getting through to your parents, move out. As long as you live under their roof you have to follow their rules. You just need a place for a few months before you head to South America and it will be really cheap once you get there. I would delay the car purchase until you get back.

Re: Study abroad tends to be a rip off. You spend 10k to "study" for 2 weeks or you could spend 10k for six months plus in South America. You can look into volunteer and work opportunities when you get there.
Another idea is that if you are into videoagraphy you can get a drone. You can connect with tourism boards in other countries who are looking for drone footage for their ad campaigns. A person who does this is Eric Conover on youtube. https://www.youtube.com/user/erikconover

I also want to mention something called a working holiday visa. It is a work visa that you can only use when you are under 30. It's a special agreement the US has with a few other countries. https://www.gooverseas.com/blog/americans-guide-working-holiday-visas

If you want to live for free for awhile in another country there is Wwoofing. It's pretty easy to get into. I just made some calls once I got to New Zealand and got two weeks free lodging in exchange for selling avocados by the side of the road.
http://wwoofinternational.org/

Lastly if you want to change your major to photography look into taking marketing, business classes and IT classes (improve your website etc.)

The drone footage thing is something I'd be super into. Do you have any links for something like that? Car purchase delay for sure. The working holiday visa is something new to me as well, something I'll look into.

And haha yeah, the website is just a portfolio right now, and for $10/month, it looks good ENOUGH for now. For sure might swap over to squarespace, or get one designed.

Talking to some marketing agencies in Birmingham and seeing where that might go.

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I took a gap year, in the middle of my university degree. I had two years finished, spent a summer working, hopped on a plane, and flew to Cusco, Peru. I had planned to stay there for 11 weeks (the length of my return trip ticket), but ended up leaving after 3 days, and bussing through Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay before bussing back to Cusco to fly home.

I don't know how it works in Alabama, but in Washington state, my university allowed me to take a year off and then re-enroll without reapplying to the university. This came in handy for me twice, as after I enrolled right out of high school, I decided only one term later to go to a community college for a year.

You need to decide exactly what it is you want to do. Moving forward, that will determine what kind of budget you need to be able to support.

Good luck! Becoming fluent in Spanish is fun!

life_travel

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It's funny how it's such a controversial thing to do in USA but in NZ and Australia it's almost a right of passage to do a gap year overseas . Yes , definitely look at working holiday visa. Now is the time to travel before study, family life, work , etc.
And I'm a parent of 22 yo who doesn't like travelling :) Me? I love travelling, lived in 3 countries , I can sense you have an ambition and drive to do well with your carreer once you return.

precrime3

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I took a gap year, in the middle of my university degree. I had two years finished, spent a summer working, hopped on a plane, and flew to Cusco, Peru. I had planned to stay there for 11 weeks (the length of my return trip ticket), but ended up leaving after 3 days, and bussing through Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay before bussing back to Cusco to fly home.

I don't know how it works in Alabama, but in Washington state, my university allowed me to take a year off and then re-enroll without reapplying to the university. This came in handy for me twice, as after I enrolled right out of high school, I decided only one term later to go to a community college for a year.

You need to decide exactly what it is you want to do. Moving forward, that will determine what kind of budget you need to be able to support.

Good luck! Becoming fluent in Spanish is fun!

I think I will do what a user above suggested, and continue to shoot weddings and build my photography/videography business during the summer. This seems to be wedding season, and I'll make the most of it. Once fall comes, I'll probably fly over to Guatemala to learn some Spanish, where I spend the rest of the gap year.

I might consider WWOOFING, or whatever it was called lol. Just woke up so I'm a little hazy.

And yeah, my parents consider Spanish to be something useless... which I find hilarious since I'm filipino and already know Tagalog so they know the importance of learning a second language. Plus Tagalog is super similar to spanish, so i don't think it would be that hard to be honest.

It's funny how it's such a controversial thing to do in USA but in NZ and Australia it's almost a right of passage to do a gap year overseas . Yes , definitely look at working holiday visa. Now is the time to travel before study, family life, work , etc.
And I'm a parent of 22 yo who doesn't like travelling :) Me? I love travelling, lived in 3 countries , I can sense you have an ambition and drive to do well with your carreer once you return.

I love travelling too. I want to get a tattoo on my back with the world map outlined, and color in a country whenever I go there. Retiring early (40?) and travelling full time would be my dream!

cerat0n1a

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It's funny how it's such a controversial thing to do in USA but in NZ and Australia it's almost a right of passage to do a gap year overseas .

Same in Britain. Stats from my 18yo son's school said that 36% of students last year took a gap year before going on to study for a degree. That probably includes some who will work for a year before college and I suspect it's a good bit higher than national average and also that bank of mum & dad will be funding many of those gap years, but still, an 18 year old taking a gap year to travel would be considered pretty normal. My 16 year old son is already budgeting and making plans with a friend.

ooeei

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I'm not really sure why they're so against it either. I think it's due to the fact that they feel some sort of "momentum" is lost if i stop school and come back to it, or like how I'm the first grandson on and they want me to be a "role model" of sorts.

I think you hit it right with the momentum idea.  I'm 28 and know quite a few people who just took a "gap year" here and there, and ended up spending 7-8 years total in college just wandering their way through life, some of whom ended up not graduating.  I'm sure you parents saw similar things with some of their peers.

The main worry, assuming you're not just a general screwup (which it sounds like you aren't), is you'll get some job that pays decently and decide to drop out to pursue it.  This doesn't sound bad, but depending on the job your ceiling may be lower than you think.  $10-15/hour and no benefits is pretty good money for a 20 year old, and might be enough to convince some people college isn't worth it when they can work a chill job and have a lot of fun while their college friends study and are broke.  $10-15/hour with no benefits is a tough life for someone who's 35 and wanting to start a family.

They may be worried that you'll be successful with the photography, and make $10,000-15,000 next year and decide "who needs school?"  That $15,000 seems like a lot of money to someone who's never had money, but isn't actually much at all.  I know a few photographers in their 30's and 40's, and I'm pretty sure if they could go back in time and get degrees they would.  I'm also pretty sure their friends were jealous of them when they were making money taking pictures while their friends were in class and eating ramen.

I think emphasizing to them that you really do want to go to college will help reduce their fears.  They still may not like it, but in the end it's your call.  It reminds me of my girlfriend's parents who were horrified she'd ever want to leave her job that paid $40k/year.  "They've been so good to you and you make good money, don't even think about interviewing anywhere else or leaving!"  That's just their mindset, and it's from a different time and culture.  They were SO worried when she switched jobs, and of course everything turned out fine.  I guarantee she'll have the same conversation with them when she decides to go elsewhere.

precrime3

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I'm not really sure why they're so against it either. I think it's due to the fact that they feel some sort of "momentum" is lost if i stop school and come back to it, or like how I'm the first grandson on and they want me to be a "role model" of sorts.

I think you hit it right with the momentum idea.  I'm 28 and know quite a few people who just took a "gap year" here and there, and ended up spending 7-8 years total in college just wandering their way through life, some of whom ended up not graduating.  I'm sure you parents saw similar things with some of their peers.

The main worry, assuming you're not just a general screwup (which it sounds like you aren't), is you'll get some job that pays decently and decide to drop out to pursue it.  This doesn't sound bad, but depending on the job your ceiling may be lower than you think.  $10-15/hour and no benefits is pretty good money for a 20 year old, and might be enough to convince some people college isn't worth it when they can work a chill job and have a lot of fun while their college friends study and are broke.  $10-15/hour with no benefits is a tough life for someone who's 35 and wanting to start a family.

They may be worried that you'll be successful with the photography, and make $10,000-15,000 next year and decide "who needs school?"  That $15,000 seems like a lot of money to someone who's never had money, but isn't actually much at all.  I know a few photographers in their 30's and 40's, and I'm pretty sure if they could go back in time and get degrees they would.  I'm also pretty sure their friends were jealous of them when they were making money taking pictures while their friends were in class and eating ramen.

I think emphasizing to them that you really do want to go to college will help reduce their fears.  They still may not like it, but in the end it's your call.  It reminds me of my girlfriend's parents who were horrified she'd ever want to leave her job that paid $40k/year.  "They've been so good to you and you make good money, don't even think about interviewing anywhere else or leaving!"  That's just their mindset, and it's from a different time and culture.  They were SO worried when she switched jobs, and of course everything turned out fine.  I guarantee she'll have the same conversation with them when she decides to go elsewhere.

If the current trajectory continues, however, I'll probably make like $10,000 - $15,000 just this summer though. While I doubt it'll remain consistent, that's already around $60,000 yearly. And I do want to come back to college. It's just I feel that the personal growth would be so helpful for me.

I'll probably want to see how this summer goes in terms of money that I make. If it doesn't look like it'll go anywhere, I'll probably head off to college. If so, I'll see if taking the calculated risk is worth it.

ooeei

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If the current trajectory continues, however, I'll probably make like $10,000 - $15,000 just this summer though. While I doubt it'll remain consistent, that's already around $60,000 yearly. And I do want to come back to college. It's just I feel that the personal growth would be so helpful for me.

I'll probably want to see how this summer goes in terms of money that I make. If it doesn't look like it'll go anywhere, I'll probably head off to college. If so, I'll see if taking the calculated risk is worth it.

See, it's things like extrapolating out what you're projected to make your first summer doing this out to a yearly paycheck that may worry them.  Personally I don't think it's a bad idea, but just be aware that in the United States it's not a normal thing to do, and is usually done by screw-ups and people who think college is just a long vacation.  I've met quite a few lazy burnouts who use "taking a year off" as an excuse for them being lazy and wanting to mooch off of other people for awhile.

Reassure them that you're serious about college even if the money making goes well (an accounting degree never hurt anyone), and that you'll be back in a year to get that taken care of. 

BFGirl

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I was not always a fan of a gap year until my daughter was so stressed out from college that she basically just quit going and failed all her classes.  She worked two part time jobs during her gap year and decided that she wanted to go back.  I wish that I had encouraged her to take a gap year at the beginning so she didn't get so burnt out. 

patchyfacialhair

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I'm not really sure why they're so against it either. I think it's due to the fact that they feel some sort of "momentum" is lost if i stop school and come back to it, or like how I'm the first grandson on and they want me to be a "role model" of sorts.

I think you hit it right with the momentum idea.  I'm 28 and know quite a few people who just took a "gap year" here and there, and ended up spending 7-8 years total in college just wandering their way through life, some of whom ended up not graduating.  I'm sure you parents saw similar things with some of their peers.

The main worry, assuming you're not just a general screwup (which it sounds like you aren't), is you'll get some job that pays decently and decide to drop out to pursue it.  This doesn't sound bad, but depending on the job your ceiling may be lower than you think.  $10-15/hour and no benefits is pretty good money for a 20 year old, and might be enough to convince some people college isn't worth it when they can work a chill job and have a lot of fun while their college friends study and are broke.  $10-15/hour with no benefits is a tough life for someone who's 35 and wanting to start a family.

They may be worried that you'll be successful with the photography, and make $10,000-15,000 next year and decide "who needs school?"  That $15,000 seems like a lot of money to someone who's never had money, but isn't actually much at all.  I know a few photographers in their 30's and 40's, and I'm pretty sure if they could go back in time and get degrees they would.  I'm also pretty sure their friends were jealous of them when they were making money taking pictures while their friends were in class and eating ramen.

I think emphasizing to them that you really do want to go to college will help reduce their fears.  They still may not like it, but in the end it's your call.  It reminds me of my girlfriend's parents who were horrified she'd ever want to leave her job that paid $40k/year.  "They've been so good to you and you make good money, don't even think about interviewing anywhere else or leaving!"  That's just their mindset, and it's from a different time and culture.  They were SO worried when she switched jobs, and of course everything turned out fine.  I guarantee she'll have the same conversation with them when she decides to go elsewhere.

If the current trajectory continues, however, I'll probably make like $10,000 - $15,000 just this summer though. While I doubt it'll remain consistent, that's already around $60,000 yearly. And I do want to come back to college. It's just I feel that the personal growth would be so helpful for me.

I'll probably want to see how this summer goes in terms of money that I make. If it doesn't look like it'll go anywhere, I'll probably head off to college. If so, I'll see if taking the calculated risk is worth it.

What will you do during the Fall and Winter months to earn that same $15k/quarter? Your big business time is going to be Spring/Summer, but you may slow down during the Fall/Winter.

For what it's worth, I think the gap year is a fantastic idea, but you should go into it knowing it's a fixed time period. Throwing away a free college education would be a stupid decision, even if you really enjoy photography.

ketchup

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If the current trajectory continues, however, I'll probably make like $10,000 - $15,000 just this summer though. While I doubt it'll remain consistent, that's already around $60,000 yearly. And I do want to come back to college. It's just I feel that the personal growth would be so helpful for me.

I'll probably want to see how this summer goes in terms of money that I make. If it doesn't look like it'll go anywhere, I'll probably head off to college. If so, I'll see if taking the calculated risk is worth it.

What will you do during the Fall and Winter months to earn that same $15k/quarter? Your big business time is going to be Spring/Summer, but you may slow down during the Fall/Winter.

For what it's worth, I think the gap year is a fantastic idea, but you should go into it knowing it's a fixed time period. Throwing away a free college education would be a stupid decision, even if you really enjoy photography.
Bolded for emphasis.  Photography is not something that will give you a consistent paycheck year-round (and any self-employment/freelance setup will give you very uneven income in general).  My GF is a pro photographer and her income is *very* uneven throughout the year.  Last month (April) she made about triple what she made in January through March combined.  Last year, she made half of her yearly income in the space of one week in September.  It's not like a 9-5 where you just get your pay nicely split into 26 increments throughout the year.  It's very possible you could end up with 10k in one quarter but still <20k annually.  You'll probably have both 90 hour weeks and 0 hour weeks.

And I don't think you need $2k-3k in camera gear to get started.  My GF was using just a Canon 5D and an 85mm f/1.8 (I think that's what it was; now she's rocking a 5D Mk IV and a 24-70 f/2.8 and 70-200 f/2.8) before she started making serious money, and that was enough to get her going.  She was also working a "day job" until about 2.5 years ago.

precrime3

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If the current trajectory continues, however, I'll probably make like $10,000 - $15,000 just this summer though. While I doubt it'll remain consistent, that's already around $60,000 yearly. And I do want to come back to college. It's just I feel that the personal growth would be so helpful for me.

I'll probably want to see how this summer goes in terms of money that I make. If it doesn't look like it'll go anywhere, I'll probably head off to college. If so, I'll see if taking the calculated risk is worth it.

What will you do during the Fall and Winter months to earn that same $15k/quarter? Your big business time is going to be Spring/Summer, but you may slow down during the Fall/Winter.

For what it's worth, I think the gap year is a fantastic idea, but you should go into it knowing it's a fixed time period. Throwing away a free college education would be a stupid decision, even if you really enjoy photography.
Bolded for emphasis.  Photography is not something that will give you a consistent paycheck year-round (and any self-employment/freelance setup will give you very uneven income in general).  My GF is a pro photographer and her income is *very* uneven throughout the year.  Last month (April) she made about triple what she made in January through March combined.  Last year, she made half of her yearly income in the space of one week in September.  It's not like a 9-5 where you just get your pay nicely split into 26 increments throughout the year.  It's very possible you could end up with 10k in one quarter but still <20k annually.  You'll probably have both 90 hour weeks and 0 hour weeks.

And I don't think you need $2k-3k in camera gear to get started.  My GF was using just a Canon 5D and an 85mm f/1.8 (I think that's what it was; now she's rocking a 5D Mk IV and a 24-70 f/2.8 and 70-200 f/2.8) before she started making serious money, and that was enough to get her going.  She was also working a "day job" until about 2.5 years ago.

Yeah, I got started with a canon t5 and a 50mm f1.8. I bought some flashes and softboxes, and my images come out fantastic. Honestly I'm going to rent some bodies and lenses for the shoots I do, as I see more money right now from the video side of things so I'll probably pick up a couple panasonic g7's, and a good video tripod/monopod and that should have me set.

Fall is a really popular time for weddings as well, and not really sure what I'd do in the winter. But the $15,000 for that quarter should have me more then set for the rest of the time to be in Guatemala, and considering I only need enough money to survive for a year, I think it should suffice, no?



For what it's worth, I think the gap year is a fantastic idea, but you should go into it knowing it's a fixed time period. Throwing away a free college education would be a stupid decision, even if you really enjoy photography.

Well aware of it being a fixed time period. I hope to get in writing from University that my scholarship would be valid next year if I take this gap year. I am totally agreeing with you when you say a FREE college education not taken would be a MISTAKE. So yea, I'm for sure would go back.

boarder42

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i think college is overstated personally. Say you start making real money doing this 60k+ per year and are growing it.  you can hire other photographers and build a business it doesnt take a college degree to be an entreprenuer. 

ketchup

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i think college is overstated personally. Say you start making real money doing this 60k+ per year and are growing it.  you can hire other photographers and build a business it doesnt take a college degree to be an entreprenuer.
I agree with this sentiment (as does my photographer GF with no degree), but definitely live it for a year or two before deciding you don't want to do college.  Make sure the reality matches what you're trying to accomplish.  Decide against college because you *are* making x/year, not because you *could* make x/year.

I'm not trying to take the wind out of your sails; you just seem to be trying to make some premature decisions.  It's easy to hand-wave numbers that don't yet match reality.

Starting a photography business is no easy task, but you do seem well on your way.  It's great that you seem to be doing well with weddings too.  Weddings can be stressful as hell, and the competition is cutthroat (my GF has a different, much more niche-y specialty).

precrime3

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i think college is overstated personally. Say you start making real money doing this 60k+ per year and are growing it.  you can hire other photographers and build a business it doesnt take a college degree to be an entreprenuer.
I agree with this sentiment (as does my photographer GF with no degree), but definitely live it for a year or two before deciding you don't want to do college.  Make sure the reality matches what you're trying to accomplish.  Decide against college because you *are* making x/year, not because you *could* make x/year.

I'm not trying to take the wind out of your sails; you just seem to be trying to make some premature decisions.  It's easy to hand-wave numbers that don't yet match reality.

Starting a photography business is no easy task, but you do seem well on your way.  It's great that you seem to be doing well with weddings too.  Weddings can be stressful as hell, and the competition is cutthroat (my GF has a different, much more niche-y specialty).

Oh for sure. Currently looking at trying to find a dedicated marketer to increase conversion and leads with my digital presence. Not really sure what gear I need to purchase just yet so I'll just hold onto that.

Christiana

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I'd check to see if any other wedding photographers in your area would be willing to use you as a second shooter/assistant photographer.  One photographer can't be everywhere at once during a big wedding reception.

Even during a gap year, you can have a paying job.  A volunteer opportunity that includes room and board would be good too.

LeRainDrop

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I just returned home from a month-long stay in Guatemala, and I spent three of those weeks enrolled in a school for one-on-one Spanish lessons.  I'd say 18 years is on the younger end for for studying alone there, but there were several people in their mid to late 20s.  There were also the students who were in their early 20s who were on study abroad through their colleges.  The entire trip was an amazing experience for me -- probably one of the most valuable things I've done for myself in my adult years.  Feel free to PM me if you want more info or have specific questions.

StetsTerhune

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No practical info, but: I took a gap year before college, and it was maybe the best decision I ever made. My freshman year I had such a head start on everyone in terms of maturity and self-awareness. I wasn't adjusting to being away from home, I was ready to be there and sure of what I wanted. My brother had done really poorly in college (after being the valedictorian of his high school class) and my parents were keen to try something different with me, so when I suggested a gap year they jumped on the bandwagon very quickly. I'm not saying all 18 year olds need a year to be 'ready' for college, but in my experience a lot of them do.

As long as you're just deferring a college program and not losing any ground, I really can't see any downsides. Work, earn some money, and go travel, learn, whatever. I took a year off before college. I took a year off after college. Now I'm retired and take all the years off. No way in hell would I trade either of those years off for getting to retire a year earlier. Or even 2 or 3 years earlier. It's a totally different experience when you're 18 vs 24 vs 34. I have no idea which I prefer, but I'm so glad I got to experience them all.

Also, I did some Spanish classes in Ecuador a few months ago and would highly recommend you look into Ecuador as well. Great country, easy, super cheap. I've never been to Guatemala (though I've heard good things), but look into Ecuador as well.

Joel

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I have a hard time with the thought of a gap year. What do you need a gap from? Being a student? Being a student is the easy part of life!

ketchup

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I'll be a Negative Nancy. Camera technology is getting so good (and affordable) these days that the supply of competent wedding photographers could increase dramatically, which could drive down the amount of money you can charge for these services.  Obviously there are folks out there making a good living at it, but I would be interested to know what is forecasted for the future.  At the same time as the supply of photographers increases, there could be a change on the demand side.  I suspect the number of weddings will decrease, as the younger folks are delaying marriage if they're getting married at all.  Another trend that could lower how much one could make on these wedding shoots.  Anyway, I'm cautious by nature so just throwing that out there.
I'd say the surge in supply of photographers has already happened.  A rando DSLR and decent lens can be had any day of the week used combined for $500-1000.  Everyone thinks they're a photographer.  ~4 years ago my GF as a "newbie" photographer was already competing in a race-to-the-bottom on pricing.  She'd charge something like $75-100 for driving an hour each way, shooting a family for two hours, editing at home for a few hours, and giving the client like 25 photos.  It was absurd.  And she was exceptional compared to most of the jokers on Craiglist, but it didn't matter; she couldn't raise her prices in such a high-competition space.

That madness stopped when she found a different (very low competition) niche and dug her heels in.  If the OP has already found a client base willing to pay real money, I'd say that's half the startup battle right there.  The other half is being excellent at what you do.

Duchess of Stratosphear

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I work in higher education and see many students who could have benefited from a gap year. I wish more of them would consider it. I applaud you for your plans, and I would second what others have said here--you're an adult, so if your parents aren't on board, well, again, you're an adult. You'll be so much more secure in your academic plans once you've been out and about for a year. I hope you go for it!

CNM

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The amount of money you'll need will depend on where you go, of course.  Antigua, Guatemala is a very popular destination and it is more expensive than other areas.  It is also a popular destination for US expats and there are lots of forums to ask questions about how much things cost.  I googled and one ballpark was $1500/mo., which actually seems a bit on the high side, but I don't have personal experience with it.

StetsTerhune

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I have a hard time with the thought of a gap year. What do you need a gap from? Being a student? Being a student is the easy part of life!

Nope, being retired is the easy part of life :o).

But seriously, what does "need" have to do with anything?  I, like most people in the developed world, long ago achieved all my "needs." Now I like to make my decisions by thinking about what I "want" and then looking into whether positive consequences of the thing (and what I have to do to achieve the thing) outweigh the negative consequences.

MrsPete

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A number of thoughts:

- I understand where your parents are coming from:  You have a scholarship lined up.  Someone else who's willing to pay for your education!  Why walk away from that?  I am 1000% glad that I earned my degree straight out of high school -- more years to have it.

- Also, as a parent, the fear is that you'll turn one year into two years, or three years, or more.  And in a sense it's easier to go straight from high school to college:  You're already entrenched in the world of education.  You're not accustomed to having a paycheck.  The fear is that you'll take on a car payment, apartment rent, perhaps even a family ... and these can be obstacles to returning to school.  I totally understand your parents' preference for you to earn an education before you're juggling studies and dropping kids off at day care. 

- I earned one degree straight out of high school, started working, got married, bought a house ... and two years later I went back to school for my second degree.  That first semester back was so hard.  I was out of the habit of reading 100+ pages in one sitting.  It was like my brain turned to oatmeal.  When I was a freshman, the transition from high school to college student was easy; the transition from adult to student-again was much harder. 

- Wedding photography can be a great career.  My oldest was just married, and it was actually difficult to find a good photographer whom we trusted.  Someone above mentioned working with an established photographer -- this is a good idea.  The guy who photographed my daughter's wedding brought along a young helper, and I thought to myself, "He's in training".  I also agree that photography is going to give you a highs-and-lows salary, which isn't the worst thing in the world.  You might look into a second specialty.  School photography is one option.

- If you're interested in photography, why aren't you planning to study that in college?  I teach high school photography, and I know that several good colleges near us offer either 2 year or 4 year degrees in the subject.

- Someone else mentioned that essentially anyone with good equipment can be a photographer today.  I disagree, but my standards are higher.  Technique matters a great deal, and also a good photographer needs to be funny /relaxing /quick to make people smile.  Not just anyone with a nice SLR camera can pose people and take superb pictures.  Having said that, a whole lot of people just don't "get" the difference between a picture snapped with a cell phone and a professional picture ... until they see the better picture ... and the successful photographer has to convince the client to hire him before he can see that better picture.

ketchup

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- If you're interested in photography, why aren't you planning to study that in college?  I teach high school photography, and I know that several good colleges near us offer either 2 year or 4 year degrees in the subject.
A degree in photography might be useful for some people, but my girlfriend knew after about two weeks in 2010 that it would be a waste of time.  Nobody has ever asked her for her "credentials" (just her portfolio), but she still has about $4k of student debt from that semester.  Obviously the equation is much different if you have a full ride.

Honestly, just practice your craft.  You get better with time.  My GF has hit that shutter button about 350,000 times (not a typo) in the past three years alone, and she gets better every year.

A business degree or something might be handy too.  My GF didn't know anything at all about business when starting out and that did slow her down.

- Someone else mentioned that essentially anyone with good equipment can be a photographer today.  I disagree, but my standards are higher.  Technique matters a great deal, and also a good photographer needs to be funny /relaxing /quick to make people smile.  Not just anyone with a nice SLR camera can pose people and take superb pictures.  Having said that, a whole lot of people just don't "get" the difference between a picture snapped with a cell phone and a professional picture ... until they see the better picture ... and the successful photographer has to convince the client to hire him before he can see that better picture.
Anyone can be a "photographer".  The issue is that the photographers and "photographers" compete on price, and the "photographers" can therefore push the photographers way down, depending on what your specialty is.  The OP seems to have gotten past this step, which is huge.  It's hard to get anywhere with your work when you're doing what amounts to 14 hours of work for $100 (for example).

CheapScholar

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You say you want a gap year and the main reason is to spend 3-6 months learning Spanish in a foreign country.  As a college administrator and instructor myself, I'd suggest enrolling at Troy this fall. The gap year will just delay your degree by a year and there's a good chance you'll be bored and broke by Christmas.

Try to convince your parents to let you visit a foreign country for one month or two this summer.  Try employment at a resort to help pay for it, which would put you somewhere safe.  Also, schedule a meeting with an academic advisor at Troy (now) and tell him/her you want to spend as much time studying abroad to learn Spanish during your time at the school.  If you work hard do your research you can spend 2 semesters abroad as an undergrad.

MrsPete

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A degree in photography might be useful for some people, but my girlfriend knew after about two weeks in 2010 that it would be a waste of time.  Nobody has ever asked her for her "credentials" (just her portfolio), but she still has about $4k of student debt from that semester.  Obviously the equation is much different if you have a full ride.
I've taken two photography courses over the years (one in portrait photography, one in photo shop), and each one advanced my skills TREMENDOUSLY. 

ketchup

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A degree in photography might be useful for some people, but my girlfriend knew after about two weeks in 2010 that it would be a waste of time.  Nobody has ever asked her for her "credentials" (just her portfolio), but she still has about $4k of student debt from that semester.  Obviously the equation is much different if you have a full ride.
I've taken two photography courses over the years (one in portrait photography, one in photo shop), and each one advanced my skills TREMENDOUSLY.
Should have clarified.  It would have been a waste of time for her and therefore for some, not necessarily for everyone.  I didn't mean to imply that.  For her, more experience "in the field" was more valuable than classroom work.

boarder42

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A degree in photography might be useful for some people, but my girlfriend knew after about two weeks in 2010 that it would be a waste of time.  Nobody has ever asked her for her "credentials" (just her portfolio), but she still has about $4k of student debt from that semester.  Obviously the equation is much different if you have a full ride.
I've taken two photography courses over the years (one in portrait photography, one in photo shop), and each one advanced my skills TREMENDOUSLY.
Should have clarified.  It would have been a waste of time for her and therefore for some, not necessarily for everyone.  I didn't mean to imply that.  For her, more experience "in the field" was more valuable than classroom work.

plus the internet -  if you dont know how to do something the internet has all the information you need to learn if you're driven to learn it.

ketchup

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A degree in photography might be useful for some people, but my girlfriend knew after about two weeks in 2010 that it would be a waste of time.  Nobody has ever asked her for her "credentials" (just her portfolio), but she still has about $4k of student debt from that semester.  Obviously the equation is much different if you have a full ride.
I've taken two photography courses over the years (one in portrait photography, one in photo shop), and each one advanced my skills TREMENDOUSLY.
Should have clarified.  It would have been a waste of time for her and therefore for some, not necessarily for everyone.  I didn't mean to imply that.  For her, more experience "in the field" was more valuable than classroom work.

plus the internet -  if you dont know how to do something the internet has all the information you need to learn if you're driven to learn it.
Oh absolutely.  For the technical stuff, the internet is a priceless resource.

MrsPete

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Should have clarified.  It would have been a waste of time for her and therefore for some, not necessarily for everyone.  I didn't mean to imply that.  For her, more experience "in the field" was more valuable than classroom work.
Well, yeah, you're never going to improve if you don't get out there and take pictures! 

I had an excellent teacher who taught us new techniques every week and assigned homework ... one of the best parts of the class was that everyone would bring in pictures, and the teacher commented on what was right/wrong with them.  Huge learning experience. 

Oh absolutely.  For the technical stuff, the internet is a priceless resource.
Yeah, you can find instructions on how to set your ISO online ... but in the class I took, the teacher taught us about ISO, showed us multiple examples of the goal, had us practice in class, then the next week gave individual and group feedback. 

As I said, I personally improved tremendously by taking those two classes.