If you’ve stumbled upon this blog post as a new photographer, or maybe you don’t even call yourself a photographer yet - WELCOME! In this post I’m going to break down a few tips for new photographers.
Like many people, I first picked up a camera at a very young age. But I didn’t actually get serious about photography until 2016. And it wasn’t to document couples. It was to document my travels and adventures. I became obsessed with freezing a moment in time to look back on for all the years to come. It wasn’t until my best friend got engaged in 2017 that I even thought documenting love could be an option for me.
Now three years later, here I am. I truly do feel like I have the most rewarding job in the entire world. As a photographer, we give people their memories to look back on, or to pass on to the next generations who want to see what their lives looked like. When you really take a step back, we truly benefit people’s lives. It isn’t just for the ‘gram.
As I really got into my business, I learned so much throughout the journey. And I just felt that the education out there wasn’t giving me the proper tools to start my business in the right way. This is why I am so passionate about helping others in the industry with their business and creating an incredible client experience. However I will say, today there are SO many incredible resources and courses out there, but we will go into that in a few!
These are some of the major things I wish I knew when I started my business, and helpful tips that I think will help you along this journey.
TIP #1: LAUNCHING YOUR BUSINESS
THE ACTUAL LAUNCH:
I’ve seen a lot of people get hung up on the initial launch of their business because they think they have to have EVERYTHING just right. Or they think they aren’t qualified enough to advertise their services. But the honest truth is: there’s never going to be the “right” time, and we’re never going to feel entirely “ready” to jump into the unknown. Starting a business can feel intimidating, and the imposter syndrome is no joke! But if you have a passion to pursue photography, I’m here to tell ya that YOU CAN DO IT! And you will learn and grow into your confidence as you move forward. ……the next few tips will help set up your launch for success.
This is the stuff that can seem like a daunting task when getting started, but it is crucial! Getting your business legal will save you a lot of headache down the line, and will set you up for greater success. Every state has different guidelines for starting a small business, and taxes greatly vary, so do your research or talk to a professional! Below are some items to research or hire out for (eventually).
- License: depending on what your business is, you may need a license. Make sure to look into these guidelines that are different for each state.
- Taxes: don't wait until April to figure out your taxes. Do this research up front. It is worth hiring a CPA to teach and guide you, even if it's just in the beginning. I made the mistake of thinking I could figure this all out by myself and here I am, not know what the heck I'm doing!
- Insurance: Get business insurance and make yourself legit and protect yourself. You never know what could happen, and when you're just starting out, you haven't learned all the bad things that COULD happen. Business insurance will save your butt.
- DBA: Register your business under a name. You can simply do this online if you type in "get an EIN" on google. Again, research the differences between a sole proprietor and and LLC and decide what you want to be. Everyone does their business differently, it's completely up to you.
- Bank accounts: I'll get into this in the finance portion, but open up a business account ASAP. Do not wait for this. It costs you no money and will literally save you SO much time. Trust me. I personally use Chase Business and love it.
- Contracts: Absolutely do not do any type of shoot without a contract. Why? If you don't have a contract, then people could take your images and sell them. Or if anything were to happen at the shoot and it wasn't in your contract, they could sue you. While I think the best in people, it's also really important to keep yourself covered JUST INCASE.
I have had my business for 3 years now and I am STILL working on my website. A lot of people wait to launch it until it’s “perfect”. DON’T! Launch it now! You just need potential clients to find a place to see your work, contact you and view your pricing. That’s literally it! Building it out will take time, but do not wait.
TIP #2: SET UP YOUR FINANCES
A lot of new business owners first learn the skill before even thinking about the business side of things. And of course while learning the skill is important, you don’t want to put the business necessities on the back burner. This includes the financial portion - what people usually run away from! But it doesn’t need to be difficult, I swear. Below are a few things that are necessary to prioritize.
Look, when you’re first starting, the biggest thing is to get good at your craft. You can’t start charging what others who have been in the industry for 3+ years are charging. But it’s good to have goals as well. I always recommend to come up with a number that you feel comfortable with for the first 3-6 months. I personally charged $50 for an hour session for my first few months of business. Then I slowly increased it as I started to gain more traction. You will do a lot for free or minimal pricing, but that’s ok - you have to start somewhere.
CDB (COST OF DOING BUSINESS)
But then there’s 6 months to a year down the road where you are feeling confident and know you deserve more. If you’re serious about running a profitable and sustainable business, then starting to do a CBD analysis is important! Maybe you want to quit your 9-5 job, but are not sure how much you would need to book to make that possible. This will help you figure that all out.
- Expenses: Write down all your personal and business expenses per year. This must include absolutely everything - and it's usually better to overestimate than under.
- Needed income: Your expenses are generally the income that you’ll need to stay alive, but that’s not the only amount you want to make. Figure out that magic number that you can truly be happy.
OPEN A BUSINESS ACCOUNT
No matter what, start your business account and get a business credit card. It doesn’t even need to be a business credit card, it can be a regular one. But only put business related expenses on it. Why is this even important? Trust me, when tax season comes and you’re trying to sort through your business and personal items, going directly to your business account info will make everything easier.
TIP #3: INVEST IN COMMUNITY + EDUCATION
If you’re anything like me, this might make you cringe, especially if you’re still in debt from that 4+ years of college. I already had schooling - what else would I need to know?! Look, if you’re looking to make this art your full time business, you need to learn from people who have also been successful. And it’s WAY less than what you spent on college, trust me. Be humble and know that if you invest, you will succeed much faster.
BUILD A COMMUNITY
This is a business and personal tip. Joining and participating in the photography community can be such a blessing. Whether it’s online or in person, finding some like-minded friends is always a good idea! Here’s a few ideas on how to get into the community:
- Join Facebook groups - local and worldwide. These groups can help you learn from others, find out about collaboration opportunities, learn about upcoming meet ups and styled shoots!
- Follow photographers on Instagram. Whether for inspiration and educational purposes, or if you’re looking for local photographers to engage with.
GET A MENTOR
Okay I know that was A LOT of information to absorb, and you may be feeling a bit overwhelmed. The truth is there can be a lot of trial and error when beginning a business, and a lot of time spent googling! Something I wish I had done sooner is booking a mentor. Having the accountability and real applicable advice from an experienced photographer impacted my business in the best way. I’m so excited to be at a place in my career where I can offer my expertise to others looking to succeed in their own photography business. Shameless plug, but if you’d like to learn more about booking a mentorship with me, click here!
INVEST IN YOURSELF
The hard truth is, you will need to invest into your business: emotionally and financially. You can’t expect clients to invest in someone who doesn’t invest in themselves. A huge misconception about being a “Photographer” is that it’s a quick and easy job, and “everyone is a photographer these days.” But being a successful photography business owner entails a lot of hard work, and many different hats. Things you will need to invest in:
- Equipment. You definitely don’t need to buy the latest and greatest gear to start out. You can find a lot of great deals on used gear online or in local photographers groups. But as you grow and improve your craft, the list of necessary equipment will be a large expense (also a tax write off!)
- Education. Access to photography education is pretty easy these days, from TikToks, Reels, blog posts, and YouTube is still a thing guys. There is plenty of free resources to learn from, and this is not a business that requires a degree! It will still require a large time investment to really research and learn from others. Another way is to hire a mentor or attend a workshop for more in person learning and community with other photographers.
- Mentorship. This is if you want to kick start your business with the right tools and mindset, AND an experienced coach to encourage you. Hiring a photographer who’s work and business model you admire can be a great way to get insight into how to successfully start your business on the right track.
- Marketing. While a lot of this is done in Instagram these days, having a website is an important part of converting clients. I recommend Flothemes, which is the site I use and they've made it SO easy to customize your site. I'm so obsessed. I would also recommend looking into Showit, which also uses WordPress for blogging and is super easy to create!
- Workflows. One thing that will save you a ton of time to quickly learn is again, hire someone who is successful in the business to go through their complete workflow. There is SO much you need to know, that you don’t want to learn the hard way. Invest now in learning about workflows - things like how to cull your photos, save them on your hard drives, saving to multiple hard drives, minimizing your image sizes for your website - yes, there’s a lot you need to know.
While there is so much to the business side of things and business tips for photographers, these are just a few that I really wish I would have known when I first started. If there's anything to get out of this, it's to educate yourself. Hire a business coach to help you make sure you are doing things the right way, so you aren't fixing things down the road. If you can afford it, then this is a great option, or use all the free educational resources out there! Now go crush it!
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