How to Set Up a Photography Side Business
Running a side business is easier than running a full-time business because you can prop up your part-time business with your full-time job. A photography side business can be rather lucrative, especially since you will never be desperate for money. Some full-time photographers will take horrible and underpaid jobs because a little work is better than no work, but part-timers that have a full-time job are less likely to take lower paid jobs.
Setting up a photography side business is not as difficult as it seems.
There are many different types of photography, with each space requiring different photography skills and equipment and marketing.
Types of Photography You Can Specialize With
Here’s a list of the main ‘working’ photography areas you can specialize in:
- Wedding Photography
- Fashion Photography
- Hotel/Location Photography
- Portrait Photography
- Landscape Photography
Probably the most common professional photography (and the one with consistent, easy-to-access jobs) is wedding photography. You can, in time, earn a full time income as a wedding photographer provided you put your time in and learn how to shoot wedding photos (either via a training course or on your own). Like any business, it takes time to build up a reputation and clients.
There are other areas of photography you can pursue, though these tend to be more difficult and niche. Wedding photography is one of the easier, more common areas you can earn a living in as a photographer.
Keep in mind that each type of photography often requires different skill sets and different equipment. And as a professional, you’ll likely want the best gear you can reasonably afford.
For example, if you want to work as a landscape photographer, you are going to need the best landscape photography equipment you can get your hands on, like stable, yet light tripods, wide angle lenses, full frame camera body, and so on.
If you become a wedding photographer, you are going to need portrait photography lenses that can shoot in low lighting, and so on.
The bottom line is, be prepared to shell out money for specialized gear for certain types of photography. Photography is NOT a one-size-fits-all purposes when it comes to gear choices!~
Starting your own business means taking on numerous roles
You are not just a photographer, even if you are a freelancer. As a business owner, you need to master multiple skills. Only a small portion of your time is spent actually shooting your shots. Here is a quick rundown of the jobs you will need to undertake.
1. Customer service representative
You are going to get comments, complaints and enquiries from your potential customers. If you offer them anything less than 100% of your attention, they will use your competition, or worse still, they will damage your online reputation.
2. Marketing director
You are the one that decides where you advertise, how much you spend, and the possible return on your investments. You are the one that has to tap into your target audience and pull them away from your competitors.
3. Social media administrator
People need to be able to find you on social media and do research into your company and your reputation. They also want to see samples of your work.
4. Book keeper
You need to keep a tight check on what you spend and what you make. People think they can get away with correct bookkeeping because they work in a cash-only business, but the tax services will simply consider you guilty until proven innocent, and you will have to show exactly what you spent over the last six years and explain why you spent more than you earned.
5. Website creator and manager
Every photography business needs a website, and it needs to be maintained. You need to keep it near the top of the Google search engine results, and make sure it is referenced in directories so people may find you.
6. Budget maker and accountant
You need to set budgets to be sure you are not spending more than you are earning. It is up to you to decide how much you will spend and how much profit you will make.
Every photo that you sell should be edited. Keen and detailed editing skills are a massive requirement. If your images are not professionally edited, then your customers will drag you down online and ruin your reputation.
8. Business manager
You have to set the course for your business. You have to decide how you are going to make your money and how to improve your business process so that you are making enough profit to continue trading.
9. Scene setter
Most photos will need you to set the scene, be it arranging people at the wedding, or be it adjusting the light levels as you photograph products. Most shots will live or die based on how well they are set up.
10. Client manager
Once you have customers, you have to manage them. You have to attract new ones, get referrals, and keep the ones you have. With a small business such as yours, they will expect a personalized service.
11. Legal expert
There are no excuses for not knowing the law. For example, are you allowed to photograph children in your state? Do you need written permission from the parents, do you need to cover their faces in your shots?
12. Creative director
Your shots will have to develop their own style if you want to attract new people and pull them away from your competitors. Anybody can pick up a camera, take 20 shots, and have one or two turn out great. You need your own style and skills to justify charging people.
Building your business takes a very long time
It takes time to get good at what you are doing. It takes time to become better at selling your service, and better at sniffing out clients that will cost you money. There are so many facets to a photography business that you will need time to create a successful business. You are not running a team of highly paid executives; it is just you and anybody you can rope in the work for free. It takes years to become successful in the business.
You really need to improve your people skills
When you read about famous photographers, they seem to be loners, odd and a little awkward. They are the exceptions in the business. Real photographers have to have fantastic people skills because your clients are going to buy “you” before they buy your service. Your manner must suggest that you are friendly, cooperative, and very professional. They need to know you are not going to rip them off or let them down.
Start as small as you can
An expensive camera is one thing, but there are literally hundreds of different accessories you can buy, and many photographers do. The problem is that the accessories are rarely used. They gather dust in wardrobes and cupboards. They all represent wasted money that you could have used yourself. Every purchase needs to be scrutinized intensely before committing to buy.
Build a client list
This sort of thing depends on the business or market you decide to enter. For example, if you decide to be a wedding photographer, then keeping a client list may be pointless unless you are offering cash incentives for referrals. However, if you are photographing children’s’ parties, you may like to keep the parents email address and send them a promotional email a few weeks before their kid’s birthday.
If you sell staged shots for clients, you should build a client list. Staged shots are like the ones you see on article websites, such as an image of a student looking tired while surrounded by books. There may be times when you take staged shots that your previous clients may be interested in. You could drop them enough email and ask them if they fancy buying the usage rights to your new shots.
Is there an off-season, and should you try to fill it with work?
What Santa impersonators do for the rest of the year? If photography is a part-time business, should you be filling your off season time with work? Is it worth the effort for a part-time business?
You probably shouldn’t bother trying to find work during your off season, but is there a way of selling the work that you have done. As a content creator, you are able to sell the full rights to your work, and the usage rights. Many online web masters are unable to use “Usage rights” on written content because the search engines flag it as duplicate content, but there are no such restrictions on images. Ten different websites may use the same image without a penalty from Google, but if just two use the same paragraph, then they may be penalized by the Google search engine.
Does your market/niche allow you to re-sell your images? For example, a wedding photographer probably couldn’t, but a wildlife photographer could, so could a travel photographer, food photographer, and so on.
Encourage referrals wherever you can
They are free, they save you a lot of marketing, and they remove many of your barriers to a sale. You are able to encourage referrals so that you may jump from one client to another. What is more beautiful is the fact that it outdoes your competitors. They do not even get a chance to compete with you because you were referred by a person that the new client trusts. If you receive referrals, then treat them like gold, and do all you can to encourage more of them. In terms of customer acquisition, they are the cheapest method for gaining new customers and they often offer the highest value for money (when you take away the tiny amount they cost you to acquire).
Learn and Improve Photography Skills By Finding and Reading Tutorials on the Web
One way you can really improve your photography is by taking your own time to learn. There are plenty of websites online you can look at and seek training from. In fact, many awesome professional photographers are completely self taught. Don’t underestimate just how far you can go just by reading about photography and practicing on your own, with your own camera.
Approach other photographers and ask for a part-time role
You do not have to be secretive about it. You can tell the photographer that you are looking to break into the photography business and that you are looking to gain some experience. It may seem like one competitor approaching another competitor, but it doesn’t have to be like that. You can set up a client sharing deal in the long term. After you have gained all the knowledge and training you need, and once you have become a professional photographer, you can strike out on your own. When you have too many bookings and cannot fit on one in, you contact your old boss and pass the work on to him/her. When he or she has too many bookings and not enough time, he or she contacts you and sends the work your way.
There may be no need to strike out on your own at all. If you become fast friends with the photographer you work for, then he or she may send you out on your own. This means you shoot events on your own and are then paid by the photographer. This may be preferable to setting up your own business, especially since it removes around 80% of the workload. Remember the long list of duties you need to perform (near the beginning of the article), you will not have to undertake most of them if your boss is doing it all for you. You may not earn as much money, but you will be doing far less work for the money you earn.
Take training courses to improve your photography skills
This article is not going to advise you on which courses and programs are the best or worst because that would be unfair. The fact is that you need to learn and keep learning in the short and long term. Taking course after course will improve your skills to almost superhero levels.
How much are you going to spend on your business
You are going to need a few thousand dollars in order to buy a top-of-the-line camera and a good photo-shopping program for your computer. You may also need lights and a set/workshop. Some people turn their garage into a studio, and others turn a spare room into their workshop. You are going to need a high-end camera, a lens, a flash gun, a tripod, a remote trigger, lights and backdrops. It can become very expensive. You may also like to buy photographic printing equipment, but you are better off creating a deal with a local photography shop where you get a discount on their services. If you are truly looking to set up a photography side business, you are going to have to save up thousands of dollars in order to do it. You can start small if you wish, but it will be years before you are able to turn professional.
The cost of self-promotion
Some photographers spend a lot of money on advertising, which is not a bad thing, but the notion that a photographer “Has” to spend lots of money on advertising is incorrect. Read our article that helps you understand how your marketing budget is far more flexible than you think.
Where you make your money
Be very careful in this regard, because there are quite a few ways that photographers can make money, but some of them are going to negatively affect your reputation and repeat business.
For example, if you photographed weddings, you should make your money from the shoot. Making money from printing is not fair, especially if the happy couple could have taken your digital images to a store and had them printed for less. The same goes for reprinting and putting into albums. If you are greedy, as many photographers are, then people will choose your competitors.
In addition, you want the happy couple telling people how your prints were cheaper than the local store, and how you did X and Y for no extra charge. Don’t forget that something like a wedding requires around 12 hours of work, and that you are probably charging over $1000 for the event. That is easily over $80 per hour at your lowest rate, so don’t get greedy and try to rinse more money out of your clients because the more you rinse them today, the less they will order tomorrow.