Download the CODB calculator at the end of the article!
I know, this sounds ridiculous right? Well, it’s true. I did start my business that fast. My husband bought me a camera for my birthday, and I just ran with it! The truth is, it is a LOT of work and you do not have to execute this plan as fast as I did. At the time, I only had one child and more time on my hands. Doing that now days with three kiddos and zero extra time seems almost impossible. So, I am saying do this at your own pace, but here are my tips! Plan, elevate the plan, and execute.
The first step is plan out your timeline. Decide when you want to launch your business, then add the steps it will take to get you to that point. The five actions steps I recommend are: learn, mentor, legal setup, model calls and launch. I chose these steps based on what helped me the most to get my business off the ground. Now, it’s time to dive deeper and figure out how to elevate those steps.
Make sure you learn as much as you can about photography and your camera’s manual mode (view my guide on using manual mode here). Take these days to really practice using your camera and understanding how it works. Then, learn as much as you can about using Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop. Download your favorite presets from other photographers you admire into Lightroom and start playing around with them. Once you are comfortable with that, then open your images in photoshop to add some finishing touches like blemish removal or making the images POP! If you need help with any of that, be sure to check out all the free content in my LEARN group on Facebook.
Shadow other photographers in your area who are willing to help. Make it a goal to reach out to at least 3 other photographers who shoot different styles (i.e. portraits, families, couples etc.) to see if they mentor or would allow you to shadow them. This will ensure that you get a feel for the different niches and help you determine which direction you would like to go. Also, know that you do not have to know what you prefer before you start your business. I believe the first year of business is all about learning what you love to shoot and where you are headed.
3. Legal Setup
DO NOT SKIP this step. This is so important. Make sure you register your business with the state you live in and the federal government. Have your contracts, print releases, and any other forms created before your launch date.
Note: A great resource for legal setup for photographers is TheLawTog
4. Model Calls
Take this time to really hone in on your skills as a photographer and take all that you have learned and put it to use to build your portfolio. Do model calls and take pictures of friends and family. Anything you can do to get your art on your social media and website. Model calls are a great way to get brand recognition. Ask those who work with you to share your content or tag you. Be sure to ask in the nicest way possible and let them know you are super thankful for them and their support!
This is what you have been waiting for! You have done everything possible to set yourself up for success. You have learned the ins and outs of using your camera, created beautiful work for your platforms and started to gather a following. So, how do you launch? Just go for it! You don’t have to do a big fancy entrance (you can if you want) but the truth is, you may have already gotten your first lead so go ahead and get them on the books! Make it known what dates you are available and set boundaries on what you can realistically accomplish each month.
Now that you have a plan in place it is time to execute that plan. During this phase it is extremely important to give yourself grace. If you are a mother, student, working full time, or just have a lot on your plate, it is perfectly ok to TAKE YOUR TIME! Your mental health is what is most important. Yes, I created a business from scratch in a foreign country in about 90 days, but that was not easy and it took a lot out of me. If I could do it over, I would take my time. Below are my tips to execute the plan.
- Set realistic goals.
- Determine the best time of year to launch based on your target audience.
- Understand the startup costs.
Set realistic goals for the first 90 days. Have them set to good, better, and best. For example, having learned how to use manual mode within the first 20 days is best, but good would mean having a general understanding of manual mode. This helps you still stay on track without getting that sense you are failing.
Determine the best time of year to launch based on your target audience. If your goal is to work with mostly families and you do not have a studio, then the best time to launch is just before the fall around august when everyone begins looking to get Autumn photos done. For seniors graduating high school, the best time of year is early spring around March. Be aware of what your target clients will be in need of at that time of the year and advertise for that.
Now, calculate your startup costs. Photography is not cheap, so write down what you need to upgrade your gear, what subscriptions you have (Lightroom, Photoshop, Canva, etc.), legal expenses, and any other costs. If you start out your business by understanding your costs of doing business (CODB), then you will be able to charge appropriately based on that and your time. Grab your free CODB calculator below.
Download the Free CODB Calculator
Input your numbers to determine your income goals for the year!
You are now well on your way to becoming a photographer! I hope this helps you put your thoughts in order. I know it can be a lot, but speaking from experience, YOU GOT THIS!