6 Tips For Starting Your Photography Business
Have you had the exciting vision of turning your photography hobby into a business to get you out of the 9 -5 rat race?
It's a jungle out there when it comes to business and in my humble opinion, nowadays there is just as much creativity required to successfully run a business as there is to actually take those creative photographs. As a speaker and teacher, I see so many amazingly creative and talented people struggle because they get the business stuff wrong.
Strap yourself in because you are about to read about a few of the biggest killers in the photography business and I’m going to share with you how to avoid them. Let's go!
1 - Don't shoot for Free
Your doctor, mechanic, cleaner or pool guy don’t work free so don’t you either! Shooting for free is a big mistake that many newbies make. When you work for free people don’t value your work as much as if they had to pay for it. Clients who commit to your services with a booking fee or a full payment are much less likely to cancel the session and will put more effort into preparing for the session, thus giving you more creative opportunities.
A key point to understand is that portfolio building and experimenting shouldn’t be done with paying customers. Build and grow your skills on your time. The best way you can build a portfolio and hone your skills is with a TFP arrangement. TFP is “time for print” or “trade for print.” Time for print means the arrangement between model and photographer where the photographer provides the model with the best photos from the session, and the model gives a limited license in return for his/her time. These images can be used in your portfolio, advertising of any kind, business cards, articles for the web, and for many other situations you may need them.
It's easy to avoid this mistake, all you need to do is set your own prices at a point where you feel comfortable and confident that you can deliver value for the money paid. It doesn’t matter if you only charge $100 for the session, you need to charge something if only for your time in the beginning. With that said, once you start charging for your work you need to perform and perform consistently every session. You’ll also need a change of thinking from hobbyist to business owner. Then the real fun starts.
2 - Don’t neglect your numbers
When starting out and establishing your business setting goals on how much money you actually want to make is vital! Why? By setting a goal your brain will start to compile ways for you to achieve that goal, it's simple human nature. An effective way to grow your business is to know for sure how much money you're currently making by monitoring your numbers. By doing this you’ll see what services make you the most money and which ones don’t. Do more of the ones that make you money!
Stay realistic about your financial targets, it's very rare for photographers to make millions. With that said, your target should stretch you and perhaps even scare you a little, so choose a figure that would be achievable with some hard but smart work.
What gets measured gets results! Take your goal figure, work out how many shoots you need to achieve it, think about other ways to contribute to it, create a plan to guide you on the way and do a monthly income report detailing your expenses, earnings, volume of sessions and the average sale from each session. This report will give you some very clear optics on how your business is going so that you’re in the black.
There is plenty of really useful accounting software out there that’s easy to use and understand.
3 - Create a long term plan
So many of us take each day as it comes, not thinking about the future. Now that you’re running a business all that needs to change. You can't just stop and relax, photography is a business and it's competitive just like other kinds of businesses. You’ll have to constantly invest in your own growth, learn new skills and stay up to date with new trends in both photography and in business.
Creating a long term plan means creating marketing material, a marketing calendar, a regular financial reporting system, systems and procedures just in case you need to get others to work for you, insurances and in many cases industry accreditations. Finally don’t forget those goals you want to achieve. There's lots to do so get planning first.
4 - Pick your genre
Photographers shoot a lot of different types of photographs. Even if you’re focusing on landscape or wedding photography, there will be situations when you’ll take on something that is not familiar to you. This is good…embrace it!
With that said, work is so much more fun when you're doing something that you love so pick a genre or genre’s that you enjoy, preferably something that you would enjoy photographing even if you weren’t getting paid for it. By doing this you’ll be so much more happy and motivated to learn new skills and experiment. You don’t have to just stick to one or two genres but it's much easier to get really good at one or two things before taking on more. Master your genre then master another and so on.
5 - Don’t Be Afraid to Experiment and find your style
One of the wonderful things about digital photography is the creativity. You can create almost anything you can see in your mind nowadays both in-camera and using software like Lightroom or Photoshop.
Newbie photographers are constantly looking for their personal style therefore they tend to use every filter and effect they find just because they can. While it's great to experiment you need to make sure your work looks consistent so don’t go crazy on the effects, it just looks messy and cheap.
Don’t look for a style, you’ll find that you’ll naturally gravitate to a certain style or feeling, then before you know it your style will find you.
Challenge yourself constantly and ask yourself “what can I do differently here” or what if I tried this”. Doing this will challenge you to step out of your comfort zone and experiment. Experimentation = growth
6 - Don’t get slack, stay on track
This is by far the most important lesson in running a successful photography business. So many photographers will excitedly implement some new skills or come home from an educational event full of inspiration, then over time they get lazy or those new skills lose their appeal and just become the norm, its human nature and we all do it.
The key is to keep learning, keep experimenting and above all don’t ever neglect the business in favour of being creative with your camera. In today's competitive world there is just as much creativity required to run a photography business as there is in actually taking the photographs.
Remember, if your numbers and systems stop, so does your business. Stay hungry for more, stick to your long term plan and be creative in business as well as behind your camera.
“A breakthrough happens the moment you make a new and different choice”
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