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Starting Your Own Photography Business

This article is spread over a few pages, separated into stages. The first on this page takes us from the inclination through the initial research, and looking at the feasibility, to the point where we know if there is a strong likelihood that we have both a viable business idea and the inclination to make it happen.

Linked to this series of pages you will find some other pages, which in turn link to other pages. If you were to follow these you could end up in a ball of spaghetti and loose the focus. I would suggest therefore that initially you read just the article pages and then if deciding to put it into practice, start again from the beginning using the links to help you obtain additional information and bring about your dream. In addition to a large number of articles there are some checklists, these can be applicable to establishing a business, but also would be applicable to making decisions in growing or expanding an existing business. If you already have a photographic business then this article and linking pages and checklists may help you to either focus your business more or define expansion areas that would be both profitable and enjoyable.

You will see throughout, the concept of 'business being enjoyable', which may appear a foreign concept to those who have worked in the corporate environment, or in local or national government where work involves selling your time and putting up with tasks and often people that you would not have chosen. While you can establish a business under the same model, making it as profitable as possible with no consideration to enjoying life or the fulfilling role that you play and the satisfaction that this brings, you can also develop businesses that are enjoyable, have enormous rewards in many ways, and still bring in a larger income than you would by selling your time. Running your own business will involve the whole of your life, while working for others you may be able to switch off at 5pm and for weekends, when it's your own business and you're in control there is no switch off, so you really do need to enjoy what you are doing.

Many people have the dream of running their own business and in turn many do not get around to it. Those that have managed to have confidence in their own abilities and decided that this is the lifestyle they want to follow, have decided to take the plunge. Now what?

Many questions come to mind when you are at this stage

  • What shall I do ?

  • How do I go about it ?

  • Do I have the skills required ?

  • Will the quality of my work be high enough ?

  • Will enough people buy to make it viable ?

  • What help is there available to me ?

  • Do I have to have capital, will a bank loan me any money ?

  • How can I do it on my own ?

  • Do I need a company or should I be a sole trader ?

  • How do I produce a Business Plan, Marketing Plan and more ?

  • Other questions.....

Many of these questions will be answered on this and on subsequent and linking pages, but the one thing about being your own boss is that it is you that makes the decisions, so if there are unanswered questions it is you that will need to work out the solution. If you are the type of person who needs others to sort out problems for you then it may be that you should work for others where this is available or look at franchises or other means of establishing a business where others will tell you what to do. Of course you can acquire skills, go on courses and use the expertise of consultants and others to fill the gaps to allow you to make your dream come true.

The start point is ‘Photography Business’ – what is this! Presumably you love taking photographs and think you are pretty good at it, and now you want to share your love, enthusiasm and knowledge with others. However you are going to have to break this down much more – photography business is too wide and there is just not enough time in the day to do everything, believe me!

So start by making some lists. Use the scenario, if you were able to do absolutely anything and had no constraints, what would you most like to do.

Create yourself a list, looking at what you like to photograph or feel you are really good at photographing, don’t worry at this point whether it is saleable, whether it is a suitable business or something that will make a profit, or whether you are going to run it full time or on a part time basis, that will come later. See the article An Income from Photography for some ideas on the types of photography you may want to consider.

Make a list of what it is about photography that you enjoy, is it taking the photographs, is it the editing, or do you like meeting people, do you want to provide a service, do you want to be able to travel, these are the sorts of questions to start with.

Make another list of other skills you have, and don’t forget the skills and experience you use/used whilst at work that you think would be good for your business.

Once you have the lists, prioritise the first two in the order of what you would most like to do.

These lists allow us to target, for more detailed research, the photography business areas that are most suitable and enjoyable to you. Most photographers do not produce a good income from a single area but from a collection of areas, for example a wedding photographer may also do event photography, a photographer publishing limited edition views may also submit work to picture libraries, for calendars, and some may have four or five photographic areas that at least to start each produce part of their income, where a single area would not generate enough revenue to allow them to become established. 

So you now have a list of potential photography areas that you may like to do. The next step is to carry out some research to see what is currently in the marketplace, both nationally and locally. Some of your interest areas may have a national or international coverage or relevance, while some others may be very local in nature. The geographical aspect will determine both the relevance of the research you need to do, but will also be very influential later in the marketing decisions and your marketing plan. The internet is a good resource for this as many businesses have a website, but don’t forget your local area. Identify what opportunities are available to you and keep a look out for a ‘gap’ in the market.

You can often see gaps in the market, it may be that in your research you come across services being provided elsewhere that are not available locally, or it may be that you can see a new way or a different approach to serving some needs. There are many ways to do most things and just because others have dropped into one pattern it does not mean that you have to do the same. Having said this while the pioneer has a unique selling feature and some advantages it is always more difficult marketing a new concept than one which is established. In many areas such as wedding photography, you have the problem that many clients will be looking for what they consider to be the traditional service, and often the younger perhaps more experimental client is often going to be restricted by who is paying the bill.

As you are carrying out this research you will get a better understanding of what is already on offer and who your potential competitors might be, but you will probably also get a greater enthusiasm for one area over another and that ‘GAP’ will be a trigger to spur you on. It is possible that, particularly if you are planning to run a full time business, you will identify that to make a good income from photography it will involve the need to combine a number of marketing areas.

Remember this research is only allowing you to get a picture of what the current marketplace has on offer, so don’t get too involved in the ‘nitty gritty’ of how others are doing things, or let what they are charging put you off at this point.

Next we enter the first of several stages where a working crystal ball would be most useful, we need to make a wild guess of the number of sales and average value of sales we would anticipate in each of the areas we are dreaming of entering. To go with this we need to estimate the cost of fulfilling these orders and the cost of the advertising or promotion that will be necessary to bring in these sales. Later we are going to look at doing this in far more detail but at this stage we need some quick figures to see if the idea that we have is viable. You may need to do some additional research, for example if you feel you need trade premises rather than being able to work from home, then you need to know all the costs involved, rent, local taxes, water, electricity, heating, telephones, and staff allowing for holidays, maternity leave..... If you are lucky you will have chosen an area that requires no business premises and no staff, so it will be far easier to establish a profitable business and involve far less risk.

Having established that your dream could become a reality you have to now look at your abilities, skills and the level of support that you will get from those around you. It is likely that in any new business you will need to work very many hours, there will be few holidays, and your finances are likely to be far more restricted. It is therefore essential that those around you, who perhaps have got used to you supporting them are prepared at least for a period to put off other requests and to be understanding. Any plan tends to assume that everything goes to plan, but in reality there are always things outside our control and progress will tend to be slower than we anticipate, we therefore need to be able to survive while bringing our plan into action, even if it takes twice as long as we anticipate.

Running your own business has different pressures, can be very enjoyable, rewarding in many ways and open up new interests and bring you into contact with interesting people. Most who have successfully run a business would never consider working for anyone else while at the stage in their life when they are looking for fresh challenges. Some after retiring or suffering medical problems may however like a time filling opportunity to meet people and therefore not necessarily then wish to run their own business.

We are now approaching the point where you need to make the decision whether to proceed or not, going on from here does not commit you but there is little point in undertaking all the preparatory work if you don't have a very strong feeling that you are going to make this happen.

Are you ready to proceed to The Next Step.

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