It’s Time To Start Thinking Like The Photography Business Owner Your Are!
Now that you are a business owner, you must learn to separate your emotional connection to your art from your business. Well….to some extent. Of course as creatives, running creative businesses, we have to be emotional about our art, so that we can create from a place of truth and inspiration. Better said, it’s time to start making strategic business decisions vs emotional. You must always be thinking about the impact your decisions will have on your business.
For your business to survive long-term, you must think like a business owner. You must be profit-driven, cost-minded, organized and motivated. Here’s 5 rules that I try to run by business by:
Rule #1: You are most profitable with a camera in your hands!
It can be easy to get caught up in editing or social media, but the cold truth is that you are without a doubt at your most profitable when you are shooting. Understand where your strengths and weaknesses lie – what are good uses of your time and what are areas you might be better off outsourcing. As a business of one, you don’t have to be an expert at everything! There are experts in each area of your business that can help you. Does thinking about accounting make you shake? Hire a bookkeeper? Does SEO totally overwhelm you? Consider hiring and SEO expert to optimize your site. Is that 10 head extended family session composite going to take hours in Photoshop? Outsource it to a retoucher. Outsourcing can have a major impact on the amount of time you have available to take on more sessions. And even without outsourcing, it’s important to prioritize your time and incorporate efficiencies into your workflow so that you are optimizing your available time for shooting.
Rule #2: Every dollar you spend is a dollar you take away from your livelihood
Oh the temptations! There is always a new lens, an updated camera body, a speedlight, a backdrop, a beautiful dress for your client closet, a retreat to attend……The ways to spend money in this industry are endless! Once you transition to being a business owner and needing this income to support your household, you must exercise restraint with your spending. And even if you don’t rely on the income from your photography business to pay family expenses, if you are running a business, you deserve to earn a living wage for your time investment. Your time has value, whether your family needs the income or not.
Refrain from purchasing the latest gear because it looks fun. Instead, before purchasing do a need-based analysis. For example, if your computer is very slow and makes culling and editing impossible, a new computer may be worth investing in because it is faster and will cut down your editing time. If all you have is a 35mm lens, an 85mm lens may be worth investing in so that you can capture creamy portraits of your clients. But on the same note, there are going to be many other temptations that you really don’t have a business need for. So be mindful of every dollar you spend, so that you can maximize what you put in your pocket.
Rule #3: Think Long Term
As a business owner you have to always be thinking long term. Sure charging $150 for a session will get people in the door today but what does that mean for your place in this industry 3 years from now? Instead of doing a shoot for $150, your time would be better spent developing a marketing plan and outreach program to reach higher paying clientele that can truly support your business long-term. Same goes for workflow management. It may feel like a considerable time investment to set up a thorough client workflow when you don’t have much business, but investing the time now to create solid workflow procedures will ensure your business is ready and scalable for when demand for your services picks up.
Rule #4: You Have To Market To Target Clients And Not Fellow Photographers
As a business owner, it is important to start shifting your mindset when it comes to social media and marketing. As a hobbyist you are mostly appealing to friends, family and fellow photographers. As a business owner you are working to attract your target clients. You need to have a solid understanding of who your target client is and how to reach them. When marketing via social media or any other platform, you want to be sure you are speaking directly to your target clients and not fellow photographers.
Rule #5: You’ve Got To be Organized & In control
This is your business, these are your clients, this is your art. You need to hold the reigns. You need to know your numbers. You need to manage the business side with the same enthusiasm and diligence as you do the artistic side. You may have never considered yourself to be a “numbers person” but it’s time for that to change. You must know your numbers, you must be organized, and you must have full understanding of all the ins and outs of the day-today of your business. Even if you outsource your bookkeeping, your can’t remove that side of your business from your strategic thinking. You have to pay attention to your time investment in each session, the hours you spend on administrative tasks like website maintenance, and you have to closely watch every dollar that you spend. In addition you will need an organized system for managing client contracts and other documents. To tie back to what I said before, outsource when you think it will benefit the bottom line of your business, but make sure you stay organized and in control of all the strategic elements of your business.
If you are new to starting your photography business, or even if you’ve been at it a while but you want to be sure you’re set up for long-term success, join me for my 2 week business class, Business From The Ground Up, starting May 10th!