- Be Real With Yourself About Your Strengths and Weaknesses
- Learn From the Best
- Build Multiple Revenue Streams
- Go All-In
- Spend Money on Necessities, Not Wants
- Contagious: Why Things Catch On by Jonah Berger
- This is Marketing: You Can’t Be Seen Until You Learn to See by Seth Godin
- Building a Story Brand: Clarifying Your Message So Customers Will Listen by Donald Miller
Photo by jacoblund via iStock
Facts are facts…
Most businesses fail in the first few years. That goes for all industries, not just photography.
I say that not to be discouraging, but to be real. There are many obstacles you have to overcome to win at the photography business game.
I’ve been in the photography industry for about 15 years, and I have made plenty of mistakes along the way. Thankfully, I’ve also made some pretty good decisions, too!
If you want to stack the deck in your favor and be one of the photographers that survives when most don’t, consider following the photography business tips I’ve outlined below.
Table of Contents
Be Real With Yourself About Your Strengths and Weaknesses
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When I started in the photography business, I had more of a business background than a photography background.
That’s an unusual occurrence because most people that get started in photography are well-versed in photography but not so much in business.
Regardless, you have to honestly examine where you are and what your strengths and weaknesses might be. Then play to your strengths and work on your weaknesses.
For me, business was my strength, so I spent most of my spare time teaching myself about photography. I literally had to teach myself from the ground up - how to work my camera, how to compose shots, how to get a good exposure, I needed to learn it all.
Photo by katleho Seisa via iStock
Perhaps you’re the other way around and have all the photography expertise you need but not much in the way of business or marketing acumen. If that’s the case, you need to be proactive and learn about the necessary business skills to help you get over the hump and build a successful brand.
You can start that process right now, today, by simply catching some YouTube videos, reading some business tutorials, and even checking out advice articles like this one.
Getting on the path to being successful in the photography business doesn’t require your first step to be a giant leap. Often, taking baby steps and absorbing small chunks of information will be more beneficial anyway.
So, if you’re not confident in how to set up your pricing plans, find a YouTube video that explains how to do it. If you don’t know a thing about social media marketing, find a social media guru’s blog and learn how they do it.
The point is that the sooner you identify your weaknesses and begin to do something about them, the sooner you will be able to build a business that’s successful in the long-term.
Learn From the Best
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There is no need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to starting a business. After all, there are many examples of people that started from nothing and turned their passion into a success, and there is no reason why you can’t be the next example of that.
While a good first baby step is to dive into videos and tutorials that address your weaknesses, the next level above that would be to learn from the very best in the field.
This doesn’t mean you need to drop everything and enroll full-time in a business degree program at your local college, either.
I’m a big reader, which is why I’ve spent countless hours scouring Amazon for all the books I can find on business, marketing, photography, and so forth.
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Go ahead...hop on Amazon and search “marketing books,” and you’ll find over 40,000 options. That’s a lot of books to sift through, so here’s a few of my favorites:
If you need some inspiration to build your business and to learn new business skills, these three books are excellent choices!
There’s a reason why books like these are so highly rated and best-sellers - the authors have been there, done that, and have a proven track record in marketing, branding, and business building.
Sure, reading a book is a more time-intensive task that hopping on YouTube and clicking on the first video in the results.
But you can get a much deeper and broader education by delving into the fine details of what successful people have done before you.
Mix some solid books in with your lighter learning, and you’ll find that your weaknesses will quickly become strengths.
Build Multiple Revenue Streams
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Ask any professional photographer or other business owner how their first few years went, and they’ll probably tell you that there were some lean times.
It’s just the nature of the beast - you will likely struggle financially as you seek to build your brand, get your name and face out there, and build a solid list of clients.
One thing you can do to soften the financial blow is to build your business with multiple revenue streams.
There are a couple of different levels to this.
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First, your pricing options should include add-ons and upgrades that enable you to make money off of things like photo albums and prints.
Second, you should invest some energy in finding ways to make passive income.
A great example of this is affiliate marketing.
If you clicked on the links to the Amazon books above, you might notice a little tag at the end of the URL. If you buy one of those books using those links, I’ll earn a small commission.
This is really all affiliate marketing is - you put links on your website or blog and earn passive income when people use those links to buy products.
Photo by TarikVision via iStock
Unfortunately for me, to learn about affiliate marketing, I had to spend thousands of dollars on books and thousands of hours reading to get an education on the topic.
I don’t mean to sound ungrateful for all that learning, because it’s proven highly valuable. I just wish it didn’t take so long for me to figure things out!
Fortunately for you, things are much different today and you can learn how to generate passive income much more quickly.
In fact, there are schools that teach entrepreneurs how to harness the power of affiliate marketing so you can make more money, more quickly, and earn extra income over the long-term.
One such school is TravelSchool.Info. I reference it here because as their name suggests, their mantra is all about the freedom to earn money while you’re on the road.
Many photographers travel a good chunk of the year, but even in your day-to-day routine, rushing from one shoot to the next or ushering one client into your studio after the other, you’re on-the-go, having that passive income option from affiliate marketing is a definite bonus.
As a photographer, you no doubt give clients advice on certain products or services. They rely on your expertise to give them an honest recommendation.
That’s what affiliate marketing is all about too. Leverage the power of affiliate links to products you personally stand by, and reap the reward of added income as a result of that.
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My shortest tip might be the most important…
If you’re going to be a successful photographer, you have to go all-in and pursue it whole-hog.
You get out of it what you put in, so if you treat your business like a hobby, you’ll get hobby results.
Think about it like this - what makes you a great photographer is the knowledge and skills you’ve developed about photography over years and years of practice. The sum of all that picture-taking has brought you to this point of thinking about turning it into a business.
Photo by Dani_Fotografo via iStock
Well, to turn it into a business, you have to exert the same amount of effort. You have to learn, grow, practice, make mistakes, and learn from those mistakes when it comes to business, marketing, branding, and so forth.
Just casually doing photos on the side or spending a few minutes here or there learning about how to build a business isn’t going to cut it. If you look at the elite and successful professionals that you aspire to be like, they put in hours and hours and hours of work to get to where they are today.
The best way for you to reach that pinnacle as well is to go all-in!
Spend Money on Necessities, Not Wants
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It’s hard to build a successful business if all the money you earn goes right back into fancy new photography gear…
Sure, everyone would love to have a Sony a7R IV in their camera bag, but at $3,500, it’s not exactly budget-friendly. Besides, if you have $3,500 laying around, why not invest it in things you actually need rather than things you merely want.
At the end of the day, your old Canon 5D Mark II is perfectly capable of getting you the image quality you need to take professional photos. So instead of replacing a perfectly fine camera, invest your money in gear that will help you expand your business.
Studio lights, a rock-solid tripod, accounting software, a laptop that can handle heavy-duty image editing...these are all useful and needed tools that would make more sense to buy than a shiny new camera.
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What’s more, buying better glass will get you further in the image quality department than a new camera will, so expanding your collection of lenses to include more capable and higher quality options is a good idea.
The list of photography necessities could go on and on, but instead I’ll leave you with this…
Winning the photography business game is about far more than having the right gear. You need the right mindset, the right attitude, and a commitment to continuing learning and growing.
You need to seek out resources, find inspiration, and ask for help. You need to plan ahead, save, delegate tasks when need be.
The road to success is littered with failure. The question is, do you have what it takes to keep pushing forward when it seems like the world is against you?
I hope these photography business tips have helped you learn something new that you can use to move forward with your business plans. Even better, I hope I’ve lit a fire in you and inspired you to take action sooner rather than later!