The Business Side of Photography
Your passion for photography has taken over, and for the last few years you were taking pictures any chance you had. You went from a beginner to expert overtime and now you might be considering how to turn this love for taking pictures into a full blown photography business.
Starting any business takes time, patience, and knowledge. But even if we can’t help you with the first two, knowledge we have aplenty!
When RedFoxPros was starting out, we had to overcome every issue that you will be facing. And lucky for you - we kept a note on everything we did.
So how does one go from great photographer to professional? Well, I am sure that by the end of this article you will have a clear picture of the next steps you need to take.
Choosing a Business Name
Every business needs a brand name and photography is no exception. For what it’s worth, having a recognizable name for a photographer can either make or break their business. So try to pick a name that is catchy and easy to remember.
A good way to go about choosing the right name for your photography business is to make a list of Top 10 Business Names and send it out to your family and friends. They can then give you their opinion and help you decide. You could also run a poll on social media, and check which one people like more.
Be creative and, most importantly, love the name of your business. Over the next few years you will be saying it a lot, and each time you say it you should be excited about it.
Getting a business license for photography is not a necessity in most states but it is always best to check. If you want to find out if you need a license, the easiest way to do so is by calling your state licensing board and your local city hall.
The clerks there should be able to answer any questions relating to license regulations in your state and put your mind at ease.
Register and Pay taxes
The one thing where you want to pay a lot of attention is taxes. You don’t want to accidentally miss out on any required taxes you have to pay, as this can result in hefty fines that might cripple a growing business.
Register for sales tax
Registering for sales tax is one of the requirements by most states, and failure to follow this regulation is the most common mistake for new photographers. Simply look up state sales tax on your search engine and this will guide you through a fairly simple process of acquiring your sales tax ID.
Pay wage tax to the IRS and the state
On top of sales tax, you need to pay your wage tax to the IRS and the state quarterly. The taxes come up to around 25% of your quarterly earnings for the IRS, and around 8% for the state.
This figure is different for everyone so you will have to check with your state department and the IRS to get exact figures.
At the start of the business, these are all the taxes that you want to worry about. But as you grow and start to get closer to a 100 000$ yearly earnings, you might want to look into getting a CPA. This will change the way your taxes are handled from self-employed into S-corp. Although a more complex process, it will literally save you thousands of dollars in tax.
Once you reach this stage of your business, it will be the perfect time to call that accountant!
Separating your photography business finances from your home finances is one of the most crucial steps. When you are just starting out, this might be harder to achieve as your business finances will be pretty low, and you will have to invest a fair bit.
But as your business progresses, so should your finance management.
Open up a business account with your bank, as photography is a business that will always have many expenses.There are things like printing, framing, studio assistants, location hire and many more that will just keep on coming out of your accounts.
That is why it is so important to manage your finances correctly. If not done properly, they can easily overwhelm you and cause a lot of unnecessary stress.
When the numbers are getting a little too much, consider paying for an accountant. They can help you manage your business finances as well as do your taxes for you.
Never Skip on Insurance
Even without a whooping amount that you would have spent on studio equipment, I am sure you spent a fair bit on your camera, lenses, computer and other gear needed to start your business. Unfortunately, the world is not always perfect and things like theft, fire or any other accident might happen.
It always seems like this will never happen to you. But if it does, it can very well destroy your business. Don’t shy out on the insurance and have that peace of mind that no matter what happens, you will always be able to get back on your feet and continue with growing your business.
It is not worth saving the price of insurance premium and risk losing thousands of dollars on your equipment!
Ok, so now that we went through all the legal and boring part it is time to look at marketing your business. Simply opening the doors will not send customers pouring in, and you will need to invest a lot of time and a fair amount of money into marketing.
- Google Ads
First stop for any business looking to market itself online should be Google Ads. These are personalized advers you see when you visit any website, but that is not the best part about Google Ads.
When someone looks up a term “Portrait photography in Atlanta” in Google, they are quickly presented with a choice of photographers. With Google Ads, you pay to stay on top of that list, and this is what makes Google so great at advertising your business.
You can create Google AdWords account in few easy steps, and then it is just refining the search results and figuring out the best target audience that you want to aim for.
Google is rather helpful when you are starting out, and they offer personal ad managers and advisors for no extra charge. They will not only explain to you how everything works, but will also work with you to launch your first advertising campaign.
The cool thing about Google Ads is that you don’t pay for your ad to show up. You only pay, when someone clicks on the link.
- Social Media
Social media is the fastest growing marketing scene. Here, marketing takes a whole new shape. Instead of seeing generic adverts, people are introduced to the posts you share and interact with them. Likes, shares, comments - this is a new currency when it comes to social media.
Start of with creating a Facebook page for your business. Share useful and interesting posts on daily basis. It takes a little time for the audience to grow, but once it is big enough you will be presenting new content to thousands of people.
On top of that, you can also run ad campaigns on Facebook. Facebook has created a very smart algorithm to help you advertise your business efficiently. It is almost scary kind of smart. You can choose your target audience by factors like location, age, gender and even things like life events.
For example, if you are a wedding photographer, you can target all the people in your area that are aged between 25-40 earn over $50 000 a year and are recently engaged - crazy, huh?
Is it worth getting a studio?
I suppose, owning a studio is every photographer's dream. But is it really worth it?
To start with, you need to consider this on more financial terms. To start your own studio you would need to rent the premises, and that can be a substantial amount. You also have to pay utilities, and I am not even beginning to talk about the price of the equipment.
At the beginning, I would strongly suggest looking at local studio rentals. Many of them hire out rather cheap on hourly basis and include all the equipment. Often you can get good rates if you work with a studio long term. It is easier to start off this way, and you don’t have to save up thousand of dollars for equipment.
Simply include the charge into the bill for your client. This reduces your profits, but allows you to start working faster. Before you know it, your client base will grow enough, and having your own studio will be the next logical thing.
In the end, all of the effort will be worth it
As you can see, there are many sides of photography business you need to consider. Even before you open up a shop, you will be running around making connections, advertising and looking for locations.
A phrase you hear every professional say is that photography is 90% planning and marketing, and only 10% of actually taking pictures. After a year or two in the business, I am sure you will be saying the same thing. But when you make enough money to sustain your lifestyle, you will have your dream life! All the effort and hard work will be worth it.