This article is written by Cindy Bracken, owner of Shuttermom. She is a well respected business person who teaches others how to start up their own businesses.
So you take great images. Everyone tells you that you should quit your day job and start your own photography business. You agree. You dream every night about quitting your “day job.” You want to fire your boss. You want to make your dream a reality…but where to start? Obviously, to make a living out of your passion you are going to need more than technical skill. You are going to have to learn a little something (okay, maybe a lot) about business!
The first thing to consider is the type of photography business you are going to pursue. Maybe you see yourself as a portrait photography artist. Perhaps you enjoy doing event photography such as weddings. It could be that you are only interested in shooting stock photography and selling it to publications. I would recommend focusing on one main area to start. Strive to become the best you can be in one area and then branch out if you so desire.
Once you are certain of the area of photography you will focus on, you will need to sit down and write a photography business plan. If the task seems too daunting, there are numerous software programs that can help you, or you may even want to hire someone to write it for you. Your photography business plan will serve as blueprint for your business, help you set goals, test the waters, create marketing plans, assess financial requirements and even get funding.
Your next step is to legally establish your photography business. Your state and county will have specific laws, rules, and regulations regarding your particular business. The best thing to do is to contact your county clerk’s office and ask them what steps you need to take for establishing a home-based photography business. You should also check into the zoning laws and restrictions in your region.
Next on the list? Open a photography business account at your bank. For tax purposes you should definitely keep your personal and business finances separate. Same goes for credit cards. Remember to keep a record of all your expenses!
Now for the fun part! Time to shop! My advice would be to just start with the basics. What you need depends on the type of photography business you will be doing. Be sure to purchase some back up equipment as well, because if something breaks you don’t want to be without any options. As you make more money with your photography business, you can upgrade and add to your equipment, so don’t feel like you need to “have it all” to start out. Don’t forget about office supplies, a good computer, printer, business cards and other marketing materials, etc.
Now for the not-so-fun-but-necessary part. Insurance. Get some. You’ll be glad you did! You’ll need liability (in case somebody gets hurt) as well as protection on all that fabulous equipment you just bought! Oh yes – and if you DID quit that old day-job, you should look into health insurance, too (unless you are lucky and are covered by your spouse who still has to drag him/herself to work every day!).
Next you will want to research and start relationships with the vendors you will need. Labs, album suppliers, frame supplies, etc. If you aren’t sure where to start, pick up a photography magazine from the local newsstand. You will find MANY advertisements for vendors. Try them out – many will even send you free samples.
Finally, get a good portfolio and samples together. Oh – and don’t forget about your photography business website! People just expect it these days.
Whatever you do, don’t become discouraged. This sounds like a lot of work – and it is, but won’t it be worth it when you turn in that letter of resignation at your day job?