How To Start A Photography Business

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How To Start A Photography Business in 2021

How to Start a Photography Business in 2021: The Definitive Guide

For a lot of people, photography is much more than a way of capturing memories.

It’s is a creative and fun form of of self-expression – a way of perceiving and interpreting the world  and bringing the invisible to light.

And for those with excellent photography skills, it’s a great opportunity to turn their hobby into a job.

It may be tough to go from photography as a hobby to photography as a profession by starting a photography business.

It might be difficult to make the move from photography as a pastime to photography as a job by launching a photography business (or developing your photography business).

Below are some of the questions you should ask to start your photography business:

  • What actions do you need to follow to start a photography business?
  • How much money is required to start one?
  • Is it feasible to support oneself as a photographer?
  • How do professional photographers seek employment?
  • Is a business license for photography required?

If you have excellent photographic skills and want to use it to start your own photography business, there’s a lot you need to consider.

Starting a business as a photographer may be a low-cost alternative in becoming an entrepreneur provided that you have the right equipment and skills, 

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Table of Contents

How To Start A Photography Business: Step-By-Step Guide

Launching a photography company, like any other business venture, necessitates a considerable amount of time and energy to acquire equipment, register your firm, and create your portfolio.  

Fortunately, the start-up costs involved are not as expensive as in other industries.

Learning how to do the business can be done step by step just about any time, depending on your readiness, priorities, and existing equipment.

STEP 1 Develop And Refine Your Business Idea.

Assessing your skills, limits, and interests is the first and most important step you need to take in your entrepreneurial journey in photography.

Perhaps you’d like to pursue a wedding photography business, or you might prefer headshots and portraits.

Whichever strategy you adopt, it’s essential to analyze existing companies in your region to see how they may be improved.

These questions can help you further with this:

  • What abilities set me apart from the competition?
  • What are the objectives of my photography business?
  • Whom am I attempting to sell a service or a product to?
  • How much can I afford to put into this business?
  • Is it necessary for me to seek outside funding? How much does it cost?
  • What kind of work-life balance do I want?
  • What do I want to gain from being an entrepreneur?

Find A Niche Before You Launch A Photography Business.

You should also think about what niche is best for your photography business.

Is it aimed at a specific group of the population?

Do you want to target a specific demographic?

Starting with a clear target audience will give you a higher chance of success.

Do not overspend nor underwhelm your prospective clients by making sure to develop your photography business to fit the demands of a specialized niche.

You may check out the following niches when exploring which type of photography business best suits you:

  • Wedding photography
  • Fashion photography
  • Real estate photography
  • Portrait photography business (people and/ or animals)
  • Dog shows photography
  • Sports photography
  • Stock photography
  • Contract work photography business (covering local events, for example)
  • Commercial photography business
  • Local news photography business
  • Image or video editing photography (partnering with other photographers for editing)
  • Product image photography
  • Food image photography
  • Travel photography
  • Fashion photography
  • Teaching Photography

STEP 2 Write A Photography Business Plan.

The next step after you’ve decided on a niche is to create a business plan. 

A business plan is not required when establishing a photography business, but it might help you solidify your ideas.

A business plan is a document that defines your company’s financial and operational objectives. It  establishes your objectives and then presents details on how you can meet achieve your goals.

Business plans include the following:

  • An executive summary
  • An industry overview
  • Market analysis
  • Competitive analysis
  • Sales and marketing plan
  • Management plan
  • Operating plan
  • Financial plan
  • Appendices and Exhibits

Do Market Research.

Market research is classified into two types: primary and secondary.

Some important questions are answered through primary research, such as:

  • What variables do your prospective consumers weigh when buying similar products or services?
  • What do they believe is effective, and what needs are there to be improved in their existing options?
  • What do they like and hate about the alternatives they presently have?
  • What are they willing to pay? Do they believe it is fair and offers excellent value?

You may find out the answers to these questions by speaking with potential consumers. Primary research tools include surveys, questionnaires, one-on-one interviews, and focus groups .

Information from existing sources is what makes up secondary research.

Using presently accessible data, you will be able to identify who your competitors are and establish market groups or demographics.

Data variables such as age range, lifestyle, and behavioral tendencies are utilized to categorize your target consumers.

When you have this data, you can use it as a reference while you create and launch your company.

Make sure you spend enough time gathering data so that your decisions are founded on sound research.

STEP 3 Hire An Experienced Business Attorney.

A lot of small businesses dread having to consult with and engage a business lawyer.

They are concerned that they might pay expensive legal bills or that they would get terrible advice that could ruin their business. Others fret over finding an affordable, qualified business lawyer.

Don’t make a decision based on pricing alone when looking for a lawyer.

The cheap ones are often the least competent – particularly in the areas where you may want assistance.

Spending a lower hourly rate may seem tempting at first, but you may end up having to pay considerably more than if you had employed an experienced but costly business lawyer.

Make sure that your lawyer is knowledgeable with the idiosyncrasies of a photography business, has expertise with clients who are launching a photography business, and has had other clients in the same industry.

STEP 4 Decide Your Legal Business Structure.

Starting your photography business would require you to choose the right business structure. You need to register for your preferred type of entity as part of the first steps in launching your business.

Everything is affected by your legal business structure – from filing your taxes to your personal liability and if there are any additional compliance restrictions at the local, state, or national levels.

Here are some of the key business entities you need to check out:

  • Sole proprietorship
  • Partnership
  • Limited Liability Company (LLC) 
  • Corporation

You’re probably beginning small if you’re a creative professional. If you’re doing it alone, forming a sole proprietorship or partnership could be the ideal option, particularly if it’s initially home-based.

However, it is critical to evaluate your long-term business objectives. You should select a business structure that will allow your company to develop and expand.

Once you’ve decided on it, register with your state or municipality and the IRS.

The forms required and where you must register are determined by the business structure you choose.

STEP 5 Purchase Business Insurance.

Theft, property damage, intellectual property disputes, and other mishaps can all be covered by business insurance. These may be quite expensive for small business owners, and you must protect yourself and your new venture from all these.

This is also applicable even if it’s a home-based business, as your own home insurance would most likely not cover it.

Depending on the specific industry of your photography business, you may require insurance to bid on contracts or acquire client employment. Some businesses demand insurance for all of their contractors and vendors.

In addition, if you want to hire employees, it would require workers’ compensation and unemployment insurance. Coverage differs by area, although most general liability (GL) insurance policies already include workers’ compensation.

Being a vendor of photography services, you need to have professional liability insurance to protect yourself from any claims.

You likely have a ton of costly photography equipment, and protecting them against theft, damage, or when any form of tragedy hits, you’ll be ready.

STEP 6 Set Up Business Accounting And Bookkeeping.

Business accounting is the process through which your company records, organizes, analyzes, and provides its financial data. Accountants examine a company’s financial situation in order to assist the owner in making better financial decisions.

Bookkeeping is the process of recording, organizing, storing, and retrieving financial information that are linked to your business.

Accounting and bookkeeping services often overlap. Their primary distinction is that bookkeeping is the process of recording and categorizing financial information, while accounting is the use of that information in analyzing, strategizing, and tax planning.

Start By Hiring A Bookkeeper.

Most of the businesses employ a bookkeeper for: 

  • Keeping you organized
  • Paying your bills
  • Preparing paperwork to be endorsed to the accountant

Bookkeepers are often cheaper than CPAs (certified public accountants) whose main work is to keep record and arrange your daily financial activities.

Review Your Accounting Processes Annually And Make Adjustments.

Do not discount the potential of reviewing your bookkeeping, accounting, and tax procedures on a regular basis.

If you fail to check at your existing systems including the people in charge of them, that will be at your risk.

Take time to assess your entire accounting approach and constantly look for opportunities to enhance and improve it.

STEP 7 Assess Your Finances.

When starting a photography business, it is critical to analyze your funds and initial costs. These figures involve monitoring and measuring your sales and profits, but a sensible business will check for far more than just sales.

Business finance makes use of the financial information of your company to assist you in managing your money and ensuring you have a successful and sustainable photography business.

You have a variety of business financing alternatives available to you.

This is critical because you must calculate your startup costs, how to fund, and expand your business.

If you don’t understand the numbers, you’ll have a tough time building a sustainable, profitable business.

When establishing a photography business, you need take additional precautions to save your startup cash. Don’t go overboard with your spending.

It’s a must that you have a bookkeeping and accounting system in place to to monitor your finances. 

This is crucial for understanding your company’s cash flow and will also be useful for tax filing.

Income, costs, capital expenditures, profit, loss, EBITDA, and so on will be included in your accounting and bookkeeping system.

STEP 8 Crunch The Numbers.

When starting a small business, you must measure sales and earnings – but a good company would not only consider revenue.

How Much Money Does It Take To Start A Photography Business?

Here’s a simple budget you can use as a reference point when starting your photography business. This budget doesn’t include a studio or office space. All prices are one-time purchases or annual estimates.

  • Two professional high-quality cameras: $2,000 to $5,000 per item
  • Camera accessories (bags, batteries, grips, etc.): $1,000 to $1,500 total
  • Lenses: $1,000+ each
  • Flashes (Minimum of two): $700 to $1,000 each
  • Lighting accessories (lights, tripods, reflectors): $1,000 to $2,500 total
  • Backdrops: $500 to $1,000 total
  • Props: $250 total
  • Equipment travel cases: $500 to $1,000
  • Multiple memory cards: $50+ each
  • Two external drives: $120 each (backups)
  • A computer: $1,500 to $2,000
  • Reliable car or van: $ varies
  • Website (Wix, Zenfolio, SmugMug, Squarespace): $60+ (Yearly)
  • Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop subscription: $120 (Yearly)
  • Business name and company logo: $500 to $1,000 (One-time payment)
  • Business licenses and permits: $150+ (Yearly)
  • Insurance: $600 (Yearly)
  • Accounting and taxes: $500 to $1,000 (Yearly)
  • Contracts: free to $1,000+ (Yearly)
  • Business cards: $50+ (Yearly)

The following are optional expenses. These are not required but are useful add-ons to grow your photography business:

  • Video equipment in case you will also shoot video
  • Business training
  • Assistant and other staff
  • Studio and office space
  • Professional quality photography printer
  • Photography workshops and classes
  • Marketing materials

Once you’ve determined your start-up costs, make a comparison with your existing budget.. Then figure out how you’re going to make up the difference.

Even though your photography business is going to be home-based, you will still incur expenditures, so keep a close eye on your budget.

Calculating your start-up costs can help you to carefully plan and set your pricing.

STEP 9 Create A Strong Brand Identity.

If you want to get ahead of the game, you must set your photography business apart from your competitors.

Creating a strong brand identity is critical to your success. With Instagram and other social media platforms, there is a thin line that separates a hobbyist and a professional photographer, so a unique  brand identity would definitely make you stand out.

A strong brand is more vital than ever in today’s competitive creative industry.

Consider the following:

  • What identity/ personality would I want to convey through my brand?
  • Who will be interested in my products and services?
  • What benefits can clients gain from my services that they cannot obtain elsewhere?
  • What are the values of my brand?
  • What is the most crucial aspect of my clients’ experience?

Whatever your answers are will form the foundation of your brand. All subsequent branding decisions should be built on these principles. Your company name, logo, and website design must all stem from the ideas you’ve presented here.

STEP 10 Build An Online Presence.

The most efficient approach for creatives to demonstrate their abilities and personalities is through their online presence.

The design and marketing text of your website should reflect your brand’s identity. 

Here are a few ideas:

  • Make use of your company’s colors.
  • Provide a photo and bio if you’re the principal employee. Typically, clients would want to know the person who created the website.
  • Be genuine and avoid commercial jargon. Communicate in the same language as your consumers.
  • Include examples of your work that are of excellent quality.
  • Make it simple for site visitors to reach you.

Develop a site that helps you grow your brand, defines your approach and style, and conveys the value proposition of your company.

People are purchasing a relationship with you, just as they are with other personality-driven professions (such as real estate sales and other creative services).

Self-hosted open-source portfolio applications enable you to integrate your portfolio gallery with your website.

If you need a self-hosted option, try WordPress.

STEP 11 Create A Sales Plan.

If all you do is take photographs, your photography business will fail. You can’t afford to overlook the business aspect.

You must develop a business blueprint for your photography business venture. Consider the following:

  • How do you plan to market your services?
  • Will you work as a professional photographer full-time or part-time?
  • Which photo editing software would you require to produce memorable and excellent images?
  • What pricing structure will you adopt?
  • Will credit cards be accepted?
  • Do you plan to have a customer referral program?
  • How will you schedule appointments with clients?
  • Do you require an office or studio space for client meetings, or will you run your business from home?
  • When you provide your services, what client expectations will you set?
  • How will you assist consumers who have issues and concerns?

Because photography could be an intimate and personal service, a hands-on approach usually works better.  

Although your website contributes much with generating leads, your overall success is determined just as much by the clients you turn down as it is by the ones you accept.

Word-of-mouth marketing is a strong strategy, specifically for professional photographers. According to a Wharton School of Business study, referrals proved to have a lifetime value that’s 16% higher than those who aren’t referred to a product. Moreover, these kind of customers tend to be more loyal.

Consider your sales strategy beforehand so that you can maximize every potential to close the transaction and earn more revenue.

Keep in mind to create an email list to keep your current and future clients up to date on your photography company.

Step 12 Build Your Team.

However, in order for your company to grow, you would need some support and assistance.

Most photography businesses are founded by solo proprietors who engage skilled experts to manage various aspects of the business.

Whether you recruit workers or deal with contractors is determined on the nature of your business.

Initially, only hire for roles that would bring the most immediate value to your company.

There is no single correct answer for what those roles may be.

Consider what areas of the business you are struggling with as you decide which roles to fill. It is also critical to understand your limitations.

Recruit in areas where your company needs support. Build a strong and well-rounded staff to provide a solid foundation for your company.

Start A Photography Business: The Legal Stuff

We went directly to the source to provide you with some of the legal concerns to address. Indeed’s recruiting specialists advise that you:

  • Apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) on the IRS website which you can get immediately.
  • Register with the labor department in your state.
  • Fill out the necessary papers to withhold federal taxes from your employee’s pay.
  • Get workers’ compensation insurance if your state requires it.

You must also consider whether to hire full-time or part-time staff.

Part-time workers are less expensive. These cost-cutting measures might be advantageous when you initially begin. You may increase their hours as your company expands and you can sustain it.

Full-time staff often necessitate additional paperwork to get started. You may check out Indeed’s step-by-step guide, “How to Hire Employees,” to get a a good grasp of the hiring process.

STEP 13 Grow Your Photography Business.

Now, here comes the exciting part: presenting your company to customers!

Check out newspapers and local publications, trade exhibitions, and public events where you may introduce your work and your brand to the public. Any channel that you feel would be good for your small business must be pursued.

Give prospective consumers an inside look at your work and your company. To expand and grow your business, you’ll need to create a content marketing plan.

As an aspiring small business, social media provides a cheap and simple platform for all of your creative work.

Keeping a presence on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook is essential for building a solid and loyal following and connecting with your niche market on social media.

With the emergence of micro-influencers, a new business’s potential reach, particularly on social media, is really huge.

The majority of your new customers would most probably come from word-of-mouth referrals. As a consequence, you should manage your social media presence with intent.

Instagram is a no-brainer for photography businesses. You may utilize the platform to showcase your work, engage with consumers, and create your own brand.

However, Instagram (and other social media platforms such as Facebook) may also be used to share behind-the-scenes videos and photos to provide potential clients with an insider’s view of your business.

Starting A Photography Business: Conclusion

When it comes to launching a photography company, there’s a ton of things you need to consider.

However, with this comprehensive guide on how to start a photography business, you will have a competitive edge in getting started on the right track.

Even a successful photography business experiences some issues along the way, but for as long as you keep the essentials intact, you can always charge it to experience and keep trying.

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