Should I start a photography business?
Well isn't that a nice big question to tackle in a blog post?!
This is a big question mostly because it is a big topic, especially in this day and age of easily accessible DSLR cameras, the draw to an entrepreneurial lifestyle and of course social media. Everyone knows a "photographer" these days so the barrier to entry is low and the benefits appear extremely attractive.
But when it comes right down to it, when you start charging people money in order to provide them with a product or service, you are essentially starting a business. And with that comes a WHOLE LOT of other things that have nothing to do with staying in yoga pants all day and not longer having to answer to "the man" anymore.
And those other things can be boring, and they can be scary.
Like I might go to jail or get sued or go into major debt kind of scary if you don't treat your business as a business. So let's talk about it. Should you actually start your own photography business?
Hobby or Business?
First of all its a good thing to differentiate the different between photography as a hobby and photography as an actual business. There are differing opinions on this out there, and there is no 100% correct answer, but here is what I have landed on:
Hobby: All of your photography is for free or just for fun. No money is changing hands. People may gift you with things or money if you do photograph them, but you are not charging them anything for your time.
Business: You charge people. You don't have to do photography as a full time job or as your sole income, but if you advertise yourself as someone who has a fee for a service you provide, you are a business.
Soooooo....if you have taken an interest in photography and really enjoy it and feel like maybe you can make this into something that you can get paid for (and you aren't working for someone else as a photographer) then you are interested in starting an OFFICIAL business. Yippee!!
Next let's talk about time commitments when it comes to starting a business, especially a photography business. We all have different stuff going on in our lives, some of that involves a current full time job, sometimes it includes spouses and kids and active family lives. Its an important thing to understand that when you decide to take the "plunge" and actually start a business you are going to have to invest a LOT of time getting things going initially.
MOST of us have never started a business before and have no idea how to:
register with the state
get a business license
get set up to pay sales tax
set up a website
figure out a way to invoice people and have them pay you
and on and on and on.....
And all of that is in ADDITION to continuing to learn your craft and find paying clients! OY!
Before you jump in head first, take a good look at what you've got going on currently in your life and understand that things are going to be sacrificed, or might have to be moved around or some things simply might not happen because of your new time commitment to this business.
I don't say that to discourage anyone from actually starting. A LOT of what you will hear out there, is to just START already or else you never will and I agree with that to a point, but I think its also a good thing to be smart about it and have a full understanding of what you are starting. Make the decision, but be smart about it!
Alrighty, now its time to get down to thinking about what you might actually want to achieve with this business. I think honestly this is one of the HARDEST things about starting a business for some people.
There is a draw to be in business for yourself for obvious reasons. You don't have to punch a clock anymore, you don't have to do things other people tell you to do, you don't have to work for some jerk who is not interested in your personal development or growth anymore. You are free to be your own boss, set your own hours and do your own thang. Sign me up for THAT!
While on its face that all sounds great, if you don't have any goals to go along with your newfound "freedom", you WILL flounder.
You won't know how to price yourself.
You won't know how to market yourself or find clients that actually appreciate you
You will constantly feel like a failure because you will see other people achieving their goals and will wonder why you aren't doing the same.
None of that sounds like fun right? (It's not, trust me.) If you don't have goals to work towards then you will feel like you are literally never getting anywhere. They don't have to be giant goals or 5 or 10 year plans, you can start small and when you get your feet a little wet in the business you can grow your goals from there. Set small goals per month or (even per week if you want) and keep track of them somewhere you can come back to so you can monitor your progress.
Goal setting is one of the most important things for small business owners and not enough of us do it on a regular basis even though in reality it makes everything easier.
Alright!! Now that you have evaluated these things you should have a better understanding of HOW to answer that question: Should I start a photography business?
The answer is different for everyone who comes across it and whatever your answer may be, let me be one of the first ones to encourage you in your journey. Its exciting, its scary, it can be lonely at times, but it is also extremely rewarding to see something you have built from scratch begin to grow and be a blessing to others.
And if you are looking for a step by step guide on 30 to do steps to actually starting a photography business, here is a free checklist for you to get started!