For many amateur photographers, running a professional photography business would be a dream come true. But now it can be a reality. The photography industry offers many opportunities for keen amateurs who want to make a living from it. If you’re thinking of becoming a professional photographer, this is what you need to know to succeed.
Photography is often a business for one-man-bands. According to Skillset, the sector skills council for creative industries, almost 50% of the companies involved in the photographic industry are sole-traders or freelancers.
There are several different types of photography, but wedding photography is the most high-profile money-maker at the moment, as summer is the wedding season. However, bear in mind that the job of snapping a wedding takes considerable expertise.
Wedding photography is generally recognised by most photographers as being a highly-skilled job – not only in terms of taking photographs, but handling all sorts of people at a potentially emotional time. And wedding photography tends to be seasonal too. May to September is the busiest time – accounting for 80-90% of the work – with the rest of the year being relatively quiet.
Here’s our list of top 5 mistakes photographers make when starting their businesses:
1. Staying in the scared zone too long.
You want a client or two to build up your portfolio. You want some experience before you raise your prices. You test the waters of a business before you actually tell people you have a business. In other words, you leave it as a hobby for a long time because you’re too scared of what will happen if you make it a true business.
Starting a business can be scary. What if it grows too fast? What if it doesn’t? But living in the scared zone for too long simply cuts off your momentum. If you’re going to do it, just do it. The rest will fall into place.
2. Ignore the marketing.
You may need a business card to hand out, so you print up a free set on your computer. Outside of that you let everything else slide. You may think you don’t need fancy postcards or brochures, or a great website to build up your portfolio – that will come down the road. But if you don’t start out at the beginning with a great professional look to your business, when will it come?
Think marketing first. How do you want to look to your customers? How do you want them to perceive your business? And more importantly, how would you like them to refer you? There’s a huge difference between someone saying, “I found a really cheap photographer that’s just starting out and she’ll give you a deal” and “I found a very professional studio that takes amazing portraits – I would highly recommend her, check out her site.”
3. Buy for the future.
If you are a professional, you have to have what the professionals use. Don’t skimp and buy a Canon Rebel instead of a Canon EOS. Don’t by a consumer grade package of lenses. Don’t choose Elements instead of Photoshop or Lightroom to save money. Save and invest in the best equipment upfront – it will last you a lot longer over time. And allow you to do a ton more.
4. Work on the business.
Photography is fun – that’s why you’ve decided to go into business. But opening up a studio isn’t all photography – its business too. You have to wear every hat, especially if you are a solo business owner. You’ll have to invoice your clients, and pay the bills. You’ll have to do the production, and do the filing. You’ll have to handle all the sales meetings. And then you’ll also get to do the fun stuff – photographing.
If you aren’t sure how to build a business, find someone who can. Hire a coach. Buy a coaching program. Visit your local SBA office. And start reading books and magazines on the business side as well.
5. Jump quickly.
What if you had five new clients come into your studio this week? What if you had 10? How about 25?
What’s the worst that could happen? You may get completely overwhelmed at first, but we’re willing to bet you would come up with a system pretty quickly. Instead of sitting around Photoshopping one client’s files for 10 hours, you would probably find a way to get it done in 1. Or hire it out.
In other words, it would make you very efficient very quickly. Because you would have no choice.
So don+t worry about what may happen, or how something might affect you. Just do it. You’ll be amazed at the results.