Of all the things that you could do in this world, why did you choose to be a photographer? What is it that motivates you to pick up your camera, and share what you capture with the world? Chances are, your answer involves words like "passionate," "creative," "moments," etc. If you're like most photographers (or artists for that matter), you're drawn to the ability to impact people through your craft, and through the images you create.
So, if that's true, why on earth did you decide to start a photography business? Of all the things you could do with your life, of all the jobs, of all the careers, of all the ways you could spend your time, what made you decide to start a business?
Let's be honest for a minute - for many photographers - it happened on accident. You'd probably never admit it, but that's exactly what happened. You had a hobby (photography), that you happened to be pretty good at. You practiced your hobby on your kids, your dogs, your neighbors' kids, and your neighbors' dogs. At some point, people started telling you that they really liked your photographs.
*Lightbulb moment* "I might actually be pretty good at this!" you tell yourself.
Over time, as you take more and more photographs, people start actually asking you to take photographs of their kids and their dogs. Then they start to offer to pay you money to take photographs of their kids and their dogs. Eventually a good friend asks about paying you to photograph their wedding.
*BAM* you're suddenly a professional photographer... right? After all, someone paid you to take their photographs - that's the definition of a pro right? Actually, for the sake of this conversation, we're not even going to dive down that rabbit hole - but we are going to talk about what happens next.
If you're like a lot of "accidental" professional photographers, you have a deep love of photography, and a passion for people. Those are great reasons to become a photographer, but are they a good enough reason to start a photography business?
Bottom line = no.
For just a few minuntes, bare with me and stop thinking like a photographer. Instead, let's think like business owners and answer a question - what matters most? What do I have to do to build a business around this photography thing I love? And even more importantly - how do I build something that adds value to my life, instead of simply sucking the life out of me?
The answer: Create something profitable and sustainable.
I've made this point more than once, but if it's a business, it HAS to be profitable. Otherwise it's just an expenseive hobby (which is fine, but not a business). Understand what it takes to be profitable.
Do the HARD work of figuring out what it costs you to be in business. Do the HARD work of creating a pricing plan that makes sense, and makes you money. Do the HARD work and create a marketing strategy around your ideal client, and be willing to say no to the wrong types of business.
Remember that every dollar you spend on the newest, fanciest gear, is a dollar you can't spend on your mortgage, or your kid's braces, or college. Remember that every time you work for free, it gets harder and harder to make money.
And remember that "profit," doesn't ONLY equal money...
Being profitable is important, and it's a good place to start, but it's not enough. After all, being a drug dealer is highly profitable, but it's not very sustainable. Drug dealers make huge amounts of profit, but most end up dead or in prison. Granted, the statistics on photographers getting shot are encouraging - but photographers face plenty of their own challenges.
Running a business can consume you. It takes a toll on your relationships, your health, and your passion. If you're going to be in this for the long haul, it's worth it to create systems and boundaries that help you take control your business, instead of letting it take control of you.
I've talked about it many times, but so many photographers that think they need to do everything. They think they need to do even the things that they aren't any good at, or worse, the things that don't make them any money. This isn't sustainable. Instead, ONLY DO WHAT ONLY YOU CAN DO, and find a way to let someone else do everything else.