Tips for Launching Your Own Photography Business
If you're reading this post, then you're interested in photography. Whether you've taken the plunge and launched your hobby into a serious business, is another story. We understand how overwhelming it can be to start any business let alone a stand-alone photography studio. However, don't be dissuaded from your dreams!
Here are some useful tips we can offer you to help you achieve your goals.
The business plan will be the most important first step you take, and it will carry you through your early years of business.
Before you buy a DSLR camera and create a website, you’ll want to do a little prep work. There are some useful online tips for how to write a business plan. You can also ask for help from other small business owners or friends who've been through business school as writing a sample business plan is a requisite in most B-Schools.
The business plan will be the most important first step you take, and it will carry you through your early years of business. It will serve as a guide. Trying to launch a business without a formal business plan is rarely, if ever, a good idea because it will answer some critical start-up questions.
- Part of your business plan should address the finances of launching your business. What are the estimated costs for equipment, advertising including a website, accounting/bookkeeping services, insurance, studio rental or purchase, and utilities, etc? These costs will help dictate your initial budget, but remember that it's likely at least some of these numbers will change as you begin your business. Writing in an "emergency" fund is a prudent idea.
- Once you've estimated your upfront costs, how will you fund your new business? Your business plan will need to address this question particularly if you plan on borrowing money to defray costs. If you are borrowing money, from family, friends, or a bank, you will need a plan for how you will repay your loan. Keep in mind that it could take at least a year or more for your business to become profitable - at least sufficiently to pay your business let alone pay back in loans.
- We recommend that when writing your business plan you look far enough into the future that you decide what to do once you start turning a profit. At what point will you begin re-investing into the business - whether by buying updated equipment, expanding your studio, or otherwise?
In addition to a comprehensive and realistic business plan, you will need to focus on the professional side of the photography business.
In addition to a comprehensive and realistic business plan, you will need to focus on the professional side of the photography business. A business plan will guide the creation of a small business, but there needs to be something at the heart of your company. In this case, it's your photography skill.
We will presume you already have enough photography experience (and are a great photographer) to open your own photography business and studio. Your next task then is to ask yourself if you have enough equipment. We would recommend at least two of everything. This means two professional quality cameras and lenses, flashes, and photo editing software such as Lightroom and Photoshop. You can expect to pay about $12,000 for new equipment and about $5,000-$7,000 for used equipment. However, at some point, you will need lighting as well as other equipment.
Remember that your website is likely the first glimpse at your work and business that a potential client will have. Do not underestimate its importance to your fledgling business!
Once you have a business plan and the minimum equipment necessary to start your business, you're not yet ready to start! Do you have a name for your business and what is your marketing strategy? Do you have a social media plan (every business owner needs a social media plan these days!) How are people going to hear or learn about you? Where will you advertise? Lastly, and very importantly, you will need a website. A quick Internet search and you'll find many free website templates available to help get you started. Most are easy enough to use. Enlist the help of a tech-savvy friend if need be!
Remember that your website is likely the first glimpse at your work and business that a potential client will have. Do not underestimate its importance to your fledgling business! Be certain to post a photo gallery of your work on your site, include a little about yourself, contact information, and some pricing. You don't have to go into too much detailing on your pricing. You can do that when a potential client reaches out to you.
Part of your advertising plan should include a blog which you will update regularly (at least twice a month) and a monthly email newsletter to clients. It's a great way to generate repeat clients because it keeps you on their radar. The blog allows you to communicate with you clients, not just about your work, but with tips for their photography as well as other posts related to topics of interest to your customers.
You might be an artist as a photographer, but you're also a salesman of your work as art and as a product. Make it easy for clients to find something they love in what you offer and you make it easier for yourself to earn money.
You will need a pricing plan before you "hang out your shingle" and welcome new clients. Be ready for that first phone call where someone is more interested in your prices than almost anything else.
It can be a challenge for any first-time professional photographer to come up with a pricing plan. Every photographer structures his pricing based on what he feels is fair to him. However, it's important that it also seems fair to potential clients and that you provide some level of transparency. Also, be ready for family and friends to approach you expecting a "deal." Decide what pricing you want to offer them before they even ask! If you belong to any professional groups or are friends with other professional photographers, you might find that they're willing to offer some advice or tips on how to set your pricing. This leads to our next point about networking!
Part of your pricing plan should be your product offerings. The more diverse you are in products you offer, the greater the likelihood for sales. You might be an artist as a photographer, but you're also a salesman of your work as art and as a product. Make it easy for clients to find something they love in what you offer and you make it easier for yourself to earn money.
Lastly, diversify your services by genre. If you only shoot one style of photography, let's say weddings, you limit your hiring potential to that industry. By branching into another area such as family and children's photography, you're expanding your services as well as the potential for earning income.
As a small business owner, one of the best investments you can make in your business is to join networking or professional groups if you haven't already. You will learn a lot from those who've traveled this same road before you. If possible, seek out a mentor, someone you admire for their business savvy as well as photographic skill. Set up a regular schedule to meet regularly and be ready to ask a lot of questions! Many experienced photographers are all too happy to mentor younger photographers. Find a committed and reliable mentor. Then one day, remember to become a mentor yourself to a younger photographer.
It's important to stay nimble and current by staying up to date on technology, the latest industry practices, and trends in your particular area of photography.
The kiss of death for many small businesses (besides money) can be "irrelevance." It's important to stay nimble and current by staying up to date on technology, the latest industry practices, and trends in your particular area of photography. Fail to do these, and you will fail to remain relevant to clients and potential clients. Once that happens, you will lose business as customers will go elsewhere.
Lastly, remember that the customer service experience matters as much as your skill as a photographer. Even the most gifted of photographers need to offer their clients a superb experience, or clients won't recommend you to their friends. You will need to build your photography business on both skill and service.