The business side of professional photography

Recently, I talked about the creative skills required to become a professional photographer. However, that’s only half the story. Because beyond the photoshoots, there’s a whole world of spreadsheets, strategy and admin that goes into keeping things afloat and running a Professional Photography Business. And while this may not sound exciting, believe me, these skills are just as important as your camera craft when it comes to enjoying a long and successful career. So notebooks open, pens out, and welcome to the Simply C business Professional Photography Business skills crash course.

Make a business plan based around you, not your business.

It’s important to sit down and decide what you want your business to achieve for you. Often, people get it the wrong way around, and they burn out chasing work, taking on all sorts of commissions, and generally failing to find their own little sweet spot. It’s a great way to fall out of love with photography, and I’ve seen it happen to many talented people.

So ask yourself, what do you want to get out of your business? The freedom to pick and choose how many hours you work a day? The ability to fund your own private studio? The opportunity to travel the world and meet glamorous strangers?

If you know your own lifestyle goals, you can then take the practical steps to achieve them.

Do your market research and look for gaps.

Have you found a niche you want to work in? Sometimes it can be hard to establish exactly what you want to do. I’ve made a good living from capturing commercial product photography for a whole range of businesses, but that’s only part of what I do, and it certainly wasn’t what I started out doing. So don’t be afraid to have a few niches, or even a broad area of expertise.

If you’re looking for a niche, research what services photographers offer in your area. See who is offering what, but more importantly, try and see what isn’t being offered. Are there plenty of wedding photographers vying for business, but an apparent lack of food photographers for all those new local restaurants opening on the high street? You could find yourself very busy if you can spot a need that isn’t currently being met, and that starts with market research.

Always link back to your portfolio.

Building a portfolio site is one thing, but unless you also build a plan to get it noticed, nobody will know you exist. Which is where getting your website out there matters. Always put a link to your site in your email signature, and on any marketing materials you produce. Make it as easy as possible for people to find you. There’s a lot more to marketing than that, but it all starts with making yourself easily found.

Don’t scattergun your social media.

When you set up your social media business pages, make sure you aren’t spreading yourself too thin. Don’t set up a Facebook page if you aren’t going to monitor it and post regular updates. You might miss messages, and risk giving the appearance your business is defunct.

Instagram is a great place to share your work, and hashtags can help you find a wider audience if you know how to use them, but mileage may vary depending on the type of work you’re looking to do. If you’re looking to work with businesses on their commercial ‘photography, for example, you’ll be better off focussing your efforts on LinkedIn. At the end of the day, social media can help you, but it can also bog you down, and take your eye off your core customer base if you take on too much.

Don’t try to do everything yourself!

If we could all do everything brilliantly none of us would have any clients! There is no harm in admitting where your strengths lie and drafting in the professionals to assist with things that aren’t your forte. For example, if you appreciate the importance of marketing then investing in some marketing support can be worth its weight in gold.

Engaging with suppliers is also a great way to free up your time to concentrate on the things you actually do best, if you need blogs for your website do you spend two hours writing one or putting an order together for a paying customer?

The other great thing about using suppliers is that it can actually be a really effective way to network and build relationships.

The taxing work of tax.

Tax isn’t fun for anyone. But when you have to put it aside from your earnings, calculate your own deductions, and then pay it in one huge sum every year, it becomes even less fun.

Once you’re established within your Professional Photography Business, a good accountant can make all the difference. Not every accountant is equal, so it’s important to look for reviews. I’d recommend finding a firm who specialises in supporting self-employed creatives. A good accountant will offer a service that enables you to report your expenses through an online dashboard, and provide a quick and easy invoicing tool. And best of all, they’ll make sure you’re claiming your full entitlement to tax relief from every part of your business expenditure.

As your business grows, they can also help you navigate larger decisions like whether you should set up as a limited company or continue as a sole trader.

Right, class done for now. I hope I’ve inspired you to think about your next steps. Good luck!

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