Updated: Jan 9
To all the mamas with cameras out there asking me what I did to start my photography business.. this one's for you!
I know this is going to be longwinded.. as starting a business should be. But let's keep this as quick as possible by breaking down some key moments that led to what I consider to be a successful first year in the photography biz. Do I need to put a disclaimer? Eh maybe I should...
Disclaimer: I am transparent. I am new. I am honest. I am not a veteran photographer. And by no means am I an expert. This is just all a recount of my own personal experience.
Let me skim through the obvious real quick.. of course you're going to need some crucial gear to get started as a true professional. But this blog aint about that life. I could write an entire blog on what I would recommend a beginner to start out with but for the sake of sanity lets just get to it. You need a camera (duh), a versatile lens, batteries, SD cards, and eventually.. a flash. I'll link the blog where I break all these down for you as soon as I write it. :)
With gear aside, let's talk about choices....
What CHOICES can we make from day one to set
us up for the most success going forward?
I found a ton of advice from other photographers on YouTube (and beyond). I followed their advice and BAM! I am super satisfied with how much growth I've had in my first year. Let's break this down, but as I do I want you to keep in mind one thing...
The main idea here: TAKE YOURSELF SERIOUSLY FROM DAY 1.
And this is how..
You don’t have to talk about your new business constantly to everyone around you in order to take yourself seriously.. BUT you do have to make some moves.
First things first.. Choose a business name.
This may seem painfully obvious, but it was one of the hardest things for me. I knew I didn't want to use my own name (ex: Amanda Morseon Photography) because I knew that eventually my long-term goal was to have co-workers and employees. So, I needed something that could evolve with my business. Keep your future business goals in mind as you decide on a name. Make sure you love it and you're willing to MARRY this name. It'll turn into your brand and it's super taxing to change once you get your business off the ground.
After you've decided on a name. Start taking up space.
What do I mean by this? Create your personal space on social media and the interwebz. Nail down your Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, Twitter, or whatever other social media sites you resonate with. It's hard to manage them all, so start off by focusing on the two platforms you love the most, and go build those empires. I personally have success with Facebook and Instagram but I made a New Years resolution to work on my TikTok game so we'll see how that goes!
So far so good! And we haven't spent any money yet... oh wait.. here we go...
Now its time. Make a website
This is assuming you already have a portfolio or at least a few solid images to show off.
The main purpose is to give your future clients a way to get to know you without knowing you, and to also give them an easy way to contact/book you. You can find website building sites to help you keep it simple. I personally use Wix, which I love. Pixieset and Squarespace are popular as well. The main point here is secure a domain name and a place for your clients to see a clean picture of your work and the type of Photographer you are.
Another sure way for you to be taking yourself seriously from day one is by,
Securing your LLC or sole proprietorship.
Wahh wahhh wahhhh (That was supposed to sound like Charlie Brown's teacher)..
Anyway.. What a drag right? No. This is huge. Do your research to find out which one makes more sense for your personal business and nail. it. down. It may seem daunting when you don't have a solid income yet. I didn't have a single penny from photography services when I got my LLC but you best believe I went out and made money to fuel this new BIZ!
"How do I go about that?" You may be wondering... Well there's a few ways to do this. You can do it yourself depending on what state you're in. Literally just google "apply for LLC (or whatever)[in my state]" and it can walk you through the steps. I am pretty dumb when it comes to all that so I bought a Legalzoom account and they did all the work for me (with a hefty fee but it was worth it in my opinion). They also provided me with standard contracts to start out with. This was a big bonus for me. You will absolutely want to use contracts for every shoot you do. Just get comfortable with it from the beginning.
"If you treat your business like a business from day 1 it will make your life so much easier going forward. Not to mention, it will motivate you to make yourself accountable with smart business momentum."
...That's not a quote.. I mean it's my own quote. But I only put it in "quotes" to get your attention. I hope you're still with me here. Because shiz is about to get boring...
Okay, now that you have your LLC or whateva.. you can open a business bank account. Again.. this is super important to set the tone of professionalism when it comes to accepting payments and buying gear/operational costs. Plus, It'll make tax time so much easier. You'll thank me later..
Woot! Yay, you're starting to invest in your business.. all of these things will be included in your cost of goods which will help you determine your pricing.. that brings me to my next point.
This topic made me cringe when I first started. I could have curled up in a little ball every time somebody asked me about pricing, or wanted to talk about money at all. It’s just my own personal insecurity but I know a lot of new (and seasoned) photographers feel the same way. I’ll defenitly share my own journey with my pricing in another blog, but I’ll give you the short version. A huge business booster for me: giveaways. I started with a ton of free giveaways on my social media platforms. There was a plethora of reasons for this, but mainly I wanted to expand my portfolio and get practice without jeopardizing my business name with the chance I produced less than professional photos. (Plot twist, I shocked myself and my clients with how great the free galleries were but that I digress..) It also helped my sites and business pages take up more interwebz space by gaining likes, comments, shares, and followers.
--Let me be interject on my own blog--and be honest here for a second. There is a strong personality in the photography community in regards to those who 'saturate the market with lowball prices'. THAT was not my intention. But personally, in my first year of business.. I did not feel comfortable charging little ole' Sally the same price as somebody who's been in the business for 20 years. I made the decision to offer affordable or free photography in order to BUILD up to something more profitable. I personally do not regret my choice and would do it all over again if I had to.
My approach was to get confident enough with free and more affordable shoots until I could come out of the gate with (semi) competitive pricing. Now I definitely low balled myself for the first year, but with the experience I have now I feel much better about raising my prices to actually start to make some kind of a profit. If you're a fellow photographer reading this and hating every second of it.. I'm so sorry! But I truly, and faithfully believe there is a client and photographer out there for everyone and their budget.
So there you have it, friends. These were the first major moves I made to get this business off the ground. It may seem obvious to some but supringsinly there's still tons of photographers running businesses with no license or credibility. I find that those lacking it are definitely struggling more than those who went through the official channels to become legitimate. This could be for a few reasons but mostly I think it could be because those photographers are still operating their business like an expensive hobby. Don't freak out if you're one of them. I take you seriously and offer you all the support. I hope you take yourself seriously and wish you all the growth in this upcoming year!
Much love and light to you.