So, you want to go into business as a photographer? Before you even pick up your camera to start portfolio building, you should get these five things sorted out!
First step, you need to think of this an actual business. It can be easy to think of photography as just a hobby and oh, hey, if you get paid some in cash, that’s great! However, if you will take money at all, it’s a business. As such, you should be registered as one! You do not want to be audited Take a look at the different options: sole proprietor, llc, etc and see which one makes the most sense for you. Talk to your local Chamber of Commerce or a tax person to ask questions if you need to. Either way, once you’ve figured it out, register it! Each state is different, so make sure you contact your state’s business department or look at their website to discover what needs to be done. Don’t forget the government either! You’ll need an EIN (which may end up being your Social Security Number) but you must be registered! Combined with this step is the need for your business name. Whether you choose to do simply Your Name Photography or something different, this is the one step for your branding and business you need to have decided.
Once the government (both state and federal) know you are ready to take money, you need a place to put that money. The worst thing you could do is mix your business and personal funds. Take the paperwork you’ve received into your favorite bank or credit union and set up your account! I’m partial to Advantis Credit Union, if you have it because of the interest rates, but this should be your decision completely. Make sure get both a checking and savings account, as well as a business debit card. Your savings account will be perfect for automatically transferring your tax payments to. I always move over 30% of any income because the last thing I want to do is have to dig into my personal accounts to pay Uncle Sam!
Now that you have a place to put your money, you need to discover what amounts of your money you will be depositing. Yes, I’m talking about pricing! It’s scary, but nothing can kill your business faster than not knowing what to charge! There are a bunch of options out there to help you, but the only thing you should NOT do is spy on your local photographers, get their price lists and then randomly pick numbers less than theirs! Part of this decision is deciding what kind of photography business you want to be: volume or boutique. Regardless of which you choose, you will need to price accordingly. If you are wanting to charge $25 for a session fee and your gift prints start at $10 a piece, you cannot call yourself boutique and spend $50 packaging each order. The math doesn’t add up! There is no truly right or wrong answer per-say with what you choose, but you do need to decide and fully stand by that decision!
Only once you have created your pricing structure should you buckle down on the things like your logo and branding. By now, you’ve figured out the name of your company (and registered so you are all official!) and you’ve figured out what you want to price for your products and services. Because of this, you have a better idea of who you are as a company. With those decisions made, you’ll be able to develop your branding and marketing to fit those ideas and work with who you are hoping to bring into your business as clients. When creating this overall look, you definitely want to work with a professional to develop what you want. It’s going to be something you want to invest your time, effort and any financial options you have to make sure it is worthwhile.
The last thing to think of before you put out your shingle is to figure out your workflow. When someone calls or emails you to have you take their picture, what process do they need to go through? Are you going to schedule them in a Google Calendar or a paper calendar? Will you have a paper file or a digital client management option? Unlike the first four steps, this is something that can grow and develop over time but you must have a basic idea to start with. The more planning you can put forth into this piece of your business puzzle, the easier a time presenting yourself as a professional. When visit a restaurant, you know the steps to the dance. You walk in the door, sit down at a table (whether you choose the table yourself or a hostess seats you), you look at the food to order, make your decision, the cook prepares it, you eat, you pay and you leave. There are a variety of different steps depending on the type of restaurant, who works there, etc. But at the end of the night, you know you will get food. A workflow for your business is very much like this. There are several different pre-built workflow options available, but you want to make sure whatever you choose is how you want your business to be run. This will help make sure that you are successful!
Once you have these five steps sorted out and have decided that this is truly what you want to do, go for it! Set up your referral program, drop your name to everyone and shout from the rooftops that you are open for business!
Good luck, stay strong and don’t forget why you chose to do this. Make sure to shoot for you sometime in your soon to be busy schedule too. If you forget why you wanted to become a Professional Photographer, you will lose the passion and beauty that drew you to it. This won’t benefit anyone, including your clients.