How to Start a Photography Business in 5 Simple Steps

Updated: Jun 4, 2020

When you brought that camera to take pics of your kiddos growing up and your family vacations, you never thought that you would one day be sitting here contemplating quitting your job to be a photographer… Yet here you are.


But you have a million and one things running through your head… Am I good enough… Can I replace my income with photography… I don’t have any business training…


The list goes on and on… But I’m here to tell you…


TAKE THE LEAP! Dive into it boo!


Starting any business can be daunting… but it's worth it!


I started my photography career as a single mother of a 1 year old. Yes there have been some hills and some valleys but the journey has been life changing.


The best part is… you are not alone.


I am here to help you take that burning passion and build it into a thriving business.


These 5 steps will take you from hobbyist to business owner in no time.

So let’s get started.


NAME IT! CLAIM IT!

Step 1: Choose your name

What is the world going to call you?

This might seem like an easy step but don’t rush through this.

The name of your business should reflect your goals.

For example: My photography studio is called Lyn Parker Photography. I use my own name because I have a boutique business model. I knew early on that I wanted to work with a smaller number of high paying clients vs a larger number of lower paying clients. I also knew that I wanted to be the one out there shooting and didn’t plan to hire other photographers and I knew that I didn’t have any intentions on selling my studio.

If you think you may want to hire 2nd or 3rd photographers, want to be more of a high volume photographer, or may sell the studio in the future, you may want to consider a studio name that is not your own.

This is the way the world will see you and your business so take some time to really think it through.

*ProTip: Google the name you want, you need to make sure it isn’t already taken.

Step 2: Register your name

Making sure the name you choose is available and doesn’t infringe on any copyright issues is very important. It also protects you from anyone else using your name that does the same kind of work as you… This is especially important if you aren’t using your own name. You don’t want to get caught up in any legal problems with anyone… Like Queen Bee.

Step 3: Seize your digital real estate

Seize may be a little dramatic ; )... but you do need to purchase your digital real estate. That is your domain, a professional email address, and staking claim to your social media handles.

Social media handles may be a little tricky - I mean there’s only 2.95 billion people on there.. But try to get the same handle for all platforms… It will increase brand awareness in the future and make it easier for your potential clients to remember you.


NOTE: I have a tip down the line about domains and professional emails, so you can hold off if you would like to.

GET OFFICIAL


Step 1: Apply for an EIN number

This is free and it is done through the IRS. This will start to separate you from your business. It will limit your need to share your personal social security number, lower your risk of identity theft, help with opening a business account and getting a business loan, and more.

Step 2: Decide on your business structure

There are many many schools of thoughts in these areas, but in my opinion… sole proprietor or LLC is perfect for a photography business.

A sole proprietor is the easiest to set up and requires the least amount of work, but you virtually have no legal protection when it comes to separating your personal from your business.

LLC, limited liability company, is just that. It will, for the most part, you have limited liability. It protects your personal assets if anything goes array in your business.

There are many legal and tax pros and cons to each structure - and I have not listed all the structures here - and I am not a tax professional or a legal advisor. I would advise reaching out to a tax professional for more help on choosing a structure and check out this SBA article.

Step 3: Get your business license

Many states actually require you to register your business, which is different from registering your business name and it makes your business a legal entity.

So just do it!

TOOLS OF THE TRADE

Step 1: Sign up for a payment management service

We are going professional… so it's time to do away with CashApp! (sorry, not sorry).

Remember, we are going from hobbyist to business owner, so we are going to get you set up like a business.

Stripe is one of the payment options for small business owners right now, alongside Square. I prefer Stripe because it links perfectly with the next software I am about to tell you about and you won’t need to take payments on location… which you shouldn’t be doing anyways.

Both Stripe and Square are free services.

Step 2: Sign up for your studio management system

This is a game changer for helping your photography business run smoother. It helps you keep everything organized. From your clients to your taxes.

I personally use and recommend Dubsado. But there are endless amounts of options out there. I went with Dubsado because I feel it is the most versatile and I love their straight forward pricing. Each software has a learning curve and pros and cons.

For the easy way out… Trust me and use Dubsado.

Dubsado is a flat rate of $35/monthly or $350/annually.

Step 3: Sign up for tracking software

As a new photographer, you will probably be doing a lot of driving so you will need to track your mileage for taxes. You are a business owner now, so you also need to track your profits and expenses for taxes.

Your one stop shop is Quickbooks Self Employed.

Now before you break out into hives… QSE is super user-friendly and it is not like the original version of Quickbooks at all. You will simply link your bank accounts and “reconcile” your accounts daily or weekly.

Reconcile? What are you talking about, woman?

Simply going into your QSE account and marking if a transaction is business, personal, or split.

You will also need to mark your mileage trips as personal or business.

Quickbooks Self Employed starts at only $1/month.

ProTip: I highly recommend doing this daily. It gets REAL confusing when you are trying to sort through 99+ trips at the end of the month.

Step 4: Setup professional printing

This is last but certainly not least…

It is time to do away with Costco prints and start printing from a professional print lab. This is your work. This is the only tangible thing your clients will be taking home… Oh yes, we will be shifting you alway from the digital file madness too.

I will save my “You Need to Be Selling Prints” rant for another day. For now I will just say you need to be selling wall prints, you don’t take a picture of your new purse and put it in the closet and only share it on social media. You wear it out. You show it off. Your clients should be showing off your work.

For print labs I use both White House Custom Color and ProDPI.

You truly can’t go wrong with either option.

CONNECT WITH YOUR CLIENTS


Step 1: Create your Why Statement

This is the step that will set you apart. Getting to know your what and why statement.

You clients need to know what makes coming to you different from everyone else… PS: it will probably be YOU.

Yes, you! In a world where everyone is a photographer it is hard to differentiate yourself with “an experience”. This is about your personality. It's about your brand... And I'm not talking your brand design... the logo and colors... I'm talking about the emotional connection you make with your clients.


This of Apple users. There is a love from the brand. Not the apple... Not the sliver color. But people love what Apple represent. Innovation. Modernness. Cutting Edge.

So you need to create your WHY Statement. This is your vision. It is a statement of what your believe about the world.


Your clients need to know why you do what you do. They need to know what drives you.


When I got clear on my WHY Statement… doors opened like never before. People wanted to get behind me because I stand for more than pretty pictures.

So ask yourself:

  • What do I believe to me true?

  • Why do I do what I do?

  • What impact do I want to make?


Keep massaging it until it expresses your desires.


Remember: this is your vision, so it will be aspirational.


Your final statement should answer: Why do you do what you do?


Step 2: Create your Client Experience Plan

You need a plan, a course of action, that you take each and every one of your clients through. Think about McDonalds vs Chick-Fil-A.

At McDs, you never know what you are going to get. Will my fries be hot today? Will they put mayo on this burger even though I asked them not to. Will the workers have a good attitude today?

At Chick-Fil-A, you know what you are getting each time. You know you will be greeted warmly. You know your order will be hot. You know your order will be correct.

It’s because Chick-Fil-A has an experience plan. They know how they want their customers to feel and they have a plan to make sure it happens each and every time they visit.

So it’s time to create your Client Experience Plan. If you need assistance, join the 5 day to launch your photography business challenge.

Step 3 : Create your pricing guide


There is a lot of learning that goes into creating a good pricing guide and I will make a blog post on this in the future, but for now I recommend you either download my beginner’s price guide and run with it or you can create your own. I highly recommend choosing products that will speak to your ideal client and marking them up 3-5xs your cost.

Step 4 : Create your portfolio

If you are already out shooting, then it’s time to create your portfolio.

NOTE: If you are not, it’s totally fine. You are just getting started so don’t throw in the towel babe.

Choose your best 8-10 images and create your online portfolio. This is where you would purchase your domain and professional email if you held out in section one.

I HIGHLY recommend Wix.com.

Again, there is a lot of difference in opinion on this but as a new photographer you don’t need a custom site. You need a site that you can manage on your own. That's easy to get set up and easy to change when you need to. To me Wix checks off all those boxes.

You can purchase your website, domain, and professional email all through Wix. Talk about easy peasy.

You can download a free template here.

If you need help choosing your top images send me an email. I will be happy to help.

CONGRATS! YOU HAVE A NEW BABY… NOW WATCH IT GROW

Step 1: Create your Business Growth Plan

Your new baby is here but you have to know how to nurture it so it can grow strong and healthy.

So let’s create your Business Growth Plan.

It’s actually really simple.

First, determine how much income you want to make in a month's time. You can start out low and work your way up or you can go for the gusto.

Example: I want to make an extra $2500 a month.

Second, determine how many clients you can take in a month’s time. NOTE: This is why having that Client Experience Plan complete. Will you be spending 30 minutes or 2 hours with each client?

Example: My sessions are 45 minutes long and I want a 15 break in between sessions to recharge so I can take 4 sessions 2 Saturdays out of the month, for a total of 8 sessions.


Next, Determine what your average sale needs to be to accomplish your monthly income goal.

Example: 2500/8 = 312.5. So, I would need a sales average of $312.50 in order to make my monthly revenue goal.

Finally, Evaluate. Is this a goal you think you can obtain? If not, what do you need to adjust?

Note: I will be writing a post in the future on how to increase your sales margins.

That’s it!

You are now on your way to growing your photography business and making your dream a reality.


If you would like to work with a community of photographers launching their photography business join the 5 Days to Launch Your Photography Business Challenge.

I hope to see you there.

Lyn Parker


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