Starting a Photography Business

So you’re thinking about starting a photography business. Your hobby has become your passion and you’re ready to make the leap into being a fulltime photographer. Congrats on the decision, but quick question. Are you truly ready?

I wouldn’t recommend starting a photography business if you’re not ready to handle the potential disappoint and failure that many photographer experience when first starting a photography business.

If you have a full time job and are making decent money on the side with photography keep the full time job until you start making more with photography than you would with a 9-5. Running a business isn’t for everyone. The notion that you’re going to start a photography business and everything is going to be hunky dory is a myth.

Gone are normal working hours. Not to mention holidays and vacations with the kids. Free time, what is that? You’re always going to be working in some sort of fashion. Could be booking clients. It could be hours and hours of editing wedding photos. It could be traveling and so forth.

This life of a business owner isn’t for everyone. I know the allure of making your own hours and doing what you want when you want sounds great and all, but that is just some fantasy we all hope for.

Now if I haven’t scared you yet, feel free to continue reading.

Creating a Portfolio Website

No client or prospective client is going to hire a photographer without a website. They want to see your style, how your pose people, how you edit your photos and so on. They want to see if your style matches up with their vision. That is where having a website comes in.

You can create a website yourself or you can hire a web designer or agency to help you build out your website. If you’re not familiar with web coding, your best bet is to hire a professional.

Your website doesn’t need to be something over the top right away. Start with the basics of an about you page, what services your offer, how to contact you and of course have galleries of your work.

You can always add on things like client proofing, online store etc. to your website as well. You need your website to be a one stop shop for clients.

Don’t forget about making sure you have SEO as well for your website. SEO is what helps search engines like Google display your website in the search results.

How to Price Your Services

There is nothing more a photographer dreads than trying to figure out how to price your photography services. Once you start to think how much to charge the sheer panic sets in.

What if I charge too much and no one hires me? What if I undercharge and people expect the world for a cheap price? How much do I need to make a week to cover my bills? Am I allergic to low fat milk? Did I leave the stove on when I left the house this afternoon?

There is no magic button to push that creates the right pricing for you. This is something you’re going to need to figure out on your own. How much do you need to pay your rent and bills? How much do you need for photography costs and expenses?

Where to Find Clients

The fun stuff; finding clients. It’s not going to be easy if you’re just truly starting off. You’re going to need a strong portfolio or online presence for people to find you. Just trusting social media and your website to find people to hire you is like trusting Congress to do the right thing for Americans. It’s not going to happen.

If you’re a wedding or portrait portrait photographer there are expos and other networking events you can go to and meet other business people who may need your services.

Also beware of scam websites that promise to deliver you clients for a monthly fee. Of course the more your pay the more clients they send to you, but it’s all a ripoff. They just want your money and then they send fake accounts or bots to justify their end of the bargain.

I’m not a fan of Wedding Wire, Yelp and other places like that for that reason. They constantly call you once you register and hound you to pay for their exclusive tier which is suppose to bring you all these willing to hire you now clients. If you don’t believe me google them and see what others have to say.

Reach out to friends, family members, businesses you want to work with and tell them about your business. Introduce yourself if you haven’t already. Maybe offer them a special one time promotion to entice them to use your services.

Getting clients isn’t easy but once you’ve established a name for yourself it gets a little easier, but not by much.

I will suggest that after you send the clients their photos and they’re happy, kindly ask them to write a review for you on Google. Positive reviews always help.

Starting a photography business and trying to clients willing to pay right away isn’t easy. You’ll experience more than your fair share of disappoint in the beginning as well as in the middle and probably the end too. But if you truly believe in yourself and in your brand than once you get rolling, people should be coming to you like water from a faucet. I just hope it’s not the drip from the faucet but you get my drift.

Creating an LLC

Before you start acting like a business you need to incorporate your business. This helps protect you in case you are sued so they won’t go after your house etc. and they can only go after your business assets, if you have any.

The easiest thing you can do is create a sole proprietorship LLC and from there you can get an EIN from the IRS which will be your tax id for your business.

And if you want to truly take advantage of tax credits and exemptions I would highly recommend going the S Corp route when filing for an LLC.

Depending on the state you live in there are fees for creating an LLC as well as yearly fees to keep your business registered with the state.

Need to Act Like a Business

True story, I used Turbo Tax one year to do my business taxes when I first started out thinking I could save some money. I screwed up so bad I owed like $15k in taxes. Talk about a swift kick to the balls.

After that I got an attorney and I got an accountant.

My accountant takes care of all my taxes and forms for me. I get financial advice that helps me throughout the year.

I know there are ads on Instagram talking how you can write off this and that on your taxes and it’s legal, but would you take accounting advice from someone in an ad trying to make money? A true accountant will tell you that you can’t write everything off. There are limits and some things you can do and some thing you can’t. Don’t trust someone online looking to make a dollar of you trying to find a short cut.

You’ll always need an attorney. They can review your contracts for you. They can find ways to protect yourself and your business in case you are sued for whatever reason. Trust me it happens more than you know.

Don’t forget to create a bank account just for your business. Deposit your payments into that account and use to pay business related expenses.

Keep your personal and business accounts and expenses separate. Come tax time it will be a pain in the ass trying to rectify which expense was from which account and was it in the right account.

And don’t forget the insurance. Insure your equipment. If you need liability insurance for events, get that as well. It’s cheaper to pay for insurance than it is to hire your attorney to represent you in court. Trust me!

Create Business Social Media Accounts

The same idea with separate bank accounts, you need separate social media accounts for your business and personal life. No client wants to see your kid in diapers with makeup on when they’re trying to find a wedding photographer. Sure your kid is cute, but if your social media account is nothing but photos and videos of them, then how do you expect for people to hire you when all they see for your work is your kid?

I don’t have any personal social media accounts. I only have business accounts. That is my choice. I don’t need people knowing my personal life. I only want to show them my business side.

If you want to have a personal account, by all means keep one. Just don’t intermingle the two. It needs to be clear that this is a business account and only photography related content is to be displayed. Post your kid and food pics on your personal account.

There is a lot that goes into starting a photography business not to mention everything that goes on to keep it running like a business. These are some tips to help you decide if you truly want to venture out on your own or just keeping your hobby a hobby.

Jay-Z said it best, “I’m not a businessman, I’m a business man,” and that is how you should treat your photography business.

Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

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