Building the Foundation
1. Setting up Business Goals
To build a stronger foundation and have a clear sense of direction, it’s important to start by asking yourself some fundamental questions. What is your business about? What do you want to achieve? How do you want to achieve it? By when do you want to achieve it? What are your products/services? Who is your ideal client? All these questions need to be thought about and clearly answered before starting the journey of setting up a photography business. Setting business goals is the stepping stone to a long-term vision. So set up some clearly defined goals such as the number of photo shoots you want to do, the type of sessions you wish to photograph, etc.
2. Choosing a Photography Niche
The field of photography is diverse. You could be the jack of all trades, but it’s good practice to start by building your photography brand around a specific niche. And if you wish to expand into other aspects as well, you can always add them later and modify your marketing strategies accordingly. But for starters, you could decide on a wedding photography niche you have the most experience in.
3. Figure Out Your Ideal Client
Once you have settled on a niche, start your research on your ideal client. You could form a persona based on location, demographics, cost, and interests, who is most likely to book your services, or who you would think your services are most suitable for. Once you have got this right, you will be able to better market your services by building your marketing strategies as per this ideal client persona.
4. Market Evaluation
Along with a better understanding of your target audience, you also need to have a thorough understanding of the market. The in-depth analysis of the market you are going to operate in will help you be mindful of the needs and requirements of the people from a photography business standpoint. Moreover, it also enables you to recognize what you can do better to beat the competition and stand out from the rest. Setting up your business on the basis of a better market evaluation helps you form a strong business foundation.
Setting up a Business Plan
1. Naming Your Business
Many things come into play when it comes to setting up a business plan. The first and most important being – naming and registering your business. This process can be fun when you are casually talking about naming your business, but we understand that when it comes to deciding on a name to register as your brand name, it can be nerve-wracking. So here’s what you could do.
- Think out of the box! Even though a generic name can be a safe option, it’s hardly memorable.
- If you are considering naming your business over your name (one of the most used options by many photographers), instead of including your entire name in the brand name, try including first name + Photography, first name + middle name + photography, first name + last name + photography.
- Avoid naming your brand over a specific trend, as it might get tricky for your business when that trend is outdated.
- Likewise, naming your brand over a specific location can also lead to a similar problem. First, it might restrict your reach to a larger audience. Second, it binds you to a specific location, and if, in the future, you end up shifting to another place, the name can be a disadvantage.
- Mistakes can happen, and even though what might seem like a great name option at first might not work later. So when that happens, don’t be afraid to start afresh and rebrand.
2. Getting your Business Name Trademarked
Getting your business name trademarked is one of the crucial steps of starting a photography business. Once you have decided on a name, the first thing you should do is check if it’s available for use (i.e., if someone else has not taken it yet) and if not, then get it registered. If you are wondering how to do that, here’s what you can do –
- Visit The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s website and then check out the Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS) database.
- Then run a search for your chosen business name. If the name is available, you can start with the trademarking process by paying a fee and following the further steps.
- Once you have done that, you will obtain your trademark application.
3. Working From Home or a Studio?
Once you have registered a business name, you have to set up an office space. And so the question arises about your working space – whether you want to work from home or separate studio space? Different wedding photographers have different preferences, and so there is no right or wrong answer. Therefore, it is essential to figure out what works best for you depending on space availability, ease of client reach, business expansion, etc.
4. Business Structure
The ‘how to start a photography business’ checklist will be incomplete if we miss out on this point. It is important to work out what kind of business structure you will follow. Will your photography brand be registered as a sole proprietor, an LLC, or a corporation? And to get a better understanding of what these terms mean and, more importantly, what they can mean for your business, it is best to seek professional counsel. Here’s a basic idea of what these terms stand for.
5. Business Licenses
In the U.S., professional wedding photographers are required to have a business license to operate at certain locations. To get a better understanding of what kind of license your business might require or if it is even required, you need to check with your state licensing board and local city hall.
6. Finding An Accountant Or Lawyer
Finding an accountant (CPA) and/or lawyer is another crucial aspect of setting up your photography business. You can begin by going to your local Chamber of Commerce or local Bar Association. Another option can be to ask for referrals from other wedding professionals and business owners. Once you have a few suggestions, meet up with them one-on-one to discuss the needs and requirements of your business. Hiring an accountant and/or lawyer is a key decision, so you must take your time to consider your options carefully.
7. Getting Business Liability Insurance
Getting business liability insurance is a no-brainer. It is an absolute must. When you are running a business, there are many things that you have put at stake, and so, it only makes sense to be prepared for if/when things get tricky. There could be times when you don’t have the control to avoid, stop or rectify some mishaps. Having insurance protects your business in times of such unforeseen circumstances.
Moreover, apart from business insurance, it is essential to get equipment insurance as well. Photography gear is expensive, and you should protect it not just because of that but also because it’s your livelihood. To apply for an equipment insurance policy, you will have to list down all the gear you have, their replacement cost, and the serial number of the gear. This is something that will save you a lot of trouble if there’s a case of theft or loss.
Related Read: Wedding Photography Liability Insurance Explained
8. The Wedding Contract
Just as business liability insurance, having a legally binding contract is equally important. A contract is set upon a written agreement and is enforceable by law, and helps you protect your business. The first thing to keep in mind while setting up a wedding contract is to have an attorney look at it – don’t write it yourself until, of course, you also happen to be a barred attorney.
There are many things that should be clearly stated in your contract, but a good place to start would be to mention the cancellation policy and late-payment policy. Discuss these parameters with your attorney and set up a policy that works best for you, given your business location, plan, and other essential aspects. In addition to that, also include clear expectation guidelines regarding turnaround time and everything else. Moreover, also include a copyright clause and model release. To get a better understanding of wedding photography contracts, you can refer to this blog.
How to Prepare Your Finances
1. Preparing Your Finances
Preparing your personal and business finances before you even start your photography business is crucial. A good practice is to make a monthly personal finances spreadsheet and also take a look at your bank statements for the past year. You might think it sounds extensive and might ask yourself, “Is it really necessary?” The answer is if you are serious about planning your finances, then YES!
This will also give you a better understanding of what kind of salary you are supposed to draw. It shouldn’t be a random number, it has to be well thought. After adding all your personal yearly expenses, the number you get indicates your annual expenses, excluding taxes – this is the amount of money you are spending. You now have to think about a number – keeping in mind your tax bracket – that you need to be making in a year to support this annual expense amount (excluding taxes). This number can be your estimated/targeted yearly salary. Remember, this is not the amount/number for your business’ annual cash flow, it is the amount you need to make as a photographer.
2. Business Fundings & Buying Photography Gear
Understand that reaching to a point of running a successful photography business is not a race. You can get there, but getting there takes time. When you are setting up a photography business, having cameras and other essential photography gear are non-negotiables. However, you don’t need to have the best of everything to get started. What you do need is something that’s good enough. Something that you can work with while not burning a hole in your pocket. Another great practice is to know when to buy and when to rent.
Instead of going all-in at once (of course, unless you can), you can choose to move slow and save. This could mean keeping a day job that helps you save better for your photography venture, or it could mean starting a year late while saving from a full-time job. You could also opt to take a loan. But whatever path you choose, remember, it is important to have a clear picture of the start-up cost and how you are going to fund it.
3. Setting Up Bank Accounts
It is crucial to have a clear dividing line between your business and personal finances. All your business income should be directly paid to your business account. Also, get a debit card and credit card in the name of that account to pay for your business expenses. You should also set a fixed amount for the monthly draw that will be transferred to your personal account as salary.
Creating Your Price List
Figuring out a pricing model is one of the fundamental steps of starting a wedding photography business. Therefore, it is crucial that you do it right. Before you get started, it is important to know what you want to sell (i.e., wedding coverage, boudoir, engagement sessions, elopements, etc.) and how you want to sell it (packages or à la carte). Different things work for different photographers and different locations. So it helps to study your market and, at the same time, study your competition, and analyze and then work on a pricing model. One of the most popular go-to options is to have a different set of packages along with a modified package version to meet the best of both worlds.
Related Read: How To Price Your Wedding Photography Packages
Set Up a Website & Online Portfolio
Once you have covered all the legal and financial aspects of starting a business, setting up a website and having an online portfolio to display to your clients also helps. Setting up a website means setting up a virtual address for your business. Taking your business online can not only help you advertise effectively but also expand your reach beyond borders. There are many website builders available using which you can easily set up your website and get started.
Further Read: Marketing Tips For Right Now
Now that you have a better understanding of how to start a photography business, we hope you keep at it and reach great heights! And in the process, whenever need be, reach out to professionals in various roles – be it accounting, legal, or marketing, to make well-thought decisions.
At ShootDotEdit, we love bringing you resourceful tips such as these to help scale up your wedding photography business. Another way we do that is by taking care of the editing for you. To learn more about how we can help, take a look at our pricing plans.