So you are stuck in a job that you don’t really love, but know that you are passionate about photography? The thought of beginning your own photography business has
crossed your mind dominated your mind for the past few months or even a year. You have some concerns, which is why you’re googling “How to start a photography business”. I can relate. I was there! Back in 2009, I left a corporate job at one of the top accounting firms to pursue my passion and haven’t looked back since! I want to both prepare and excite you for the journey ahead! Here are my Top 7 tips to consider when starting your own photography business.
1. You’re more than just a photographer
When it comes to owning your own photography business being a photographer is actually one of the least time consuming activities in your profession. You’re going to have to wear all sort of different hats; sales rep, marketing, IT, admin, HR and much more. This doesn’t mean you have to be an expert in each, but you definitely have to do your research. As time goes on you’ll gain the luxury of hiring on people to take on some of those roles, but in the beginning … it’s all YOU! Know that you will have to work alone and things might get a little lonely if you are used to socializing at the water cooler daily, this could be a real challenge for some.
2. Choose your expertise
Are you going to be a portrait, wedding, event, concert, newborn or product photographer? Find your niche before you delve into your business. Many of my students ask “How do I know which field of photography to go into?” The best answer is to try a few different things in the beginning and you will see which one you end up getting really excited about and which one makes financial sense from a business perspective. It must have both; if you are passionate about shooting cats, that is great! But if nobody is willing to pay you for it, then you aren’t really starting a business, you are starting a hobby! On the other hand, if corporate headshots pay, but you can’t stand being formal in corporate towers, then that will likely not work out either. You have to find the right balance between what you love and what people are willing to pay for.
Whatever your chosen niche is, be ready to take on jobs outside of that field. Don’t turn away shoots simply because “it’s not your thing”. Who knows, you might actually enjoy it in the end! GTA Photography Classes was started because somebody asked me if I teach classes. I never said no in the beginning. I took on all sorts of projects and to my surprise, I realized I LOVED to teach!
3. Make a business plan
And I’m talking about a real solid plan. Go over your expenses, marketing techniques, equipment needs, space needs, and the list goes on. This is where a checklist really comes in handy. It will help to organize your thoughts and make sure that you’re moving forward in the right direction.
4. Find a mentor
…to help you with the aforementioned business plan! No matter what entrepreneurial pursuit you’re moving into a mentor is your best friend. Find out potential mistakes before you make them. Make sure this mentor has a strong business within the field you choose and a loyal customer base that keeps coming back.
5. Have a strong portfolio ready
Free work is sometimes frustrating to do. But in the case of new photographers it can be quite important to help you build your portfolio. Customers are going to want to see a wide array of photographs to understand your style and trust your quality. While some might say that physical portfolios are outdated with the age of online portfolios, I find that the book gives clients that extra sense of assurance about the quality of your work from start to finish.
6. Look at your business from your clients’ viewpoint
Is it easy to find your website? Is the contact and booking process smooth and fast? Are there any questions that they might have that you’re left unanswered? Try to cover these bases on your website before it goes live. The less questions you have to answer, the more time you have to shoot and make $$ (although it’s not just about the money!). Include special details to make clients feel important and show your care with their product. If it would impress you it’ll likely impress them!
7. Marketing, marketing, marketing!
Although it comes last on this list, it is by far the #1 thing that should be consuming your thoughts once you are set up! We have some great tips in our “Photography Business Workshop” to help you get started.
Word of mouth is a great way to gain clientele. But when you see a dip in work coming from referrals you’ll need something to fall back on.
Ana is a Chartered Accountant by trade having worked at one of the top accounting firms in the world, PricewaterhouseCoopers. In 2009, Ana left her finance career to pursue her true passion of photography and successfully founded three businesses; a portrait and wedding photography business, Ana Belic Photography and GTA Photography Classes & Summer Camps. The school quickly grew to become one of the largest hobbyist photography schools in the country.
Ana hosts regular Photography Business Workshops at GTA Photography Classes. Find out more and register for an upcoming session here!