Establishing a photography business could be your ticket to a lifelong career of freedom, flexibility and variety. These days, photography is high in popularity. Part of that might be due to the accessibility of quality camera equipment through second-hand markets. On the other hand, more people are turning away from the typical nine to five structure in favor of the fluid lifestyle of being self-employed.
However, many will argue that starting a photography business is easy. Establishing yourself as reputable and standing out from the crowd is becoming more challenging today. Yet, you don’t have to let that get in the way of following your dream of running your own business.
If you find turning your creative hobby into a full-fledged business is your purpose, these are the several things you shouldn’t overlook. Cover photo by Kristin Hardwick.
1. Writing a Photography Business Plan
It might not seem necessary, but writing a plan will help you set goals for your photography business. Considering where you want your business to go and how you’ll get there sets the foundation for your business’s vision. A business plan acts as a guideline so you don’t lose sight of your goals.
A photography business plan will include details about your products or services, expenses that incur and a plan to make your business profitable. Consider how you’ll finance your business. What are your fixed costs and which costs can you pass to your clients? Figuring these details out on paper will be extremely helpful in the future. Additionally, you can always refer back to it later when changes happen along the way.
2. Workflow Management
In the beginning, you might find yourself wearing all the hats of your photography business. You’ll set up shoots, take pictures, edit images and place orders for prints. Yet, once your business becomes too much to handle, you must ensure you’re managing a steady workflow.
Multitasking isn’t a tangible way to run a photography business. That’s why it’s always an excellent idea to outsource your responsibilities, even on an as-needed basis.
Before you delegate, it’s essential to realize your strengths and weaknesses. Maybe you’re skilled at taking pictures but not so much when editing. In that case, you could find a freelancer to help in this area.
Once you continue to grow, consider automating repetitive tasks like payroll or project management. Automated software and other business tools are essential for reducing mistakes and saving time in your business.
Setting yourself apart from other photographers is a must-have for your business. You can’t be everything to everyone, so you must figure out what makes your photography business unique.
Start with identifying your target market. Do you enjoy couples photography or engagement photos? Maybe you love photographing newborns or taking senior portraits.
Whichever you decide, ensure you determine your niche and use that to attract customers with your unique style. Branding is a key element of any successful business, especially in a highly competitive market like photography.
Marketing is a key factor in photography business success. You won’t want to overlook this facet because you never know who you’ll find as a potential customer in networking. Start by looking into the professional organizations in your area and establish connections within your community.
You can also make networking easy by taking it to social media. Join Facebook Groups or set up a profile on LinkedIn and introduce yourself to other professionals. When people know about your business, you open the door to plenty of referrals and opportunities.
5. Cash Flow
Starting a photography business takes time and drawing in profits will take even longer. Therefore, you’ll want to pay attention to your cash flow and save as much as possible. Sooner or later, you’ll hit a slow month. So when you save money while you’re busy, the lean months become easier to manage.
Photographers who are experts at running their businesses will plan to save at least three months of expenses in advance. You can figure this number by averaging your monthly business expenses and multiplying them by three. Once you have a handle on your cash flow, you’ll feel more confident than ever in your business.
6. Building a Portfolio
The best way to build a portfolio for your photography business is to start a website. A photography portfolio will take up the bulk of your website’s content. Yet, if you have only a thin collection of your previous work, it’s time to venture out and expand it.
You can create a portfolio of images by photographing areas that interest you. This could involve shooting a friend’s wedding or becoming a second photographer for someone you admire in this industry. Regardless, building a portfolio is necessary for proving yourself through previous experiences.
Many beginner photographers have difficulties with setting their prices and determining their worth. When you first start, you shouldn’t price your work resulting in profit loss or less than minimum wage. Yet, many photographers make this mistake.
Generally, you should estimate three hours of editing time every hour you shoot. Some photographers start at $50 per hour to cover the standard costs. However, you’ll also want to factor in travel expenses and preparation time. Other factors to consider are ongoing costs, like insurance, accounting services, gear and your website.
Once you figure out these numbers, you’ll understand why undercutting your competition may not be the best strategy. It can result in losing money. So, you’ll have to consider whether you’re fine with having an expensive hobby or if you should branch out into a profitable market.
8. Making Your Photography Business Legal
Ensuring your photography business is legal does a couple of things for you. First, it establishes security, so your clients know what to expect when working with you. Second, it gives you the necessary permits you might need to operate your business in a specific location.
Start by getting your business license and setting up a business bank account to keep your personal transactions and business expenses separate. Once you gain your first client, you’ll need to set the terms of your contract. Contracts should carefully explain scheduling commitment and whether clients are allowed to use the images.
Making your business operation legal will set you apart and ensure your business agreement goes smoothly.
Set Your Photography Business up for Success
Owning a small business can be exhilarating, but it also takes a lot of work. Although it takes some commitment to get started, you’ll be ready to take on new challenges as time passes. Before you know it, you’ll be well on your way to owning your photography business.