You have been told by your friends, family, and a rather annoying voice on your shoulder that you are ready to go full-time and run your own photography business.
But what now? Where to start…
In this article, we look at practical tips on how to start a photography business that actually makes money!
Having this structure will keep you focused on what needs to happen in order to realize your dream.
- Advice Before You Start
- Step by Step Guide on How to Start Your Photography Business
- Step 1: Choose a Memorable Name
- Step 2: Create a Website / Portfolio
- Step 3: Create a logo
- Step 4: Create Business Cards
- Step 5. Organize Yourself & Automate
- Step 6: Know How Much to Charge Your Clients
- Step 7: Prioritize Customer Satisfaction
- Step 8. Legalize Your Photography Business
- Step 9: Keep Your Business Finances Separate
- How to Market Your Photography Business
- 1. Start Marketing from Day One
- 2. Make It Easy to Find Your Business
- 3. Promote Your Photography Business on Social Media
- 4. Get Friends & Family to Share Your Work
- 5. Network with Clients
- 6. Network with Other Photographers and Professionals
- General Advice
Advice Before You Start
Here are the things you ought to think about before you start your photography business
1. Focus on Action
As you begin to take steps towards starting a photography business, it’s important to focus on action.
We often get stuck in ‘analysis paralysis’: we research and overthink each step to the point where we don’t take action.
Remember that no decision is permanent and it’s going to be a long process including lots of changes.
Your business will be completely different in five years to what it is today. You need to start to progress and be open to change as you go.
Your time and budget will be very limited in the early days, and this will influence many decisions.
So keep in mind you need to think strategically and act swiftly in order to see growth as quickly as possible.
2. Build Your Photography Business with What You Have
When you’re starting a photography business, budgets are low and time is of the essence. Now is not the time to invest in new photo equipment and then rush to learn how to use it.
Your time is better spent maximizing the skills and photo equipment you already possess.
Get to know your current camera/computer gear well so that you can use it quickly, efficiently, and are prepared for the needs of any client.
We often only use a fraction of our camera’s features. If you learn to use it well, it may serve you for an extra year or two before you need to upgrade.
Save equipment upgrades for when you have an established clientele and consistent income from your photography business.
Step by Step Guide on How to Start Your Photography Business
Here are the actual steps that you should prioritize
Step 1: Choose a Memorable Name
This can be your name e.g. John Smith Photography or it can be something more unique and memorable e.g. A Fine Portrait Inc.
Step 2: Create a Website / Portfolio
Every business needs a website in this day and age.
Early on, all you’ll need is a landing page for potential clients. Your business doesn’t yet have its ‘personality’, so it’s perfectly okay if the website is quite basic.
Essential information that you should include:
- Your portfolio: showcase your best work and make sure the work reflects what you want to offer to clients;
- ‘About‘ details: use this to introduce yourself and give a bit of background about yourself; and
- Contact details: provide an email address and/or telephone number so potential clients can book you.
You can also host your portfolio on social media.
So if most of your clients are already on a specific platform, it makes a lot of sense to host your portfolio on that platform. Plus, it will save you a lot of money on site building and maintenance.
For practical tips on social media, please refer to Social Media tips for Photographers.
Step 3: Create a logo
Your logo sums up your business in one design. In some cases, a logo is a picture, letters or something more artistic with a specific color scheme. You can use it on your site, social accounts, and photography business cards.
Related Article: 45 Free Photography Business Cards
Pro Tip: If you are on a budget, use this DIY design service or a freelance designer. You can also post a logo design contest which will yield a lot of ideas to choose from. For logo inspirations, check out this Pinterest collection.
Step 4: Create Business Cards
Your business card should stay relatively basic at first. It should include the following information:
- Your name
- Telephone number
- Email address
- Website and social media links
Make sure all the information is clear and legible. You need to make it easy for people to find you.
Be generous: hand out plenty of cards at every networking event you attend (more on that shortly).
Related Article: 45 Free Photography Business Cards
Step 5. Organize Yourself & Automate
From multiple shoots to edits, you will have plenty of things to do when your business gets going.
So how do you keep sane and make sure everything goes well?
The secret is to use checklists, information sheets, and templates to automate.
- Checklist: Following a checklist is a great way to ensure that all your clients receive a consistent service. Make sure they cove the due process from the first contact to final delivery of the images.
- Information sheets: These are great to present photoshoot options available at the booking stage. These sheets would cover FAQ basics e.g. outfit guidelines, best times to do certain shoots, as well as what to bring along to the shoot.
- Email templates: Create templates in Outlook/Gmail to automate your admin tasks as much as possible. For example, you can have an email template that you send to gather more information as to what the client expects from a photoshoot, tell them about your services, and fees…etc.
Step 6: Know How Much to Charge Your Clients
Do market research and networking to find out the going rates in your area and specialty. Be aware that photography rates will vary depending on specialty, experience, and seasonal demands.
As much as you “love being a photographer and don’t care if I get paid”, as a business, you will have costs. Such as time spent shooting, editing, and depreciation of your equipment.
Research how much to charge: Join Facebook groups and local camera clubs. Then network with other photographers to find their rates. You can also inquire from local photography business to gather pricing information.
Related Article: Photogrpahy Pricing Guide
Step 7: Prioritize Customer Satisfaction
Early on in my business, I was told by an experienced professional that it’s easier to nurture your existing clientele than to always look for new clients. They were right.
Take time to create a client process that is smooth and pleasant. If you have content clients, they will come back to you time and time again. Happy clients usually give referrals too.
Here are things you can do to make your photography clients happy
- Have clear, branded paperwork (including client contracts)
- Keep open communications at all times so your client has clear expectations: this includes information about pricing, as well as what to expect during and after the shoot
- Be punctual and on time
- Be positive and kind at all times
- Make sure they walk away with the best possible experience they can have with a photographer
- Underpromise and overdeliver: if you say their images will be ready to view in 3 weeks, deliver them in 2 weeks
- Keep the relationship going: send out an occasional email to see how they’re doing, or to tell them about a special offer you have for them; and
- Wish them well during their birthdays, the holiday season, or New Year.
Most importantly, make clients feel as though they have found a new friend in their photographer.
Step 8. Legalize Your Photography Business
Once you start accepting payment for your services, you’ll want to make sure your business is legal.
You’ll have to research and acquire all the paperwork needed in your province for running a photography business. In most places, this will include:
- Getting a business license
- filing tax
- and opening a business bank account.
Step 9: Keep Your Business Finances Separate
Once you’re fully documented, make sure you keep clear, up-to-date, basic financial records.
You’ll need a separate bank account solely for your business, to separate out expenses and income for tax purposes.
Plus you’ll have to submit tax calculations every year. If numbers are not your strong point, or once your business has taken off, this will mean you should hire an accountant.
How to Market Your Photography Business
Now that you have established a photography business, Here’s how to get new clients.
1. Start Marketing from Day One
Most photography businesses fail because they procrastinate on the most important element for success.
Here some of the marketing avenues that have worked for my photography business.
- Word of mouth: make sure you follow up with your existing clients and treat them with respect to earn word of mouth business.
- Repeat business: Note potential future business opportunities and create reminders to inquire. For example, if you did an engagement shoot, keep an eye for the wedding.
- Social media: Share your best photographs on FB and Instagram. If you a corporate photographer, also focus on Twitter and Linkedin where corporate clients are more likely to pay attention to your work
- Referrals: Create a referral reward program for clients that continually refer your photography business to others. This can be a great marketing tool for wedding, newborn, and corporate photography.
Related Article: Photography Marketing Tips
2. Make It Easy to Find Your Business
It is surprising how many photography business websites are missing contact details of the photographer. Before you spend a lot of time and effort on finding leads to your website, make sure those who find you can contact you.
Create business listings for your photography business on Google listings and Bing Places. Make sure to list your address, phone number, services, and pricing information on these listings as well as your website.
3. Promote Your Photography Business on Social Media
The world of social media can seem tempting but overwhelming at the same time.
The key is to approach every post with clarity. You need to be strategic. Pick just one or two platforms to use consistently.
If you’re not sure which platforms to use, think about who your target audience is. For example, a typical Instagram user is very different from a typical LinkedIn user.
Once you’ve picked a social media platform to focus on, be consistent about posting. This will help grow your following and build your brand, even if you’re not quite sure what your brand looks like just yet.
4. Get Friends & Family to Share Your Work
You may not realize it, but you all already have a network of people willing to support your new business: friends and family.
It’s not a good idea to abuse personal relationships for profit, but you can be open and enthusiastic about your new endeavor. Perhaps offer them a complimentary shoot, and ask them to share with friends if they’re happy with the results.
Whether you’re at a family picnic, on social media, or out on the town with friends, don’t be shy about letting people know what your business is and why you love it.
Related Article: Family Photography Tips
Let the topic arise organically. Often, there are opportunities to talk about recent client experience, a project you’re working on, a local event you went to, or a specific type of photo client you’re wanting to connect with.
Tell people what you do with enthusiasm, and that will get them excited to help you thrive! This method can, however, be slow to yield results, so start talking up your business as soon as you are serious about the idea.
5. Network with Clients
Often, networking and relationship-building are the main forms of marketing a photography business.
It’s essential to start networking as soon as possible, even before your business has officially launched.
It’s too late to start networking when you need something.
So where do you begin with networking? To start, you should always have a target audience in mind for your business.
Once you have that, spend some time researching where those people socialize, where they shop, and how to find them.
For example, if you’re targeting mothers with young children to offer children photography, try searching for mom groups on Facebook. If you are looking to work with large corporations for events photography, LinkedIn is a fantastic platform to connect with corporate clients.
6. Network with Other Photographers and Professionals
You should also market yourself to other professional photographers–especially ones who are ahead of you in business–so they can send referrals your way.
Strategize your networking by targeting events and communities they attend. Connecting with fellow professional photographers opens you up to possible jobs as a second shooter, or to referrals from photographers who aren’t able to take on every client.
A great place to start is Meetup, where you find all kinds of groups in your local community. Also check out sites like Facebook groups, Eventbrite, Creative Mornings, and Rising Tide for in-person events.
Once you find the events and places that work for your business, be consistent about showing up and getting to know people.
Here are some general advice to keep in mind when you are running your photography business.
1. Never Stop Learning
Whether you get together with a fellow photographer, or you enroll in a course, educating yourself keeps you competitive.
Sites including PhotoBlog offer a seemingly endless amount of resources/articles from which you can learn new photography techniques.
If you learn better with books, here are some popular photography books on the market today.
There is no substitute for practice though, so whichever type of training you undertake, make sure you put the time in afterward to hone your skills.
2. Learn About Business
Don’t forget to also learn about business topics such as marketing, client relations, and financial planning.
Knowledge about business topics, marketing, networking, and your website, should all work together to create the branding for your business.
Related article: Google Adwords for Photographers
3. Focus on a Photography Niche
Depending on your skills, equipment, and location, decide on a photography niche that gives you the best chance at succeeding. Focus on what you are skilled at right now and then you can always diversify later as your business and skills grow.
A specialist photographer will be able to charge higher rates and attract more clients as they offer a specialized service. Although being a jack of all trades has its perks, being a master of one is far better.
Starting a new business is always challenging. Use our tips to take steps towards building a solid foundation.
The toughest step is always the first one, but the sooner you begin, the sooner you can start making money doing what you love.
Related Article: How to Make Money with Photography
Adapt to change: as you learn and grow, adjust aspects of your business and watch it thrive even more. Do you run your own successful photography business? Leave a comment below and share your secrets to success.
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