« 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.