For some reason, just about everyone I know, from my dentist to my dry cleaner, thinks he or she could and SHOULD do my job. I’m okay with that, but if people are going to go pro, I want to give them some tips to make sure they start out on the right road.
1. Have a plan
If you start ANY business without a business plan, it’s bound to fail. Business planning is an art. And you may want to consider doing a formal, extensive business plan. But at least have a marketing plan or a road map of some kind. If you don’t have a plan, you won’t be able to gauge your progress.
2. Have a style or a vision – what makes you unique or sets you apart is all that you really have for sale in the competitive world of professional photography.
3. Be a marketer first and a photographer second. The truth is, if you’re going to be successful, you need to budget 80% or more of your time for marketing and sales and the rest for the actual work of making photos.
4. Start small. If you can work at another job while launching your pro career do it. Any business, let alone a competitive one like photography, has a tough time getting those first customers and profits in the doors. Give yourself a cushion. Don’t quit your day job right away. Or, have some savings you can live on for at least a full year before depending on photography as your primary income source.
5. Do it right. Be sure to get all the required licenses and tax permits issued by your city, county and state. It would also be a good time to work with an accountant and/or attorney to set up a legal business structure. Lastly, get insurance for your new business and your gear. Your old homeowner’s policy won’t cut it any more.
I could add 400 more items to this list and just scratch the surface. But everyone has to start somewhere. Hopefully these five points will get you thinking about the other things you need to do to succeed as a professional photographer.
If you want a more in-depth look at selling and publishing your images, check out my title at lynda.com, Secrets to Selling & Publishing Your Photography.