Hello everyone! My name is Krystal and I'm a new writer here at Finance Fireplace. I'm super excited to be here and can't wait to drop some hot tips about how to improve your personal finance. For my day job, I'm a self employed photographer running my own business in the northern United States. I started this business almost 10 years ago now, and I've learned a lot over that span of time.
While I won't always be writing here about my business or photography in general, today I will be. Since I am a photographer first, I felt like I should provide some tips I learned over time that I wish someone would have told me when I was initially starting my business. Some of these tips are photography business specific but others apply to just about all businesses out there.
I'm about to peel back the so called "curtains" and unveil the lessons I had to learn the hard way so that hopefully you can avoid them during your journey.
When I got started I was a great photographer. I also thought that being a great photographer meant that I would pick up clients easy and have a great business. Boy, was I dead wrong.
If you're running your own business, photography or not, you have multiple jobs. You're a photographer, a marketer, a CFO, a CEO, a web designer, and pretty much anything else you can think of. The sooner you realize this, the sooner you can start working to get better at all of these things and preparing your business for true success.
This is a lesson you will discover on your own, even after I've already told you about it. When I first started my photography business, I assumed I'd be making at least a healthy living within my first year. The truth is that it takes time to reach your goals. And when starting a new business, it takes A LOT of time.
It takes time to master your photography skills. It takes time to learn and improve the marketing of your new business. It takes time to build a reputation. It takes time to learn how to organize and keep track of accounting. All the little things and big things alike take time to grow and fit together. Don't put yourself down if you don't go from 0 to six figures in a year. The key is to be patient, and continue working towards your goals.
Growing up, I've always been a shy person. The photography business, much like many other businesses, requires you to be come a "people person". The better you can connect with people, the easier it will be to convert those connections in clients. They'll even refer you new clients!
One of the best tips I can give for improving your communication skills with other people is to read and study Dale Carnegie's book "How To Win Friends and Influence People", which you can easily pick up for cheap at any bookstore or online. This book taught me the value of connecting with people as well as simple and practical tips on how to easily form new connections with strangers.
This is huge. You need to keep your expenses low when starting a business. When I first got started, I got caught up buying new fancy lenses, overpriced lighting, and many other photography accessories that I simply did not need. These costs at up and can quickly tank your business if you don't have the income coming in to support these purchases.
Your business is not about making other photographers jealous over what "cool" gear you have and how much better it is than theirs. Your business is about getting clients and making money. So ask yourself before any purchase, "is this truly going to help me gain clients and make more money?" and "Do I REALLY need this?".
The fastest and easiest way to expand your business is through client referrals. The thing I didn't realize about this when getting started is that many clients don't realize that their referrals are important to you. I actually had a client tell me they didn't want to bother me with referring their friends to me as clients. They thought I would be too busy for them. Um....No! haha. So make sure you are working hard to improve and ask clients for their referrals.
There are several ways that you can increase referrals. One is through straight up asking all of your clients to refer their friends, family, coworkers, etc to you. Another way is to actually offer them a small commission for referrals. "Hey, if you send some business my way I'll give you a $50 gift card to Red Lobster". Something like that could work wonders for your business (and did for me).
Plain and simple, in this day and age if you have a business then you need a website. A blog can be a great way for you to gain exposure for yourself online. Once I started blogging and posting my work online regularly, I started to gain a following online which spread into physical business. Start posting the results of your work, your hobby photos, etc. I even started writing guides for weddings, photography, etc. Anything that could get me publicity for my site and my brand, I did.
My first year or two, I focused almost exclusively on trying to lock down wedding photo opportunities. As we all know, there is a season for weddings so in the off season finding income can be tough. Branching out into different niches was the best thing I did for my business early on.
Start looking into opportunities like school portraits (senior photos, etc), birthday parties, pregnancy/child birth photos, and more. Photography has so many opportunities out there, so don't lock yourself into one tiny sub section of it because you think that's what you need to do.
I cannot overstate this enough. Before starting my photography business, (and admittedly a little bit still now), I was a very unorganized person. This does NOT gel with running a business, especially a photography business where you are dealing with thousands of image files, contact details, and more.
The main thing you're going to want to be organized with is storing images. You need to come up with some sort of manageable folder system for your images that you easily understand and can consistently keep up with. I like to separate my images by project, and then again by file type and resolution. You'll also want to come up with a good system of storing contact details, contracts, and keeping a good calendar of booking dates.
A common misconception when starting a service based business is that you have to charge less in order to get your first customers. I was one of the people who thought this and it cost me thousands of dollars in potential lost income. The truth is, if you charge less than what you are worth in the beginning, it makes it harder to raise your prices when you decide you're ready.
If you are going to be a professional photographer, charge professional photographer prices. It might take a little longer to get your first couple customers, but the quality of the customer will be better and the referrals that come from them won't be expecting rock bottom prices either.
Your time is one of the only things in the world that you cannot get more of. You can be the richest person in the world, but you can't buy back extra time. So make sure you are properly valuing your time and charging what you are worth.
This might sound odd but it is something that I've learned over time and developed into part of my process. The more you know about a person, the more you understand who they are and how you can help them. You'll notice that your clients will actually enjoy your interest in them, and it will make your job easier because you'll understand exactly what they're looking for in terms of theme and the photos in general.
Not to mention, the more you know about a person the easier it is to connect with them. If you're connected with them, it's easy to ask them for referrals. If you're getting referrals then you're getting more work, and if you're getting more work then you're making more money!
I promised I would keep this article short since it's more of a guide to starting a photography business than it is a personal finance article. But since it's my intro post I wanted people to know a little bit about who I am and what I do. I also wanted to help any photographers out there who are thinking about taking the plunge into starting their own business.
I look forward to writing a lot more articles here for you guys in the future!
Krystal is a part time writer for Finance Fireplace and a full time photographer. Krystal loves to photograph weddings, student portraits, and more. While growing up and growing her business, Krystal developed a knack for personal finance and enjoys writing about it in her spare time.