In the last week I have been working with a photographer who is considering turning his hobby into a business. He has had positive feedback on the work he has done to date – which has focused on family portraits. He has also shot 2 weddings this year. As I have helped him, we have worked through issues ranging from the quality of his work to the challenges of a variable income. He is not the first photographer to grapple with doubts about launching a business. In my experience, most don’t know what they are getting themselves into. I have put together this starter list of questions if you are considering turning your hobby into an income. Here they are – 6 questions to ask yourself before launching a photography business.
Question 1 – Am I Passionate About Running a Small Business?
All of the photographers I have spoken to about turning their hobby into an income have been planning to start a small business. In the same way that I run Craig Dingle Photography Pty Ltd, they are considering establishing and running a small business. For photographers reading this – I am assuming you are passionate about photography and image making. The key question to ask yourself is – am I also passionate about running a small business? Will I welcome the challenges which come with small business? Generating new clients? Following up people who haven’t paid their bill? Doing book keeping and taxes? When times are tough, will I welcome the challenge and find a way forward?
I have deliberately put this question first. It is a very important question to ask yourself. Are you up for the challenges that come with running a small business?
Question 2 – How Will I Handle the Challenges of a Variable Income?
I don’t know any photographers who have a steady income every week. They must be out there, but I don’t personally know any. Where I live there is always more business around in spring and summer than there is in autumn and winter. Whether that is family portraits, weddings, real estate photography, or other work – there is not a steady supply of business all year round. Even in stock photography, the income slows down very predictably every northern hemisphere summer.
A variable or seasonal income is very different than working for a corporate and receiving the same pay check every week or month. Have you considered this? How will you handle the lean weeks? Months? Seasons? Will you shoot some business events when the wedding season slows down? How will you find this business? Are you prepared to shoot jobs, which might not be your favorite type of work, to make ends meet in the lean months?
Question 3 – How Will I Generate New Clients?
This question is key. If you plan to add your work to your facebook page and think that will generate new clients for you, I suggest its time to pause. How much business has your facebook page generated to date? In most cases, the answer is not much. You are going to need a solid plan for generating clients if you want to make a fair income from your photography. Are you going to advertise online, in your local school newsletter, by tapping your range of contacts, attending bridal shows? A solid plan around how you will generate clients will vary depending on what type of work you want to do – but having a good plan is key. New clients are unlikely to start calling you out of the blue just because you have set up a business. You will need a plan to generate new clients.
Question 4 – What Unique Offer Will I Be Bringing to the Market?
There are lots of photographers out there, and the number is growing every day. What is the unique thing you will bring to the market? Why will clients choose you? What sets you apart? If you have 2 minutes to talk to a potential client – what are the key points you want to make? This is a challenging and important question. It takes time to work through this one, and a strong answer can help you with understanding how to generate new clients. Is it the the experience you will give your client on the day? Is it your unique product offering? Is it your one of a kind shooting style? Are you a specialist in a niche? What else? If your answer is ‘my friends and family say my images are great’ or ‘I’m told I have a great eye’ these are danger signs. You need to know specifically what it is that you will be bringing to market, and why a client should choose you.
Question 5 – Is My Work Good Enough?
This is a perennial question for photographers! The more clients you work with, the more your confidence will build over time. When you are starting out, a slightly different question can sometimes help. If you have been asked by a friend to shoot their wedding – consider asking ‘Am I confident enough that I can charge $X?’. Often a first time wedding shooter will not be confident and will feel anxious about shooting their first wedding. If that’s the case, discuss that with the client and perhaps shoot with no charge. A client will appreciate your honesty and forgive some rookie errors if you have been frank with them. They are unlikely to be happy if you try to maximize your income from this wedding and then miss key shots. Think about building a foundation for your business. You want happy clients, and you want them to refer you. Make building a strong foundation your business focus when you are starting.
Question 6 – Am I Prepared to Learn?
Regardless of your answers to the first 5 questions, if you are prepared to learn you can make it. If you are prepared to learn – mistakes are progress not problems. Every mistake will make you better. Every positive experience will give you a new learning about what works. If you don’t know how to run a small business but are prepared to learn, you can build your skills and business over time. There are thousands of photographers out there – and that number is growing. Don’t be overwhelmed. If there is space for those photographers, there is space for you too. If you are prepared to learn you can make it.
I am passionate about photography and the business of photography. If you have found this post useful, you may like these recent posts:
- Succeed in Photography Business
- Part Time Paradigm
- Starting in Stock Photography
- Simple Stock Concepts
- Preparing for Wedding Photography Success
Thanks for reading 6 questions to ask yourself before launching a photography business. What has your experience been? Are you considering turning your hobby into a business? Do you have additional questions? Please add your comments or questions to this post. If you’d like some help privately, please email me on firstname.lastname@example.org