Starting a photography business - or any business, for that matter - is a scary proposition.
Not only is it a huge expenditure of money, but you also have to invest an incredible amount of time in getting your business off the ground.
What's more, once you've started your business, you have to work incredibly hard to sustain it by producing a good product, having excellent customer service, and carving out a niche in what can only be described as an ultra-competitive industry.
The odds aren't in your favor, either.
Something like 8 out of 10 businesses fail in the first year.
And while that's not exactly a positive way to start thinking about building a business, that's necessary knowledge because if you don't take the required steps, you'll end up in the 80 percent that fail and not in the 20 percent that make it.
With that in mind, let's explore a few very basic, beginner tips you need to think about as you work on starting your business.
Being Your Own Boss is Great...and Isn't Great Either
Sure, being self-employed sounds like nothing but sunshine and rainbows.
After all, there's no one to tell you what to do. If you want to sleep in and start working at 10, you can. You get to decide how much money you make, what clients you accept, and when to take vacation time.
Yes, being your own boss means you're in charge. And that means you can determine what prices you charge your clients, what jobs you take on, and the hours you work - at least in theory.
But the reality is that sometimes those things aren't determined by you at all.
For example, when you just start out, you might think you can charge your clients $5,000 for shooting a wedding. Of course, if no one is willing to pay you that rate, you'll have to reduce it.
The same can be said for the hours you work...
Perhaps you have no interest in working after 5:00 pm, but if you're struggling to make money and there's an opportunity to schedule some evening portrait sessions, guess what - you'll be working after 5:00 pm.
I don't mean to rag on being your own boss. Take it from me - as someone that's self-employed, there are many, many perks.
But to think that it's ideal and that you can do whatever you want, whenever you want, is a line of thinking you need to get rid of really quickly!
You'll Need a Team
Something you'll learn very quickly is that being a self-employed photographer does not mean you can be a one-man-band.
Even if you don't have people working with you in your studio or office, like an assistant, you'll need a whole lot of help from other professionals.
If you aren't tech savvy, you might need to hire someone to build your website or design your logo.
If marketing isn't your strong suit, pairing up with a social media guru will be a good idea too.
And then there's things like protecting yourself and your investment by teaming up with the right insurance agency.
Not all photographer's insurance is built the same, which is why I strongly recommend National Photographer's Insurance to get the coverage you need.
As the name states, National Photographer's Insurance works specifically with self-employed photographers to ensure their businesses are protected from calamities that could spell financial ruin.
You can get coverage for your business property to protect against losses from theft, get an off-premises policy to protect your photography gear while you're going to, coming from, or at a shoot location, and get professional liability and general liability insurance in case something goes wrong and you're the subject of a lawsuit.
Heck, National Photographer's Insurance even has policies that cover you for lost income in case your business location is lost to fire or a flood and gives you options for adding coverage for valuable papers and business-related records too.
In other words, these guys have thought long and hard about what's important to the success of self-employed photographers like you and built a host of coverage options that protect you from A-Z.
National Photographer's Insurance has been at it for more than eight decades, and they are a small business themselves, so they know exactly what they're doing.
When you're building your team for your photography business, be sure to include experts like National Photographer's Insurance.
Photography is Not an "If You Build It They Will Come" Sort of Deal
Just because you have all the necessary camera gear, a website, and a few business cards doesn't mean that you're going to be flooded with walk-ins and phone calls by people interested in acquiring your services.
That would be nice, but it's just not the reality.
Like any other type of service industry, photographers have to actually sell themselves and their services to their target market.
Marketing might not come naturally to you, but if you are to establish a business that's successful in the long-term, you'll need to learn quickly.
On the one hand, you could just farm out your marketing needs to an expert, not unlike you do with your accounting or insurance needs.
On the other hand, there's a lot you can do to spread the word about your business.
Social media is a powerful (and relatively free) tool at your disposal for getting some recognition going on.
You can post your images to Facebook and Instagram to build a following based on your work.
You can blog about photography tips and tricks and post videos to YouTube to establish your expertise as a photographer.
Watch a social media course by Andrew Scrivani and B&H Photo in the video above to get an in-depth look at the power of social media for photographers.
It's also necessary to go about marketing in the old fashioned way too...
That means volunteering at local events and pounding the pavement to meet people to get your face out in the community.
That also means working with other folks in related industries to work out a mutually beneficial arrangement.
For example, if you're a wedding photographer, you might visit local bakeries and flower shops to see if you can work out a deal to send business each other's way.
The point is that you have to work and work very hard to get your name out there - don't just open up shop and assume people will be able to find you!
It Will Take Time
I've read some really inspiring stories about people that made their Instagram obsession into a successful photography business.
I'm talking about relative novices photographically speaking, that spend a lot of time and energy teaching themselves how to take better photos with nothing but their phone, and parlayed that into lucrative photography gigs taking photos for Fortune 500 companies, following bands around on tour and capturing images, and posting photos to social media to promote various movies and products.
But believe me when I say that those sorts of opportunities are very rare.
Building your business will take time and a lot of it.
That doesn't mean that you can't dream, though.
As noted above, become a social media guru and post photos, tutorials, blogs, and videos.
Get your name out there amongst the masses - it will only help your cause.
And remember that being your own boss has its perks, but that you'll need to be focused, dedicated, continue to learn about the photography business, and have a team of helpers if you are to realize your dreams.