Whether you’re planning on becoming a freelance photographer or specializing in wedding photography, deciding to start your own photography business is a big deal.
After all, you’re about to embark on an exciting journey — one where you’ll use your photography skills to start and grow your own business. Plus, you’ll be doing more than making money with your camera; you’ll be helping clients capture memories they will treasure for a lifetime. But are you actually ready to start a business?
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While there’s no one right way to determine if you’re fully prepared for the entrepreneurial journey, these six questions can help you better understand what you’re getting into.
What will be your specialty?
Being a photographer could really mean anything. You could specialize in wedding photography, sports photography, nature photography, or anything else of interest. But if you want to start a successful business, it pays to narrow down what your specialties are so that you get the customers — and projects — you actually want.
If you have just a few specialties, try to resist expanding your offerings to include everything under the sun. Some of the best photographers are highly specialized, plus customers may feel more comfortable with you if they know you’re the master of a specific niche.
Once you’ve identified those specialties, make sure you’re marketing them in a way that makes sense to your customers. For a little inspiration, check out the websites of a few top-rated photographers in your area to see how they approach this challenge.
Is there a market for your services?
One of the most common mistakes that photographers make is that they don’t get a good sense of market demand. And if you don’t know how many other photographers you’re competing with or if there are enough customers for the services you offer, you’re running the risk of making that mistake, too.
So how can you tell if there’s a good market for your photography business? You could do some online research, but we’ll cut the learning curve down for you. Take a look at this article, which calculates the best cities for photographers based on opportunities, cost of living, and entrepreneurial appetite.
Keep in mind that this isn’t an exact science and definitely should be coupled with more online research.
So what’s the bottom line here? Simple: Make sure you understand if there’s an appetite for your photography services. Otherwise, you might spend too much time trying to get noticed by customers who are inundated with other offers.
Are you prepared to run your business?
Becoming a successful photographer means you’re going to fill a lot of roles. You’ll be a bookkeeper, a lawyer, an office manager, and a marketer — and that’s just what you should expect on a daily basis. Many photographers run into the danger of not anticipating all the extra work, which is just as important — if not more so — than actually doing photography work.
If you want a photography business that will stand the test of time, you’ll need to account for all of this extra work. During your first few months of business, you’ll rarely spend an eight-hour day just taking photographs and editing them. Just consider all the tasks you’ll need to complete in order to tackle your first job:
This information isn’t meant to dissuade you from starting your photography business; it’s designed to help you prepare for the most successful start possible. Expect and plan to put in a lot of admin work now, rather than fitting it in after a long day of working. That’s when you could potentially run into trouble.
Do you have seed money to start with?
Starting a professional photography business can be expensive, even if you already have a few cameras, lenses, and other equipment at hand. Between registering your business, setting up your marketing plan, and buying additional equipment, you might need to track down a source of funding to get your business off the ground.
Make sure you understand where your main costs are coming from, especially during the first few months of starting your business.
If you’re using personal funding or a line of credit to finance your business, map out your expenses so you don’t inadvertently overspend. Save all your receipts and track all business-related expenses, as many of these will be tax-deductible.
Don’t forget that you’ll need funding for any fees associated with starting your business, like licenses and insurance.
Is there a photography business that you admire?
Starting a small business can involve a steep learning curve — unless, of course, there’s a photographer out there who is already doing what you intend to do. That’s why we encourage you to figure out what it is about their business that works so well.
Just think of it as competitor research!
Successful photography businesses have, for the most part, figured out those crucial first steps for starting a business, so it’s worth seeing if you should follow in their footsteps. During your competitive research, don’t forget to:
It’s worth noting again that you should be keeping an eye on how many photographers are in your specific area. If you’re finding a lot of photography businesses, you might want to return to the second question (“Is there a market for your services?”) and analyze your competition.
Do you have a plan?
The most successful photographers have a strong idea of where they want their businesses to be in five or ten years. That means if you’re building a business for the long-term, you need a plan in place, too. For example, do you know if and when you want to start hiring employees? How will you fund your business?
Don’t worry if you haven’t thought about your plan yet; this FREE template can help you build the kind of business plan that will set you up for success!
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I love writing about the small business experience because I happen to be a small business owner - I've had a freelance copywriting business for over 10 years. In addition to that, I also head up the content strategy here at Simply Business. Reach out if you have a great idea for an article or just want to say hi!
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