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Gear Talk => Canon General => Topic started by: scottsdaleriots on March 04, 2012, 11:54:46 PM

Title: How to start up a *successful* home photography business from scratch?
Post by: scottsdaleriots on March 04, 2012, 11:54:46 PM
As a few of you may know I'm currently studying photography and am contemplating withdrawing from the course - some of the reasons include scheduling of classes/lectures, transportation and travelling time, not 100% committed, significantly reduced hours to work (if any since so hectic) and it's expensive.

What I wanna know is how challenging and what kind of difficulties would arise trying to start a photography business from ground up? It doesn't neccessarily have to be a 'home' studio type of thing. Just how do you get someone willing to pay you a reasonable amount to take their photo? And how would you sustain that flow of income in the years (even decades) to come?
Title: Re: How to start up a *successful* home photography business from scratch?
Post by: D_Rochat on March 05, 2012, 12:21:07 AM
As I don't run a business, I can't really give any advice other than take a business class. Many people who have started a business (not just in photography) have failed because they don't know how to run one.
Title: Re: How to start up a *successful* home photography business from scratch?
Post by: scottsdaleriots on March 05, 2012, 02:20:50 AM
Yeah, a couple of the photography short courses I've done, the teacher has commented that it's probably actually better to do a business degree/do some short courses since it's about marketing and all that stuff. It's hard to get constant income, let alone loyal customers coming back for more.
Title: Re: How to start up a *successful* home photography business from scratch?
Post by: koolman on March 05, 2012, 03:59:21 AM
Hi,

Learning and understanding photography is one thing, running a business is quite another. You could take excellent pictures, but be a poor business man and not understand how to interact with clients, promote and market yourself, and wind up with no income and a damaged self image (what went wrong?).

Taking a business course is a very good idea. I would also suggest working for a successful photographer for a period of time, even for low pay. Make sure to carefully observe his interaction with the client at all stages, starting from the onset, giving a quote, behavior during the shoot - making everyone at ease and making the process as pleasant as possible, dealing with special requests, handling complaints, offering extra's, collecting the money, etc. etc. I'm sure there are all kinds of tricks of the trade as far as making the client happy, possibly surprising them with an extra, etc. etc.

Business is all about the FEELING you give the client - this is a function of many stages.

Good Luck



Title: Re: How to start up a *successful* home photography business from scratch?
Post by: Hillsilly on March 05, 2012, 04:34:04 AM
There are still a lot of photographers out there making a reasonable living.  Times are tougher now, and there seems to be more and more people setting up photography businesses, but, hey, you don't now how successful you'll be until you try.  Besides, if local photographers are filling you with doubts, maybe its because they just don't want you as competition?

Go and visit a good local accountant.  Most offer a free initial meeting and they'll discuss some of the regulatory requirements (such as having an ABN, trading name registration), business structure (sole trader vs company vs trust), things you should consider (public liability insurance, merchant facility with a bank, contracts with customers) along with marketing and business growth strategies.  A good accountant is an essential source of information. 

They'll also help you decide whether you've go enough money to get started (bearing in mind that most service businesses can take three or more years to gain enough clients before showing decent profits).

How do you get people to pay you money?  Welcome to the real world!  I'd focus on one area - eg weddings, catalogues, e-commerce, real estate, events.  What are the growth areas?  Is there a niche market you could tap into?  Then I'd start a multi-pronged marketing approach.  I'd get a website set up initially and follow that up with a facebook and google+ page. To a large extent, this can just be brochure type sites initially - set and forget while you focus on getting in front of people and making personal contacts.  Obviously, you'd have a gallery of photographs and maybe some testimonials on your website.  If possible, I'd compile a list of potential ideal customers and call them up or post them a brochure - ideally both.  If your target market is easily identifiable, find out if there are any conferences or expos that are relevant where you can set up a stall.  If you are looking at weddings, consider advertising in wedding magazines.  Grab the yellow pages, find possible customers and give them a call.  Walk through the city showing potential customers your portfolio.

Once you have a customer or two, ask them for referrals.  Don't be shy about asking for them and make sure you follow up.

Repeat customers are probably going to be your main source of income.  I don't fully subscribe to the "customer is always right" philosophy, but I find if you treat your customers with respect and offer a good service, they should keep coming back (and ideally tell their friends).
 
Obviously, keep your customers contact details and give them a call occasionally to see how they are going. 

Make friends with every graphic designer, web designer and marketing person that you meet.  Have a reasonable coffee budget for taking them out every few months.  Pass on referrals to them and see if anything comes back.  If you're doing weddings, obviously focus on stationers, wedding dress shops, celebrants etc.

There are so many options and ways to get customers.  But, no matter how hard you try, some businesses just don't work.  Set a reasonable target about where you want to be in 12 months and 24 month's time.  Don't be afraid to pull the pin if things just aren't working.  You can always try again in a few year's time.  In the worst case scenario, at least you'll have some experience and some marketing know-how.

Lastly, treat it like a real job.  Put the hours in.  If you're not actually taking photos, you've got to be out there looking for customers.   

Lastly, lastly, have you considered a job in the mines?  The income is good, so you can afford anything you want.  With the fly in fly out arrangements, you'd have plenty of time to focus on photographing anything you want wherever you want whenever you want.  Plus you can save up some money to kick start a photography business of properly.
Title: Re: How to start up a *successful* home photography business from scratch?
Post by: Hillsilly on March 05, 2012, 05:08:57 AM
Alternatively, depending on where your interests lie, you could also follow Steve Parish's example.  Find something you're passionate about that also has a high level of public interest, then self-publish books, calendars, posters etc.  That way, you don't have to find clients per se - you just have to focus on getting your books into the shops and hope they sell. 
Title: Re: How to start up a *successful* home photography business from scratch?
Post by: mikef2 on March 05, 2012, 07:56:43 AM
Heyho..

Ive a CMI degree in Business management(uk).. one of the best pieces of advice is take a similar course(for your location)  takes 1yr to 18 months if you have relevant experience or 2-3 yrs if not.. but when dealing with customers  be firm but fair and offer a service that goes beyond everyone else..dont tell a customer what you cant do..tell em what you can.. and do it with a smile and communicate (Give a spot on product/service) and dont fork out for get rich quick marketting.. be steady methodical.. and work at it..

OH.. dont forget to pay your TAXES..lol

(Do that and referals will fly in ..I did a similar thing 8-10 yrs ago with a specialist car part ..I was getting word of mouth enquiries from Iceland to Uruguay and I sold hundreds..;0))

M.
Title: Re: How to start up a *successful* home photography business from scratch?
Post by: mikef2 on March 05, 2012, 08:00:04 AM
Scotts..If you get really stuck and you can find me.. ask a question and will try to help..

m.

that does not mean flood gates are now open for everyone so form an orderly que!!
Title: Re: How to start up a *successful* home photography business from scratch?
Post by: Herb on March 05, 2012, 08:37:37 AM
In some ways I’m envious of your problem.  I would love to have had a career in photography but I can’t imagine it would pay as well as my day job does now.  That said, since this is going to be your career, I’d encourage you to stay in school.  I grew up in a family where education wasn’t a priority.  I was expected to finish high school and get a job.  From very early on I was taught that college was for rich kids.  So I enlisted in the Air Force and made a career out of managing government contracts.  I took a few business classes here and there but didn’t get my degree until I was well into middle age.  I’m certainly no smarter because of some piece of paper, but it has opened some doors.  There are lots of very successful people who've dropped out of college, and there are some real idiots with advanced degrees.  I guess my point is, that while completing your education isn’t going to change who you are, it is a factor in how the world judges you.  I’d encourage you to stick it out.  In the long run your talent will determine how successful you are, but being able to show your educational credentials will help get you started.  Best of luck to you.
Title: Re: How to start up a *successful* home photography business from scratch?
Post by: bigblue1ca on March 05, 2012, 01:56:05 PM
I know others have said this OP, but don't think strictly about this as photography; think about it entirely as starting your own business from scratch.  Your knowledge of business, marketing, and accounting will be very important if you wish to be successful. If you don't have those skills, I suggest you start educating yourself, but in the mean time pay someone for their knowledge, particularly on the accounting end.

I suggest you start with reading: VisionMongers: Making a Life and a Living in Photography, David duChemin http://www.amazon.com/VisionMongers-Making-Life-Living-Photography/dp/0321670205 (http://www.amazon.com/VisionMongers-Making-Life-Living-Photography/dp/0321670205).  If you still want to pursue your goal after that, start working on the rest.

One other option I know several photographers have pursued is to start a career in something else that still allows you to work on your photography business on the side.  This will allow you to have money to live, money to invest in your own company (think equipment, training, business expenses), money to try and fail at ideas, and once you have established you think you can make a go of it and there is enough demand for you, then go full time.
Title: Re: How to start up a *successful* home photography business from scratch?
Post by: Mt Spokane Photography on March 05, 2012, 02:04:22 PM
You might try the pro forum on Fred Miranda's blog.

The competition you have to deal with is the large number of would be professional photographers who buy a camera and start advertising on Craigslist for very low prices.  Most of the time, they are taking snap shots with their on camera flash, and buyers looking for a deal are thrilled to get photos on a CD for a low cost.  Then, when they see their wedding photos are not so good, there is nothing they can do, the event is gone. They may even complain to the BBB and that can hurt a business.  I bought a whole used set of lenses, lighting, and accessories from a neighbor who was doing weddings.  He was good, but came to hate the business side, people always complaining and trying to get lower prices, or wanting refunds.  Its a very tough business.

More discerning and particular people will ask for references, want to see your work, and visit your studio. 

As noted, there is the absolutely important business side as well, keeping books, setting appointments, taking credit cards, advertising, attorney's fees, dealing with unhappy customers and bounced checks, etc. 

You may be better off getting some experience and building a portfolio by working for another photography company.  You may even decide to not start your own business.

Good luck, if you start from scratch, it will be a bumpy path, and only the really good businessmen with real talent and good references will make it to the point where they can put food on the table.
Title: Re: How to start up a *successful* home photography business from scratch?
Post by: Wedding Shooter1 on March 05, 2012, 02:30:45 PM
Hey Scott,

What type of photography business are you wanting to pursue?
Title: Re: How to start up a *successful* home photography business from scratch?
Post by: 7enderbender on March 05, 2012, 03:08:13 PM
Plenty of good advice here already but I'm going to try anyway:

So first question here seems to be what you are getting out of your current classes, right? Here's a bit of life experience from a 42 year old who has been a bit all over the place himself (in more than one way). If you don't like the current course regimen for concrete reasons that's one thing. Cost and time commitment may just be something where you're kidding yourself. Not trying to be mean here, but I've been there (in my case it was when I first went to medical school...). So any chance that photography is not something you want to do all day and night? Because that's what it takes, I believe, to turn it into a business that you can actually live of. So - as much as I'm a firm believer in education as only ONE means to an end, having the degree and the connections from school may not be all so bad if you are serious about it. Dropping out I'd only consider if you have a plan B that is already working. And it doesn't sound like that. Again, I'm trying to help and not to be harsh.

So, that leads us to business. Taking a few business classes in one form or another is a good idea. For anyone really. I'm always shocked to what degree people are economic illiterates. Schools obviously only teach the more fluffy aspects of it or teachers really are clueless as well. And I don't even mean the "investment advice" type of knowledge that the TV gurus and self help writers of this world are pushing. More the basic principles. I personally believe that nobody is fit for business (or life really) if he or she doesn't understand terms and meaning such as "opportunity cost" and the difference between "cost" and "value". Those two concepts alone are big and I could charge you a good fortune right now for pointing you in that direction.

Especially "artists" seem to suffer from a lack of understanding in that department. Again, this sounds mean spirited but you might find out what I mean by this by researching these concepts. Obviously, there are successful photographers who seem to make a decent living. Look what they do and then ask yourself if that is something you can commit to. If not, what is it you like? And who is your market for that? Is there one? Do you have the tools and skill set for that segment? Are you OK with doing stuff you don't love just to make enough money? Are you on your own or do/will others depend on you? Is your significant other on board?

You see, more questions and no answers but maybe it helps.

And not to discourage you but my path went away from using my artistic inclinations for a full-time living (music and photography in my case). I didn't want to play weddings and teach kids how to play "Enter Sandman" like the vast majority (!) of people I know who went pro (many of which more talented than I am). Instead, I invested myself into another passion (healthcare) and found a different approach that combined a few interests (clinical stuff, business, politics) while adding a business degree. Everything else is no my creative outlet or every now and then a "vanity business" that my family doesn't depend on. But that's just how it played out for me and knowing what I know now I'd maybe try a few things differently if I was 22. Maybe not. Or in other words: if one of my kids will come to me wanting to pursue a full time artistic career they'd have my full support - as long as they understand what it entails and are fully committed.

Oh, and here is one more (half-serious but it may still be bad for the Karma points): assuming that you're a guy don't even try the cutsie-putise approach of a certain brand of portrait/wedding/baby/boudoir photography. You sound too intelligent and you may not me pretty enough. If guys try this they're looked at as creeps and not as oh-so-cuuuute! ;-) But what do I know.


Title: Re: How to start up a *successful* home photography business from scratch?
Post by: Wedding Shooter1 on March 05, 2012, 11:29:20 PM
As a few of you may know I'm currently studying photography and am contemplating withdrawing from the course - some of the reasons include scheduling of classes/lectures, transportation and travelling time, not 100% committed, significantly reduced hours to work (if any since so hectic) and it's expensive.

What I wanna know is how challenging and what kind of difficulties would arise trying to start a photography business from ground up? It doesn't neccessarily have to be a 'home' studio type of thing. Just how do you get someone willing to pay you a reasonable amount to take their photo? And how would you sustain that flow of income in the years (even decades) to come?

Hey Scott, there is a lot that goes into getting things going and keeping things going. It all depends I guess on what exactly you are wanting to do photography wise.

To start I would say you need to know your equipment. You need to know your camera inside and out. What all the settings and functions do and when to use them. You need to know how to spot good light and use it to your advantage. Good photography is all about the light. You need to know how to use your flashes on locations and studio lighting in house if that is what you are going to do. You will have to spend many hours with trial and error to see what works for you, to learn what your equipment does and how to make it happen. You can't do these things while photographing clients. You need to put in the time to learn before you charge people money.

You will need to do some work at first for free to build a portfolio. If it's good, that is how people will hire you. If they do hire you and are not happy, then that is a way to lose customers. Happy clients = sustaining the flow of income because they tell other people about you.

You need to know how to use all the programs that are involved in retouching and image manipulation. RAW file processing. Photoshop is a vast program, it takes time to learn. The computer you use should be capable of doing all these things quickly especially as you purchase new bodies and the file sizes keep getting larger. You have to have backup gear, extra bodies and lenses in case of mishaps. Extra flashes in case of malfunction.

You will need storage, not a lot at first but as time goes on you will have to keep getting more hard drives. Keeping clients files at your location and backed up at another off site location too.

In the sea of mediocre new photographers that think it's easy money and declare themselves a photographer you need to know all of the above to create amazing images. That is key, you need to stand out. You will need to advertise as well. You need to know not only how to take a great photo but how to direct your clients, usually they are nervous or don't know what to do. They will expect you to make them look good and direct them and make them feel comfortable.

You need a great website, one that makes you stand out with great images, also a way to proof your photos to clients as well. Again, you need for them to find and want to hire you. You need to be a people person. Dealing with the public isn't easy, you will find that out sooner or later.

To be in business you have to pay taxes, I pay on the average 5 grand a quarter....lame!...haha....Although at first you won't probably have to pay any, but after a certain amount of time you will. You need to keep track of all that, along with your states sales tax. You will have to register with your state sales tax office and keep track of who paid you what, then you have to pay it to your state.

You have to do the shooting, do the album designs, do the proof editing and RAW manipulation. Do the photoshopping, do your accounting for your business, take care of print orders, mail them out at the post office........Answer countless emails, meet with prospective clients. You have to show them work that will make them want to hire you.

You will have to come up with pricing for all aspects of what you would like to sell clients. Photo sessions, wedding packages, album prices, print prices and you will have to source all the companies that provide these things. If you want to do your own prints you will have to calibrate your monitor, spend time learning how to get the results you would like.

There are a lot of aspects to get things going. Don't be discouraged, if you have it in you, you can do it.

Title: Re: How to start up a *successful* home photography business from scratch?
Post by: scottsdaleriots on March 06, 2012, 06:41:18 AM
Scotts..If you get really stuck and you can find me.. ask a question and will try to help..

m.

that does not mean flood gates are now open for everyone so form an orderly que!!
I think I'll take you up on that offer. Just need to think of some questions.

In some ways I’m envious of your problem.  I would love to have had a career in photography but I can’t imagine it would pay as well as my day job does now.  That said, since this is going to be your career, I’d encourage you to stay in school.  I grew up in a family where education wasn’t a priority.  I was expected to finish high school and get a job.  From very early on I was taught that college was for rich kids.  So I enlisted in the Air Force and made a career out of managing government contracts.  I took a few business classes here and there but didn’t get my degree until I was well into middle age.  I’m certainly no smarter because of some piece of paper, but it has opened some doors.  There are lots of very successful people who've dropped out of college, and there are some real idiots with advanced degrees.  I guess my point is, that while completing your education isn’t going to change who you are, it is a factor in how the world judges you.  I’d encourage you to stick it out.  In the long run your talent will determine how successful you are, but being able to show your educational credentials will help get you started.  Best of luck to you.
WHat I am afraid of happening is that I will end up hating the course and sticking with it but loathing each and every day I'm in class/doing something for an assignment. That is what happened to me a few years ago with me studying hospitality. I hated it thoroughly and regrettedly doing it even though I did aquire some good skills/knowledge.

I know others have said this OP, but don't think strictly about this as photography; think about it entirely as starting your own business from scratch.  Your knowledge of business, marketing, and accounting will be very important if you wish to be successful. If you don't have those skills, I suggest you start educating yourself, but in the mean time pay someone for their knowledge, particularly on the accounting end.

I suggest you start with reading: VisionMongers: Making a Life and a Living in Photography, David duChemin http://www.amazon.com/VisionMongers-Making-Life-Living-Photography/dp/0321670205 (http://www.amazon.com/VisionMongers-Making-Life-Living-Photography/dp/0321670205).  If you still want to pursue your goal after that, start working on the rest.

One other option I know several photographers have pursued is to start a career in something else that still allows you to work on your photography business on the side.  This will allow you to have money to live, money to invest in your own company (think equipment, training, business expenses), money to try and fail at ideas, and once you have established you think you can make a go of it and there is enough demand for you, then go full time.
When you say think of it as 'starting your own business' that sounds even more daunting. But thanks for the book suggestion, I will check it out. Can you elaborate a little more about fellow photographers doing something else as a career and having photography on the side? It's been a long day for me, my brain isn't functioning properly.

As a few of you may know I'm currently studying photography and am contemplating withdrawing from the course - some of the reasons include scheduling of classes/lectures, transportation and travelling time, not 100% committed, significantly reduced hours to work (if any since so hectic) and it's expensive.

What I wanna know is how challenging and what kind of difficulties would arise trying to start a photography business from ground up? It doesn't neccessarily have to be a 'home' studio type of thing. Just how do you get someone willing to pay you a reasonable amount to take their photo? And how would you sustain that flow of income in the years (even decades) to come?

Hey Scott, there is a lot that goes into getting things going and keeping things going. It all depends I guess on what exactly you are wanting to do photography wise.

To start I would say you need to know your equipment. You need to know your camera inside and out. What all the settings and functions do and when to use them. You need to know how to spot good light and use it to your advantage. Good photography is all about the light. You need to know how to use your flashes on locations and studio lighting in house if that is what you are going to do. You will have to spend many hours with trial and error to see what works for you, to learn what your equipment does and how to make it happen. You can't do these things while photographing clients. You need to put in the time to learn before you charge people money.

You will need to do some work at first for free to build a portfolio. If it's good, that is how people will hire you. If they do hire you and are not happy, then that is a way to lose customers. Happy clients = sustaining the flow of income because they tell other people about you.

You need to know how to use all the programs that are involved in retouching and image manipulation. RAW file processing. Photoshop is a vast program, it takes time to learn. The computer you use should be capable of doing all these things quickly especially as you purchase new bodies and the file sizes keep getting larger. You have to have backup gear, extra bodies and lenses in case of mishaps. Extra flashes in case of malfunction.

You will need storage, not a lot at first but as time goes on you will have to keep getting more hard drives. Keeping clients files at your location and backed up at another off site location too.

In the sea of mediocre new photographers that think it's easy money and declare themselves a photographer you need to know all of the above to create amazing images. That is key, you need to stand out. You will need to advertise as well. You need to know not only how to take a great photo but how to direct your clients, usually they are nervous or don't know what to do. They will expect you to make them look good and direct them and make them feel comfortable.

You need a great website, one that makes you stand out with great images, also a way to proof your photos to clients as well. Again, you need for them to find and want to hire you. You need to be a people person. Dealing with the public isn't easy, you will find that out sooner or later.

To be in business you have to pay taxes, I pay on the average 5 grand a quarter....lame!...haha....Although at first you won't probably have to pay any, but after a certain amount of time you will. You need to keep track of all that, along with your states sales tax. You will have to register with your state sales tax office and keep track of who paid you what, then you have to pay it to your state.

You have to do the shooting, do the album designs, do the proof editing and RAW manipulation. Do the photoshopping, do your accounting for your business, take care of print orders, mail them out at the post office........Answer countless emails, meet with prospective clients. You have to show them work that will make them want to hire you.

You will have to come up with pricing for all aspects of what you would like to sell clients. Photo sessions, wedding packages, album prices, print prices and you will have to source all the companies that provide these things. If you want to do your own prints you will have to calibrate your monitor, spend time learning how to get the results you would like.

There are a lot of aspects to get things going. Don't be discouraged, if you have it in you, you can do it.
Thanks for the info. Gotta admit after reading what you wrote i am feeling slightly discouraged lol. Kinda wished I live in the US and working in the papparazzi area (even though I won't since I believe being a pap is just rudely invading someone's privacy).

Hey Scott,

What type of photography business are you wanting to pursue?
I actually want to work in the film industry as a stills photographer > http://www.canonrumors.com/forum/index.php/topic,3196.0.html (http://www.canonrumors.com/forum/index.php/topic,3196.0.html) and I've realised that you don't exactly need a qualification to work as a stills photographer. And I can't transfer to the screen and media course I want so I either wait one more year to apply for the course and see if I get a call back and get interviewed and given an offer. Or I stick to the current photography course I'm doing. Or I withdraw from this photography course and study the bachelor of media and communicaiton course i am also currently enrolled in. I'm in a big pickle. Very, very expensive
Title: Re: How to start up a *successful* home photography business from scratch?
Post by: bycostello on March 06, 2012, 06:50:09 AM
it is a catch 21, most customers come from referrals and to get referrals you need customers....

those first few years are tough....