Doing what you love… turning hobbies into careers—it’s a dream just about everyone has. For those with a flair for photography, it’s also a highly achievable dream. Average salaries range from $30,000 for beginners to almost $80,000 for established photographers, and the profession lends itself to those who would like financial and personal freedom and the ability to travel.
Still, business is business. How do you go about setting up a professional photography business that’s profitable and has the prospect of growing as much as you want? We’ve got some simple tips for things you need to consider and the equipment and tools you’ll need.
You can’t take pictures without a camera! Any profession requires specific tools. To be able to offer a variety of photography services, you’ll want to invest in:
- Camera and tripod
- Lights, light stands, light modifiers, or reflectors
- A backdrop and backdrop holder
- Software for editing your photos (and a computer that can run the software
- External hard drive for saving photos
- Other computer peripherals and accessories
- Cleaning supplies for your equipment
Consider whether there’s a particular niche style in which you want to specialize. For weddings where you can’t set up lights, you might also want a flash diffuser to create soft, picturesque light on the fly. For infant photoshoots, you’ll need a supply of props for adorable finished results.
Pictures, check. Business planning…?
No matter how small, every successful business needs a plan—a roadmap for success, or at the very least an understanding of how to make a profit. This does not have to be a complicated process. You can start with just pen and paper:
- Make a list of all expenses. Consider everything, including travel costs, business license fees, taxes, equipment, supplies, location rental costs, advertising, and taxes.
- Make a list of all services you can or want to offer.
- Make a list of possible clients for all the services. Think creatively. Consider selling images to stock photo services if you specialize in travel photography. If you do weddings and infants, what other life events would people be interested in memorializing?
- Determine what to charge. It would be best to charge enough to cover your expenses and make a profit. Do some research on your competitors. Consider promotional offers that can bring in and grow new business, even at a discount. Don’t forget to include time for processing and editing photos!
- Evaluate the “unpaid” hours you’ll need to put in for advertising, billing, proposals, etc. The goal of your own business is to achieve a certain amount of freedom. When will you handle the necessary back-office tasks if you spend all working hours on billable projects? How will you find a work/life balance?
Get your name out there.
Word of mouth only goes so far. You need to get your name and work out there for people to find you and hire you:
- Set up social media channels. Curate an online portfolio of work. Think about the aesthetic that best explains who you are as a photographer, choose work that fits your style, and create posts that showcase that aesthetic.
- Create a website. Show your work, clearly list services and costs, and provide a way for visitors to contact you and book service. Set up Google Analytics to see how your site performs, which content is the most engaging, and how people find you.
- Begin email communication campaigns. Email is a great way to stay in touch with your customers and leads, share new photoshoots, and create great content that establishes you as a thought leader. Using an email automation tool lets you see how people interact with your emails and make adjustments.
Find help for all the things.
There’s a reason you’re a photographer; most people can’t take great photos of the most important things and seek out experts to preserve those memories. Likewise, it would help if you were realistic about your own skill sets. You might be great with a camera but lousy at balancing books or keeping track of payments. Have you ever built a website? Do you struggle with organization?
You likely don’t have the cash flow to hire people to manage marketing, accounting, and sales for you at this stage of your business. You’ll need tools to supplement. Look for multi-purpose tools, affordable, easy to use, and can grow with your business.
For instance, a tool like Solo Hustle serves multiple functions:
- Build websites and email campaigns.
- Manage customer lists and new lead lists.
- Create proposals and invoices to track a job from beginning to end.
- Organize files for easy tax payments and profit analysis.
Your photography business will be limited only by your shutter speed with the proper planning and the right tools.