Seven Traits of People Running Successful Photography Businesses

This week I took part in an interesting discussion between photographers in a Facebook group. The discussion started with one photographer asking if others thought it was a good idea to do her own personal and business tax returns. (For readers not based in Australia, the tax year here ends in June and people begin submitting tax returns as early as July).

It is very hard to answer her question without knowing her circumstances. She may be a qualified tax accountant and it might be worthwhile doing her own taxes. That scenario is unlikely and my advice was that it is best to have a specialist do your taxes. That’s what I do for both my personal and business tax returns. I find it is worth the peace of mind knowing that my tax returns have been done properly. It also means that I get all of the deductions available to me as a small business owner. But most importantly, using an expert to do my tax returns leaves me more time to look after my clients.

Tax time

Taxes are one example of business tasks better left to a specialist.

The photographer in the Facebook group had just completed her first year in business as a photographer. Her comments reminded me that it is very common when we are starting out to try and do everything ourselves. We may not have the business cash flow to be able to pay for a range of services, or we just figure that because we have the time, we will do things ourselves to save money. Some might think that is a valid approach, but all of the people I know who are running successful photography businesses take a different approach. That lead me to consider the traits I see in people running successful small photography businesses. Here they are, seven traits of people running successful photography businesses.

The photographers I know who are running successful photography businesses have these things in common. They:

(1) Get help with business activities they are not expert in – that includes but isn’t limited to doing taxes, editing images, printing, preparing contracts, framing prints, delivering products to their clients. The list goes on. Where they are not expert, or where they can’t add value, they get an expert to help.

(2) Understand the value of their time. This is where being a good business person really shows. They may be able to do their own taxes, but they know it will take them 3 weeks where an expert can do it in one week. Why would they want 3 weeks of their year tied up doing taxes? They know it is not a good use of their time to be tied up doing this type of task.

(3) Build relationships with clients. This is the one element of their businesses that they won’t leave to someone else. They know that the connection they make with their client is critical to the ongoing success of their business. All other things get set aside to make time for their current clients, and for finding new clients.

(4) Build their own skills. The people I know who are running successful photography businesses keep adding to their core skill set. They invest in learning new post processing techniques, or learning how to better market their business, or learning how to shoot expertly with a new piece of equipment. They don’t get distracted with trying to do their own taxes. They build their skills so that they can better serve their clients.

(5) Network with other successful photographers. People running successful photography businesses take time to build relationships with others doing the same. They discuss the business as well as the art. They share ideas and learn from each other.

(6) Take time off. Yes, people running successful photography businesses know that they need to take time off. They need to get away and relax. They put the dates in the diary at the beginning of the year. They are deliberate about taking a break and recharging the batteries. Is that what you do? Or do you have a break when you don’t have any clients?

(7) Don’t give up. Small businesses, like people, go through good times and bad times. The people I know who are running successful photography businesses understand this. In the good times, they don’t get carried away with their own success. They view it as an outcome of the work they have put in. And equally with bad times, they know that tough times will pass. They keep focused on their clients and the quality of their work, knowing that short term down times will not effect their long term success.


Successful small businesses owners understand the importance of time off to recharge their batteries

If you are starting out or looking to refocus your photography business, challenge yourself on each of the points above. Are you doing tasks which would be better done by an expert? Have your skills grown in the last year?  Are you putting enough time into finding or looking after clients? Are you getting distracted by trying to do everything yourself? How well are you doing on the seven traits of people running successful photography businesses?

Thanks for reading the seven traits of people running successful photography businesses. Have you seen other traits that set people apart? Please leave a comment and share your experience.

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