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1. Whether you’re planning to start a photography business or already operate as a part-time or full-time pro, you must wear two hats to succeed: a skilled and experienced photographer and a business owner/entrepreneur.
This is often a challenge for those who just want to practice their “art” and not be bothered with managing a business. If that is you, then you’ll need a “business manager” to operate the day-to-day functions of your business. Someone must maintain good records; provide comprehensive customer service; interface with suppliers and business services, such as the bank, attorney, accountant, insurance agent, etc.; and complete many other business-oriented tasks.
2. Even if you have a “manager” to do these jobs, you should still be the person with the overall vision of your business and making sure every step you take leads to the realization of your dream. This is the role of an entrepreneur; and to guide your business successfully from the perspective of the “big picture,” you must develop an entrepreneur’s mindset.
The best way to do this is to plunge into the seminars, speakers, books and other materials about what you need to know to think like an entrepreneur, and not just a photographer. Be selective and choose an author or expert and content that strongly connect with you.
3. For a new photography business, it’s critical to develop the structure, or definition, of your business before you even accept the first client. Even if you are a working professional, you may have skipped some of these steps, so it may be a good idea to re-access your business in light of the tips in this PhotographyTalk.com article.
4. You begin by finding your niche in the professional photography market. It’s safe to assume that one type of photography or another, or more than one, has attracted your attention and could serve as a revenue generator.
Now, this attraction may be based more on your skills and your enjoyment of that type of photography. This is important, but you must also judge the value of offering a specific kind of photography, professionally, from a business or marketing perspective.
5. You accomplish this decision by studying the geographic market in which you expect to offer your services. This is often called a feasibility study. In other words, “Is starting a portrait, wedding or (YOU FILL THE BLANK) feasible in my town, city and/or region?”
You can determine the receptiveness of your geographic market in general terms or you can go in depth, by collecting various data and demographic information. For example, it wouldn’t make much sense to start a wedding photography business in an area where there are few young adults of marrying age.
6. You then want to incorporate all this information into a business plan, not because you will be going to investors to put money into your business, but so you have a plan to follow toward your vision. The business plan is a blueprint that includes a description of what kind of photography business you want to operate, how you will market it, the results of your feasibility study and, at least, a basic accounting of the projected revenues and costs of doing business.
7. The marketing portion of your business plan is one of the most important and much of the information you need about using marketing tools effectively can be found in the PhotographyTalk.com article, 11 Marketing Gems That Will Make Your Photography Business Sparkle with Success.
8. From a best-practices point of view, you’re still not ready to shoot the first frame that will earn you money. You also require a basic business support team in the form of an attorney and accountant and the protection of the right insurance.
9. Your attorney’s most important role is to help you avoid problems before they occur or keep them to a minimum. Another primary purpose of having an attorney is that he or she will review regularly the current legal health of your photography business.
10. As a small business owner, you will require relatively straightforward accounting services. Finding the right accountant for your financial health begins with understanding the financial “profile” of your business and setting financial goals for it, and you and your family. Your choice of an accountant also depends on how much you want to be involved in your finances.
11. Assuming you’ve invested, and will continue to invest, in professional-grade equipment, then you must be sure it is insured. Just as important, you may need liability insurance (or additional insurance) if you’re operating a portrait studio, and especially one in your home. It’s best if you can kind an agent with experience working with professional photographers. Research on the Internet, ask your photography buddies for referrals and don’t hesitate to call local photographers and ask them what company covers their equipment.
12. Seek the knowledge to develop an excellent customer service model. If you operate with a step-by-step customer service system, and you have the customer testimonials to support how well you serve them, then this may be the difference between you and other photographers that will drive more business to your door.
13. Establish a pricing strategy. Part of the research for your feasibility study and business plan should include “real-world” rates that local photographers, your competitors, are charging. You can ask a relative or friend, or more than one, to do some phone shopping for you to obtain some quotes from other photographers.
Don’t make the mistake of some first-time pros make by asking for a lower fee than is typical for the particular kind of job. The backward thinking is that clients will be easy to acquire by charging less than the experienced professionals. Actually the opposite is true. In most cases, your client will have estimates from other photographers; and they’re asking for the market price. By coming in considerably lower, a client will suspect that you are not as professional as you claim and do not understand what will be required to finish the job.
14. Stay current with new equipment, techniques and trends, especially those that relate to your market niche, so you evolve with the industry and remain competitive.
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