There are a lot of benefits to running your own business - especially when you get to do something you love like Photography. You get to be your own boss, set your own schedule, and take the clients you want to work with. There are many rewards, and we often have this idealized picture in our head of what it will look like. How often, though, do we really think through what it will take to survive? Here's 7 things you should know before you start a photography business.
1. You might be an artist, but this is a business.
You'll spend most of your time doing things other than taking photos. If you're not okay with that, don't start a business. Don't invest your time and energy if you're not willing to make business decisions, and look at the numbers. I applaud artistic passion, and I am an artist - but when it comes to running my business, I'm a CEO first. If you'd rather just take photos, keep the day job and take photos - there's nothing dishonorable or wrong with that!
2. If you borrow money, you'll make decisions you wouldn't otherwise make.
It doesn't take a LOT of money to start a photography business. It certainly doesn't require the kind of capital it takes to open a restaurant, or coffee shop, or manufacturing plant. If you start borrowing money, it's likely for things you don't really need. Now you're not only paying back a loan (or credit card), but you're paying interest - which is money you can't reinvest in the business. Debt makes you do things you wouldn't do otherwise (trust me, I know this better than most people), and in a business, it can consume your cash-flow - leading you to more bad decisions.
3. You don't need a Canon 50 f/1.2.
If you're counting on fancy glass to make you a better photographer, you should probably stop charging people, and just go practice. I'm not saying no one should ever buy it (although I'm a Nikon shooter, so I can't imagine why you're shooting Canon in the first place), but if you're starting your business, and all you can think about is buying gear, than you're probably not making the best long-term decisions.
4. There's nothing more valuable to your business in the beginning than an accountant.
Seriously - quit thinking about the Canon 50 f/1.2. It's not going to make you a better photographer. It's not going to make you more money. It's not going to help you run a better business. On the other hand, a good accountant that you can develop a long-term relationship with, can definitely help you make the right decisions about growing your business.
5. Most workshops are a waste of time.
Seriously. I can count on one hand the number of workshops in the industry that I would recommend. If you want to know what they are, ask me - I'll tell you. Most of them are a waste of your money, and you can learn just as much by practicing. If you're paying money to stand in a pack and shoot models, why not just go get a bunch of cute models and do it yourself? If you're paying money to be in the presence of a "rockstar" keep in mind that they're only a rockstar to you - and that they're "mojo" isn't going to suddenly wear off and make you successful. Also, as a note - don't take a business workshop from anyone you can't verify their business success.
6. You're not going to get rich as a photographer.
You'll most likely make as much as a teacher - and that's if you focus on running a solid business, take great care of your clients, and manage your expenses well. You can certainly make more - but the odds are that on average, you're going to work really hard for moderate pay. There are definitely exceptions, and if you work REALLY hard, AND get really lucky - you can live a pretty comfortable life, but I wouldn't count on it. The trade off is, you get to be your own boss.
7. Photography is a service industry. It's about serving clients.
It's not about you, or your images, or your ego, or your equipment. It's about providing a REAL value to REAL people who trust you! You may be fantastically talented, but if you're planning on being a rockstar to anyone but you're clients - you're in this for the wrong reason.
What else would you suggest people know before starting a Photography Business?