Get your house in order: starting a photography business
Being a successful photographer is more than just taking pretty pictures. It involves a lot of work. Work that unfortunately doesn’t always involve photography. You’ll have to create and maintain a website. Market yourself through social media. Make sure you pay your taxes. Write contracts and create a pricing list. As your business grows you’ll perhaps be able to afford a freelancer to take care of all this.
Failing to plan is planning to fail
When setting up shop, you’d want to have a business plan. You need to decide where you want your business to go in the future and what it should look like. You’ll have to decide on a niche.
Nothing bothers me more than a photographer who advertises on their website or social media account that they specialize in newborn, wildlife, architecture and so on. How can you say you are a specialized and professional if you just photograph EVERYTHING you come across? That doesn’t mean you have to just focus on one thing but if you do different kinds of photography, do make sure they go hand in hand like newborn and maternity photography.
Writing a business plan might seem like a drag, but if you don’t, I guarantee you, you will crash and burn.
Decide on where you want to run your photography business
Will you work on location or will you work at home? Are you going to rent or buy a separate location? It’s very important! If you only work on location you might need a bigger car to transport all the stuff you need. When you work in a home studio or studio it’s important to check if there are any other photographers nearby. You wouldn’t want another newborn photographer in the same street as yours, do you? Make sure there always is a parking space available. When parents come in to have photos of their newborns taken, they’ll have their hands full and wouldn’t want to walk the whole street. Don’t be ashamed to start off in a home studio. It does not automatically make you appear as an amateur. The way you handle and work with your clients is what separates the pros from the amateurs, not your location. But if you shoot at home, do make sure it is in a separate private room that is only used for photography purposes.
Naming your business
When deciding on naming your business, photographers often just use their own name. Which is perfectly fine if your name is simple. If it is difficult to pronounce it might be a good idea to name your business something else. The general rule when naming a business is: it should sound good and you shouldn’t have to explain it to people what it is about. If your business is called Donner Newborn Photography. It is pretty obvious what you do from the get-go. Your business name heavily depends on which photography niche you decide to do. Don’t forget to read our article on choosing a photography niche.
Check if it is still available online
When you decide on a name, the first thing you should do is check if the web domain you want is still available. Don’t forget to see if Facebook and other social media you want are still available as well.
License & permits
Since it is different in every country, I suggest you search it online or at your local courthouse. Where I live you need to have followed an accountancy course before being able to be registered as a professional photographer. It’s very important you check if you are eligible or not.
Check if it is still available locally
So you got the requirements to receive the license & permits and both the domain & social media is available. Now it is time to go register your business locally. Make sure there are no other companies with a name similar to yours in the area. When your business is registered locally you can proceed to request the necessary license & permits and to register the domain and social media.
This might sound like a no-brainer to you, but please make your email at your domain name. Often I see businesses, not only photography, with a Hotmail or Gmail account. It doesn’t cost you a single penny!
Hire an accountant
If you have an accountancy background you can do it yourself. Else I’d suggest you hire an accountant. Chances are, if you do it yourself, the invoices and bills will pile up over time. He can help you set up legally, make sure your taxes are paid in time.
Setup a business bank account
Keep your business separate from your personal life.
Insurance, do we really need it?
Yes, you do. There is no way around it. Talk to your insurance agent and talk him through what it is that you do.
In a future article we’ll talk about marketing and how you can use Facebook to find your ideal client!