Starting a photography business can be a stressful, time-consuming task. But do it right, and you can build a business that is successful for years to come and provides you and your family with the income you need to lead a good life. There’s a lot that goes into making a business successful, and if I’m honest, the cards are stacked against you.
It’s a fact that most businesses fail within the first year. Heck, not that many survive past two years, and fewer still are in business a decade down the road. As with anything, building a successful business requires a ton of preparation. The groundwork that you lay now will be a crucial element of how successful your photography business will be. Though this isn’t a comprehensive guide on jump starting your photography career (that’s available here), what’s included below are a few simple and quick steps you can take to be sure that you’re starting things off on the right foot.
Goals, Goals, Goals!
I’m not really a goal-oriented person in my personal life, but you can bet that I learned how to set goals in business.
Having something to work towards gives you and your business direction. In the short-term, goals can help you sift through everything that needs to be done just to set up a business (i.e. creating a business plan, securing financing for a studio or office space, setting up a website, having a logo developed, etc.). Long-term goals help frame everything you do in the short-term in terms of how they will help you achieve success in the future. Basically, having tangible and attainable goals helps you develop a road map for success. Achieve one goal, then move on to achieve the next one, then the next one, and so forth.
It’s easy to become overwhelmed by everything you have to do as a business owner. It’s also easy to get stuck on the little details when you should be looking at the big picture. Developing goals for your business will help you avoid both of those things and focus on what you really want – developing a successful business.
Efficiency is Key
Here’s a newsflash that many beginner photographers don’t want to hear. When you start a photography business, the vast majority of your time will not be spent taking photos. Instead, you’ll be managing your books, answering phone calls and emails, scheduling appointments, sending invoices, and so forth. In other words, you’ll be as much (if not more) of an office manager as you will be a photographer.
Granted, those tasks are a necessary part of business, but they don’t have to consume all your time. Efficiency is key here, and outfitting yourself with the right virtual assistant can help you build a streamlined operation. For me, the best option to get your photography business in order is Iris Works. To start with, Iris Works keeps you organized so you minimize the amount of time trying to keep track of what needs to be done and more time actually getting those tasks completed.
Iris Works features a dashboard (shown above) with your calendar, a to-do list, and even an overview of all your current projects. And that’s just the beginning. Iris Works also includes something called “Workflows” that allows you to set timelines for projects, create the aforementioned to-do lists, and even send invoices to clients so you’re sure you don’t miss billing anyone. You can also create messages to clients and schedule the messages to go out at specific times. Timely, consistent communication with your clients really has never been easier!
What’s more, Workflows has pre-loaded templates for many of these tasks, so you can save time not having to build your own (although, Iris Works lets you build custom templates if you want). Yet another primary task that Iris Works can handle for you is doing all of that documentation. You know, creating contracts, sending invoices, and collecting payments. Build your own custom contracts right within Iris Works, and send them electronically for your client’s signature. Do the same with model release forms too! See how to create and send a contract in Iris Works in the video above.
When it comes time to bill your clients, just send your invoices through the Iris Works platform, and you can easily track which clients have paid and which ones haven’t. You can even send an electronic receipt once payment is received. If it seems like I’m gushing over Iris Works, it’s because I am! And I’m not alone. This is a game-changer for self-employed photographers – believe me! Check out Iris Works and see all the other incredible features it offers to help you streamline your workflow and develop a strong, successful, long-lasting business.
Spend Time on Marketing
You can take the best photos in the world, but if you aren’t able to market yourself and your work, it’s going to be tough for you to stay in business very long. One of the behind-the-scenes tasks you’ll need to tackle is marketing your business. Now, this can mean a lot of different things, but at its heart, your marketing strategy should serve to not just get your name out there amongst the buying public, but it should also be geared toward differentiating you from everyone else.
Photographers are a dime a dozen, and as the new kid on the block, you need to prove that what you offer is better than everyone else, including the photographers that have been at it for awhile. When you market your business, be sure you have a consistent message. That message should focus on your personality. Why? In a sea of photographers, you are the only you! It’s the simplest and most effective way to differentiate yourself from the crowd. Who you are impacts everything you do, from the style of the photos you create to the manner in which you interact with clients.
The question is, how do you incorporate your unique personality into your branding?
It’s simple – use mediums that allow you to showcase who you are. Post photos to Instagram to showcase your artistic style. Make YouTube videos to introduce yourself to your clients and show them who you are as a person. Write frequent blog posts talking about your workflow or offer educational tips about taking photos or processing them. The point is that putting an ad in the paper saying, “Hey, I’m a photographer, and I’m open for business” isn’t going to do much for you. Instead, focusing on getting your name, your face, and your personality out there will get you started off on much stronger footing.
Check out more tips for boosting your photography brand in the video above from Vanessa Joy and B&H Photo.
Take Time for You
The quickest way to burn yourself out and start to hate photography as a business is to push yourself too hard. Yes, there is a lot to do – perhaps much more than you initially thought. But burning the midnight oil each and every night and neglecting your mind and body is not going to do you any favours. When you’re self-employed, it can be extremely difficult to get yourself into a schedule, but as I’ve found, setting some boundaries for when you do and don’t work can do wonders for your spirits.
That means that when the clock strikes 6:00 pm (or whatever time you choose), make it the end of the day. Resist the urge to check email, edit one last photo, or add a few more things to your to-do list. Additionally, make sure you take breaks during the day to recharge your batteries. Take a quick walk. Grab a snack. Text your kids. Just step away for a moment a few times a day, and I promise you’ll find that you can get more done (and with a better attitude). Combined with setting tangible goals, streamlining your workflow with Iris Works, and focusing on marketing, you’ll be well on your way to building a successful photography business!