If 19 year old Jamie had read something like this when she was trying to figure it all out on her own- she’d have made it to where she is now so much faster. Of course there is no shame in faking it ’til you make it, winging it, and trial and error. All of those things really DO work. But you will save yourself so much time and effort (and possibly even skip a few steps) if you invest in just three simple things right when you start your photography business.
Starting a business as a solo-prenuer is extremely intimidating. It’s hard to find someone that believes in you enough to encourage you. They want you to have some kind of backup plan or second job. People tend to view entrepreneurship as more of a risk than working a corporate job. While that might be true for THEM, it doesn’t have to be true for you. Setting yourself up for success and knowing that you’re in control- in my opinion- is much safer than trusting a large corporation that only views you as a number. A company that determines if your reason for requesting time off is valid. A boss who expects you to work overtime and spend your weekends on call. If you ask me, I’d take the stress of building my own business over the stress of that kind of life any day.
So you’ve made the decision to go full time with your photography business- Hell. yes. But now you want to make sure you do it right. If I could share with you three things to invest in before you begin, it would be this:
Photography education is everywhere. It can be intimidating finding the right course, mentorship, or workshop for you. But I will tell you right now- do not waste your time attempting to get a photography degree. I wasted 2 semesters of my life in random art classes when the only one that actually benefitted me was Photography 101. And everything I learned there I could have found on Youtube. Instead, look for photographers that you love, that get you excited, and see if they offer education. Check reviews, join Facebook groups, and listen to free podcasts before you commit to the paid stuff. However, at the end of the day, the quality, paid education is so, so worth it.
I highly recommend doing an in-person mentorship, shadowing, or second shooting, as well as investing in a business course geared for photographers and creatives. These courses are customized for people just like you. People wanting to achieve the same goals, taught by people who figured it out themselves. For example, you wouldn’t want to take a business course created by a lawyer (unless that lawyer was also a photographer!). They don’t fully understand what it is you need from them. It’s kind of like when your dad tells you how to run your business based on HIS business experience- his advice comes from the heart, but it’s probably not exactly what you need. I highly recommend Katelyn James’ business course.
CPA (Certified Public Accountant)
This is so important. Making sure your photography business is legally legit is CRUCIAL. Katelyn James talks about this in her course, actually- but even she recommends discussing your business with a professional who handles small businesses. Every state is different when it comes to what you need to have in place for your taxes. Don’t just assume you can do your taxes yourself… You’ll do it wrong. And the last thing you want is the IRS coming for you in your first year of business.
In the same genre, make sure you have a business license and insurance. Your CPA should be able to help you with these things! Additionally, having a CPA to help you understand the legal stuff makes you feel more capable. Trying to do it yourself can make you feel like a fraud. As soon as I swallowed my pride and handed over my taxes to a CPA, I felt like I was actually a real photography business. People can tell when you feel confident in the service you provide. It was around that time I started getting consistent, higher paying clients.
This one might seem like a copout to some of you, but if I had invested in some quality presets when I first started a photography business, my style would have elevated so much quicker. I struggled for literally YEARS at the beginning of my business finding a style that I liked. And if did find a style that I liked, I could never achieve it. I would get so frustrated. Finally buying presets let me see how certain elements were adjusted to achieve certain looks. It opened my eyes to a world of editing possibilities!
I always thought I was too good for presets. I felt like I wasn’t a true artist if I used them. That’s a complete lie. First of all, you should still be tweaking your edits even after a preset has been applied to make it unique to you. The amount of times I’ve been able to apply a preset to an image and it turns out perfect would probably be 1 out of every thousand images. Secondly, do you know how people can tell you’ve used a preset? They can’t tell. So figure out what you love and buy that dang preset. You don’t have to use it forever- in fact, your style should evolve eventually. But it will get you started on the right foot.
While of course there is much more to starting a business, investing in these three things will set you up for immediate success. In a photography business, there will be amazing weeks, and dead weeks. Busy seasons and slow seasons. Instead of feeling defeated in the slow seasons, use your time wisely by taking a course, planning a styled shoot, or updating your website- and know that your hard work will pay off! Good luck, and happy shooting!