You love photography. Each time you view a beautiful sunset, you start thinking about lighting, shutter speed and aperture. You’re hooked! Gradually, you develop your skills until you feel certain that your talents rival those of the professional photographers in your area. You’ve had enough of the monotonous corporate world where all your efforts are devoted to making more money for the monkey in the corner office. That’s it – you decide you will start your own photography business. Now, where do you begin?
The best way to get started is to think small, not in terms of your future goals, rather in keeping focused on building your business with minimal start up costs. While you can, of course, obtain a small business loan to launch your business, such a course of action is risky. The great thing about starting a photography business is that you can get started without having to sign a lease, build inventory or invest in excessively expensive equipment. Overhead is manageable, and the risk is controlled. Not many other small business enterprises afford budding entrepreneurs such an opportunity. Don’t misunderstand me, however. Photography, whether as a hobby or a profession, is an expensive endeavor. Cameras, lenses, lighting, props and the myriad of other tools necessary to do a quality job can add up to many thousands of dollars. Yet, anyone who loves photography and has arrived at the point of considering starting his own photography business has already invested in much of the necessary equipment. All that remains, then, is good business sense and the sincere determination to convert a dream to a reality.
Good business sense, in terms of overall success, is far more important than one’s photographic skills. Don’t assume that building your business will be easy or that adequate preparation and education is superfluous. Utilize all resources available to you in your community. Many communities offer free or low cost small business courses through their recreation facilities. Local community colleges will likely offer a plethora of information and classes in business and economics. Contacting your regional Small Business Administration office is always a good place to start. When in doubt, consult an attorney or financial advisor to avoid serious business pitfalls.
Write an effective business plan, including a precise list of all equipment and start up expenses you expect to have initially and as your business grows. Then, add a conservative 20% to that figure. Let’s face it, when is the last time you spent less than you anticipated? Know your current financial status and what you can reasonably afford to spend on your business start up.
Carefully research and choose the organizational plan that is best for your business (i. e. Sole Proprietorship, Partnership, Corporation, Limited Liability Company, etc. ), as there are serious tax and liability consequences on both the state and federal levels. Consider purchasing malpractice and liability insurance to insulate your business, and your personal wealth, from the sting of financial loss due to litigation expenses.
The business of photography is unique, offering photographers numerous specialties and the ability to begin as a part-time venture that, in time, blossoms into a full-time career. In fact, many professional photographers began building their photography businesses while still employed full time elsewhere. If portraiture is your primary interest, setting aside a modest area of your home as a small studio is highly recommended. In conjunction with your small home studio, offer location portraiture. Controlling lighting and environment is trickier with location work, but the benefits of numerous site options for your clients far outweigh the drawbacks. If you are interested in commercial work, a very small studio set up in a corner of a room is all that is necessary. If you are drawn to the great outdoors and prefer wildlife or landscape photography, investment in expensive studio equipment is unwarranted. Take time to explore and assess your interest in the various photographic specialties before you embark on your journey to building a lucrative photography business.
Market your business in simple ways, at first. Distribute flyers, hand out business cards, develop and maintain a simple, elegant but functional website. Remember, your reputation as a professional photographer will grow and spread principally by word of mouth. So, make sure you offer only the best services and images to your clients. Once you begin to establish a clientele, remember to reinvest into your business to keep it growing.
Following these basic steps will help you to turn your passion for photography into an income-producing business you can be proud of.
© Balsman Photography, LLC
Kim Balsman is the owner of Balsman Photography, LLC, a small, professional photography studio in Longmont, Colorado. Kim’s background is diverse, including formal education in communications and law at Truman State University and the University of Houston, as well as professional photography studies at the New York Institute of Photography. Kim spent over a decade working as a paralegal, practicing in numerous legal specialties at various law firms in Texas. Throughout her career, Kim has written thousands of legal documents but prefers the creativity of writing short stories, novels and journalistic pieces. Some of her work has been published in corporate magazines. Kim has lectured at entrepreneurial symposiums and educational facilities and led an initiative to help small printing franchisees compete for demanding legal document reproduction business. Kim enjoyed a brief career in real estate as a Century 21 agent in New England, grossing more than two million dollars in sales in a matter of a few months. Kim and her husband, Bob, live in Colorado with their two teenage children.