How to Set Up a Photography Business Step-By-Step

  • By Abraham L. Braden
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Deciding to take a leap and start a photography business is a huge decision and one that will certainly cause you a lot of stress along the way. But the rewards that might come from going into business for yourself are certainly worth the risk.

To help you get started, I’ve put together a quick overview of some of the most crucial steps you’ll need to take along the way to set up a successful photography business. Let’s get to it!

It Starts With Goals

To build a successful business, you need a roadmap of where you want to go and how you’ll get there. You can do that by setting goals. Your goals can be general or specific. For example, you might not want to work on Fridays so you can spend time with your family. That’s a pretty general goal. On the other hand, you might want to work with a certain type of client, like engaged couples or expecting moms. That’s a pretty specific goal.

You need to establish some income goals as well, but be realistic about it. You might want to make $100,000 in your first year, but that’s just not likely to happen for the vast majority of photographers. By setting a more realistic income goal, you can work backwards to determine how much you need to charge your clients to get to that point. Remember that you need to deduct things like rent, equipment expenses, insurance, and so forth, so plan your prices to account for those things.

Develop a Business Plan

Where the goals you outline might be more informal and personal, your business plan is a detailed, organized document that allows you to outline each and every component of your business. That includes the products and services you want to offer, your target market, the type of photography you want to do, where you’ll conduct business, how many employees (if any) you will have, revenue streams, projected costs, and so forth. In other words, a business plan is a line-by-line document that’s essentially your entire business written down on paper.

There are plenty of business plan tools out there, including a detailed one from the Small Business Administration (see the link below). By going through the step-by-step process of putting your thoughts down on paper, you not only have a better idea of what you’re in for regarding your strengths and weaknesses, but you also have an official document that lenders, investors, landlords, your significant other, and other stakeholders can view. That means you can more easily get feedback, identify obstacles, and come up with solutions to those obstacles, all before you even open your doors.

Think About Marketing

Having short-term and long-term goals and a business plan is all well and good, but when the day comes to open your doors, you can’t expect people to start booking you just by virtue of the fact that you’re open for business. Instead, by thinking ahead of time about what your brand will be, what it will look like and sound like, and how you’ll communicate those things to potential customers will be key to your success.

When thinking about your brand, you should consider the following:

  • Who’s your target market and what products and services do they covet?
  • What products and services do you want to provide?
  • How are you unique?
  • What’s your overall message to potential clients?

Perhaps the most important of these factors is your message to clients. You want it to be specific so that they understand who you are and what you offer. You want it to be unique as well, because – let’s face it – there’s a ton of photographers out there competing against you for the eyes and ears of customers. That’s why you need to develop your sales pitch first. Your sales pitch should be short, sweet, and to the point, like a classic elevator pitch. It should be something that takes mere seconds to get your point across and leaves people wanting to know more. Aside from that, developing your sales pitch helps you more clearly define who you are and what your business is about. And the more focused you are on those things, the better off you’ll be!

Make It Legal

Starting a business isn’t as simple as opening your doors to the public. You need to make sure that you’ve gone through the proper legal channels. Otherwise, you might face legal implications down the road. To begin, you’ll need to register your business name. Remember when selecting a name that it should be descriptive of your business, unique, and perhaps most importantly, easy to remember and spell. If you’ve already selected a name, be sure to run it by family and friends first, just to see if there’s any feedback on things you hadn’t considered.

If you aren’t sure what to name your business, brainstorm a short list and solicit feedback from people you trust on the effectiveness of each one. Regardless of how you do it, be sure that your business name is easy to read and spell, that it’s available on popular social media channels, that you can secure the URL for a website, and that it’s not trademarked by someone else already. Once you’ve got your name registered, secure all the social media accounts with that name, even if you don’t intend to use those accounts yet. Do the same with a domain name. Next, register your business with the proper government agencies. Who you need to work with (if anyone at all) depends on where you live, so you’ll need to do some research on that front.

You might need a business license, too, so be sure to check on those requirements in your area as well. You’ll also want to set up financial accounts for your business that are separate from your personal accounts. You need to have these separated so that you can keep your finances organized and so you have an easier time with record-keeping, too. Lastly, get business insurance to cover your studio or office space, your equipment, and you as well. Devise a contract for clients, too, that way you and your clients know exactly what to expect.

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