photo credit: @kimlynphotography | Black Fotostrap
Learn the basic do's and don'ts of starting + running your own photography business so that you can dodge some of the bullets many start-ups run into and put your best foot forward in this competitive space.
Choose a specialization: When starting out, you might take whatever jobs you can get, but the sooner that you choose your specialty (newborn, family, wedding, sports, etc.) the sooner you can establish yourself as an expert of that field and charge competitive pricing in that market.
Invest in the right equipment: You can definitely start out with a standard camera and a couple of lenses, but as your business grows be sure to invest in higher quality and more specialized equipment. This will help you stay competitive and provide more credibility (as well as versatility) to your business.
Purchase Insurance: Accidents happen so be sure to protect yourself from future incidents that could very well put you out of business. Research and find equipment policies, as well as indemnity and liability insurance so that you are covered if a client is injured on shoot or your equipment breaks.
Build a Portfolio: This is really important as you are starting out. Be sure to invest a good amount of time uploading your high quality images to a website, writing meaningful blog posts and putting together a well-designed online portfolio to show your clients. In the beginning stages you may not have your branding down, but it's important to have examples of your work in order to successfully book interested clients and then as you develop as a photographer, you can edit your portfolio down to showcase what you are known for/what sets your work apart.
Market Online: Use Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and send newsletters. You invest a lot of time and energy into your online portfolio and blog posts, so get people to look at it! In this day and age, online marketing works and is really one of the best and easiest ways to secure clients and book up that calendar of yours!
Underprice Yourself: One of the worst things you can do when starting out and working for yourself is to offer your services at a price that won't cover the bills. While this seems obvious, setting prices is one of the hardest (and most awkward parts) of starting a photography business. Research what other people charge for their sessions, find out what the standard is in your specialty and create a price list that is competitive.
Set Low Expectations: When starting out, it definitely helps to get a handful of sessions and new clients to begin with so you can build your portfolio and begin the process of finding your lifelong clients. But the task seems daunting when you are up against photographers who have been in the business forever and are charging way more than you feel comfortable asking. The solution is not to set your prices at half of what your competitors offer (we just told you not to underprice yourself!), but to set your prices competitively and then offer the first 10-15 sessions at 50% OFF so you are making your clients feel like they are getting an amazing deal, without you setting their expectations at a lower price point than you plan keeping long term.
Miss Out on Doing In-Person Portrait Sales: As uncomfortable as it might be for you to put your "sales" hat on at the end of a session, it is such a smart business move to sell actual prints, flushmounts, art books, and canvases of your work to your clients in-person. Most clients are going to send their digital images to get printed out in some form or fashion, so take the opportunity and offer to take that off their plates to provide them with the best quality prints out there. (If you show an ounce of expertise on the subject most clients are going to be happy to invest in having their favorite images in a tangible form and trust you to produce better results than them finding a third party).
Give Up: There will be days (even weeks, months, or seasons) that you will dislike your job. You will get burnt out, you will question the meaning of life as you sit hours on end behind a computer screen editing pictures of people you barely know. You will doubt your talent, you will have creative blocks, and you will make mistakes, but DON'T GIVE UP. You are a photographer because you were born to tell stories and you are a photographer because you understand the importance of observation and documentation. Don't let the "business" side of it all spoil your craft or drown out your passion. Find balance in your work so that you protect your passion from getting burnt out and never let one bad season keep you from continuing to pursue your art.
Looking for more help on starting and running your business? Here are some other resources we have for you:
How to be More Productive (and Happier) during the Work Day
7 Ways to Leave Lasting Impressions on Shoot that Lead to Returning (and New) Clients!
How to Work it at Work: Wedding Photographers
Related: Fotostrap, FOTO, Monogram, #tellyourstory, Small Business, Tips, Personalize