Starting a photography business is exciting. And a little stressful. You want to make sure you do everything right and leave nothing to chance. The best way to prepare for a successful business launch is to outline a plan of action and follow it. We’ve created a checklist of the top ten things you should do before you launch your photography business

Choose a Specialty

Decide which type of photography work you do best and build your business around that. You can expand your services later if you choose, but having a niche allows you to streamline your marketing message and focus on your target client.

The more popular options for a photography business include:

Events
Engagements, weddings, receptions, corporate events.

Portraiture
Corporate portraits, personal portraits, pet portraits, headshots.

Commercial
Fashion, food, products.

Creative
Nature, web design projects.

Target Customer

Once you decide on your specialty it’s time to focus on your ideal client. Is it the bride-to-be who needs a wedding photographer? Maybe it’s the real estate agent who needs every image of a home to look like a buyer’s dream?

A new photography business needs to be clear about its brand and its message. When you’re first starting out you need to know who you’re speaking to with your website, your social media platforms, and in person.

Customers aren’t one-size-fits-all and neither is your work. Defining your target customer will help you define your services and attract the people who want them.

Equipment

A business startup can be expensive, and photography is no different. But it doesn’t have to break your bank.

Take an inventory of equipment you already own, and if there are other items you need you can comparison shop online. Don’t forget to ask friends and family if anyone has a gently used camera bag or tripod they would be willing to donate.

Here is a list of the bare minimum items to get your photography business up and running:

  • DSLR Camera with one 50mm lens
  • Tripod
  •  Camera bag
  • Memory cards
  • Battery charger
  • Batteries
  • External flash
  • Cleaning kit
  • Photo editing software
  • Business cards
  • Computer

Be creative. Determine what you can achieve with the equipment you own. Once your business is up and running, you can purchase additional items. But until then, use what you have, borrow what you can, and keep moving forward.

Banking

You need to have a bank account for your business. You don’t want personal expenses getting mixed up with those from your photography business. That will cause nothing but headaches for you at tax time.

Schedule a meeting with an account representative at your bank and find out how to open a business account.

You also need to decide which types of payment you will accept from customers. Check? PayPal? Credit card? Stripe? Money keeps your business functioning, so make sure your payment processing and banking are integrated.

Business License

When you own and operate a business you must comply with city, county, and state licensing regulations. Check with your local government to find out what type of business license or permits are required.

And if you ever plan on operating your business in another state, you will want to find out if you need any type of license to do so.

Taxes

Opening a business also means that you will be responsible for sales tax in your state and county. Learn when and how you are expected to calculate, collect, and pay sales tax.

Studio Space

You will want to have your work space figured out before you book your first shoot.

Do you just need a home office to do work on your laptop? Or are you going to need a studio for indoor portrait sessions?

If you can’t afford to rent a studio, is there a room in your home you can convert into one? If so, you also need to find out if your county permits you to have clients entering and exiting your home.

Website

A photography business should have a website. It’s the best way to showcase your work and book appointments online. You need to build this before you open for business, not after.

The most important pages to have will be your Home page, About page, Contact Page, and Portfolio page. If you decide you to sell your images online you will also need a shopping cart set up that integrates with your business account.

There are inexpensive options for building a website, and if you engage in smart marketing it will pay for itself as your business increases.

Online Marketing

Smart marketing takes place before you open your business. For example, publishers market books well in advance of their release date to generate interest and buzz. Think of your pre-launch marketing the same way.

  1. Research the social networking platforms best suited to photography and set yourself up as a regular presence there.
  2. Create story posts around your images. People always want to know the what, where, how, and why of a photo shoot.
  3. Join photography groups and offer tips and advice to new photographers. Share an online link to your latest project to emphasize a point.
  4. Upload some images to sites that offer them to the general public for free. This increases your name recognition. It also has the potential benefit of connecting you with a new client.

People will take notice of your generosity, and they will start to see you as an authority in your area of expertise. This is free marketing. Take advantage of it.

Offline Marketing

Your local community can be your biggest marketing asset. Don’t overlook this step.

Use free design software to create business cards and brochures. Deliver a stack to your local chamber of commerce and let them know you are starting a photography business. They will help market your new business for free.

Don’t forget to hand out your cards to friends, family, and neighbors. They can help spread the word to all the people they know.

Get busy introducing yourself to other business owners. If your niche is events photography then you want to connect with people who hold events or have customers who do. For example, salons, wedding venues, and caterers would all be excellent places to reach out to.

Engaging in pre-launch marketing in your community lets you lay the groundwork for future sales. If you’e not going to have a brick-and-mortar location, no one is going to find you on opening day unless you help. Don’t be shy. Introduce yourself, let people know who you are, what you do, and when you’re going to be available.

Getting your photography business set up takes enthusiasm, focus, and a checklist. Proper preparation sets up the foundation for your future success. And it gets you that first client faster. So put your paperwork in order, build your online presence, and become known as the expert in amazing imagery.

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