Want to start a photography business but worried about the market influx and competitors stepping all over you?
If you are just beginning and have no experience in starting a photography business (let alone starting a business at all!) – there are smart and savvy ways you can do to succeed in this type of business.
Sure, anyone can start a business even with no experience. But before taking the plunge into entrepreneurship, it’s important to do your research and develop a business plan.
The same goes for becoming an artist. It’s not enough to simply have talent; you need to be strategic about marketing yourself and your work.
While it’s possible to achieve success without experience, it’s much easier to do so if you go into your venture with a plan in place.
Hence, in this article, I’ll go over the 3 most important things to start a photography business with no experience, followed by a step-by-step checklist on how to establish and grow your business.
Table of Contents
3 Powerful Ways to Start a Photography Business with No Experience
Now, there are 3 golden strategies we suggest you do to hook, line, and sinker in succeeding in the photography biz. These 3 powerful strategies are:
- Going beyond for clients
- Leveraging marketing
- Working smart
Want to learn them in-depth? Read on!
#1 Go Beyond for Clients
The most powerful hack in this type of business when you’re just starting out is to go beyond for clients. Okay, so I’m not saying “let your customers step all over you”, but these words mean you should communicate with them, understand what they want, work hard in getting it done, and most importantly, don’t be hesitant to offer shots or locations that they might not have considered.
At the start of your business, you should focus on the following aspects that will surely maximize your reach.
- Be a people person
- Exceptional customer service
- Collect testimonials and reviews
When you’re just starting out your business, it can be a little difficult to find clients from scratch. So, you may need to spend more time communicating with clients to make them feel heard, discuss what they want in a perfect photoshoot, and leave positive reviews for your business. Good communication fosters a sense of trust and cooperation that can make your photography business run more smoothly and get more referrals and clients fast.
1.2. Be a People Person
To be a people person, you have to enjoy being around others and know how to build relationships. That means being a good listener, being able to put yourself in other people’s shoes, and being able to compromise.
In fact, people skills will be a much more effective skill at the start of your business. You don’t need to be the most skilled photographer to get more clients.
Most often than not, clients are more interested in looking and feeling good in their photos and not in the technical skills you can bring to the table. They want a good experience. They want to materialize their vision of a good photo. They want to remember the feeling they have whenever they see that photo.
So, you should also take a few minutes to get to know them on a personal level. Small talk can help put your client at ease and make the photo session more fun.
Don’t be afraid to ask about their personal lives. The more comfortable they feel around you, the better your photos will turn out great for them.
1.3. Exceptional Customer Service
The level of customer service you offer your clients plays a big role in the success of your photography business. If you’re serious about growing your business, then you need to start focusing on your clients. What makes them tick? What gets them excited about your services?
Once you crack that code, you’ll be well on your way to a bigger and better client base – and that means more growth for your business!
So how do you go about finding out what makes your clients tick? Here are some little ways you can do so:
- Show attentiveness to their questions and plans
- Don’t miss a deadline
- Exceed their expectations
- Ask how you can better your services
1.4. Collect Testimonials & Reviews
If you’re just starting out, then it’s obvious that you won’t easily get reviews from clients other than your friends and family. So, the best way to do this is when your biz already started to pique.
This article from We, The Light Photography is a good resource on how you can ask clients in your photography business for reviews.
Now, getting reviews and testimonials from your clients wouldn’t be difficult if you already have a client base. But if you don’t, here are some ways you can gather reviews from scratch:
- Set up mini photography sessions for your family or friends, give them a discount for your services, and, in turn, ask them for reviews.
- Ask your clients for their feedback after each project.
- Make it easy for clients to leave a review or testimonial by providing clear instructions and links to your website or social media pages.
- Show your appreciation for their feedback by offering a discount on future services.
#2 Leverage Marketing
Anyone can be a photographer these days but that doesn’t mean that anyone can be a successful professional photographer. So, there’s no point in just taking great photos and doing nothing in marketing your services. If you want your photography business to succeed, you need to know how to market yourself and your work.
Here are some of the most important things you need to do to leverage your marketing efforts:
1. Be VERY ACTIVE on Social Media
2. Get listed in directories (for local business presence)
3. Create a powerful website that’s easy to navigate and with great UI/UX
4. Don’t forget SEO, else #3 will be a waste of money!
Let’s talk about these marketing channels one by one.
2.1. Social Media Marketing
Now, I’d say you can use Social Media Marketing is the most important marketing channel you want to be around. By creating a strong presence on sites like Instagram and Facebook, photographers can reach a wide audience of potential clients.
However, simply having a social media account is not enough. If you want your photography business to succeed, you need to be actively engaged with your followers, posting interesting and eye-catching content on a regular basis.
2.2. Directory Listings
The purpose of getting your business listed in many local directories is to get it ranked for the keyword “photographers near me”, or “photography business near me”.
2.3. Powerful Website
Having a strong website is also essential for attracting new clients. Make sure that your website is easy to navigate and includes plenty of high-quality images of your work that are OPTIMIZED for website speed.
This means NOT DOING THE FOLLOWING:
- Relying on plugins to optimize your photos (they come paid and it’s lazy)
Instead, use free apps like TinyPNG to optimize photos so they don’t slow down your website.
Take a look at these examples for inspiration:
Source: https://headshotsla.com/ , GD
2.4. Learn Basic SEO or Hire a Freelance SEO Specialist
Finally, don’t forget about search engine optimization (SEO). Photography SEO is so important if you want to rank high in organic searches and get more potential clients! By optimizing for the right keywords and phrases, you can make sure that your photography website comes up first when people are searching for photography services.
In addition, SEO can help you to target specific niches within the photography industry, which means that you can attract clients who are looking for exactly the type of photography that you offer.
By taking the time to learn basic SEO techniques, you can ensure that potential clients will be able to find your work online.
If you’re on a budget and don’t have time to learn new skills, you can hire a freelance SEO specialist in the Philippines to minimize your expenses. The SEO will:
- Optimize your site to rank for keywords like “photo studio in la”, “headshot photographer nyc”, etc
- Write SEO-optimized and engaging blogs for your website (How-Tos in photography) making you an industry leader in your local area. (You can even put affiliate links on your photography website to maximize your earning potential!)
- Write detailed alt descriptions for your images
- Optimize your images to pass Google’s algorithm
- Rank your business on the 1st page of Google.
- And many more.
The photography business is an incredibly crowded space and one of the best things you can do to
#3 Work Smart
If you’re serious about making a success of your photography business, you need to work smart as well as hard. That means being strategic in the way you operate, and always keeping an eye on the long-term goal.
1. Work on different kinds of photography but target a specific niche
2. Make your business legal by forming an LLC
3. Use productivity tools to do more in less time
4. Leverage your skills while the business grows to stay competitive
3.1 Work on different kinds of photography but target a specific niche
One of the smartest things you can do is focus on a specific niche, rather than trying to be a jack of all trades. By becoming known for a particular kind of photography, you’ll be able to attract the right clients and build a strong reputation. More of this later.
3.2. Make your business legal by forming an LLC
Another smart move is to make your business legal by forming an LLC. This will help to protect your personal assets if things go wrong.
3.3. Use productivity tools to do more in less time
Use productivity tools to do more in less time. Productivity tools to help you stay organized and efficient. There are numerous apps and software programs available that can help you automate tasks and stay organized.
Here are some free productivity tools for your photography business to help you stay organized:
- Notion – for keeping your business organized
- Canva – for seamlessly making and designing engaging social media posts
- Pixieset – for easily and safely delivering shots and packages to clients
- FreshBooks – for sending invoices to clients and seamlessly doing accounting reports (paid subscription of $7.5 a month)
3.4. Leverage your skills while the business grows to stay competitive
As your business grows, you’ll need to continue to leverage your photography skills to scale your business and stay competitive.
How to Start a Photography Business Step by Step
Now that you know the 3 most essential things to start a photography business with no experience at all, we go through the step-by-step process you can follow to establish your photography business.
1. Find Your Niche as a Photographer
Choosing a niche as a photographer is important to building a solid customer base. While you can start off by offering services for different niches, you can focus more on one genre. Develop a strong understanding of the specific needs and preferences of its target audience making it easier to produce images that will appeal to potential clients.
It also allows photographers to build a reputation as an expert in their chosen field, which can make it easier to attract new business.
Examples of Niches
- Portrait Photography
- Food Photography
- Landscape Photography
- Headshot Photography
- Sports Photography
- Wildlife Photography
- Street Photography
2. Create a Business Plan
A photography business plan is an essential tool for any photography business. It lays out your goals, strategies, and financial projections, and provides a roadmap for your business. Without a business plan, it would be difficult to set realistic goals, track your progress, or attract investors.
A well-crafted business plan will also force you to think carefully about your target market, pricing strategy, and marketing efforts.
In short, a business plan is essential for any photographer who wants to turn their passion into a successful business. So what goes into a good business plan? Here are a few key components:
- Executive summary: This is a brief overview of your photography business, including your mission statement and core values.
- Market analysis: This section should describe your target market and explain why they need your services.
- Competitive analysis: In this section, you’ll need to research your competition and explain how you’ll differentiate yourself from them.
- Marketing strategy: How will you reach your target market? What marketing channels will you use? What message will you convey?
- Financial projections: How much money do you expect to make? How much will you spend on expenses? When will you become profitable?
3. Form an LLC
When it comes to running a photography business, there are many things to consider. One of the most important decisions is what legal structure to choose for your business.
LLCs are becoming increasingly popular for small businesses, and there are many good reasons why.
First of all, LLCs offer personal liability protection, meaning that your personal money is protected in the event that your business is sued. This is important because lawsuits can be very costly, and can put your personal finances at risk.
Additionally, LLCs can help to improve your business’s credibility. When customers see that your business is an LLC, they may perceive it as being more professional and established, which can boost sales.
Finally, LLCs may also offer tax advantages. For example, LLCs can often be taxed as pass-through entities, meaning that the business’s profits are only taxed once at the individual level. Overall, there are many good reasons to form an LLC for your photography business.
4. Business Bank Account
As a smart photography business owner, you know that in order to be successful, you need to keep track of your finances. This is where a business bank account comes in handy.
A business bank account will help you keep track of your expenses, income, and profits so that you can make informed decisions about your business.
Additionally, a business bank account can provide you with valuable insights into your spending habits so that you can cut down on unnecessary expenses. Having a dedicated business bank account is an essential part of running a successful photography business.
How do you price your photography?
Pricing your photography can be tricky – you want to make sure you’re making enough money to cover your time and expenses, but you don’t want to price yourself out of the market.
A good place to start is by considering your time and expenses.
- How long did it take you to shoot the photos?
- How much did you spend on equipment and editing?
Once you have a rough estimate of your costs, you can start to price your photography.
Here’s a graphic presentation on how you should price your photography service.
Let’s take it down one by one:
1. Cost of Materials
a. Photography Equipment
- Photography equipment costs are usually in the following costs:
- Camera: $300 to $1,500
- Lens: $1,000
- Memory cards: $50
- Tripod: $15 to $1,500
- Lighting: $150 to $300
- Reflectors: $20 to $30
- Backdrop: $50 to $50 ($1500 – $5000 for custom)
- Editing software: $20.99 per month (Photoshop)
- External drives: $100
- So, a photography studio at home can cost: ~$1,000 to ~$8,000
b. Other Startup Costs
- Website Cost:
- Hosting: $180 to $500 per year
- SEO Services: $500 to $800 per month
- Editing software: $20.99 per month (Photoshop)
- Accounting software: $10 to $30 per month for basic plans
- Business Registration and LLC Filing Fees: $250 to $800 (depending on the state)
2. Labor Cost
Any photographer will tell you that a big part of running a successful business is knowing your costs – and that includes your labor costs. The first step is to be realistic about how long it takes you to complete each stage of the process, from initial contact with the client to delivery of the final images.
Pre-production typically includes activities like consultation, research, and equipment preparation, while post-production involves tasks like editing, captioning, and file management.
The labor cost also includes the costs of any assistants or other staff members who may be required to help with the shoot.
To estimate your labor cost, be guided by the following questions:
- How long does it take to deliver the photos?
- How much time do you take to answer emails?
- How long did it take you to do pre-production and post-production work?
- Did you hire an assistant? How much are you willing to pay the assistant for each job or for an hourly basis?
3. Overhead Cost
Operating a photography business can be costly, but by understanding your overhead costs, you can better control your expenses. Overhead costs are those necessary expenses that are not directly related to generating revenue. They include things like rent, utilities, insurance, and office supplies. This also includes everything from the cost of your camera and lenses to the price of renting studio space.
To calculate your overhead cost, simply add up all of your non-revenue expenses and divide by the number of revenue-generating hours you work in a month.
For example, if your monthly overhead expenses total $2,000 and you work 80 revenue-generating hours in a month, your overhead cost would be $25 per hour. By understanding your overhead costs, you can price your services accordingly and make sure that your business is profitable.
How to lower overhead expenses:
Fortunately, there are a number of ways to keep your overhead costs low. One option is to start by working out of your home. This can be a great way to save on rent and other expenses.
Another option is to look for used equipment. You may be able to find some great deals on sites like eBay or Craigslist.
Finally, don’t forget to factor in the cost of marketing and advertising. A well-placed ad can go a long way towards getting your business off the ground.
Pricing your clients
A general rule of thumb is to charge $100 per hour of shooting, plus the cost of prints and edited digital files. However, there are a few other factors to consider when setting your price.
Aside from the general formula discussed above, you should also consider the market you’re targeting – are you selling to individual consumers or businesses?
6. Market to Get Clients
- Flawless online portfolio/website
- Instagram, Tiktok, and other social media channels
- Start a photography blog
- Offer group discounts
7. Automate Your Photo Delivery Service
As a professional photographer, one of your biggest challenges is delivering photos to clients in a timely and efficient manner. Traditionally, this has meant printing and mailing physical copies of each photo, which can be time-consuming and expensive.
However, there are now a number of online apps that can help you automate your photo delivery service. With just a few clicks, you can upload photos to an online gallery, send them directly to your clients, or even create a custom slideshow. These apps are easy to use and can save you a lot of time and money. Here are some examples:
8. Enhance Your Photography Skills
Amateur photographers often find themselves up against professional photography services when trying to sell their photos. However, there are a few things that amateurs can do to increase their chances of success.
It is important to learn as much as possible about photography and to practice regularly. You should take the time to create a strong portfolio that showcases your skills and talents. Refine your creative shots and artistic skills by practicing, taking lots of photos, watching youtube videos, or looking for online courses that can help you upgrade your photography skills.
Enhance your technical skills by trying out other gears and keeping yourself updated with the latest tech trends in photography.
Lastly, don’t forget to upgrade your marketing skills by learning social media marketing and how to market your services more efficiently to your customers.
9. Upgrade Your Photography Equipment
When it comes to photography, one of the most important pieces of equipment is the lens. A good lens can make all the difference in terms of image quality, and it can open up new creative possibilities.
Of course, lenses can also be quite expensive, especially if you’re just starting out. If you’re on a budget, one option is to buy used lenses in good condition. You can often find great deals on sites like Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist, and camera stores like Camera World usually have a selection of used lenses as well. So if you’re looking to save some money on your gear, buying used is definitely worth considering.
Hoping this guide has helped encourage you to start a photography business even with no prior experience.
Starting a business is a huge undertaking, and one of the most important decisions you’ll make is choosing the right equipment. The wrong choice can lead to decreased productivity, increased costs, and even safety hazards.
That’s where Startup Machinery comes in.
We’re a team of driven, passionate, and successful engineers and entrepreneurs who are dedicated to helping others along their journey of building their own businesses.
With our extensive review of products from manufacturers and field experience, you’ll be able to choose the right machinery or equipment for your business, so you can focus on what’s important: making your dream a reality.
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