10 Steps for new photography business owners
Updated: Jan 17
A lot of new photographers ask me for advice about building a photo business. Here’s a checklist of steps to take as a new photography business owner. A lot of these steps can be used for other types of business, too!
1. Build your portfolio website with your ideal client in mind.
Who is your ideal client? What problem are you trying to solve for them? Where will your ideal client find you? You may have active Instagram or Facebook accounts, but those should point to a strong portfolio website.
I love StoryBrand for ideas about how to clarify your marketing message:
I designed my site in Wix.com, but then found a Wix designer to help me with a more polished look.
2. Outsource a logo.
You’ll need a logo for your site, business cards and other marketing materials, but your logo shouldn’t take too much of the spotlight away from your images. Don't spend time on a DIY logo unless you have some design experience.
I used Photologo.co for my current logo.
3. Get a signed contract for every gig you shoot.
Even if you are in a “portfolio building” phase of your business, get a signed contract for every job. Contracts lay out exactly what you are giving your clients and how much they are paying you. They are also a clear communication tool for the session date, time and location. Digital contracts are key to making your booking process streamlined for you and your clients.
Professional Photographers of America is a great resource for example contracts.
4. Develop processes for your business.
From first inquiry to final photo delivery, plan the process your clients will move through. How will you prepare them for their session? How will you deliver the final product?
I use HoneyBook as my main business organization tool.
For proofing and final image delivery, I use Pixieset.com.
5. Open a separate business bank account.
It’s difficult to tell if your business is profitable without separating your bank accounts. It makes bookkeeping and tax time much easier when you buy anything related to your business on a separate debit or credit card.
6. Buy insurance for your business.
Insurance is incredibly important for any business, and photography is no exception. Protect yourself, and your business. You’ll need liability insurance to be allowed into some venues.
Professional Photographers of America offers some basic insurance for their members, and you can buy additional liability and equipment insurance through them as well.
7. Make a business plan.
A business plan is never a bad idea. It will help you better understand your ideal clients, better understand your competition, and set goals. If you ever need to borrow money for your business, you will need a business plan.
In 2019, I graduated from Start:Me Atlanta, a free business mentoring program and completing a business plan was part of the curriculum. Programs like this are invaluable.
8. Claim your business profiles.
Claim your business profiles on Google, Yelp, Apple Maps and Bing. Even if you have a home business, you will need to claim your business profiles with a specific location. This helps search engines find your business. If you uncomfortable listing your home address, get a co-working space near your home.
Remember to reach out to clients who have recently used your services to ask them for a review. Here’s a link with info about how to set up a local listing.
9. Apply for a business license.
You will need to apply for a business license with your local city or county administration. If selling products is part of your business model, you will have to go through some steps to pay sales taxes, if you live in one of the 45 states that collects sales tax.
10. Decide how you would like to structure your business.
There are a few ways you can set up your business structure- sole proprietor, LLC, or S-Corp are a few. Talk to your accountant about the best way to set up your business.
Figure out which business task you should do yourself, and which aspects of your business you need to outsource. I don't love to handle the financials, so I have hired an accountant and bookkeeper to help me with those tasks.
11. Continue to learn and grow.
Continue to learn and grow as an artist and entrepreneur. There are countless online educational resources for photographers like CreativeLive. But, don’t overlook in person (once we can all gather safely again) conferences and classes like Imaging USA and Atlanta Celebrates Photography or ATLPhoto Night.
This list may seem overwhelming, but you don’t have to do them all at once. Chip away at them one at a time, and you will be on your way to building a photography business.