June 11, 2021
When I first decided that I wanted to turn my passion for photography into a full-time occupation, I had no idea where to start! After tons of research and a whole lot of trial and error, I made my dream come true, turning all my plans into a reality! Over a decade of making mistakes, learning and experience I am now running a successful full-time photographer business and educating other photographers (like you) in the process!
With that being said, I’m thrilled to share with you some of my best tips and tricks for starting and building your photography business, so you have a place to start and a clear direction for how to get to your ultimate end goal.
This post does contain affiliate links for companies I use and believe in.
Without further ado, here they are:
Establish the name of your business.
One of the best things you can do for yourself is to really think about your business name in its beginning stages and resolve it as soon as you can! I say this because the longer you wait to change your business name, the more difficult it will be. When expanding your business, you will find yourself investing in more and more programs, social media outlets, websites, and promotional materials (like business cards). Changing your brand identity across so many platforms takes time, money, and effort! Not to mention, the brand recognition you’ve already worked so hard to build will probably take a hit and may cause confusion among your clients.
SO, how should you go about choosing that brand name? I recommend first deciding whether you’d like to choose a business name or to brand with your personal name (like me)! A good reason to choose a business name is if you see your business expanding in the future and plan to one day hire associates. However, using your own name to brand yourself does have its pros. Every time someone says your name, you are building your brand recognition! When you photograph a wedding for instance, you’re going to introduce yourself by your name, not by your business name. When other people ask about you, or if you’re being referred to somebody else, they’re most likely going to pass along your name; so basically, using your personal name as your business name is free marketing!
Connect With An Accountant
Do it the right way from the start, this way you don’t have any trouble down the road!
At the beginning of your professional photography journey, you’re most likely in a position where you have more time than you do money or clients. Take advantage of that!! Set yourself up for success so when you do get busy, you’re ready to go.
The first thing that I would recommend you do is to connect with an accountant so that you KNOW things are going to go smoothly in your financial future, and you have somebody you can consult with if you have questions! I actually have a podcast episode about this with Nicolaus Simon, an experienced accountant! Check that out here if you’re interested, or if you’d like to connect with Nicolaus! It’s SO important to make sure that everything is set up and established properly, down to the nitty-gritty details.
Legalize the Business
You may want to consider setting up your business as an LLC (Limited Liability Corporation) as this type of business structure is easy to deal with from the beginning. Then, once your business reaches a certain income bracket you can begin to file your taxes as an S-Corp in order to save money in the long-run. You can hire an attorney to set up your LLC OR you can do it through an online website such as GeauxBiz.
Paying Annual Income Tax and Monthly Sales Tax
Every year if your business is bringing in over $600/year you are expected to pay your annual income tax to the federal and state government. I highly advise speaking with an accountant in the beginning because they can assist you in the understanding and organization of this process. We, for instance, use quickbooks to balance our profit and loss statements each month and then outsource our annual income tax filing to our accountant!
Another important thing to remember in terms of taxation in the photography business is that you have to pay monthly sales tax (in the state of Louisiana, at least). Every month before the 15th, you have to go to the Louisiana Department of Revenue Services Online and pay sales tax on your photography business to every parish where clients accept product from you. SO, you’ve got an annual tax component AND a monthly tax component. This is SO important! The worst thing that can happen is that down the road you end up in a position where you have to backpay all of these taxes plus late/penalty fees. It’s best to get ahead of it when you start!
(For 50% off of your quickbooks subscription, click HERE!)
Open a business bank account.
Do this as soon as you can! In the beginning steps of starting your business, especially within the first one or two years, you’re likely going to be making a lot of purchases and spending a decent amount of money on things like gear, programs, education, and workshops. Keeping these business transactions separate from your personal transactions not only makes things easier in terms of general organization, but it acts as a log of all of your business-related incomes and expenses. This makes writing off those transactions on your taxes MUCH easier.
All of that being said, find the right bank for YOU. Chase Bank is a great bank because of their online banking system. It’s nice because the online app is super easy and convenient, there’s lots of bundling options and the bank is located in several places throughout the country if you’re ever traveling and need to pop into a branch. At Chase it’s easy to find bankers willing to help you with questions and concerns as a business owner.
Build a Strong, Consistent Portfolio
One of the most important things you should do in terms of finding clients and establishing your business is to build a portfolio! Oftentimes, it’s difficult to seek out clients when you don’t have any proof that you can actually do what you say you can. The best way to convince people of your abilities is to SHOW them! Now I know this sounds kind of counterintuitive; “So I have to build a portfolio to get clients but I have to get clients to have a portfolio…” I dealt with this SAME problem when I was starting out, and the most effective solution to my issue was to start with who you know:
Ask your family and your friends to pose for you. Do your parents have wedding rings? Ask your mom and dad to lend you their rings for a an hour or so and take some nice photos to put in your portfolio, on your website, or on your socials! Take pictures at the venues you like! One thing that I used to do that ended up really benefitting me is to call the venue coordinator, set up a meeting, dress up, make a good impression, and take some good photos of the venue. Then, you can blog them, share them with the coordinator, and post them on social. As a result of this, both you and the venue get free content! *Plus, blogging is GREAT for SEO (I suggest WordPress as it’s free and can be used/transferred among many different website platforms).In addition to taking pictures, relationships in the industry are just as (if not more) than the images themselves. Relationships lead to referrals!
** I also love Showit for my website host (and the code magic gets you 20% off your subscription!)**
Get Your Name Out
At the start of your photography journey, you should really focus on getting content. Establish relationships and shoot as much as possible whenever you possible can. However, like I mentioned before, it can be really difficult to find people that are willing to model for you when you have little-to-no experience or work to show for it! Here are some ways to increase that brand awareness, put yourself out there, and start practicing with portraiture.
One thing that helped me make connections and build business relationships is attending Rising Tide Society meetings. Rising Tide Society is a community of small business all looking to do the same thing you are – to make connections and expand their businesses! Plus, other businesses are ALWAYS looking for content; why not propose a collaboration? In exchange for providing free content you can ask that the business tags you in those photos if they post to social! This is a great way to get seen and improve your brand recognition.
I also want to emphasize that any opportunity to take photos of somebody is a way to form a relationship. That being said, form as many relationships as you can! A good way to do this is, if you want to shoot weddings for example, try connecting with people who are in the wedding industry who can benefit from collaborating with you (This works especially well if you can find business who are trying to come up at the same as you are. Then, you may not have to persuade anyone or pay models! They will be very willing to model for you). For example, you can setup a styled bridal session! Ask bridal boutiques, models, hair stylists, and makeup artists if they’d like to take part. Of course, you may not be able to find volunteers for all areas of the shoot especially if there or costs associated for the vendor (such as a florist). In this case, try to split costs!
Network and Connect
There’s a whole community of photographers on social platforms like Facebook and Instagram. Ask them about meeting up, swapping headshots or meeting to just chat about the industry standards and more. This is a great way to grow and have others to connect with and lean on in the future. I cannot say enough about how important relationships are as you grow your business. Some of the photographers that I met in my early years, I still connect with to this day! They are who I turn to for business advice and questions and they do the same. It’s also good to have a network as a wedding photographer in the case of an emergency! It’s nice to know that you have others you can call if you’re in a bind and need help (and you should always look to help others too!)
Last but not least, exhaust educational resources! There are so many photo educators with great information and really awesome programs, including in person and virtual content so take advantage! Even after all these years, I am still learning every day. There are plenty of creators that provide content on a regular basis and on many different topics, myself included! I have a resources page full of good content here! I have plenty of blog posts, podcasts, and more that you can explore; plus a ton of discount codes to help you get started when you do decide to invest in programs and platforms all at the RESOURCES PAGE. And although I have more courses and programs currently in the works, I do have a Posing Course that you may want to check out if that’s a topic you’re looking to get improve!
I hope that these tips provide with a direction to go in, or give you some ideas for what your next steps are and how to achieve them! As always, if you have any questions or you’d like to talk, shoot me an email at email@example.com.
Thanks for following along!!
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