Starting a Photography Business!
Before We Begin
you ever wondered what it takes to start a business?
Sure, there are many obstacles to overcome in the process,
but if you are serious about getting your photography
business up and running fast, you can utilize the information
on this web site to help you!
What type of photography do you like to take: weddings,
children, aerial, scenic, automobiles, sports, action?
do you expect to take your photos: indoors, outdoors,
you have quality equipment: lighting, camera's,
lenses, filters, computer, software?
you have answered the above
before now, but even if you are still figuring out your
niche, you can begin building your business strategy
today. As you will see, I am a believer in building
a business without going broke.
hope you are ready to roll up your sleeves for a little
hard work and a big reward! Taking the right steps will
ensure that your business starts right, is run right,
is fun, and profitable.
is what you will need to be successful in your photography
some time to completely read through the material
on this web site.
notes and create an action plan. Be sure to include
specific dates when you want things completed.
a business consultant if necessary, but you should
be able to do most everything on your own. Don't be
afraid to ask other photographers you know.
a budget for your business startup. If you are creative,
you can start for next to nothing by boot-strapping
the marketing and web site (see below).
Before you start your business, do
you know if you have what it takes to take consistent
high quality pictures for money? I'm not talking
about the opinion of your mother or a well meaning friend,
but the opinion of another professional photographer.
Many people can take good pictures,
but if someone entrusts you to capture the images of
their wedding, you only get one shot at making it look
right. Your business is built on your reputation and
can quickly be destroyed with only a couple mistakes.
Ok, so you can take great photos. Great
photos are only a portion of starting a photography
business. There is a lot more to think about
before you can truly be successful. Part of being successful
means running the business
Starting your Business
If you are reading this, you are likely
pretty serious about starting your own business. That
is great! You are going to be and independent entrepreneur.
You get to be the boss, set your own hours, and keep
all the money! Sounds great, right?
Well, don't forget about the rest of
the "FUN" we business owners have including:
marketing and advertising, writing contracts, billing
clients, accounting, taxes, paying your bills, and making
Yes, it a lot of work, but in the end,
I believe it is worth every bit of hard work.
Eventually, you will get the satisfaction of owning
a successful company and yes, PROFITS.
Well, are you ready? Lets go...
Pre-Work :: Starting your Business Right
You will need to do some preliminary
work to make everything legal. This includes, but is
not limited to the following:
up a business entity is required in all states. You
will need to check with your city, county, and state
for exact requirements, but if you are going to be a
business vs. a hobbyist, you will need to make it official.
your Secretary of State and register your business
name. Make sure it is not already in use by someone
for a State Tax ID number so you can report sales
tax to the Government and make purchases of re sellable
merchandise tax exempt.
Do a search for your state's ie., "Wisconsin
Department of Revenue."
for a Federal EIN number. This is like your social
security number for your business. It allows you to
make purchases for your business, set up bank accounts,
and buy wholesale.
will need to decide what kind of company you are going
to become: Sole Proprietor, LLC, or a Corporation.
All business types have pluses and minuses to consider.
You should talk to your CPA before you make any decisions.
about Legal Liability. Sole Proprietors are personally
liable for business mistakes, but LLC's and Corporations
provide a separation of Liabilities.
Plan - You will want to develop a marketing plan.
How are you going to market your business once you
get it started? Create a plan and follow it. Make
adjustments along the way. I suggest the book: Guerilla
Marketing by: Conrad Levinson.
The Business Plan
first thing that every successful business needs is
a Business Plan. Unfortunately, the
most overlooked part of most new businesses is the Business
are great at getting an idea and running with it, but
typically forget to chart the course. Eventually, they
run into a brick wall and fail. Studies show that 90%
of new businesses fail.
a business plan is like bringing a map and compass with
you on a long voyage across the sea. You will need them
to help you stay on course as you sail your boat. Without
them, you may end up on the rocks!
are many great resources for Business Plans. I highly
suggest checking into the following resources:
The Service Contract
looking for customers, make sure that you have developed
an official Service Contract.
Your Service Contract needs to spell out every detail
of the photography session including: your fees, terms
of payment, description of deliverables, exclusions,
legal terms and conditions, expectations of parties
in order to complete the project, etc.
contract is a legal agreement between you and your customer.
You want it to be completely binding in the event that
they decide they don't want to pay for your services
or if the groom gets drunk and punches the brides dad
before the reception is over, and he refuses to pay
I stated previously, contact 1 or more professional
photographers and ask for a sample service contract.
If you are turned down by one, just ask another. Eventually
you will get one to review. I suggest reviewing at least
2 before you create your own.
them what their experiences have been and tell them
what you are trying to do. Unless you are direct competition,
they will likely be enthusiastic to talk about their
business. It is human nature to complain or brag about
yourself. Don't be nervous to ask, it may save you a
lot of time and money!
your pricing structure in place and stick
to your prices. Many people, especially "friends
and family" will want a discount. You will have
to decide if you want to comply. However, you will
soon find out how many friends and family you have
that you didn't know about.
sure that the contract is signed before you take a
a Deposit before you start and make sure you specify
a refund policy and under what conditions a refund
the power of negotiation in your court. Don't give
an inch or they will take a mile. That doesn't mean
you can't give discounts or deals, but YOU give them,
don't be manipulated into them.
you start to feel like the relationship is not working,
explain your expectations and go over the contract
with them. If it is bad at the beginning, it will
only get worse.
Find quality customers and look for repeat business.
give them the photos before you are paid. The only
leverage you have is the photos they want. Utilize
a web site to show proofs.
- What can your customers do with the photos when
the receive them? Make sure they know your policy
before they sign the contract.
Running your Business :: Rules for
personal and business expenses from each other.
run your business through your personal checking account!
good records and receipts of all business expenses,
mileage, and receivables.
a good CPA. They are worth their weight in gold come
it in writing! Use a Solid Contract and hold
customers to it. If you let them, people will walk
all over your business. Be the leader and lead.
to other Professional Photographers in the business.
Ask them lots of questions about their business. Pay
attention and take notes.
on time. Set your terms and get your invoices out
to get a deposit, then final payment upon completion
of editing, but before delivery.
give them the photos before you get paid!!!
a web site that displays low quality proofs that they
can purchase online.
if you will give them a CD of the pictures after you
Setting up a Website...How Hard is it?
Amazingly, there are still businesses that don't have
a web site. How much money have they left on the table
because they aren't online?
you are going to have a serious photography business,
you will need a web site. Your customers are not looking
the yellow pages for your services, they are looking
can go to a web design firm and have one designed for
thousands of dollars or you can go the route of a high
quality out of the box solution for less than $200.
I suggest and endorse the latter. My pick is: Smug Mug,
because they are the best.
photographer's web site has to have several functions
for me to endorse it. Here are the basics:
Web Site Design
url :: You pick out the name of your web site
cropping and editing
Gallery :: Unlimited Secure Storage!
Store to sell your prints at your price
Store to sell downloads of your pictures
Protection from theft
have worked with many clients, helping them set up a
web site, but I haven't found any as easy as SmugMug.com.
They make it easy for a new business to have a high
quality, personalized "branded," web site
with very little costs. For less than $200,
you could be sending your customers to your web site
to view their proofs, buy prints, and share with their
have started several businesses both brick and mortar
and online. It doesn't matter how good of an idea you
have for a business, you have to follow certain steps
to assure that your business will succeed. Bottom line:
there are no guarantees, but only those who try will
is a country run on Small Businesses. Large companies
are less than 1% of the businesses in America. If you
decide to follow your dream there will be a lot of work
ahead of you, but when you succeed, you will never want
are you ready to "Start Taking Pictures?"
Don't forget to see the business links and opportunities
on the side bar.