So you want to be a photographer? That’s awesome! Now here’s the real scoop.
Photographer Business Start-Up
I get it now. I understand the resistance and lack of excitement I encountered when I told other professional photographers I wanted to be a photographer. When I was giddy and excited to embark upon a new chapter in my life, they were not amused.
“After all, everyone says I’m a good photographer! So it only makes sense I turn my raw talent into a business.” – Right?
How cute and naive I was. I get it now, the unimpressed look I got from seasoned professionals. Why did they react that way? You would like to think it was because they feel threatened by the competition. Well, they don’t. They just know a lot more than you and I did when we started. They knew I was a dime a dozen and wet behind the ears. Here’s what they know and you need to consider:
Ninety Percent of All Start Ups Fail
Why? There’s so many reasons, but a huge one is that being a good photographer does not make you a good business person. Cold statistics like these are not intended to discourage entrepreneurs, but to encourage them to work smarter and harder. Entrepreneur Magazine said it best, “Things are far more organic in a startup, meaning that roles and responsibilities will overlap. Small things can turn into large things. Some of the most important components of a startup are those pesky issues of business process, business model, and scalability.”
There are so many details that go into starting a photography business, more than you can even image. Just to name a few: taxes, equipment insurance, liability insurance, website hosting, marketing, domain registration, software like Lightroom and Photoshop, reading your manual to your camera (no really, read it – you would be surprised how many people want to be professional photographers and don’t know what the buttons on that $3,000 camera can do). Being a professional photographer is so much more than your friends telling you that you take great photos.
Write a solid business plan after you learn how to use your camera properly, then learn posing, lighting and, last but not least…
Get a Professional Opinion
Speaking of that great photography talent all of your friends and family fawn over; have you showed your work to a professional photographer and paid for a critique? The reaction is very different. Very. Would you tell your kid coming home from school that their art sucks? Nope, you wouldn’t. This is why photography is a little different.
Unlike spreadsheets which either add up or don’t, or the plumber who unplugged your toilet or didn’t, with photography, it is not always clear if you completed your job. It is entirely subjective, but involves some important objectivity. What a seasoned professional photographer sees and what your friends and family see are two different things. This is why there are many websites that make money just posting bad photography they find online that ‘professional photographers’ post.
Many people start a photography business without trying to find a seasoned professional to find areas they need to improve. This is a mistake. Just to get you started, Josh, a self taught photographer from England, asks 10 great questions you should ask about your own photography. Finding a professional to critique your work is an important step in being a better photographer and business person.
Another pesky business detail is getting seen. You could be the very best photographer in the world and nobody knows if nobody knows. Do you have a good solid marketing plan? Do you have a way to set yourself apart from other photographers who work for free? Are you familiar with SEO? Are you aware of how to leverage social media to your benefit? Are you familiar with content marketing? Email marketing? Are you prepared to learn? If not, are you fluid enough to pay someone who is familiar to ensure business success?
Your Competition Works for FREE
Did you know you are competing against people who do your job for free? Yes, you heard me right! This is a rare industry that competes against stay at home moms who are ‘photographers’ and who work for free. Why would anyone pay you when they have her down the street? These days Mom with a Camera is a four letter word in the industry (P.S.: I am one- and proud). Thinking about the hard work and time it is going to take to compete against others who may be better and do it for free puts a whole new kind of hustle to the industry. Are you ready for that?
Speaking of TIME
So many people want to do photography because they have this idea that photography is really flexible and you can take as many days off as you want. That’s not quite how it works. It really depends on how successful you want to be.
Most, if not all business owners, will tell you that there are no days off. Thanksgiving day I was corresponding with clients. I will be editing while on vacation this Christmas, and planned my flight home on December 26th because I have two clients scheduled right after I get off the plane. There are no days off. There are no sick days. There is no retirement. No bonus. No perks.
Today I get it. Today I know why other professional photographers were unphased by my excitement to be a photographer. Not many last in this industry, though many have tried. If you are just starting out, I welcome you to the fold and am excited for your exuberance about this new chapter in your life. Dot your i’s and cross your t’s, and you will do great things.
Now go get em’ tiger!
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