You’ve decided that you want to take photography one step further and turn it from hobby to full time business. Before we go any further, let me just point out that while you’re reading this, quite a few people are making the same decision or are already taking the first step. Moving on, let’s assume that you have a budget and know what gear you need to purchase. Let’s focus on the first steps you need to get your business going as soon as possible.
Identify Your Market
By now you should have an idea of what kind of photography you like to do. That should be your market. It could be weddings and other events, commercial, fashion or editorial photography. The point is to have a clear idea of what you’re going for. No matter how easy it may seem, you can’t do it all or be the all-in-one photographer.
Study your potential clients. You need to know exactly what kind of people your photography is for. You might not have it figured out in the first days of the business, but you’ll soon get the idea of what kind of people you want to work with.
Let Everyone Know
Family, friends, neighbors, the mail man, everyone needs to know that you are now a photographer. Sure, your cousin might already be married or may not seem like the fashion loving kind of guy, but you never know where a professional connection can come from. I lived for 2 years in a building with a fashion designer and had no idea. We used to see each other around the building, say hi and go our own ways, until one day when we started talking. We were both kind of shocked to have a professional from our field of work in the building. We did a test shoot, all went well, and we still work together even after I’ve moved to another part of town.
Always have business cards on you to hand out. You don’t have to overdo it or take them out when the conversation is about something totally different, but you do not want to be caught without one when people ask for it.
Have a Professional Website
In today’s age, you cannot call yourself a pro and not have a quality webpage that enhances your work. At least not if you aren’t Annie Leibovitz. Don’t try to cut corners by doing it yourself because your clients will tell and it will only make you look sloppy. Seek help from a local pro. You might be able to work up a barter. A friend of mine, who is a wedding photographer, shot a family event for his web designer in exchange for her work.
Study Your Competition
Be aware of who you’re going up against, but don’t obsess over it. You have to know what local pros charge, or else you won’t be able to make a competitive offer in the market. Don’t get hung up on someone else’s success and remember that it’s only up to you to make this work or not.
Expect the Unexpected
Costs, sacrifices, compromise, name it. You might have a bulletproof plan to start the business, but no matter what you do, there is always a dose of the unpredictable. Make sure that you and yours are mentally prepared for the leap. If you’re single and only responsible for yourself, it’s one thing. If you have a family though, they’re going in with you, regardless of whether your significant other is employed or not. Be sure to talk it over and mention the unknown obstacles that lie ahead.
Hire an Accountant
You will have enough on your plate to deal with the administrative aspect of things. Hiring a specialist will stress you financially to some extent, but it will also allow you to channel more energy into your creativity.
See more photography related tips on the PhotographyTalk photography forum.