Real Talk: 6 Things I Wish I Knew Before Starting a Photography Business
Wedding photography is a highly concentrated industry these days, and it’s not surprising because it’s a career path with incredible benefits and experiences if done the right way. You are literally attending a happy party every weekend and freezing the best parts of it in time, you hike mountains and watch sunsets and become friends with your couples, you get to eat amazing CAKE almost every Saturday night, and you get to be creative. Can it get better than that? I saw wedding photography as a must, like many other folks I know. However, it took quite a few years to eventually reach the full time business goal and a whole lot of energy. It was all because I was clueless as to what it means to run a photo business. Here are some things I wish I knew when I first started photography.
You aren’t a photographer, you are the owner of a photography business.
Oh my. If only I knew this. How I would’ve approached things differently. Let me just make a quick list of duties required for bring a “photographer”:
-Marketing/Social Media marketing
-Product Management/Album Design
-Web and Graphic Design
-Manage and Clean Equipment
-Sending Legal Contracts
-And often - Friend and Therapist! Because couples have a lot going on, so they need support!
To be honest, I actually love the business side of things. I didn’t when I first started, but now that I have the knowledge and workflow. The best thing I can recommend is to hire someone for one thing, even when you start out. And that one thing should be accounting. Have a CPA file your taxes as well as teach you to file sales and estimated. Doing the legal things correctly are the most important part. As you grow, putting aside money and delegating other tasks to professionals will help you manage the juggle.
You are always a business owner first, then a photographer.
There are amazing photographers who have businesses that fail. There are also photographers who aren’t so amazing making 10x more than you. As long as you can take a technically good photo, you can make a whole lot of moola from simply knowing the business side. Being a successful photographer means standing out and sticking in people’s minds, beyond the images. It’s all about having a strong brand, marketing plan, and giving an experience to your clients that they’ll rave about.
Saturdays are work days.
Do you know when all the fun festivals and friend meet ups happen? Saturdays, because that’s when most folks have off. You get excited because it starts warming up and you start seeing events around town, but then realize this is when your work season starts! This is something that isn’t a huge deal for me because I’m not a parent. The only thing I have to worry about is missing a birthday party or not being able to visit friends/family on weekends. Other folks have spouses and children who attend school and work during the week, and sadly have to leave them on Saturdays. I know many photographers who decided to end their full-time photo career because it ate up the time they had with their kids. Definitely consider the scheduling sacrifices and what you’ll do about them!
You probably won’t quit your day job in a few months.
In fact, I started my business in 2013 and didn’t go full time until 2016. You hear so many well known photographers walk you through the process of starting out and they go “and suddenly, I had 25 weddings my first year!” Unless you belong to something like an incredible church community, that’s likely not going to happen. And even if it did, 25 weddings at $1500 per wedding (a good beginning cost) is nothing after taxes and buying what you need to run a business. It’s going to take at least a year of second shooting and learning from other photographers, booking a handful or your own, then using those in your portfolio to slowly build the next year, your pricing and your knowledge. Wedding photography is not a business where you can buy presets, slap them on 5 weddings you’ve shot, and book a full year at $2500-$5000 weddings. It takes time, learning about business, investing the money you make, etc. If you’re willing to go through all of this while making your regular income, it’s a great sign that you’ll be successful!
Working smart is better than working hard.
It’s a popular saying, but I didn’t take it into account when starting off. 80% of your income comes from 20% of your work. There are still weeks where I work 40-60 hours and don’t achieve the income from a 20 hour week. To work smart, devise a plan, set goals, figure out how to achieve it in the smartest way instead of keeping “busy” and exerting energy when you need it in other places.
Write out your goals.
Not happy with the money you're making? How your photos look? Your workflow or client experience? Who is! And guess what: you probably aren’t going to change any of that until you make a plan. I sure didn’t for years, until I realized there’s a reason people write out goals and set dates for them. If you want a business to grow, you have to set goals and be intentional. Writing them down, breaking down the steps, and adding those steps to your calendar take that goal and make it a reality. It’s so simple to do!
There are many things I wish I knew starting out but these are the key things that really helped. I hope if you're considering photography, you'll take them into account while getting started! Now, Tina says get to work. <3