So, you wanna know how to start a photography business! When budding photographers start out, they’re surprised by the amount of business savvy is involved. They want to take photos, and they want to make a living out of it.
Couldn’t it be just that simple?
Unfortunately, it’s not. Becoming a photographer means that you’re signing up for building a business, which means you’re going to wear a boatload of hats. This could include bookkeeping, editing, customer service, marketing, events coordinator, product design, administration, graphic designer, website maintenance (aka being your own IT, which for some of us could be a disaster), self-trainer (like learning new gear), and more.
But that’s why it’s important to prioritize and stretch your organizational muscles. If you don’t feel like you have any, prepare to give them some extra love and burn as you enter into this new adventure.
Becoming a full-time photographer doesn’t just mean an organization of all these different tasks. In fact, one of the ways to become a successful, profitable photographer is by being methodical and strategic. It means being wise with your time by delegating and maximizing your strengths.
When I grew my business from hardly booking to a six-figure one, I organized everything I did and summarized them into 7 strategies you can’t be without to become a full-time photographer.
Let’s get started.
Creatives love to dream big. I’ve seen a lot of photographers that want to serve all over the world because they dream about traveling. They also think that they could be the one photographer for everyone.
But here’s a reality check.
There are billions of people in the world with a variety of different tastes and backgrounds. Think about it. There are different ways to make a burger, and people have their preferences on burger joints. You’re not offering a product like gasoline, where people buy it no matter what you are and how much you cost.
You’re a special product, which means you likely serve a special type of client. Understand what your gifts and weaknesses are. Then, pinpoint the type of client that would appreciate you. Be very specific about who that is, define them, and market to them.
A lot of artists hate marketing. They didn’t go into photography to sell things. They went into photographer because they wanted to be create things. Unfortunately, this is a very difficult skill to delegate and buy. I’ve seen hundreds of photographers waste money on advertising spend, garnering no inquiries or bookings.
Honestly, marketing isn’t as gross as you think. In a nutshell, marketing is how you communicate with your value to your ideal client. My quick tip advice is to let go of what you think marketing is and start exploring from a fresh point of view to understand what marketing actually is.
One of the ways businesses do this is by way of SWOT analysis. It’s a fancy acronym that stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
SWOT analysis helps you understand your strengths and weaknesses. Knowing what you bring to the table of your business will help you highlight what you do, but improve where there’s opportunity. The “opportunities and threats” gives you a clearer understanding of the different things that might challenge or hinder your ability to generate profits.
Don’t worry – threats isn’t as scary as it sounds. Threats just means things or circumstances (unrelated to your business’ capacity and performance) that might hinder your ability to generate profits or improve your business. For example, there is a rise in the number of photographers that are coming into the area. You can’t control that growing number, but being aware of it helps you prepare for it.
In my bomb.com business plan, there’s a brief section where you can jumpstart your SWOT analysis by observing your strengths and weaknesses.
You won’t be able to make it as business if you don’t get connected with people. As an introvert, it’d be a dream to just sit in my room all day and edit, while binge watching The Office. Unfortunately, this doesn’t help me build word of mouth, improve my craft, make meaningful friendships, or learn from others.
Sure, there’s YouTube and social media, but nothing can truly replace the significance of face-to-face interaction. Getting to know people within your industry allows people to trust you and get to know you. Not only that, there’s always opportunity to learn from others.
When we start out, we might take photos of random stuff and play with settings. But make it a point to learn from other photographers. Enroll in a course – at a college or online. This way you gain a more versatile understanding of your camera and craft.
What I see a lot of beginner photographers do is make excuses for why they don’t shoot certain ways. And the excuses they make for themselves are more like false justification for why they don’t know how to do something. For example, they might say, “Well I’m a natural light photographer because that’s my style.” But for a lot of a photographers, deep down, they just hate flash or aren’t willing to be better at it.
If you’re a wedding photographer, there will be a litany of different lighting circumstances you’ll need to photograph in, and understanding how to make the best out of every lighting situation is really important. So, instead of making excuses for yourself – challenge yourself and learn. Make it a point to practice, get better, learn and improve your craft. Don’t just chock it up to “style”.
Invest in learning about marketing and how to build your business. Trying to be a self-employed full-time photographer means learning what it means to be a business owner. As much as many photographers try, you can’t avoid the business part of your photography endeavors.
So, make it a point to carve out time to learn about marketing and good business practices. This includes online courses, books, being mentored and being part of local creative groups like Rising Tide. Being part of an online and in-person community can be encouraging place, especially when business gets tough. And trust me, it definitely will.
Like I mentioned earlier, we wear a ton of hats as a self-employed photographer. The reality is that we’re not perfect and we definitely carry our own list of strengths and weaknesses. Trying to balance everything, including the things that suck the life out of us, can really damage how we carry out our business.
We might love to photograph, but really hate bookkeeping. And that bookkeeping can seriously keep us away from what we love to do. As a result, we get burnt out and no longer enjoy what it means to be a self-employed full-time photographer. The solution isn’t to quit photography. Instead, you might want to consider all the life-sucking things in your business and think about what it looks like to outsource. This might be raising your prices so you could accommodate this. This way, you’re able to hone in on your craft and focus on what you love the most, and provide the best possible work for your clients. It’s a win-win-win.
Possible next steps for you…
Create a business plan! If you’re not full-time yet, create a plan to become one. If you’re not sure where to start, you’re in luck! I have a 10+ page business plan freebie that helps you get started.
In the business plan, you identify where you’re at and where you want to go. It’ll also provide questions to help you workshop through how to get there by examining your strengths and weaknesses. And my favorite part? I include a mini marketing plan so you can jumpstart your efforts right away.
Grab your free bomb.com business plan below!