Years ago, I started a photo business of my own. And over time, I’ve made loads of mistakes. I’ve learned from them and figured out how to run a successful photo business. But I’d be telling you a complete lie if I said that it wasn’t a lot of hard work and many sleepless nights.
Want to create a photo business of your own? Here are some things that you’ll need to do.
Create an LLC
In America, it’s a great idea to set up an LLC to legitimize yourself and the work that you do as a business. You could totally go ahead and work as yourself (which otherwise is then called being a Sole Proprietor) but if you register and LLC, then you have another layer of legal coverage. This is uber important if you’re a wedding photographer. In addition to this, it means that you have a legitimate business and that if you wanted to take advantage of any small business incentives that your state offers, you totally could.
This also means that your business gets its own EIN; otherwise known as a tax ID.
Later on, we will talk more about insurance: and some companies are going to ask about the nature of the work that you do and the business.
Discipline and Your Own Hours
“Oh man, you get to work whenever you want? That’s amazing!”
No, not really. And sometimes, not at all.
Sure if the work is all done, you can take a break because you’re your own boss but the best business owners will find a way to keep working and fix some other problem with their business. Additionally, you’ll find out very quickly that you’re going to have to sometimes work alongside the rest of the world but that you can take a longer break in the middle of the day as long as you compensate with work hours that dip late into the night. This is because of shooting times, editing, travelling, marketing, etc.
And in order to do this, you’ll need a lot of self-discipline and drive to get up every morning and realize that you’re fighting to earn a dollar.
Expenses and Budgeting
As you continue to grow your business, you have to know and realize that you’re going to have expenses that come up that you’re going to have to budget for. Amongst those are:
– Equipment repairs
– Marketing (online, Google Adwords, blogging and domain setup, Facebook/Twitter, etc)
– Website hosting fees
– Equipment upgrades (though rarely needed to be honest)
– Your own personal needs
There are loads and loads of expenses that any business owner needs to keep in mind–and these are just a few.
In order to get business, you’re going to need to market yourself. The best way to market is through blogging and social media; and all of this will take lots and lots of time. You’re going to need to apply real-life networking skills to the online world, such as having conversations, building relationships, scratching the backs of other companies, interacting with potential clients, curating and promoting your best work, coming up with incentives to drive sales, etc.
It’s a lot of work, so if you’re already intimidated then stop right now.
Of course in order to protect yourself and your gear, you’re going to need insurance. And there are many different types:
– Health insurance: yes, you’re going to have to pay this all by yourself now. Have a family? Get ready to pony up a lot of money each month. I personally pay $463 a month for very good care.
– Studio/Apartment/Home Insurance: This is just in case anything burns down or gets stolen. You’ll need to also find a way to protect and insure your gear when you’re out on the road.
– Retirement Plan: When you go to setup a retirement plan, you’ll need to put in money each month based on your income and sometimes you’ll need to meet with the company that you’re working with on a quarterly basis to give them updates on how you’re doing and adjust the amount of money that you put in.
This is where you’ll get hit the hardest–especially here in the United States. This is an extreme generalization, but you have to think of it this way: take your state taxes and then add 30%. That’s how much you’re going to get taxed in general. The best way to handle this is to pay taxes quarterly (the best is by doing estimates) so that when April comes in the US, you won’t be hit as hard.
Consider the fact that as a business owner, you’ll get lots of deductions taken out pre-tax to adjust your income such as:
– Part of your apartment or home being used for work
– A portion of your bills
– Expenses such as food, travel, marketing, equipment, etc
On top of all of this, you’ll need to ensure that your work is protected. Sure, when you create an image, it’s your copyright and you own it. But if someone steals that image and you want to take them to court, you’ll have a much tougher time proving that it is your image unless you register the copyright of it with the government.
It’s a great idea to keep this up to date and to apply early for protection because it can take the US government a while to get back to you.
Meetings and Booking Clients
To keep revenue coming in, you’ll need to meet with new clients often and factor that into your time. And as a business owner, time is money. You also need to realize that not every meeting is going to guarantee income, so you’ll need to figure out a way to ensure that you keep getting something out of it.
Making Sure You Always Have Enough Money
Finally, you’ll need to make sure that you get enough income flowing in at all times. Sometimes, the toughest part about being a creative with their own business is trying to make this happen. When you’re not shooting, you can license images out or charge for prints. But beyond this, you can put affiliate revenue or Google adsense on your website or blog. It’s much better to put it on your blog if anything.
AND LASTLY: ENSURING THAT YOU CAN HAVE A SUCCESSFUL WORK/LIFE BALANCE