Are you thinking about launching your own photography business but not quite sure where to start? (And perhaps not feeling confident enough as yet?)
Or perhaps you’re a photographer already running your own business, but you’re feeling overwhelmed and burnt out and you don’t know how to turn things around?
You’ve seen plenty of people turn their love of photography into a highly profitable photography business, so you know it’s possible, but you have no idea how to get from here, where you are now, to there, running the successful business you dream of.
This is a question I actually find easy to answer!
And it comes down to: Can you shoot a session of in-focus, well lit, consistent quality images from a photography session in your chosen genre?
Yes? Awesome, you’re set!
Not yet? Then it’s a matter of addressing your photography skills first.
Need to learn how to shoot confidently in manual mode? Our Enthusiast Photography Course will help you achieve that!
Need to take your skills to the next level to shoot pro-quality images and know how to shoot in a range of scenarios, tricky lighting and with depth, mood and feeling? Then check out our Advanced Photography Course.
And if you simply need more practice to build confidence and consistency then put the call out to organise 5-10 30min shoots in your chosen genre and I promise you’ll learn a bucket load and bring up your confidence in getting the shots consistently in a small period of time!
Ok, now we’ve cleared that one up – let’s talk business!
Success means different things to different people. Your end goal might be to make lots of money, or to find a good work life balance, or to feel creatively fulfilled – or ultimately, all of the above!
Having a business model that runs smoothly is the best way to achieve that success without the overwhelm and burnout!
So how do you develop a business model that runs smoothly?
I’m SO glad you asked!
And no, it’s not a fancy logo or website! Phew!
After many years running my own successful boudoir photography business, followed by many more years here running Click Love Grow, I’ve identified the five key areas that make up the foundations of a profitable photography business.
While each of these pillars focuses on a different aspect of your business, they are all importantly linked. Just like legs on a stool, if one pillar is weak or uneven, the whole business can be thrown out of balance. So the key to success is ensuring ALL five pillars are strong and healthy!
Because just like when you bought your first camera, and you decided to learn how to use it – running a business isn’t something that comes intuitively to most of us! We need to learn the skills on exactly how a business is run in order to do it well.
So the first step is deciding that yes, you’re going to treat this like a business!
Then the next step is to starting thinking about your end goals – where exactly is it that you want your business to be? What skills do you need to learn to get started and what do you need to put in place to achieve them?
Next, have a think about what beliefs you have that might be holding you back. Are you afraid to take the leap because fear is holding you back? Fear of judgement, fear of failure?
Getting a solid plan in place and learning exactly how to build and grow a business will help you overcome these obstacles and allow you to start making progress and taking steps to get there.
Mindset is perhaps the trickiest of the five pillars because it’s not a tangible thing that you can quantify or hold onto, but it’s such an integral part of business success and if we can start identifying and implementing little techniques to strengthen our mindset now, we will see tangible results in business growth!
This sounds really obvious right – but it’s amazing how when you do the work to identify exactly who your client will be, everything becomes really clear!
What you decide to offer, the social media posts you create, emails you send, even how you present and share things online will all align with knowing who your client is, and who YOU are in a way that will resonate with them!
Sadly when we start a business we can’t hang out our shingle and expect people to flock to buy our services! Marketing is an ongoing process where we need to get ourselves in front of people to tell them exactly what we do.
Now imagine you want to shoot photography for mums with small children. Turning up with an expo stand at the local Car Rally or making social media posts on tiktok is probably not going to get you very far! Or even if you turn up in the right places, if you’re not talking about things that MATTER or resonate with your ideal client, you can’t expect people to pay attention or stay interested in what you have to offer!
Instead, knowing your client and then understanding how you’ll serve them allows you to create a strong brand, which is is the way you present you business to the world. Having cohesive, on point branding is important for all businesses, no matter their size, but in a small business, YOU are the face of your business, so your brand is essentially YOU! As an activity, look at the websites or online profiles of 4-5 successful photographers you follow! And you’ll notice that they have a strong brand and consistent way in which they show up and communicate exactly what they do and offer!
And have a think about what kind of photography you want to shoot, who will your ideal client be, and how you will you present that brand.
Remember that old saying: ‘people won’t remember what you said, but they’ll remember how you made them feel’… this is so relevant and true in a photography business!
You could provide the most gorgeous images in the world, but if your clients are stressed, hated the shoot, their kids were unhappy, you delivered images late… there won’t be any recommendations coming your way, and your business will struggle to grow!
Instead, if you offer a beautiful experience, your clients trust you implicitly because you set expectations and over deliver.. you’ll be getting referrals before they’ve seen a single shot!
Most of us take for granted that if we’re nice and friendly we have the customer experience sorted… but that is what most people do. Instead we can prioritise all the aspects of how we interact with clients and take on board what we know others are getting wrong, so we stand out from the crowd!
And important we can make our clients a) want to come back to us, and b) refer all their friends to you! It makes marketing a whole lot easier when you can rely on strong word of mouth!
This all ties back to our earlier pillars on Mindset and Branding – knowing WHO our ideal customer is and what our ideal session looks like.
And it’s important to remember when considering your ideal customer and session that it’s not about how your photographs compare to another photographer in the next town over, it’s about what YOU have to offer YOUR customers that meets THEIR expectations from a photographer.
Yes yes, these are like the boring cousin at a family party – no one actually wants to invite them, but you can’t have a party and NOT invite them!
But if they’re so boring, why do we need to spend time refining our workflow and systems? Put simply – it’s because the pain of NOT having them in place is far worse than the satisfaction of implementing them and seeing them work for your business.
Many photographers don’t have their workflow and systems established before they start taking on clients. While it might be easy enough to ‘fake it ’til you make it’ in the early days when you only have a few clients, the busier you get and the bigger your workload gets, the more overwhelming these system and workflow gaps become.
This eventually leads to burnout – which is not where you want to be!
And it’s not just about avoiding burnout – having the right workflow and systems in place gives you a strong foundation on which to scale and grow your business. In short, it’s futureproofing!
It can be simple things like having a repeatable checklist for each and every client so you don’t miss steps as you get busier.
It could be having email templates to use when replying to clients, to save time. Or one of my favourites is blocking out time each week for certain tasks. So maybe Tues is editing day. Maybe Wed is scheduling social media posts.
A pretty common trap for photographers is marketing hard to get bookings, then working so hard on all those bookings you forget to market for new clients, and so the bookings dry up and you’re back to marketing again.. it’s a cycle that repeats itself, so building systems into place so you stay on top of everything means less stress and more flow and ease!
When it comes to workflow and systems, the old saying is true – it’s definitely better to work smarter rather than harder.
For many people, the financial side of running a business is the most challenging to manage. There are several reasons for this, not the least of which is that for most of us, asking for money can feel uncomfortable and awkward! And this is where it comes back to mindset.
If you believe in your own worth and the value of the service you’re offering, then expecting to be fairly remunerated for that suddenly seems a lot less daunting!
It can also be challenging for those of us who are more creative minded (I totally get it! I mean, come on – we’re photographers!) to knuckle down and focus on the numbers, especially if we don’t have much accounting or business administration experience. Instead, it might seem much easier to simply bury your head in the sand.
BUT… If you’re not aware of the numbers, it’s hard to have a long term sustainable business because profitability is perhaps the number one key indicator of business success.
When it comes to the financial health of your business, there are two big considerations.
If you can establish these five pillars in your photography business and continue to develop and improve in each of these areas, you will have a profitable photography business that allows you to:
If this sounds like something you’d love to achieve in YOUR photography business, then you’re in luck!
My tried-and-tested Biz Builder Training is an online training program that leads you by the hand, step by step, through every single aspect of creating and growing your successful photography business beginning with these five pillars!
Whether you’re just starting out or you’re a veteran shooter looking to scale your profits, if you want proven strategies to grow your clientele and increase your income (while working smarter, not harder), then Biz Builder Training is for you!
I spoke about all these topics today online – so head over and watch the video here for more advice and tips to get you started in growing a business you love!