How to launch a professional photography business
1. Build a professional network
Before you can build a client network, you should be building a professional network in your industry. If you can find a mentor in someone with more experience, do it! It will be so incredibly helpful as you launch your business. There's no need to re-invent the wheel.
You can learn a lot and receive many tips from someone who's "been there, done that." Join professional meet-up groups in your community for photographers. Everyone started somewhere and meeting other photographers - both well-established ones and those just starting - will be enormously helpful.
2. Do your research
Don't think to become a professional photographer is hanging out a shingle and waiting for your first client to pop in. Please do your research and find out exactly what it takes on multiple levels to run and sustain a photography business.
What are local laws that pertain to businesses? What business license do you need? What about bookkeeping and accounting? Where will you "run" your business? The list of questions is endless. Do your homework.
In most cases, you'll need these to get started:
Business License with Tax ID
Business Insurance (Liability Insurance)
Property Insurance including your equipment
3. Build a portfolio
You'll need to start building a portfolio - any way you can.
This might mean some second shooting for an already established photographer, or it might mean some pro-bono work for a local nonprofit. However you do it, you'll need to create a body of work to show potential clients. Somehow or other, you'll need some experience to attract clients.
4. Branding and marketing matter
You don't need to spend a fortune to create a brand and begin marketing yourself. No business can exist today without a website. There are plenty of free platforms available to build your own, or you can invest a few thousand in paying a professional.
Sometimes, you can barter your services, or you have a friend who can help out. Remember that your website is your cyberspace storefront. It's often the first thing representing you that a potential client will see. Make it useful and attractive, or you risk not getting a call.
Also, do some research on how to market your business and learn how to leverage social media to build a regular following. It's free and can raise your profile in the community! There are plenty of free or low-cost places to advertise your services.
5. Once a professional, be professional
You need to behave like a professional if you want to be a professional. That means dressing and acting like one when you deal with the public. It also involves running your business like it's a successful business.
Lastly, it also means investing in high-quality equipment. Establish some business hours and a system for scheduling. You want to interact with others like a pro - at all times.
5. Stay at the top of your game
You must be at minimum an excellent photographer to launch a business. Once you're up and running, never stop trying to improve your craft and skills. Continuing education, either for how to run a business or how to improve your photography, should be a regular part of your schedule.
You don't have to spend a fortune to do this. There are plenty of online resources available, but investing in quality training and courses will never be a bad idea.
6. What's your style?
Some photographers have a unique style they want to be known for, and that's fine. Others prefer not to commit themselves one way or other. Then there are those who want to shoot a certain genre such as weddings or family.
Whatever you want to do is fine. What's critical is to decide and work toward improving and perfecting that style or genre. Study as much as you can when not working and reach out to others (who will hopefully be happy to answer your questions).