Welcome to the adrenaline-filled rush of becoming an entrepreneur. While it is exciting as heck to turn a successful hobby or freelance gig into a thriving business, the recipe for success still relies on hard work.
You need to think of practicalities like how much startup money you need, the equipment you must buy, how you will get a steady stream of clients, how to organize your pricing structure, and so on, so on.
To answer all of your questions – and then some – we have devised this handy guide to act as your startup checklist. Go through this, and figure out your move as you go.
What Type Of Photography Business Will Be Are You Doing?
First off, figure out the type of photography you want to do. While most photographers stick to one type of work – wedding, travel, food, and such – the best thing to do is combine two or three types of niches so you can offer a wider range of services.
For example, if you are a wedding photographer, learn to do pregnancy shoots and infant shoots, too. Similarly, if you do corporate events, combine it with event photography for more exposure.
The idea behind this merger is to broaden your customer base. Photography is a competitive market, and a wide range of skill-set and talent can get you far.
Ten major types of photography business you can consider:
How Much Startup Budget Do You Need?
It varies and depends on multiple factors. Also, some costs would be one-off while others are recurring. Let's take a look at what these startup costs will cover:
Camera equipment rent/purchases: $11,000 (for purchase)
Computer/Laptop and relevant software: $1500 - $2000
Necessary Licenses and permits: $150 - $300
Business insurance: $600 - $800
Legal fees: $500 - $1500
Branding and marketing material: $500 - $1000
All in all, you'd need anywhere from $12,000 - $17,000 in startup costs if you are purchasing your equipment. Reduce it to half if you decide to rent. That's because the professional camera and other equipment are notoriously expensive. We suggest avoiding the equipment purchase at least for the first few months.
As you start to get clients more regularly and find your mark, you can always go and buy the stuff you need.
Also, keep in mind that all of these costs are the best estimates. Prices can change, and new laws may affect operational costs. So, always check with your concerned local and state authorities before you draw up the final figures.
Necessary Permits And Licenses
While being a photo-preneuer is a simple affair in most states in the US, certain states do require an official license to run the business. Additionally, you also need to file an FBN or a DBA statement if you are using a brand name that is different than your name.
For example, if you name your photography business Cool Photos (please don't), you'd need to fill out a Fictitious Business Name or Doing Business As statement with your relevant authorities. Give your state licensing board and your local city hall a call to find out what necessary licenses or permits you need.
Keep in mind that even though you may have all the registration paperwork signed and saved, you may still require additional permits if your photography venue is a state/city location. So, keep your basis covered and call relevant offices.
Business Insurance And Bank Accounts
Even if you don't own your equipment, you still need all sorts of insurance to protect your business. This will include property insurance to cover your computer and other equipment. If you own a studio, it will cover other assets such as furniture and fixtures, too. You also need liability coverage to protect you during accidents when you are working. Business income insurance provides you cover in case of lost income such as a fire or any other damage.
Usually, a BOP (Business Owners Policy) will cover all these insurances, but do talk to your insurance company to find out what they are offering and how their plans protect you. Here, Allstate lists the common insurance options for photography businesses just like you.
In addition to insurance, you also need to open a separate bank account for your business. This gives your photography LLC an added layer of personal protection. Choose a bank that offers flexible deposit options, nominal bank fees, and of course, great customer services.
Before you go to the bank, do call them up and find out which document you should be bringing along to open the account.
Now that most technicalities are out of the way, you need to think of how you want to brand your business. Branding allows your business to enjoy a visual identity that reflects your values and culture as a business. People can look at that identity and form positive impressions about your brands.
The first step in branding is to create a photography logo. You can hire a professional logo designer for the task or use an AI-based logo design tool such as Logo Design; the choice is up to you. What you need to consider, though, is that the result gives you a design that reflects your professionalism, high-quality work, and your unique style.
Your branding also includes your website. WordPress offers some great packages and templates. Wix is another option to consider. Whichever service you choose, make sure your website contains these seven important pages:
Lastly, make sure to create a custom email address with its domain matching your brand name.
Studio Management Software
To juggle your photographer and entrepreneur hats successfully, you need all the help you can get. CRM programs like Bloom, Tave, and StudioNinja are great resources to take care of your business' operational needs while you spend your time and effort perfecting your pictures.
These programs specialize in lead management, bookkeeping, payment integration, project workflows, and scheduling. In other words, you don't need to hire an accountant, a studio manager, or an assistant to manage your operations. Subscribing to any of these services can take that load off of you.
Good studio management software can also streamline your client communication, invoicing, work contracts, and even offer client portal pages through which your clients can contact you via the CRM. Most of these CRMs, including the three we've mentioned above, come with free trial options, so you have the chance to check them out before you commit.
When you've set up the operations and sorted your branding, it's time to get the word out. Your photography business website will serve as the main storefront as you strategize your digital marketing. Your social media channels will serve as important routes in the sales journey. And your logo design will act as a beacon for potential clients.
Therefore, make sure your logo is your profile picture on all social media. Use each platform for which it's best known for. The Instagram audience is all about visuals, so consider your Instagram feed an extensive (and ongoing) portfolio. Post your best pictures there and ace the hashtag game. Use Facebook to connect with your audience through engaging posts, short tutorials, and coming live to talk to them. LinkedIn is great for professional networking so make sure you have an updated presence there.
You could also run paid ad campaigns, but initially, try to build a strong presence digitally and offline so that you can build upon it later.
Let's talk about money. How much should you charge your clients for the work you do? The pricing structure of your business should reflect the industry trends but also must correspond to the unique value you bring to the trade. Do you have an edge or a quality that can allow you to charge a premium price? Perhaps if you own a location that is ideal for wedding photography, that could be a great deal.
Ultimately, your pricing should cover – in addition to your time and effort – your transportation and travel, studio operation costs, any special permit you needed for that particular project, equipment cost, and marketing, etc.
It must also factor in the editing time. Most photographers agree that for every hour of photography, you need three for editing. So include that in your price structure as well.
As with any new business, you are going to face ups and downs. Perseverance will get you through when nothing else can. The steps we have discussed here can give your business a solid foundation but customize each step. Figure out what works for your particular situation and how you should tailor the information given here to suit your strategy.
In the end, commitment and consistency will pull you through.