How to Start a Photography Business with No Experience & Money
Photographers have always been in demand, however, with the advent of Social Media, the demand has skyrocketed, and so it is a good career for anyone with excellent skill set, good creative ability, composition, and technical expertise. Despite there are various industries that hire professional photographers for full time jobs, most photography enthusiasts look to set up their own small scale business.
To become a professional photographer, however, takes a lot of practice and hard work. Once you’re the master of your trade, you will find this small business. Small scale Photography business can be a highly rewarding and fun filled career choice, but it requires one to take challenges and be eager to live their life through the eye of the camera.
If you are a photography lover and looking to turn your perfect shots into a sustainable income, you need a proper business plan to get started. Yes, you can start a photography business with no experience and money (you still need some money and a lot of time to invest in yourself), but you must not rush to do it. If you already have a job, ideally, you should take a part time photography business approach and once it is streamlined, you can quit your job to fully focus on photography business.
This article will guide you to start a small scale photography business from scratch, i.e. starting a photography business with no experience and money. Let’s get started.
1- Learn the Key Skills Needed to Become a Professional Photographer
Being able to take the perfect shot is an indicator that you can become a good professional photographer, but it doesn’t ensure it. Learning several other photography related skills and some core business skills is the foundation for starting a photography business.
Here’s a quick overview of the skills you must learn before starting a photography business.
- Hardware skills, including cameras, lenses, tripods, lights, and all the other physical equipment you might need to use for photography and videography projects.
- Software skills for visual editing and effects; these skills include but are not limited to digital imaging and hands on experience of using multiple editing software.
- Creative skills, i.e. artistic ability, color balance, design, lighting, patterns etc.
- Business skills including effective communication, sales & marketing, accounting, networking, confidence, attention to detail, understanding intellectual property, etc.
2- Build Your Portfolio
Your portfolio is the number one marketing material that speaks for you in your absence and this is something that helps the potential clients to decide whether or not to do business with you.
Once you have the skills, building a portfolio should not be an issue. Practice your skills and post it in an online portfolio which can be a quick website or if you do not want to invest in a website initially, starting with a Facebook or Instagram page is great to go.
You can also create profiles on stock photo websites like Unsplash.com. Having a presence on these websites with amazing photographs allows you to get noticed.
Though you can practice your skills all over, having a niche in mind right from the beginning will give you an advantage to become a master in that particular niche faster. Newborn photography, wedding photography, wildlife photography etc. are much hyped niches, but there are many more untapped areas where you can polish your skills and have a better competitive edge.
You may have to do a lot of free shoots while building your portfolio, but it should not shatter your enthusiasm. Consider it the price for setting up your business.
3- Develop a Business Plan for Your Photography Business
With better photography and business skills and a good portfolio, you are all set to turn your passion into a proper business. So the first step in doing so is creating a foolproof business plan.
The most common misconception about the business plan is that it is an extensively detailed document required to raise capital for a business. Essentially, a business plan is a document that provides actionable insight about your business, i.e. what and how you are going to build this business, and this can be one or two pages long to get started.
Ideally, a photography business plan should include details of the following key areas of your business:
- A brief about the business, and what’s its competitive advantage.
- List of photography packages with pricing of each.
- List of potential clients/target audience
- A marketing plan to reach potential clients.
- Sales strategies to convert these potential clients into long term returning customers.
- Financial details, i.e. how much money you have to spend in what particular area, expected revenues and overhead expenses, profitability etc.
- Growth plan; where do you see your business in next one, three and five years and how do you plan to grow it to that level.
4- Get the Legal Matters Sorted Out
A business license is mandatory to operate as an independent photographer or as a company. The licensing requirements may vary depending on your location, however, it’s not too costly in most cases and can be obtained with little documentation. You need to check with your local state department for registering your business.
While registering your business make sure to have a well thought business name, and it would be great if you can find a relevant domain name.
5- Invest Wisely
While starting a photography business, you will have two kinds of investments, i.e. ‘must haves’ and “can waits”. This classification is particularly for those on a tight startup budget.
Must Haves to Start a Photography Business
If you start listing the must haves, i.e. the basic items needed to start a photography business, you will find that a good digital camera is the only big investment you need to make. You do not necessarily need to buy a new one, i.e. with a little research and right networking you can buy a used one for way too less money than that of the new one.
Other than that you must need the following less costly items:
- Access to a computer with internet connection. You probably have one already.
- License of a good editing software.
- A dedicated telephone number which must be answered on time. Your personal cell phone can work perfectly for this purpose.
- Attention grabbing photography business cards.
- Marketing materials, i.e. ads content, social media ads and offline promotional booklets if needed.
Other than these, everything else can wait. Professionally designed website, framed prints, physical albums, studio, and an office, all can wait. You can start a good photography business without these. You can make more than a big studio in a busy commercial hub without investing a big chunk of money in a location like that. Just remember that a lot of investment doesn’t guarantee success, but your attitude does.
6- Attract PotentialClients with a Giveaway
Offering giveaways is one of the best ways to attract the target audience, and it works equally well when you are just starting up or when growing your business to the next level. You can think of tens of giveaway ideas, but here are few to get you started.
- Engage people on your social media to like, share and comment to win a free photoshoot.
- Cover a big event for free or for a discounted price, share the pictures on your social media pages and tag the people within the pictures.
- Offer free addons with photoshoots, i.e. printed Ts and mugs with your pictures on them.
- Partner up with relevant businesses for coupons, i.e. people get free photoshoots with you when they purchase XXX amount of product/service from the local businesses.
- Volunteer to shoot community events and other charity events.
7- Consider Mindful Advertising
While social media is mainly free to use, mindful advertising can do wonders. Take some time to come up with creative ads that you can run through Facebook and Instagram ads. You can also do these:
- Be part of local groups on Facebook and mention your work once in a while. Check with the page admins if they take ads and if the group has your target audience, get a paid post live in the group.
- Take creative shots that make sense to popular brands and post your pictures on social media while tagging popular brands.
- Get in touch with some social media influencers and offer them a free shoot. Ask for a mention in return.
- Run contests on your social media to keep your audience engaged and bring more people in the circle.
8- Be Always Available
Have your business hours mentioned clearly on your website and social media pages, and make sure not to miss a call in those hours. Use the auto chat bots or ‘request call back’ options for the times when you are busy shooting.
Underpromise and overdeliver!
The Bottom Line:
Starting and running a photography business is not as easy as it may seem, but it’s surely great fun to do. What’s better than a fun career? So if you love photography and are eager to dive deeper into the field with a small scale business, the best day to start your dream business was yesterday! The second best day to do so is today!