By Rachel Brill
Transitioning from photography as a hobby to a full-fledged business can be incredibly fulfilling, but it can also be stressful. We’re here to help, so we asked some of the top pros in the industry “What is the one thing every photographer needs to know when starting a photography business?” We divided their answers into three themes: stay true to yourself, business strategies, and creating a business plan. In Part 1, we delved into the first theme: Trust that what makes you unique will make you successful. Now, in Part 2, we share key business strategies from five professionals.
Create an Impressive Portfolio First
Fine art photographer Dan Ballard encourages photographers to take the time to create an impressive body of work before going pro. “Create great images and everything else will follow. While you certainly need great marketing and business skills, if you have great content to promote and share doors will open with a slight nudge instead of a hard push. Spend years perfecting your craft before trying to go pro,” he said.
Find a Mentor
Seeking out mentors is an effective way to advance quickly along your path. Wedding photographer Tiree Dawson said, “It can be a huge help to find a mentor when you set out to start your photography business. Ideally, try to find someone who has a successful photography career and has the time and willingness to share their experience with you. It doesn’t matter if their style isn’t the same as yours, or they work in a different area—it can in fact be a plus! Spending time with someone who has already trodden parts of the path you are embarking on can be one of the quickest ways to learn and to achieve the success you hope for.”
Be Prepared to Hustle
To achieve professional success you need to have the right mix of creative skills, business know-how, and a strong sense of initiative. Documentary photographer and photojournalist Ginny Dixon said, “I know lots of great photographers who can’t make a living doing photography because they don’t know how to hustle and aren’t smart in business. Likewise, I know several mediocre photographers who kill it because they have great business, social media and branding skills. You have to do be willing to do it all and all the time.”
Building a reputation as a reliable professional will give you a business advantage, according to landscape and portrait photographer Joseph Roybal. “When it comes to client satisfaction and content delivery, you can never do too much. Over deliver, deliver content early, and communicate openly and freely. Do not fall into the stereotype of ‘photographers are flakes.’ Breaking that stereotype down from the beginning will set you up for success and also set you apart from your competition in the field,” he said.
Create a Beautiful Website
Fashion and glamour photographer Lou Freeman emphasizes the importance of creating a great first impression with your website. “Your website and online presence is your storefront and the most important draw to confirm your sales options. A wonderfully designed and well-executed site will allow your possible clients no option but to buy your services,” she said.
In addition to having a dynamic website, it’s imperative to have a well-thought-out business plan. In Part 3 of this series the pros explain why you need a business plan and the essential elements you’ll want to include.
Rachel Brill is a marketing editor at Zenfolio. She has been editing for 13 years and writing for six years. She has a BA in journalism and resides in the San Francisco Bay Area.