The thing you have to understand, if you plan to ask people to invest their hard-earned money in you and your business, then you owe them the respect they deserve of being a legal and well planned out business. When you respect others, others will respect you, and that’s how you maintain a successful business. Let’s dive in, shall we?!
1. Figure out your why!
What is your ultimate goal with your photography business? Is it just a way to make money? If so, you might as well not even start. Ouch, that was harsh, I know, but this business is not about making money, it’s about serving people. If you’re looking for a quick, solid and steady paycheck, then you need to go work for someone who can guarantee that. This business is full of ups and downs, sacrifices and victories, but you will never know which one will happen and at what time. So, why are you doing this? Is it so you can have more time with your family? To have the flexibility to travel more? Do you want to help people in a way that only you can?
What’s my why, you ask? I have several! I remember being a bride and not understanding a lot about the industry and having some not so great experiences with wedding vendors. I love helping my brides go through their wedding planning journey by offering a fun and stress-free experience through photography. I love being able to set my schedule and take on only a handful of clients during certain seasons to ensure they have my full attention for their journey. This also allows me to have more freedom in my personal life to travel and be with family!
2. Create a business plan.
What is your desired income? How much do you want to work? Where are you going to work and what hours? What business resources will you use (banks, business software, etc.)? This was something I failed to do in the beginning and I regret it. I know if I had started setting out a plan 10 years ago, I would be in a much different place with my business. Now, I’m not saying you have to have a 6 month, 1 year, 5 year, 10 year plan, no I don’t really believe in those. There are probably a few of you thinking I’m crazy, but I am a realist and know that life can change in the blink of an eye. I have enough of a plan and goals established to measure my growth and success in my own way. The point is, if you go into a business blindly and not knowing your numbers, your business will never have enough structure to get off the ground in a timely manner. So figure out your numbers!
3. Determine what you are going to photograph and what you will charge.
This is probably the hardest part actually! In the beginning it can be easy to just take on any and every photography job, no matter what it pays, that is offered to you. The best thing to do though, is determine your niche! What’s a niche? A business niche is a specialized or focused area of a broader market that businesses can serve to differentiate themselves from the competition. It’s also known as a specialty, or what you specialize in. For instance, our business specializes in Wedding and Senior Photography in the greater DFW area in Texas. This is what we LOVE to do!
Ok, but what if you don’t know what you love yet? I get that. When I first started, I thought I loved studio portraiture, but after doing it for a few years, I realized being outdoors and working with brides was more my jam! If you need to start out doing everything, that is totally fine. Just make sure that you can offer the same great customer service across all your areas of service. Consistency is key in word of mouth referrals, which is the best way to get clients!
Figuring out what to charge is your next step! There are several factors that go in to determining what you will charge, but the most important one is your Cost of Doing Business or CODB. You need to know how much money you need to make to not only cover all the expenses of running your business, but to pay your taxes and salary as well. Here’s a quick math problem for you. Let’s say your yearly costs for running your business (website, insurance, marketing, etc.) is $5,000. You want your take home pay to be $30,000. That brings you to a total of $35,000. Your federal taxes reduce your amount by about 30% so you will need to increase this amount by 50% to still make your desired salary. That means you will need make $52,500. Now take that number and divide it by how many sessions or wedding you want to shoot. That number is how much you will need to charge per session or wedding in order to pay for your CODB.
4. Get set up Legally and Financially.
THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING TO DO! It’s also the scariest part for most people, but becoming a legal business is actually a lot easier than you think!
Step 1. Determine how you will be financing this business and set up a business bank account to keep all your expenses and income in one place.
Step 2. Determine what your business name will be and make sure it’s not already taken or trademarked. It’s also a good idea to check if a domain is available as well as social media handles.
Step 3. Determine your business structure. Sole Proprietor, LLC, Partnership, Corporation, etc..
Step 4. Determine the potential tax responsibilities of the new business with federal, state and local tax authorities.
Step 5. Acquire any business licenses and permits. Each state, county and city has different rules about what is required of you.
For a more in-depth look at how to get legal, CLICK HERE!
5. Get your website and CRM set up.
Once you’re legal and ready to begin accepting clients, you’ll need to create an online presence to market yourself! Yes, a Facebook page is free, but what happens if Facebook decides to close its doors tomorrow? The only way to ensure your online presence survival is to buy a domain and host your own website. There are tons of free websites to get you started, but I highly recommend choosing a website builder/host that is more professional looking. This may require you to pay, but I promise investing in your online presence is worth it. More often than not, this is a potential client’s first impression of you, you want it to be good!!
And the last thing you’ll want to do before taking on clients is implement some sort of CRM, Customer Relationship Manager, into your business. A CRM will help you keep track and organize all of your clients, appointments, invoices, payments, expenses, workflows, and so much more!! When I first started out, I was just using Word documents and Excel spreadsheets. Purchasing a true CRM was a huge turning point in streamlining my business!
Want to know our favorite business programs? Click HERE to see out list of favorite programs and business that we use to help run our business!
So there you have it my friends! Your first steps towards starting your very own photography business! Make sure to leave any questions or comments below. We are always excited to help and teach anyone willing to learn! And if you’d like to receive notifications of our bi-weekly educational posts, you can sign up by clicking the button at the end of the post 🙂 Happy learning everyone!
Courtney Lynn Photography is a husband + wife wedding photography team based out of Dallas/Fort Worth and an educator for small business owners who are hustling to create their dream photography business!
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