Ever wonder how to start a photography business and make money doing something you love? If so, the time is ripe to start today! As photography continues to rise in popularity, there are more and more photos saturating the market, but very few shutterbugs will actually take the full plunge into the world of professional photography. That’s mainly because running a photography business is more than just snapping photos and selling them to the highest bidder. This article will introduce a few key steps to take in order to legally and inefficiently set up a successful photography business.
1.Pick a focus.
Before you do anything, start by picking one main type of photography that you want to focus your efforts on. This step is key. You might have an interest in several different types of photography, but if you’re serious about making money and diving into the business side of photography, you have to choose just one thing to focus on at first. The photo subject you choose determines everything from the gear you invest in, to the way you target and market to photography clients, so choose wisely. Sample photography fields to focus on include portraiture, corporate events, weddings, products, landscape, etc.
2. Choose a business name.
After you select a photography field to focus on, pick a name for your business. The easiest way to do this is to name your business after yourself, such as Suzi Pratt Photography. If you have a unique name, this is probably your best bet since it will be easily distinguishable. However, if you have a less unique name, such as John Smith, this might pose a problem. Can you imagine how many businesses named John Smith Photography are out there?
If using your name doesn’t work, consider naming your business after the type of photography work that you do, and the geographical region you’re based in. For example, I could call my business Seattle Food Photographer or Tasty Images Seattle. Get creative, think out of the box, and be sure to check Google to make sure the name you choose isn’t already taken.
3. Set up marketing materials.
The next step in starting a photography business is to take the business name you’ve chosen and use it to create marketing materials. In today’s digital world, that largely means online content, such as a photography portfolio website and social media pages. The only physical marketing material you should definitely invest in are business cards. Most other materials will be digital.
Your photography website doesn’t need to be super elaborate. In fact, it should be the exact opposite: simple and to the point. All you really need is a page with your brief biography, description of the services you provide, your contact information, and your photography portfolio. Words should be kept to a minimum (aim for no longer than 5 sentences per paragraph), and your portfolio doesn’t need more than 30 images. Select only your best work to display, and make sure your website is easy to navigate and view.
4. Sign up for business accounts.
This is the point where you’ll need to rely on your local resources. In order to operate as a legal photography business, you’ll need to register your business on both a federal and state level. One of the first things you’ll need is an Employer Identification Number (EIN), which is like a social security number for your business. An EIN is essential for filing your federal business tax returns and also filling out a w9 form for your clients. You can apply online for an EIN and get one almost immediately. Once you have an EIN, you’re good to go for the whole life of your business.
On a state level, you likely need a business license, but it depends on the country and state you do business in. For example, Washington State photography businesses must have both a State Business License and UBI number. The UBI number is what you’ll use to pay city and state taxes and the business license must be renewed every year for a fee. Be sure to check your local government website for specific requirements where you live.
5. Spread the word.
The final step to starting a photography business is to tell everyone you know about it. Write an email announcing your new photography business and send it to your family, friends, and colleagues. Include a link to your portfolio website and ask for recommendations or referrals for anyone in need of photography services. Also, take to social media such as Facebook and LinkedIn and write a similar message. You might be surprised at how responsive and supportive your network will be. People like to be helpful and will gladly spread the word of your new venture and help you get started.
You will probably want a more robust marketing and advertising campaign at some point. But the best way to get photography clients is to start with who you know. Personal referrals and recommendations are best because you often have a personal connection with the client. This can help you can work out your formal business processes with a familiar face.
Learning how to start a photography business can be less intimidating if you break it down into the five steps listed above. Any thoughts or questions? Let me know in the comments below!