When I first started my business, I had approximately 0 friends in the photography industry. I didn’t have anyone to turn to when it came to figuring out what essential steps needed to be taken in order to have a successful business in the long run. I wish that I had someone to talk to, someone to point me in the right direction. After having time to reflect on that season of life, I thought I would share my 10 steps for starting your business! These are things that I did and still do in order to continue growing my business.
- Make friends in the industry! don’t be afraid to reach out to strangers to grab coffee and talk photography. Honestly, this is one of my favorite things to do because I love hearing other people’s heart’s for their businesses!
- Educate yourself through blogs, webinars, books, YouTube videos and so much more. Friends, there is SO MUCH content out there for you to learn! You seem to be at a good start if you’ve found my blog, but don’t stop here! Sign up for as many webinars as you can, search YouTube for tutorials and read blog after blog after blog. This education will prove to be so valuable in the long run!
- Be as professional as possible. This one is super important, especially if you are a young photographer. Not only will you have lack of experience, you’ll also be battling the “Oh, you’re only 20 years old??” questions as well. By being as professional as possible, people won’t care how young (or old) you are!
- Second shoot, second shoot, second shoot!!! Here’s my tip for getting your feet wet as a second shooter. Actually, there’s two:
- First, I recommend doing the first tip in this list and ask to meet for coffee to get to know them as both a person and then another photographer. I have found that other photographers are much more willing to let you second shoot with them if they’ve already met you and feel comfortable around you!
- My second tip is to check out my blog for 8 tips on how to be an amazing second shooter!
- Stop focusing on the numbers! When you just launch your business, it is so easy to focus on the number of Instagram followers you have, the number of likes your posts get and the amount of traffic to your website. While those things are great and are signs of a growing business, they do not define the success of your business!
- Practice, practice practice. When I first started out, I was gaining so much knowledge about photography that I couldn’t put it all to use fast enough! I often took my friends out for photo sessions as a fun time to practice what I’d learned. Because I needed them for my portfolio, I did them for free (yes, free!). My rule of thumb is if I’m asking to take someone’s pictures, then I will not ask them to pay me. The only way that you’re going to be able to have the content you want and the content that you need is if you go out and get it. If you need winter pictures for IG, take a friend on a mini photoshoot. If you need bride and groom portraits, ask your older siblings or friends to put their wedding attire back on so that you can snap a few pictures. The beauty of it is, no one has to know that you did all of this work for free; to them, it just looks like you are busy!!
- Be humble. This is something that is especially important when you are just starting out for a few reasons. One of the ways that I got experience was by reaching out to other photographers that I knew and asking to be an assistant or possibly even a second shooter. Some of these weddings I drove 2+ hours to each way and I did it all for FREE. While I don’t recommend doing this for very long, a little bit of curiosity, an eager to learn and a lot of hard work go a long way in helping you to get experience.
- Find what type of photography you love and pursue it. While I don’t think that you should say yes to absolutely every type of photography session, I also don’t think you have to specifically choose one area of photography. Once you get a taste of the specific category of photography that you love, whether it’s families, newborns or weddings, focus your marketing efforts on that and you’ll begin to see your business grow.
- Choose a style of photography and learn how to master it. Having a consistent product is so important to growing your business. If part of your images are dark and moody and the others are bright and airy, it’s going to be very hard to have a solid brand. I recommend honing in on the style that you like by 1) studying techniques for how to achieve that style and 2) nailing down your editing style as quickly as possible.
- Legalize your business! This seems a lot harder than it actually is! While it is different in every state, I recommend that you:
- Get a business license and tax ID (process varies by state; Ohioans I recommend visiting the ohio.gov website!)
- Buy a vendor’s license.
- Record your income and pay sales tax (varies by state).
- Buy contracts that cover you and your business (I recommend purchasing templates from the LawTog, and having a local lawyer review).
- Business Insurance (liability insurance + property insurance for your gear)
If you are just starting your photography business and have a million questions but don’t know who to turn to, please reach out! I love sharing my experience and want to cheer you on as you grow your business.