You’ve recently opened your dream photography business.
You’re passionate about your work and you’re really good at what you do.
You’re not afraid of a little hard work and you definitely put in the hours.
But, like so many other new business owners, you’re struggling to make ends meet.
There are bills to pay…
…clients to find…
…and then you have to work out what to charge them.
But how do you even know what you’re worth in your first year of business?
What skills and experience can you possibly bring to the flooded photography market that other more established photographers aren’t already providing?
Well, the way I see it, there’s no point in wasting time doing your ‘tour of duty’ before you start to charge what you’re really worth. There are no medals being handed out for those who do it ‘tough’ while they’re earning their business ‘stripes’.
The best thing you can do for your business (and your dream clients) is to set things up the right way, from day one.
That means, knowing your market, understanding how to charge for your time and services, and paying close attention to your finances.
Get these things right and you’ll move towards profitability much faster.
No tricks, no get-rich-quick schemes here.
You just need to take swift, smart, strategic action right out of the gate.
OK, so ideally you want to do this from day one, but it’s never too late to make changes and implement the strategies I’m about to give you.
I wasted a ton of time in my business with trial and error, but through the lessons I’ve learned I can save you hours of frustration and heartache.
Here’s what I suggest you do before you open your studio doors, and like I said, if you’re already open for business, don’t worry, you can make these adjustments now.
Keep your expenses as low as possible
Aright, I know this one seems fairly obvious, but it’s amazing how easily your expenses can get off track – even when you have the best intentions!
Impose limits on your business expenses and then track them as you go.
Keeping track of your spending on a daily, weekly or monthly basis makes it easier to manage your finances and sets up good financial habits.
‘But’, I hear you ask, ‘How do I set limits on my expenses?’
A good place to start is to cut out anything you don’t absolutely need. One of the biggest money drainers is rent on a studio space.
I always tell my students that you don’t need a storefront to seem credible.
When I first started out I thought I did and the expense was huge – it very nearly broke me financially.
If you can work from a home studio then do it. Trust me, no one will care, as long as you continue to provide outstanding quality and customer service.
And if I may make one more suggestion when it comes to expenses…
You don’t need hundreds of props or backdrops at your studio.
If you’re constantly acquiring new props it’s a good idea to cycle through them. You can do this by swapping them with your photographer pals, rotating them in and out of storage, or selling them.
When you’re ready to move on from certain props, try to make money back on them if you can. I usually sell mine via Facebook groups or local networking.
If you cant sell them, give them away, but always try to recoup your costs wherever you can.
As a recovering prop-hoarder I have a strict one-in-one-out policy because now that I have kids I simply don’t have the room!
Price yourself for profits
This one is HUGE amongst newbie business owners. I see so many photographers charging next to nothing because pricing scares the heck out of them – and/or they forget to account for their time.
You have to make enough money to pay yourself.
If you can’t pay yourself, you’ll be out of business very quickly.
But here’s the good news: Pricing is actually very straightforward.
It’s simply a matter of adding up your costs (your time plus cost of materials) and then applying a mark up factor.
Yep, that’s it! Told you it was easy!
The place where people get messed up is accounting for their time (which they usually don’t), and calculating the correct materials cost.
Although it’s easy math, it can be challenging to understand all of the costs associated with your products, which is why I created a pricing for profits workbook. You can get yours HERE it’s totally free!
Start building your brand
The key to a successful business that stands out from the competition is one that has a strong brand.
Of course building a brand is not something that happens overnight. It takes time, some money and a lot of careful planning to get things right.
Remember: your brand is more than just a logo.
Your brand is the voice and personality of your business. It’s how your products and services make your customers feel.
One of my favorite quotes is from Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, ‘Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room’.
That’s why it’s worth taking the time to get the message right!
Before you spend a dime promoting your business you have to get clear on:
- What you do
- Why you do it
- Who you do it for
Get these things right and your dream clients will not only come knocking on your door, they’ll be happy to pay what you’re worth!
If you’re serious about creating a photography business that is profitable and sustainable then you’ll need to build a strong brand. If you want to learn how my online program Brand Brilliantly will help you do it.
Use advertising – the FREE kind
It’s easy to think you need to spend a lot on marketing and advertising when you’re just starting out. And yes, I’ll admit, you will need to spend some money, especially if you don’t have any clients yet.
You just need to be smart ‘n’ strategic about how and where you spend it.
I started out with zero clients when I first opened my studio. To try and get things moving I threw money at any marketing or advertising opportunity that came my way.
There was nothing smart or strategic about it…
In fact, I may as well have lit a bonfire in the middle of my studio and made little paper planes outta $100 bills and flung them straight into the fire – for all the good it did.
Basically, I was advertising in places where my clients were not.
I went back to the drawing board and got busy identifying exactly ‘who’ my ideal client was. I tailored all of my marketing towards my ‘ideal’ client and put my resources into the channels they were hanging out in.
Getting to know your ideal client makes it a LOT easier to connect with them.
When you know ‘who’ you’re talking to, you can write copy and content that speaks directly to them, in the language they use themselves.
You can get your message out through blog posts, guest blogging opportunities and targeted online forums and social media.
The best part about blogging (other than it being totally free) is that it helps you build trust with your ideal client long before you ever get to meet them in person.
Remember, people like to buy from those they know, like and trust.
Create a budget
I know the word ‘budget’ can make a lot of people break out in a cold sweat, but it doesn’t have to be that way – really!
Creating an annual budget is actually quite easy. Once you learn how to do one it’ll set you up for success.
Every year I create a budget for my business, along with a marketing plan.
These two documents work side by side and give me a way to check in on my numbers throughout the year to see how I’m tracking.
Having a plan helps me forecast how much I need to spend on my advertising and promotions so things don’t creep up on me.
Setting a budget and planning out your marketing activities for the year takes a little time and some simple math, but once it’s done, the benefits to your business are huge.
You can tweak and reuse the same plans every year.
Keeping a close eye on the numbers in your business is the best (and arguably the only) way to maintain a successful and sustainable business.
I hope you’ve found these tips useful. What I’ve shown you is really just the tip of the iceberg to get you started.
There’s so much more to learn and so much more I can teach you, so I do hope you stick with me.
The main thing I want you to take away today is the importance of being consistent in your business.
Keep working on your business every. single. day. and it WILL pay off.
If you’re struggling to figure things out on your own please reach out and ask me any questions you have. I love to connect with other business owners and help wherever I can. I’ll use your questions to keep producing more free content for you to use in your business.
If you need a little extra support to get you back on track or to take you to the next level in your business I offer one on one coaching and mentoring packages, you can find out more here.
If nothing else, I want you to know it IS POSSIBLE to be a full time photographer AND make money (and have a life outside of your business). It just takes time, dedication, organization, and a willingness to make changes in your business.