Hey you - yes, YOU!
I want you to have the best photography business you can.
I want you to be able to find work you feel good about and gives you a sense of meaning.
The way forward is not always obvious and can be daunting at times, but that's why I want to share with you everything I've learned that's turned my photography business a success - and can do the same for yours.
In a world where everyone is walking around with a $1000 camera in their pocket, starting a photography business can be scary. It can even seem impossible.
The good news is – it’s not.
You can do what you love...
...AND make money at it, too.
One of the hardest parts, at least for me, was learning the secret behind standing out. How can you bring business to you if everyone is trying to be a photographer?
Back in 2012, I was doing ALL. THE. THINGS... Literally everything. Instagram, Facebook, free offers, discounts – everything.
And none of it was working.
It felt hopeless. Maybe it feels that way to you now. That’s why I want to give you the 5 most important tips to creating a profitable photography business FROM THE GATE.
It took me YEARS to learn the things we're going to cover in this article.
1: Build Your Brand
You need a brand!
I know, I know. It can sound so corporate and artificial – but it’s not.
Your “brand” is just homing in on you. Who do you want to be as a professional? What draws your creative eye?
This is your opportunity to define your path.
Done right, hammering out your brand can actually be a richly rewarding activity - and it'll help make you more money... isn't that a nice little bonus?
Sit down and think about what kind of photography you want to do. Think about the impact you want to have on your potential clients.
Do you want to empower female business owners? Do you want to share the love story of couples? Do you want to shine a light on beautiful blended families? What is it that made you start this journey into photography?
I call this your WHY Mission. The mission behind why you do what you do.
But wait… If I’m sharing couples stories or empowering female business owners, does that mean I can only shoot weddings or branding?
Nope! You can take on whichever jobs spark your interest (or your bank account), but don't advertise them. Focus all your advertising on the one thing the matters most to you.
Now onto your style.
You will develop this over time but it should tie into your brand and your niche.
If you are a newborn photographer, maybe dark and moody style isn’t the best fit. If you niche is senior photos because you have a WHY Mission of empowering teenagers, then maybe bold, fashion flair images could be your style.
Are you starting to see how your niche and imagery tied into your WHY Mission creates a strong brand?
The first step is to create your meaningful brand, starting with your WHY Mission.
2. Your Service
Picture this: you're a young woman and you want to feel like a model. You find not just a photographer, but a photography experience.
Make-up, hair, a photo shoot - the whole works. From start to finish, you feel like a knock out. When it's done, you don't just have the photographs, you have a whole day you'll never forget.
This is how thinking outside the box can launch your photography dream into real income.
This is how you create impact out of your WHY Mission.
Many photographers start their business by going to their competitors' websites and copying all the different sessions and services they offer... But this is the worst way to get started.
There are three problems here.
It's sketchy... And I say that with no judgement... I was once a sketch ball!
You're not creating that killer experience that makes you stand-out from the crowd.
Most importantly, you don't know if that competitor is in the 15% of photographers who will survive, or the 85% who will fail.
Yes - you read that right. 85% of all photographers who try to start a photography business will fail.
Don't be one of them. Create that 15% experience.
3. Your Products
In the digital age, it's all too easy to send your client home with a thumb drive filled with the pictures you took and call it a day.
You need to think beyond that. Think of what you want your signature to be.
For example, if your WHY Mission is to help blended families feel closer to one another, maybe your signature product is a large 30x40 mounted, finished, and framed portrait that you help them professionally hang over their mantle.
It needs to be a physical reminder of the experience they had with your brand.
There are tons of options for you that go beyond digitals or the standard wallet and 8x10 prints. There’s canvas, metal prints, wood prints, acrylic prints, albums, collages, wall series, image boxes - the list goes on and on. Take a look at my favorite pro labs below.
Now, that's a lot of options, but there's something I need you to remember - don't get too carried away.
A confused mind says no.
If you have too many options, the buyer will get overwhelmed and say no. Try to stick to 8-10 options that remain true to your brand and the experience you provide.
4. Your Pricing
Now that you have your service crafted and your products chosen, it's time to price it.
Whether you call it a session fee, retainer, creative fee, or anything else, this should only cover the time and talented needed for the shoot (unless you are a headshot or wedding photographer).
So, if you are hiring a hair and make-up artist or a wardrobe stylist, you would cover their fee and your time in this fee. THAT IS ALL.
Your products should be sold on the back end whether its online galleries, proof sets, in person sales, or zoom sales.
One of the top mistakes photographers make when starting is trying to be the cheap photographer and raising their price later.
Why is this a mistake?
Because of buyer types. Some people are bargain hunters and some people shop on quality. To be fair, most of us have both these types within us. The pricing we see activates these different modes.
So, if you want to attract high end clients who see you as their photographer and hire you over and over, being the cheapest and offering tons of discounts is not the way to attract them.
You need to establish professional pricing and allow your brand to be what attracts them.
This is outside of the scope of this post but I have a shortcut to help you for making it this far.
It is my PROP Method calculator. This calculator will help you establish professional pricing for your products.
Download the calculator here: https://bit.ly/3Dd3mr5
Now, how you sell your products also matters.
My preference is in-person sales because I am able to add another level to reinforcing my brand and connecting with my clients. It has also been by far the most profitable sales method.
My highest sale before I switched to in-person sales was $250. After I switched, my very next session was a $2700 sale. Since than, I have never had a sale less than $1000.
5. Your Workflows
There are so many factors to starting a business and the last thing you ever want to do is drop the ball on the service you provide to your clients. The best way to ensure you are delivering consistent and quality service is to document every single step and following that document with each and every client.
Creating a workflow will help you in two major ways:
You'll be able to provide a quality service that promote your brand with every client.
You'll be able to work faster.
You'll be able to make more money in less time and your clients will absolutely love you for it.
You can document your work digitally, or have a physical copy somewhere that's easy for you to access. The important part is that you have it available when you work with each client.
So, now you have the knowledge you need to start a brand new, IMPACTFUL, and profitable photography business - one that stands out from all the other photogs in your area.
If you don’t take anything else away from this post, remember… your business is only successful if you are able to make an impact in your clients lives.