To run a photography business, you have to do more than just take great images. You must be adept at managing sales, marketing, administration, accounting, and customer relations. When you’re a small-business owner, you do virtually all the work, which can make it challenging to get enough time behind the viewfinder.
It’s important to have as many people as possible providing you with services that take up your time. This is why I use an online photography fulfillment service (Printroom), so that I do not have to worry as much about creating prints, shipping them, and processing payments. Of course, I still spend a substantial amount of time with customers, and I do a lot of custom pricing and jobs, as well — so I still have to do it all, but the online fulfillment service takes care of a lot of the details. I also have outside services provide accounting.
Marketing and sales, as well as customer relations, however, tend to be very personal aspects of business management. While most photographers typically have no qualms with outsourcing their accounting, when it comes to advertising, updating their Web sites, or interacting with customers, it’s hard to let someone else take the proverbial reins. Yet as a photography business grows, inevitably others must become involved, and even the most involved, micromanaging photographers cannot do everything themselves.
When setting up a photography business, I recommend you seriously consider addressing these issues beforehand:
- Develop, define, and articulate a standard workflow methodology for your studio.
- Research and open an account with an online fulfillment service/lab that has a strong track record and experience in working with photographers that shoot what you shoot. The service should provide you with personal attention, account management, and support.
- Find an accounting/bookkeeping service and standardize the system they suggest (for example, QuickBooks, and so on).
- Consider some dedicated photography management applications to manage the business aspects of workflow, from scheduling shoots to managing accounting and billing. Applications include SuccessWare (www.SuccessWare.net), Pro Invoice/Estimate (PI/E) (www.Pie Software.com), FotoBiz (www.FotoQuote. com), Granite Bear’s Photo One Software (www.PhotoOneSoftware.com), or StudioPlus (www.studioplussoftware.com).
- Decide what aspects of your business you can realistically delegate to others who work for you or with you, or to outsourcing services.
- Build a navigable, informative, articulate, and attractive Web site, and make sure to integrate it with your online fulfillment and gallery service. Don’t settle for less, even if you need to pay someone to do it.
- Join the PPA, and make use of it. They also have business, legal, and marketing services available to you that you’ll want to at least consider using.
- Research the market, and know what your competitors are doing, how they price their work, and how they represent themselves. Determine how you can differentiate yourself from them, yet work in the same market.
- Have a good way of showcasing your work, whether that is online, in person, or in a space in your studio (or all of these!).
- Create an inventory of your equipment, and have your equipment insured. The PPA offers a great program for this.
- Have backups of all your images kept in a secure, separate place from your studio (for example, in a bank safe-deposit box).
- You can’t do it all, so determine your strongest area of photography and practice it diligently. Keep up to speed on the latest methods, trends, and technology.
- Articulate and make use of your brand identity.