How to Start Your Photography Business on a Shoestring

We live in a fast-paced, instant gratification world. The barriers to entry into the photographic industry are pretty low. You might think that setting up a photography business is as simple as grabbing a camera, setting up a Facebook page and telling people you are in business.

And you’re right.

Starting a photography business CAN be done on a shoestring budget…

But it would be a mistake think that you can create a meaningful income without actually investing any time, effort and money into the business upfront.

My whole purpose for teaching the business of photography, is to show you how to create more of what you want in your life – more freedom, more flexibility, more creativity, more happiness.

So this post is all about getting started with the basics:

 

You need a business name and a basic logo.

It really doesn’t matter what you call your business or what your logo looks like. Getting stuck making decisions like these is often your fear in disguise. Don’t let unimportant issues become excuses for not moving forward with your dreams.

You will no doubt change as you get more clear in your style, your brand and your business.

Spend no more than a day choosing a name, and create a logo in Canva or Photoshop or spend $100 getting someone to create your first logo and move on to making money. You can invest in designers later when you have the cashflow. My logos have always been just “text” with watermarks created in Photoshop.

If you can’t decide – use your own name and put “Photography” at the end.

 

You need a DSLR camera and at least one portrait lens.

I started my photography business with the 50mm f/1.8 portrait lens ($150) and an 8 year old Canon EOS 350D camera.

I hired a 5D Mark II to shoot my portfolio images as I couldn’t afford to buy it yet. 

If you haven’t seen the video and free PDF download  “What’s in my Camera Bag”, go and check it out here.

 

You need a proficient level of photography ability

How do you know if you are good enough to start a photography business in the first place? Sure, you’ve bought the gear and people are telling you that they love your photos. But are the quality of your photos really good enough to get paid?

Not feeling good enough and lacking confidence is probably the most common issue I hear from new photographers who have either started a photography business or who are considering it.

Yes, you need a proficient level of knowledge with your camera and your technical skills to get consistent quality shots during your photoshoots.

However, I will bet that the quality of your photography is much better than you think it is.

If you feel you need more practice you have a few options to gain more confidence and to build your portfolio, come and join us in my online programme Perfecting Portraits which covers ALL aspects of child and family photography including newborns, multiples, shooting in any location, editing and workflow and how to create artwork that sells.

Don’t discount the value of your time and skills, even when you are starting out. Cap the number of free shoots today and start charging something.

 

You need to register your business name and apply for an Australian Business Number (ABN).

In Australia you need to register your business name with ASIC. This costs around $30 for a year or $70 for 3 years. In New Zealand it is called a NZBN, checked with Inland Revenue. In the USA check with the IRS and in the UK the regulator is HMRC. Make sure you get an legal advice for your country or state to ensure you are set up correctly.

 

You need a domain name, a website theme and web hosting.

You don’t need to spend thousands on a website designer to get started. You can buy your domain name for anywhere between $10-$20 per year. Hosting can be as little as $4 per month. You can get a free WordPress blog and purchase a website theme that might cost as little as $50. 

NOTE: You don’t NEED a website to get Bookings on Autopilot or Sales in Your Sleep. In the Photography Business Accelerator, I teach how to do this using 5 key online systems – you can use these without a website and can use the templates and scripts I provide and share within 60 seconds to get set up.

I recommend all photographers have a website created within their first 6 months in business, as it is your shopfront and shows your professionalism – but you don’t need it from day one to make money from your photoshoots.

Time is money. If you find yourself stuck and frustrated and aren’t able to set up your website and blog yourself within a couple of weeks, consider investing in some help to get this done.

In the PBA, I provide a whole module on Winning Websites for people who haven’t got one yet. In this module, there is also a Winning Website Audit checklist for those who have a website, that might not be optimised for traffic, conversions and bookings and sales.

Your primary objective with your website is to have an online presence to make it easy for people to find you, to see if they like your style, to trust you and to easily and effortlessly be compelled to book you quickly.

 

You need social media accounts (Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn).

The rise of social media has meant that businesses can take advantage of the power of visual “word of mouth” recommendations. Social media can be the one of the most important ways to get free advertising and new clients when you start your business.

You might be thinking that you don’t need all of these accounts, however if you want to be found in Google searches, you need them (try googling your favourite photographer to see what I mean).

 

You need business insurance.

This will vary again for each state and country and for each person, but business insurance is vital.

Kids are precious cargo. They are also highly accident prone.

In Perfecting Portraits, I talk A LOT about Child Safety as a primary focus during photoshoots, especially with newborns and babies. I dread the thought of a child tripping over a camera bag strap or slipping on wet rocks and injuring themselves. Having liability insurance gives you peace of mind “just in case”.

The main types of insurance are:

Liability Insurance: To protect you against potential legal actions arising from injuries or accidents on a photoshoot.

Equipment insurance: To cover damage to your photography and computer equipment.

Equipment insurance is especially important if you are photographing special events (such as family reunions or weddings) where you definitely need a backup plan if something goes wrong with your camera.

You should consider other insurance for yourself in your business such as Income Protection (for you and your family if you can’t work) and Property Insurance (if you have a studio). Get advice from your financial advisor for this.

 

You need a separate business bank account and a way of taking money online.

Create a separate bank account perhaps with a “trading as” account name. This is important for you to track your business income and expenses and to measure your financial success.

Create a Paypal account (and/or Stripe) to take payments online. You are only charged when you actually make money. Many people complain about the fees (1.7%-2%) however reframe this to consider it a small cost to having Bookings on Autopilot and Sales in Your Sleep. 

Make it easy for people to purchase from you online is imperative in our online world. Reducing the obstacles for your clients helps to keep them on YOUR website, and provides the chance for your to encourage more sales through your marketing.

Remember, even if YOU don’t shop online much, more than 87% of internet users shop online. (I know I personally do much of my purchasing late at night and at last minute, so if there isn’t a Buy Now button, I will go elsewhere).

 

You need a way to keep track of your business revenue and expenses.

Understanding how much PROFIT you are making, will enable you to make better spending and pricing decisions in your business.

Record keeping also doesn’t need to be expensive or complicated. On a shoestring budget, it can be as simple as keeping a spreadsheet. Given my love of spreadsheets, this is exactly what I used for the first couple of years in my business. I provide my student with all of my spreadsheets in the Photography Business Accelerator programme.

I personally use Xero for my bookkeeping. There are lots of other available for record keeping as well as lots of apps to track income and expenses on the go.

 

You need editing software, and either a laptop or computer to edit photos.

Photoshop or Lightroom are two popular programs that I recommend to edit your photos to polish them to a professional standard for your clients. I personally am a big believer in the “clean” edit and avoid over processing images.

You can get Photoshop and Lightroom in a bundle together for around $10 / month, which gives you updates as they are released. Totally worth it.

 

You need a platform to show your clients their photos.

Whether you choose to do in-person ordering sessions or online galleries for clients to purchase images, you need an easy and consistent process for them to view, select and pay for their products. This is a CRITICAL step in how much money you make (or don’t make) in your photography business, so we spend A LOT of time on this to create your process together in the Photography Business Accelerator.

 

You need an organised, and consistent workflow.

This is KEY to reducing overwhelm and anxiety when life gets busy and you have clients expectations and deadlines to meet.

Your customer experience is KEY so your workflow and client communication needs to be spot on – in your pre-shoot communication, your shoot flow and your post-shoot workflow and communication.

 

You will leave thousands on the table if you don’t do this the right way (or at all!)

One of the key ways of having an organised workflow (and getting more photoshoots) is to create a client workflow checklist. I share this template with every step of my workflow in the Photography Business Breakthrough programme. If you want to work with me 1-1, with a group of awesome go-getting women who are creating lifestyles that give them freedom and flexibility, apply here for more.

 

You need to learn how to have sales conversations and work on your money mindset.

This is one that I see many photographers NOT doing, and it is such a shame as their work is so STUNNING!

Learning how to quiet the doubts in your mind, how to ask for the sale, how to deal with objections is imperative when it comes to actually making money in your business.

None of the other stuff matters if you are not able to make money from your photoshoots – otherwise you just have a really expensive hobby!

I am a certified NLP Practitioner, and have lots of resources and tools to help you move past your own blocks around selling and receiving money when you work with me in the Photography Business Accelerator.

 

THIS IS WHAT YOU DON’T NEED

You do NOT need to go spending upwards of $2k on the latest L series lenses or camera bodies to get started.

The more you practice and take photographs, the more you will realise the limitations of the entry level cameras (such as flexibility in low lighting conditions) so, yes you might find you grow out of your camera or lenses.

My advice is to only upgrade when you know that you are using your equipment to its full potential and you are frustrated by its limitations.

 

You do not need to go out and spend thousands on the latest iMac. You also don’t need all those actions and presets. Or more blankets or props.

I started my business using my 13 inch laptop, and free actions and presets. Still to this day, I do not purchase any actions or presets for my editing.

 

Keep your start up expenses to the essentials – then use the money you earn from your photo shoots to upgrade incrementally.

I hope this was helpful for you if you are thinking about starting your business!

Clare xx

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