Starting a photography business is so much fun, but it is also a lot of work.
There are so many things to do, think about, and prepare for during the very first year and I often receive questions from aspiring photographers asking about tips for starting a business.
Having just celebrated my first year in business, I am looking back over the last 365 days and thinking about what things really helped my business grow and what decisions I made that helped me to grow as a photographer. While there is a lot of time spent clicking behind the camera, there is also a lot of time spent behind the scenes to start a business.
I am happy to share the top ten things that I did during my first 365 days in business that might help you too! So grab your notepad, pencil, and a cup of something warm!
1. Join Clickin Moms.
Joining Clickin Moms as a brand new photographer helped me in countless ways. Being surrounded by a community of amazing photographers who are all passionate about photography really helped encourage me when I was going into business, and while growing my business during my first year. Have a question about photography, interacting with clients, or business questions? There are answers to just about anything and everything on the Clickin Moms forum. I learned so many great tips and tricks through the forum, while also meeting a lot of amazing new friends! Plus, the Click magazine is simply outstanding and I squeal when the mailman delivers it!
2. Visit your local small business center.
Every city and state has different guidelines for small businesses, and visiting the small business center in my town really helped me learn what would be expected of both my business and me. I learned about what types of taxes my business would have to pay and when they would be due. The small business center also encouraged me to write a business plan for my business, and then they sat down and reviewed my plan with me, line by line. To be honest, I kicked and screamed during the whole process of writing my business plan. But, in the end, writing my plan really helped me to determine what the goals of my business were and how I was going to achieve them. As I was writing my plan, it also encouraged me to think about things that I hadn’t considered yet. No matter the size of your business, a business plan is definitely a great way to start.
3. Insure your business.
Just like anything you love, you have to protect it. It is very important that your business be insured for liability and your equipment is protected. Having my business insured reduced a lot of the “what-ifs.” What if I drop my camera? What if a client falls during my session? I just stopped by our local insurance company and they signed my business up for an insurance package that is just for photographers! Easy peasy! And a little peace of mind!
4. Portfolio build with a variety of clients.
We all know that the fall season is our busiest time of year. Even knowing that, I decided to go into business during the fall because I knew I would be given a lot of opportunity to work with different types of families in a variety of settings. Working with a lot of families while portfolio building really helped me to grow because I was practicing and preparing for a variety of personalities and situations. Every session is unique because people are unique. The variety really helped me to develop my skill of posing and client interaction. It’s all about practice, practice, practice! And fall season provides a lot of opportunities to practice! It should also be noted that I was priced appropriately for portfolio building during my first 3 months of business until I was confident enough in my capabilities to consistently deliver a product I was proud of.
5. Always have a plan as you go into a session.
During my first year in business, I always did a lot of research before each session. For example, if I was doing an engagement session, I would research tips for posing couples and I would outline what poses I wanted to achieve during the session. I was really nervous before each session, and preparing really helped my confidence on the day of the session. I created and kept posing ideas in my photography bag, just in case I needed a little help during the session. Let’s be honest, sometimes your nerves set in and you just draw a blank! By always having ideas handy, I felt so much better. And to be honest, I very rarely pulled out my idea cheat sheet during a session. But, just the thought of knowing I had a back up plan handy, really gave me some peace of mind. It’s okay to write down some ideas and take them with you! Now that I have worked with a lot of families, I am really confident during my sessions and can pose families quickly.
6. Keep everything organized.
Spreadsheet, spreadsheet, spreadsheet! As you become a new business owner, make organization your best friend! I made a very good habit of staying extremely organized from the very first day I went into business. To this day, I have a receipt for everything, even the parking receipts that I paid to park at a session location. I track my cash flow on a daily basis, input my expenses on a spreadsheet, and I have a file folder for everything from client contracts to equipment purchases. This may sound a little strict, but it makes tax season effortless. Once I receive payment for a session, I immediately input it into my spreadsheet. I keep everything updated as soon as it happens and never wait until the end of the month to input my income and expenses. This has made paying taxes one of the easiest parts of owning my business. Build this habit now! If I give you one piece of advice, stay organized. And stay organized every day. You will thank yourself for it later.
7. Consistently update your website.
I always want my website to show my best and most recent work. And naturally during the first year of business, my photography and my style kept getting better and better as both my camera skill and editing style improved. I made a good habit of posting sessions immediately after I finished editing them and received payment so my website was always up to date. And just like your work is always getting better, so is your pricing. I am always updating my pricing, based on the quality of my work and my session experiences. By experiences I mean, during your first year you will realize that some sessions will take longer than others. If I notice that certain sessions require more time, I update my pricing accordingly. I should also mention that I don’t wait to update my pricing until the beginning of the year or fall season. Sometimes I just update my pricing on a random Tuesday!
8. Work even harder during the off-season.
January, for me, is very quiet when it comes to booking sessions. Everyone already has their Christmas cards sent out and families are resting after the holidays. So January is all about research and training. Whether it is becoming better at navigating editing software or working on my composition, I make sure that I am taking advantage of the quiet month by bettering myself as a photographer. Last year, I spent the month of January training in Lightroom and Photoshop. And by the end of the month, I was even better for it. So try to take advantage of those slow times to perfect a skill!
9. Don’t compare your photography to others.
It’s not fair to always compare your photography to the photography of others. First of all, many photographers have spent years perfecting their skills and you are still just starting out! Instead of comparing your photography to others, compare it to where you have been. Watch your growth and compare yourself to yourself! I love looking up old sessions from my first month in business. While, at the time, my photography was really good for where I was at with my skill, it is fun to see how much I have grown since then. It makes me laugh and cringe sometimes, but it also makes me really proud of myself. Take the time to pat yourself on the back and celebrate your growth! Everyone is on his or her own journey with photography, so don’t compare yourself to others. Be fair to yourself!
10. Complete a Project 365
I have said it before, and I will say it again. Doing a Project 365 is the best decision I made as a photographer. It is definitely a commitment to take one photo every single day for one year, but you will grow in ways you can’t even imagine. Picking up a camera, whether it’s my DSLR or iPhone, every single day has helped my photography grow in ways I would have never thought. When I look back on the first photo I took on January 1st and compare it to photos that I took towards the end of the year, I get giddy when I notice my progress. It’s all about practice, practice, practice! Not only did the project help me develop my skill, but it also helped me perfect my style as a photographer. I recommend that every photographer, professional or aspiring, complete a Project 365.
And there you have it! By keeping yourself organized, encouraging yourself to practice your skill, and taking the time to always train, your first year in business will be rewarding, memorable, and full of growth. Remember to be patient with yourself and your business! And don’t forget to have fun and to always remember why you love photography. It’s your business and your journey, so have fun with it!