business for photography

Business for Photographers | 3 Unexpected Tips

Today I’m sharing 3 unexpected tips on business for photographers. There’s a lot of great advice out there and if you just do it all, you’ll be fine. But since doing it all is nearly impossible, I hope my take on things helps you prioritize how you build and grow your business.

I’m going to talk about budgeting and how having a starting point financially is crucial before you move forward. Then, I’ll discuss why knowing who you don’t want to work with is important for battling burnout and saving your mental health. Finally, considering diversification will help give you peace of mind in a volatile and unpredictable landscape.

As you read through these tips, I encourage you to think about what your business pain points are. What scares you, excites you, pushes you forward, or holds you back? These tips are my way of solving those problems for myself.

Budgeting for Photographers

This might sound basic but I feel like it’s an overlooked aspect of starting a photography business. Heck, it’s an overlooked aspect of running a business even years into it. I can’t tell you how many photography business owners I know who don’t have a firm grasp on their income and expenses.

Here’s the thing. If you’re spending more than you’re making, you’re not profitable. That includes paying yourself a salary.

For some people, this means we need to step back from the business side of things and make sure we have a personal budget too. Personal and business finances should be kept separate but personal and business finances are interconnected. You need to know how much your life costs so that you know the salary you require.

Take a Step Back: Personal Budget

If you don’t already have a personal budget, that’s a good place to start. Calculate how much your life costs so that you know where your money is going. It’s freedom to spend money consciously rather than not knowing where it’s going.

Getting a handle on your personal finances will help you build goals for your business as well. You’ll start to set goals for your money which will inspire and direct your work ethic. Maybe you want to work less so you cut your budget or maybe you want to spend more so you work harder.

Knowing where you stand before diving into this next section will help you have the right mindset when we start to look at our photography business. Professional photographers wear many hats and CFO is one of them. Having a business bank account is one step towards managing what that business bank account does.

Step Forward: Building a Business Budget

Now that you know how your photography business impacts your personal life, you can take a dive into your business finances. When it comes to your business bank account, you want to make sure that you’re making more than your spending, including paying yourself a salary.

Some of your costs will be fixed monthly costs while others are variable depending on print or product sales. Write down all of your expenses to get an idea of how much it costs you to run your photography business.

Professional photographers might have a variety of income streams so it’s good to set income goals for each one. When you look at your own photography business, do you have data showing where your highest profits are? It’s helpful to separate out your income sources so that you know where to direct your energy.

start a photography business Smart

If you’re looking to get started, you’ll want to keep your photography business startup costs low. Your photography business plan should include a budget and a marketing plan. Your budget should include the essentials such as a photography business website, photo editing software, business insurance, and any other business expenses.

Remember we’re going to keep business finances separate from personal but any business debt is essentially personal debt so avoid debt and build a budget instead. That means your marketing costs will be time, not money, at least in the beginning. Go where the potential clients are, finding clients for free or sweat equity will help you be profitable sooner.

Only later when you have a foundation built will you start to worry about specific business structure or paying more to conduct market research or email marketing software. Until then, market research is you. (On that note, don’t get carried away with expensive photography equipment!)

Know Who Your Ideal Client Isn’t

One of the most important things I’ve learned over more than a decade of running a photography business is that it’s important to know who you don’t want to work with. Everyone talks about the ideal client avatar and knowing your ideal client. But I’ve learned that it’s key to know who your ideal client isn’t.

When you find yourself working for the wrong person, it feels terrible. You might compromise your creativity, values, mental and emotional health, or more. Remember, you didn’t start your own photography business to have a terrible boss.

There may be a season when you put up with a terrible client but you need to fire them as soon as possible. This is the only way to avoid burnout and stay true to why you started your photography business in the first place. As a professional photographer, you have the right to expect professional behavior from your clients.

Choosing Your Clients

The best part of owning your own photography business is choosing your clients. That might mean the type of work you want to do or it might mean the type of person you want to work for. You might not know everything when you first start a photography business but you probably are aware of a few things you want to avoid.

Make a list of the type of work you want to do and the type of people you want to surround yourself with. Target your search for a potential client towards new clients that fit your vision. You’re a small business so one terrible client can have a big impact on your personal and professional life.

Instead of taking pictures, you’ll find yourself dealing with clients instead.

Diversify Your Photography Business

Now, going back to money, let’s talk more about those various income streams you have. When you start a photography business, everyone tells you to specialize, specialize, specialize. This is generally good advice when you’re just starting a photography business.

To start a photography business, you need a place to start. You need to know what photography services to offer and what skills you need to develop. It helps to specialize and be known for being really good for one thing in particular.

The problem with specialization is that your niche might be too small to be sustainable or to allow for growth. You’re also putting all your eggs in one basket. If instead, you diversify your income streams, you can handle the ebbs and flows of different aspects of your industry.

The Argument for a Diverse Photography Business

Let’s take wedding photography as an example. Wedding photography can be very seasonal and you might have a limited number of weekends that you can photograph a wedding. One choice is to work like crazy during the wedding season and then try to recover in the off-season.

I can tell you that way of working wasn’t sustainable for me. Instead, I prefer finding some non-wedding work in the off-season to help balance my income so that I don’t have to work an unrealistic schedule during the wedding season. Additionally, some years seem to be hotter for weddings than others, and having other income streams during certain years (such as a pandemic) can be a business saver.

Wedding photography is just one example. Real Estate photography can be very seasonal as well depending on where you live. When you start a photography business, you might focus on one niche and grow that to be strong but you might also take any photography work offered to you.

Summary of Photography Business Survival Tips

I hope you gleaned something helpful from these 3 photography business tips. Based on over a decade of experience I think some overlooked aspects of photography business are: budgeting, knowing who your idea client isn’t, and diversifying your income streams. When you’re building your own business, be sure that your creating and meeting your own goals.

Is your goal to be profitable, successful, or famous? And when you break that down further, what does success look like? Are you looking to save money or just live your dream.

A photography business grows when you serve more clients. Your photography portfolio and your photography career benefits too. So don’t overlook the importance of a budget or finding the right clients.

More Reading for Your Photography Business

Whether you’re looking to start a photography business or increase your photography services, we’re here to help. We have reviews on photography equipment and posts on coming up with a marketing strategy. I can’t wait for you to start your new photography business!

Recent Building a Life and Tips for Wedding Photographers you might enjoy:

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We are Marc and Brenda Bergreen, a husband and wife photography team specializing in outdoor weddings and other adventures. Capturing people in nature and the mountain lifestyle is a passion that became a dream that became a life.

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Based in Evergreen, CO we travel throughout the state as Colorado adventure wedding photographers. We also frequently travel to California and other wedding destinations to document love and adventure in a variety of memorable settings. Don’t hesitate to contact us and let us know how we can help! Be sure to follow us (weddings instagram & adventures instagram) and/or like us (facebook) to stay tuned.

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