Some people weren’t born for a 9-to-5 job. If you’re one of them, and you’re passionate about photography, then why not start your own photography business?
I know what you’re thinking “Everyone is a photographer”. Well, yes and no. With smartphones, everyone can take decent photos, but not everyone can start a photography business.
If your heart’s in it, I’ll give you 17 simple steps on how to start a photography business.
These steps are all about setting your goals and expectations before starting the business.
Write a Business Plan
Writing the business plan isn’t just about paperwork. You need to have a clear and detailed business plan, in order to start this the right way. Your business plan should include everything, from your goals, to your target market, as well as what you offer and for how much.
It’ll also include your own predicted timeline. The real world can be a bit different from plans, so don’t freak out if you’re not sticking to your timeline strictly, it’s fine. Businesses are subject to trial and error. Aim high, but don’t give up when things don’t go as planned.
If you feel lost in this step, you can always use some samples for help.
Do the Math
The funds and the expenses. Determine your budget first, and then calculate the cost of everything you need. Not just the gear and the studio rent, but also any additional fees related to marketing or workshops.
If your budget can cover the expenses, then all is set. If not, look into the possibility of borrowing from a friend or getting a loan. Some photographers prefer keeping their main job until their business can break even.
Establish a Price List
The easiest way is to charge per hour. For example; if you want to gain $20 per hour, and you take 2 hours of editing for each shooting hour, then that’s $60, and if you’re renting a studio for $20 per hour, and use another $20 in commuting, then you can say that you’ll work for $100 per hour.
That was just an example, prices will vary of course. When you’re starting a business, your friends and family might ask for discounts, and it’s completely fine, but make sure you set a fixed discount for them ahead.
Know Your Clientele
Do you want to work with people, capturing portraits, couple photos, events, family photos? Or do you prefer photographing food, landscapes, and even buildings? Knowing your clientele will help you to market your service in a suitable way.
Pick a Name and a Logo
A unique name and a logo are what sets the first impression of your business. Think of it as your identity, and make sure it represents your brand.
Get the Right Equipment
The “right” equipment, and not the most expensive one. You’ll find a wide variety of photography gear, and you only need to get what does the job for you.
People will come to you for what you offer, not for the gear you use, so get the essentials at first, and later, you can upgrade. You might spend $5,000 to $10,000.
Some people can enroll in courses or attend workshops. However, one way to gain more experience in the field is working with professional photographers.
If possible, start as a photographer assistant, preferably in the same field you’ll specialize in, and you’ll gain enough experience to fly solo.
Keep in Mind the Legal Stuff
You’ll need to choose a structure for your business, register it, check the taxes, and have a separate bank account.
The regulations vary from a state to another so the U.S. Small Business Administration is where you should go.
Create Your Website and Portfolio
Creating a website is necessary for your business. It should have samples of your work, information about you, your price list, and your contact information.
A portfolio is obligatory as well since it shows the best of your work. You need to create one and submit it when clients ask for it. A well-designed portfolio can get you more work.
In the Process
Now that you’re taking your first steps in the photography world, there are some things to keep in mind that’ll help you grow your business.
Your reputation is everything. Make sure to arrive before the photoshoots. If you’re taking photos at home, try to get everything ready before your client arrives. Set your own realistic deadlines for delivering the photos and meet them.
Pay Attention to Feedback
You need to pay close attention to what your clients say. Encourage them to give you feedback and review. I like telling my clients ahead that their feedback is much appreciated whether it’s positive or negative, in order to grow the business.
Even if you’re not photographing people, your clients are people, so connections matter the most. I can take magnificent photos, but if people don’t know, then I’ll end up hanging those photos in my living room, instead of using them to make a living.
Know where your target clients might be and get to know them, get to know photographers and other people. Networking is important because one day, someone will need a photographer, and they’ll know someone who can refer you.
Everyone is online. Your friends, your kids, your parents, and even your grandparents. Social media is your way to get to more audience and establish relationships with them.
Let the world know you’re here and present what you do. Social media marketing is effective if done right, and it won’t cost you a fortune.
You can collaborate with other photographers in photoshoots, you’ll both gain experience and connections. However, you can also collaborate with other business owners, how is that?
Maybe you can offer taking pictures for a blog, and in exchange, the blog writer can write breathtaking content for your photos. Or you can take photos for a certain venue, in exchange for a discount for a photoshoot there. Sky’s the limit here, and you can always find something.
Sell Your Photos
If you decide to specialize in wedding photos or any similar field, then there’ll be some seasons with less work.
However, there’s a way to maintain the cash flow on slow seasons. There are some websites where you can sell your photos that aren’t sold to other clients. For example; Shutterstock, Dreamstime, Fotolia, and Canva.
After a While
You’re all set. Time has passed and you need to improve the business. There’s more than upgrading the gear. Let’s see how that’s possible.
Let’s say your business is designed for couples. You’re now well-known in your field and everything is going fine. Maybe you can add extra services, like taking maternity photos for example.
When you’re starting your business, don’t expect to be only a photographer. You’ll be a business owner, a customer service representative, a social media manager, a content writer, an editor, and whatever it take to get your work done.
After a while, when you have an established business, you might be able to hire other people for more support. It’d be nice to have a specialized content writer, or a dedicated editor so that you can focus more on the photography itself.
Starting a business isn’t the easiest mission, but when it bears its fruit, you’ll be more than satisfied with how far you’ve come.
Think it through, and if you make up your mind, start shooting. I hope to see your website someday.