For the past couple of years, I’ve been running a boutique headshot photography business in the suburbs of Chicago. It’s a business I started from scratch when I was brand new to the area.

I’ve learned a lot in the past couple of years — everything from good old fashioned networking to contracts to SEO. Oh yeah, I took some pictures too! Building that business was one of the most rewarding things I’ve done. It’s also hard work and takes a lot of time. And now, I get to do it all over again.

Yep, we’ve moved again. This time, we landed in Rochester, Michigan, an amazing suburb of Detroit. Relocating a photography business (or any local service business) means a lot more than throwing the equipment in a truck. There’s some serious work involved in getting established in a new community. Even the virtual stuff — websites and client reviews, for example — have to be “moved” in a sense.

Am I little nervous about starting back up? Sure. But it’s also a wonderful opportunity. I get to jump into a new market, take what I’ve learned, and refine my approach to build exactly the kind of business I want to have. Here’s what I’ve been doing so far…

Where do you start when relocating a photography business?

Step 1: Order 1000 new business cards.

Before I even set foot in Michigan, I had new cards made. I’m ready to spread the word out of the gate.

Step 2: Meet your new neighbors.

Personal marketing isn’t easy for most people. If you’ve come from a corporate career, like me, odds are you didn’t have to market yourself on a daily basis. It’s an adjustment, but it’ll happen. There’s no shame in telling people you meet that you’re a photographer and you’re open for business and referrals. It’s a natural extension of making friends and building a new community.

Step 3: Join a networking group.

The local Chambers of Commerce or BNI groups are just a phone call away. Local networking was incredibly helpful in my previous operation. I know it sounds cliche, but it’s true: show up, be helpful, and the business will come.

Step 4: Officially establish the new business.

This is all the boring legal stuff, which I won’t get into here. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t been thinking about it. It means making sure you’re legally registered to do business. From a marketing standpoint, it means appropriately naming your business in ways that make it very clear what you do.

Step 5: Update your website, social media, and local SEO.

I don’t have a gazillion followers and that’s fine. I couldn’t take a gazillion new clients this year anyway. But I want everyone searching for my speciality (headshots) within my town to see I’m up and running. What does this mean in practice? Months ago I began planning how I’d transition my Facebook page, Instagram, and website. I’ve had several calls (yes, actual phone calls) with Facebook and Google about merging profiles and making sure my reviews from clients didn’t get lost in the shuffle. Both companies were quite helpful in this process — if you’re stuck, give them call. They’re both fighting to be the local search leader, so they should be happy to help.

And then what?

Stay tuned. I’ll keep you posted on the next steps. There are at least 100 more on my list. For example, I’ll be gearing up paid advertising via Google and Facebook. I’ll be reviewing my pricing and service offerings, and updating my portfolios. I’m also working on some partnerships with other local businesses. But for now, it’s one step at a time.

If you’re faced with a pending move, I hope this post will give you some clarity — don’t let the stress of the situation get the best of you. If you’re not moving (lucky you!), think through these steps with your current photography business. How easy would it be for a new resident in your town to find your photography business? And don’t forget to keep making pictures!