In today’s world, it’s much easier to start your own business and pursue what you love. However, there are factors to running a business that scare people off.
Photography can be a great side hustle or a full-time business. Whether you have years of experience in photography or just hitting it off, this business venture will prove to be a creative way to generate money for you.
In this piece, you will learn how to start a successful photography business and take it to new heights.
How to start a photography business with no experience
1. Establish your Why
Know your ‘why’ because it will be a key motivator for working to achieve your goal. Your ‘why’ can be along the lines of:
- I want to quit employment and be my own boss
- I want to explore the world while taking beautiful pictures
- I want to gain more experience and start my photojournalism career
- I want a side business to boost my existing income
- I’m creative and looking for an outlet to express myself
Whatever your ‘why’ may be, discovering it from the start will help you to define your goals. It will also inspire you to work towards them. That way, you’ll be able to come up with tangible milestones and remain focused even when things get difficult.
2. Inquire of other photographers
One of the surest ways to learn the ropes on structuring your business is through researching photographers who are already established and have successful businesses. These are professionals who are past beginner’s hump and have struck success with photography.
While there might be a huge gap between you and where they are, you’ll develop a sense of how you should structure your business. Established photographers will reveal a lot about a successful photography business. This is from the way they package their offers to how they promote themselves on the internet.
When you are researching other photographers, consider the following:
- Who is their target demo?
- What sort of packages/services do they give?
- Do they have a website or portfolio?
- What online platforms are they leveraging to promote their business?
- How much do they charge?
- What are their customers saying?
Through this research, you’ll get valuable insight into how great photographers structure their businesses and bring in new customers. From this, you can decide how you might like to set up and market your photography business.
3. Evaluate startup costs
The thing about photography equipment is that it is very expensive. It’s best to start off with the basics and buy more as clients start coming in. Your objective should be to get the business up and running. This way, you’ll have more funds to pump into higher-quality equipment.
Here are some of the basic expenses that you’ll incur when setting up your photography business:
- At least a professional camera: $1,500 to $2,000 each
- Camera lens: $1,000+
- Memory cards: $50+ each
- External storage drive: $120+
- Laptop or computer: about $2,000
- Business website: $50+ for domain, content management system, and hosting
- Business license: $150
- Photo editing software: $120 annually
- Business insurance: $500 annually
- Business cards: $50
- Accounting Services: $300+ per year
Having factored in all of these expenses, the startup costs for a photography business should add up to around $5,000. This is pretty steep compared to other small businesses, which don’t require much gear.
Luckily, there are ways that you can cut costs. Most of these costs are offset when you start getting some clients. If you have the right gear, you will be able to hit it off in no time.
Think you need sophisticated equipment? Allow your business to grow organically and get better equipment depending on your budget. Otherwise, spending money on expensive gear too early could wipe out your funds and hurt your business during slow months.
4. Come up with a business plan
As a small business owner, you should be able to come up with a rough business plan to set the foundation for your venture. Having a business plan will ensure that your company is organized and help you come up with goals for your business’s destination.
Your business plan could be as simple as a one-pager or be an in-depth 30-page strategy. It all depends on you and how thorough you want it to be, so long as it has the basics.
Generally, your business plan should define what your business does, it’s clientele, how the job is to be done, and how you will market your business. It may also delve into market research, how income and expenses will be dealt with, plus more.
Your business plan will mainly serve as an internal document that you occasionally reference. On the other hand, it may come in handy if you partner with a marketing or branding agency. These professionals will want to understand your business so as to help you grow.
5. Seek startup funds
It’s normal for new entrepreneurs to seek startup funds so as to get their business up and running.
There are several options that you can look to if you desire financial assistance. One, you might turn to friends and family to bankroll your endeavor, of course with an agreement to pay back later on. Two, you could remain at your current job or secure a side job until you raise the extra cash.
Finally, you might consider getting a small business loan. This isn’t normally recommended, especially if you are not sure of your ability to pay it off. If you decide to take up a loan, ensure you take what you need.
It’s important to note that when you have a business plan mapped out, you will have a higher chance of securing funding. This is because you already have a well-defined concept as well as a marketing strategy to help you start bringing in revenue as soon as possible.
6. Pick a business name
Most photographers choose to go with their own names, but some don’t. Some opt for something creative because either their business name is taken or they have a particular brand identity in mind.
Opting for the creative route with your photography business will most likely help you stand out. It also makes it easier to grow into a full-on agency in the future. However, if you are going for name recognition, then running your business with your name is alright.
Once you’ve selected your business name, you should go on to secure the domain name for your business’s website or portfolio. You can go with registrars such as Namecheap or GoDaddy to achieve this. It will only cost you a few dollars and you will have secured it.
7. Start your portfolio
Assuming that you have no experience, it’s time to get your initial photographs to boost your professional portfolio. This shouldn’t be hard if you have a camera at hand.
By this point, you should know what kind of photography you want to delve into. With this in mind, you can start taking photos that are in line with your specialty, edit them and then upload them to your online portfolio.
You might also consider networking with family, friends, or other online contacts to give you free or low-paid photography jobs to get some samples. When you develop a portfolio that you’re confident in, you can increase your rates.
8. Come up with an eye-catching website
Where should you have your photography portfolio? Many professional photographers opt to host their own professional websites.
There are platforms like WordPress, Squarespace, and Wix that enable you to come up with beautiful websites for a few dollars. You get to pick from a diverse range of templates and create your site with drag-and-drop simplicity.
Most portfolio sites often have a home page, services page, about page, portfolio page, and a contact page. You can upload your own images to the site, have some flowery web copy and encourage visitors to contact you.
Down the line, you may opt to have a professional web designer create a website from scratch. Such a website will be easy to personalize the look and optimize it to bring in organic traffic.
9. Come up with a pricing plan
Coming up with a pricing plan as a small business owner can be quite challenging. If you have no prior experience, you might not be confident enough to ask for premium rates. However, you also don’t want to undervalue yourself.
One of the best ways to help you set the price is to know what your peers are charging, especially those that you are on the same experience level. You can leverage Google or Facebook groups geared towards photography to get this information.
Just because you are a newbie doesn’t mean you should start at the bottom. Charge what you are comfortable with and boost your rates as you get more experience.
10. Work on your branding
There are thousands of photographers out there. If you are to succeed, you need to stand out from the pack. To achieve this, you need to come up with a unique brand identity.
You could invest in a professional logo, brand fonts, and colors to use on your website or marketing materials. All these should be in line with the ‘feel’ of your enterprise and what you think will attract your intended audience.
You’ll soon realize that every photographer has got their own style. Your objective should be to find yours and make it known to your potential clients. You can figure this out by determining the kind of personality you want to portray in your work and also online.
11. Determine your unique selling point
Your unique selling point is the aspect that sets you apart from the rest. This is larger than physical branding and takes into account what you give your audience that they can’t find elsewhere.
For instance, you could “aid brands to be unique online with product photos that stand out.” Identify what makes you unique.
You will weave this USP into your marketing so as to attract clients who are seeking a photographer just like you. By establishing what makes you unique, you’ll avoid sinking into the crowd of generalists.
12. Grow your network
Many small businesses get their initial clients through networking with people they know. This is usually the first approach to client generation considering that growing a digital marketing strategy can take time.
Networking can be either in person or online, like on Facebook groups, Instagram, LinkedIn, or other social media platforms. Take your time building connections. Give people an idea of who you are and wedge yourself into their minds.
Once you’ve got a few clients, you can grow your network through referrals. Photographers usually offer a bonus to people when they bring in new business.
13. Market your business
There are diverse ways to market your business. How you market the business will depend on your target audience and the platform that they use to look for photographers.
For instance, most couples who are looking for wedding photographers, say in Chicago, use Google to search in their local area. In this case, you might want to start off using search engine optimization as a way of bringing in organic traffic to the site.
Other clients look to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, or other social media platforms. You don’t have to be everywhere. Instead, you should at least try to master one marketing platform to get work for your business.
14. Deliver great work
Finally, the key to more business is delivering amazing work to your clients. By making your clients happy, they are more likely to either partner with you again or refer other people to your business.
Consider joining classes to boost your skills or get a mentor to help you improve the skills you need.
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Starting a successful photography business without experience may seem daunting. Hopefully, with this guide, you’ve learned that it is not that hard to start your own business. Follow the steps above and you will attract new clients in no time.
Bijay is an entrepreneur and start-up founder having more than 14 years of IT industry experience. He is the co-founder of TSInfo Technologies, a SharePoint development company.
A dedicated professional and very passionate about public speaking and also wrote thousands of technical blogs in various technologies. He also wrote a lots of blogs on entrepreneurship, investment, startup, business, manage money tips, etc.