Help with starting a photography business

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Voyager1968, Jul 13, 2008.

  1. For those of you who are running a successful photography business, can any of you provide me with information on your road to success? How you started? When you knew the time was right? Start-up costs? Marketing strategies? Securing financing?

    I need to get out of my current line of work, which is driving tri-axle dump trucks. I absolutely hate what I do, and need a change. I love photography, and have been freelancing for our local newspaper for the last 3 months now, but it isn't enough to pay the bills. I am hoping to start a portrait studio, and am willing to do other photography work (sports, product, still life, advertising, etc) as well when/if requested.

    Please help if you can.
     
  2. I'm currently in the process of starting my own photography business. I've learned a lot from articles online. Do a google search for starting a photography business. Here are a couple good links.

    This guy has an excellent free e-book on starting a photo business. I'm still reading it's wealth of info.

    http://www.danheller.com/photo-inc.html

    Haven't really read this one, but found it looking for the link above. A quick perusal looks like it has good info as well.

    http://www.marketing-for-photographers-and-photography.com/startaphotographybusiness-parttime.html
     
  3. Nchesher

    Nchesher

    579
    Jul 7, 2006
    Lansing,MI
    You'll need better glass, a business plan, insurance, a website, the list goes on. I started the stupid way. A D70 and some crappy glass. Don't make the same mistake I did. I eventually upgraded to pro glass and a D200 but there's some gear I still need to be where I want. I work only do my biz PT though. I'm a FT PJ during the week.
     
  4. What kind of photography do you want to do? I think most business experts recommend you have enough capital saved to make nothing for 18-24 months. I'm still struggling to make enough to live on, but I haven't been staying in one place. I just recently settled in to one location and am working on getting my name out.

    If you want to do weddings, I highly recommend joining PPA. Heck, even if not, it is a great organization to be a member of. they have a forum for members, and it is great to exchange ideas with working pros.
     
  5. What Rodney said...

    Start here: SBA for an overview of small business.

    Then go here for specifics.

    Finally, go here to get FREE business counseling.

    Good glass is mandatory, however, your equipment is the least of your worries if you want to go into your own business. I counsel small businesses for a living and have counseled several professional photographers. NEVER does their business rise or fall based solely on what equipment they have. It's ALWAYS how prepared they are for the business world, especially marketing.

    Absolutely have enough savings to live on for at least two years, not to mention to put into your business. You can part-time it and be much safer. Allow 4-8 years of 60-70 hour work weeks to be making the kind of money you want to make. This sounds harsh, and perhaps it is, but it mirrors the experience of many professional photographers I have known. Indeed, it is the common experience of most successful small business owners.

    That being said, take advantage of all the free help you can get, such as those links above. You're in business by yourself, but you can't do it without a team. Enlist your SBDC to be on your team. Good luck!
     
  6. Seneca

    Seneca

    Dec 4, 2006
    Texas!
    The easiest way I got business was put business cards out. I know that sounds cheesy. Put them where women shop and do business. My business cards has images of my work. I also had more than one type of business card. I provided the little stand for the cards too.

    Do you want to have a studio as well?
     
  7. scooptdoo

    scooptdoo Guest

    when i retire from my carreer.10-11 years from now,i may try the following.print some of my best stuff to poster sized and hawk them at a fla market or other hot spot.i read about a guy that dose this daily and seems to do pretty well.
    as soon as you sell that colorful hot air baloon shot you pull out another and so go,s the bitness.
    other than that get into weddings if you can stand the presure its locrative.
     
  8. Thanks for the replies, everyone. I would imagine it's going to be difficult at first. I'm going to need to learn how to market what I want to do. I love taking photos of people so portraits, sports, and weddings would seem like the logical choice, but weddings scare me a bit, since I've never done one before, and I know there's no such thing as a re-take in a wedding. I know they are lucrative, though.

    My thing right now is getting a studio. I don't have room in the house, nor a basement or garage to set one up temporarilly. besides, there is no place to park on my street anyway. For starters, I might have to do location or environmental portraiture. I kind of need to do this, but it's getting started that's tough.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 14, 2008
  9. I once did this. Left my career in IT and went full time in photography. However, I was building the business while working in IT. When I felt I had enough business, I made the leap. Was full time for about 4 year. Then my wife had our first baby and I went back to IT. My last year, I had weddings booked all summer.

    Now that my kids are getting older, I am working on going full time again.

    From my experience, opening a studio was a huge mistake for me. The majority of my clients wanted outdoor or on-location photos. I would say about 10% of my revenue came from studio work. However, there was too much overhead and I closed it after a year and just worked out of my house. I always went to the clients home or business and did not have to worry about any zoning issues.

    Some of the best marketing I did was joining the local Chamber and becoming an active member. I volunteered to help on many different projects. This seemed to be a good way for me to get to know the other members on a more personal level.

    Other marketing items that worked well was having a very small listing in the Yellow Pages. It was just my name, only bolded. I did make the mistake one year of having the largest ad in the Kansas City yellow pages. That ad just about ruined me finacially (about $700 per month).
    And I did not get one phone call from that huge ad. I later discovered while talking to other studio owners that having the biggest ad made people who were looking, think that I was the most expensive in town, and never got any business. The smalled ad (about $35 a month) generated a lot more business.

    Business cards. Do not try to print your own. The cards need to make a good impression. Leave them everywhere. When you go out to dinner, leave one on the table. Hand them out to cashiers at the grocery store, etc. The more you hand out, the more exposure you will get.

    I joined PPA and went to one of their convetions. Best money I ever spent. Lots of good workshops and demos. I came away from their with a wealth of knowledge.

    Stay away from buying ads in newspapers and magazines. I did both, some in color. Spent way too much and did not generate any business. People throw newspapers away!

    Look at some non-profit agencies and see if you can offer your services. Years ago, Big Brothers and Sisters were holding a bike marathon. I approached them about photographing the bicyclists and then offering the bicyclists photos of them riding for a fee. Then donated some of the money back to the organization. That event lead to more work for the organization. The biggest was photographing one of their events that had the Kansas City Chiefs cheerleaders involved, and it just progresss from there.

    These are just a few things that worked for me. I could almost write a book and I tried everything. Some worked, some failed. If you have the drive, the business is there.
     
  10. Impressive! Thank you, Oz.

    I have thought about foregoing the studio, and just doing on-location work, but what of those who insist on formal studio work? Is losing those folks to Sears or others not a problem if the bulk of your customers like the outdoor and on-location shots?
     
  11. Carole

    Carole

    Jun 15, 2008
    Bellingham, WA
    The other place to check is your local community college. I am taking courses now on how to start selling your art (it's for photographers and other artists). We are also discussing how to approach a gallery, writing your bio, etc. Check the Business Dept for courses like these.

    And I am going to post this in a thread on its own, but when you put up a website, have someone go over it for typos and misspelled words. There is nothing less professional that having the wrong word, wrong grammar, misspelled words, etc. Get a teacher to go over your site. You wouldn't believe how many errors I've seen while looking at photographer's websites.

    Carole
     
  12. If someone insists on studio shots, then, yes, you will lose them as a possible customer. But is that really a big deal? I think most people really like outdoor photos, and if you want, you can bring a backdrop and lights to their house and set up a simple temporary studio.
     
  13. Carole

    Carole

    Jun 15, 2008
    Bellingham, WA
    Yet, I have a friend in Chicago who says he lost three gigs because he didn't have a studio. He was doing senior portraits. These days I think most seniors want their photos taken outdoors. No one wants those phony looking studio shots. Keeping up a studio is a major expense - one I certainly couldn't do.

    Carole
     
  14. Carole, I just read what you said about grammar and spelling and I wholeheartedly agree! I have on more than one occasion sent emails to people when I found glaringly bad grammar or spelling errors. They usually are grateful.
     
  15. Carole

    Carole

    Jun 15, 2008
    Bellingham, WA
    The other thing to do is find out what other photographers in your area are charging and offering. If you are doing senior portraits and other photographers are offering an free 8X10 with all shoots, then do the same. There are so many places out there to get prints done now, that the expense is worth getting the gig.

    Carole
     
  16. Carole

    Carole

    Jun 15, 2008
    Bellingham, WA
    I do it all the time. As a retired teacher, it's one of those things that makes me nuts. I've been doing the website for a well known new age pianist for years. One of the first things we were told in the web design courses I took was to proof everything before you put it up there.

    Carole :) 
     
  17. Thanks again everyone! I'm off to do a baseball game for the paper, but I'll check back tonight. Incidently, Rodney, you have a nice website. How much business do you generated from it?
     
  18. Carole

    Carole

    Jun 15, 2008
    Bellingham, WA
    Just wondering . . . how did you get started with the newspaper?

    Carole
     
  19. Thanks Steve, my site is really very basic, and parts are also VERY old. LOL How much business is generated from it? Hard to say really, most of my current business comes from my craigs list ad or word of mouth. I guess I would say very few people find my site randomly.
     
  20. I sent 2 freebies in, one was a car through a plate glass storefront, and the other was a bridge under construction. I then went to the local bureau chief and asked if they needed a staffer or a freelance shooter, to which he said they did need a freelancer. They liked the 2 I sent in, which kind of acted asa portfolio, and the managing editor gave the ok to bring me on board.
     
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