Ready to build your photography business? Here's 10 things you should know first
Entrepreneurship is more popular now than ever, and with photography having such a seemingly low buy-in it's especially enticing as a new business option. But what most people don't realize until they're a few months up to a year in is that it's not as easy and fun as it seems.
Over the years I've noticed there are some re-occuring revelations that professional photographers tend to have, so today I shared five of them during my instagram live session. Now I want to re-share those five and give you five more.
Hopefully being presented with these things that should be known beforehand will help people make more educated decisions when it comes to grabbing the nearest camera, assigning themselves a company name, and proclaiming it to be a business.
Here's 10 things you should know before you start your photography business
1. Have your technical skills on point BEFORE you start charging and accepting clients
This doesn't mean you have to know how to do everything. We are always students because there's constantly something new to learn or a technique to build upon or a new goal to reach towards. Always. BUT there are basic things you should have in place with your skills before you start changing people for your photography.
You should know what shutter speed and aperture are, and how to control both in order to control your overall exposure. Sometimes you'll be in difficult lighting situations and understanding these basic concepts can save an image. You should also have an editing workflow in place and have consistency across your images so your clients know what to expect when they book you for a session.
2. Your business WILL slow down once you start charging
So many people are surprised when they're not getting as many bookings once they start charging as they did when they were free. But think of it this way:
If someone was standing in the mall handing out free smoothies, there's a 99% chance you would take one. Even if you weren't hungry, you'd take it in the moment and consider whether or not you're actually going to drink it later. Why? Because it's free, there's no investment required of you, and you want to take advantage of this opportunity. Now, if that same person were to stick a $5 price tag on that same smoothie, you'd be less likely to grab one. Because they've now assigned a monetary value to this item, you actually take the time out to consider if the investment is worth it beforehand. And you might decide it's not if you don't really like smoothies or you're not really hungry/thirsty at the time. Nothing about the smoothie itself has changed; it's just that assigning a price to it changes a potential customer's mindset about purchasing the smoothie.
Think of your photography in this same way. When it's free, everyone wants to work with you. Everyone wants photos of themselves to post on instagram (or to just sit on their computer untouched). However, once you start charging, those photos are no longer a necessity and an iPhone 6 Plus works just fine for posting to instagram. Nothing about your work itself has changed, it's just their mindset that has.
3. Sustainable pricing is usually not the "popular" pricing
I know it's very tempting when you're starting out to charge $50 for a photoshoot and to deliver 50 photos. It seems like the right route to go when you're constantly getting booked at this price point. But if you're looking at the long-game and wanting to turn this into your full-time career, it's just not sustainable.
Break down a session right quick:
1 hour communicating with your client before the shoot
1 hour traveling to and from the shoot location
2 hours culling and editing your client's photos
1 hour preparing and presenting the gallery to your client
Total time invested: 5 hours
If you charge $50 for the session, you've essentially made $10/hr. Dassit. HOWEVER, that's not even all the time you will invest into your business. This doesn't take into account the time you spend learning your craft, blogging, updating your website, marketing, networking, etc. Once you factor in ALL of these things, you're actually in the hole by charging $50. So do yourself a favor and price yourself to be sustainable, not popular. Your business will thank you later.
4. Your family and friends will often not be your ideal clients
This one can be a tough pill for some to swallow because we often think our friends and family (F&F) should be our biggest supporters, especially when we're selling something. However, we need to learn to set realistic expectations for our friend and families.
Refer back to point #2. Of course your F&F will want photos for absolutely no reason when you're doing it for free. WHY NOT!? IT'S FREE! However, once you stick that price tag onto your services, now they start to really think about the necessity of these photos. And your F&F might come to the conclusion that they don't actually need photos of themselves right now. Such is life.
Instead of being in a state of constant annoyance that your F&F don't financially support your business endeavors, instead try educating them on ways they can support you for free. They can recommend you to others and increase your income through word of mouth, and that can be just as valuable.
5. Running a photography business is more business than it is photography
This is another one that seems to shock the masses. When you're just doing things for fun, your work is mostly about the art. You're shooting, editing, and delivering + maybe sharing on some sort of social media. However when you're trying to operate a serious business, the shooting, editing and delivering becomes a small piece of the pie, and posting on social media isn't just about the likes anymore. As I illustrated in point #3, there's networking, marketing, education, communicating... SO. MUCH. MORE has to be done to get clients to see your work and book your services. So don't be surprised when you discover you spend less time actually photographing things once you build a business based on photographing things. (Ironic, huh?)
6. Once your camera becomes your money maker, you'll end up leaving it behind a lot
Before I started a legit photography business, I loved taking photos at every event. Family gatherings, friends' birthdays, just hanging out... if I was there then my camera was there, too. We were a dynamic duo. Now, my camera is more like that little sister or brother your parents make you take with you to the mall when you just wanna hang out with your friends. Like... you love it... but it also comes with added responsibility you really aren't in the mood for.
Don't get me wrong, I still enjoy taking photos when it's not for my business. But I often find myself using my iPhone's camera instead to avoid people asking me to take such & such photo with my real camera (because apparently not all cameras are real lol) & send it to them. Nope! You will either take this iPhone 7 Plus quality, or you will be gone *said with a smile, of course*
7. It's okay to shoot for free, but do it with a purpose
Many people act as if shooting for free is the ultimate no-no, but I don't believe that. However, I do believe if you're shooting for free make sure it's what you want to shoot. If you're not being compensated monetarily, just make sure you're being fulfilled by whatever project you're taking on in some way.
8. If you don't see your value, no one else will
If you don't believe in your talents, how do you expect anyone else to? If you don't first invest in yourself, how do you expect anyone else to invest in you? If you don't promote yourself, how do you expect anyone else to? Before you ask others to do, make sure you're doing for self first.
9. Know your target client before you start marketing yourself
Having a clear idea of exactly who you're targeting before you officially launch your business will make your business' vision and direction clear from the getgo. You don't have to have all the answers, and things will change as you go, but it's beneficial to have a solid foundation for your marketing from the start.
10. You don't HAVE to start a business
I know photography is expensive. Cameras cost a lot, lenses can cost more, and don't even start on all the accessories you can begin to accumulate over time. However, starting a business isn't a pre-requisite to anything. If you enjoy photography as a hobby and a passion, you have full permission to keep it as that. So many people think starting a business is the automatic next step in their photography journey, but it's not. If you want, enjoy your hobby free from the pressure of a business. It's your choice.
10 things to know before you start your photography business
1. Be on point technically before you open up shop
2. Things might slow down once you start charging
3. Popularity does not equal sustainability
4. Family + friends don't equal clientele
5. The "business" will outweigh the "photography"
6. You might lose a friend - your camera
7. If you shoot for free, do it right
8. See your value. It's imperative.
9. Determine your ideal client early on
10. You are allowed to keep photography as strictly a hobby
Are you considering starting a photography business? Or do you already have one established? What's the one thing you wish you had known before starting your business?