My professional working life commenced in 1992 and ended in 2010. It is a nose-to-the-grindstone occupation that I would never take up now I am "semi-retired",but still active with the wisdom of experience behind me. I tell others "don't do it!". I do have a story to tell, and wrinkles that confirm that story.
From beginning, during and right to the end I had the support of family which provided the financial foundations for the business through a Trust Fund (which still operates). Start-up capital was provided by the Government's New Enterprise Incentive Scheme (at that time) and a Business Incubator Grant from the National Association for the Visual Arts (an Australian arts body). It's one thing to be jumping with glee when the first cheque comes along, but quite another to stretch it over several weeks until the next prospective sale comes along! Not helped with bills to pay. All during this time, the car was being used for up to 1400km of travel each fortnight and eventually became so unreliable through mileage and wear and tear that we had to make a tilt at the Trust Fund to purchase another — at the same time I announced I was retiring from professional photography. There would never have been any sort of business without those first couple of injections of start-up capital. I had a small shop in Castlemaine (country Victoria) in which I shared with three other artists as an outlet through which word could be viewed and purchased. It's all history now and I'm bloody relieved I'm out of it!!
The horror of the current age is the threat that digital has over traditional analogue production: people can buy a top-line digital camera and with very little training (and leaving everything to the camera to decide!) come back with an image that, with my bet on two shakes of a lamb's tail, will be as good as if not better than the time- and labour-intensive art produced from analogue in a wet darkroom. It might be romantic, artful, skilled and beautiful work, but it is up against mightily stiff competition that is all too ready to pounc. At least in all my time I had access to analogue labs for printing (which was excruciatingly costly: fancy living on a boiled egg each week?). Work was sold by way of mouth to a small number of clients that had first met me in 1997 and proverbially "followed me around". Placinig work up on the web for sale only resulted in that work being pirated and called the art of some other imposter, which annoyed the hell out of me: I pulled all of my web presence in 2005.
The crux of the matter is that if you are going to be an analogue practitioner and make a living from it, you have to have a certain, definable, definite edge over the competition of digital. Being an artisan is not enough in our times, nor being an artisan who loves his work and puts heart and soul into it: people can do the same thing, faster, easier, better and cheaper than payingn an "old school" analogue master. Sad but true. Yes, there are a few here on APUG that will swear they have the market cornered in analogue as active professionals, but others too, will leave film to the hobby side of their interest while digital takes care of business.