You might be an amazing photographer, but that doesn't mean you have an amazing business. Good photos do not guarantee good business. Average photographers can have a hugely profitable business while expert photographers might be making no more than minimum wage. Why? Because having a successful business has nothing to do with being good at photography. To have a successful business, you have to be good at business.
I've had a photography business for three years. I've made tons of business mistakes. My business is far from perfect, but it is much better now than it was three years ago.
Whether you're just thinking about starting a business or you're a few years in, I want you to learn from my mistakes and experience.
Your business should be two things above anything else: profitable and sustainable. Your pricing should provide you with good income. Your pricing should also allow your business to grow. I've traded time with family and friends for time at sessions and in front of the computer editing. Much of that time was traded for inadequate income.
If you only read one article in this post, then read this article titled "The One Piece of Advice that Completely Changed My Business." By the end, you'll know exactly what I mean by being profitable and sustainable.
One important way to become profitable and sustainable as a photographer is to transition to In-Person Sales. Yes, it's more work. But with you as the expert guide providing the right client experience, you can move on from $150 shoot-and-burn sessions to $1,000+ in-person sales sessions.
To learn about my early experience transitioning to In-Person Sales, read these two articles:
Good Business Needs Good Communication
Now let's go back in time a little bit. During my second year in business (April 2016 to April 2017), I wrote articles about starting a photography business for Improve Photography, an educational company with fantastic resources, including a great portrait podcast hosted by another local Columbus Photographer, Erica of Erica Kay Photography.
In early 2017, I wrote an article called "8 Tips for Better Photography Client Communication." Customer service is all about communication. In a world where much of our communication is by email, you have to be an adept writer.
With a college degree in English education and ten years of high school English teaching experience, I've read plenty of great literature and even more bad student writing. All of that reading helps my writing. If you don't have the same experience or comfort with writing, my eight tips are a great place to start.
However, I will say that I don't agree with my last tip anymore. As I've learned about the power of an in-person photo reveal, I don't do the same type of preview email anymore. (Look back at my 17 Do's and Don'ts article to read about my preview email technique.)
Starting Your Business
In late 2016, I wrote an article titled "Start a Photography Business with No Start-Up Money." Just over a year after writing, I still run my business using most of these techniques. The only change I've made is to my banking and invoicing workflow. I no longer use my business-checking company to invoice and keep records.
I have found it much easier to invoice through my website, which allows me to accept PayPal and credit cards. The small amount of money I lose from the processing fee is worth the ease and efficiency of allowing online payments. (For especially big orders, I do try to get payment by cash or check. I offer a client incentive on big order paid by cash or check.)
Go back even more to April 2016: I wrote an article titled "10 Business Tips for Becoming a Paid Weekend Warrior Photographer." As I write this blog post almost two years later, I see how I've grown as a business owner. I'd still give some of the advice, but some of the advice makes me cringe.
Tips 7, 8, and 9 are especially cringe-worthy. Today, I completely disagree with those tips. If you started with my articles from above about business and in-person sales, then you know why tips 7, 8, and 9 are especially poor advice. The other seven tips, though, are still pretty good.
The Ultimate Goal
Remember that in the end your business should be two things: profitable and sustainable. Without sound business practices, you'll waste your time not making the money you deserve. When you decide to start a photography business, you are trading your time for money. For every hour you spend away from family and friends, the money you make should be worth the sacrifice. Build your business on a strong foundation. Do your math and have a plan that makes your business profitable and sustainable.
If you're ready to learn more practical business advice or to work through your pricing in a private lesson, take a look at my mentoring session options. I'm an educator first and photographer second. I want to help you make your business profitable and sustainable.