There are many obvious steps you need to take when starting a business. You need a thorough business plan with short and long-term goals. You need cameras, lenses, and other essential gear. You need a computer and post-processing software to edit your photos. You need a website, a portfolio, and other means of showing off your work and getting your name out there. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
But what about the little things, the often overlooked aspects of building a successful photography business? There are dozens of things that even the most organized and thoughtful business owners don’t think about when getting their business off the ground. Let’s consider a few of the most essential, yet overlooked things to keep in mind for beginning photographers.
You Will Wear Many Hats
Just like any small business owner, if you’re a self-employed photographer, you’ll also be the secretary, the bookkeeper, the social media director, the customer service representative, and just about any other title you can come up with. You may refer to yourself as a photographer, but the reality is that you will wear many different hats and spend the majority of your time on “other” tasks rather than photography. In fact, there will be some days when you might only spend a couple of hours taking or editing pictures, and the rest of the day is consumed with business-related tasks.
The sooner you realize that being in business for yourself is more about answering phones, building a website, creating pricing plans, pursuing late payments, and wooing potential clients, the easier it will be!
You Will Feel Inadequate
Particularly when you first start out, you will have some feelings of inadequacy. There will be better photographers with more clients and a better portfolio everywhere you look. And while it’s always a good thing to be humble and keep an eye on your rivals, it is also a good thing to be confident in your abilities, even when you might not be booked solid.
Speaking of which, those stretches in which you have some down time because your calendar isn’t full of clients shouldn’t be used as a time to feel sorry for yourself. Instead, use that time to tackle all the other aspects of business discussed above. If you have a weekend free because you didn’t land that wedding you wanted, take that time to spruce up your portfolio or put together an email campaign. If you have a client that cancels their portrait session, use that time to write a blog or take care of that mountain of paperwork on your desk.
The point is that as you build your business, there will be plenty of times when you have a string of cancellations or don’t have as many clients as you want. But rather than using that as an excuse to lay on the couch all day and feel like you’re the worst photographer on earth, take advantage of the extra time in your schedule to be productive.
It’s Not All Glamorous
Part of the lure of being a photographer is the lure of freedom. You’ll get to work when you want, for whom you want, taking the kinds of photos you want. If you want to take the afternoon off to nap, you can. There will be opportunities to travel, shoot photos in exotic locations, and spend time relaxing in fancy hotels that have hired you to photograph their facility, right?
Those are great dreams, and certainly should be part of your long-term goals. But unfortunately, the reality is that the vast majority of photographers will never experience such joys. Photography is a hard job - a very hard job. There will be precious little time for vacations and afternoon naps. When you start out, you’ll likely be taking photos for people you may not like, at events you aren’t fond of, and for an income that isn’t all that great. It’s just part of building a business.
You might start out with the intention of being a wedding photographer, but if the bills need to be paid, you might be taking portraits of kids at the mall for awhile, and that’s okay. Sure, it’s not all glamorous and it will be very hard work, but doing what it takes to make a success of yourself is what it’s all about. The more effort you put into it, especially at the beginning, the better off you’ll be in the long run.