“Will I Ever Get My Photography Business Started?”

photography-business-startedThis is the first post in a series on how to prepare to start your photography business. Be sure to check out the following articles:

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Just over 18 years ago, I was a superintendent at a textile factory with a growing passion for photography.

The more I learned about photography, the more I knew that I wanted this to by my full-time career…

…I was tired of leaving my family at 6:30 am each morning, only to work for someone else and come back home at 6 pm.

But I had no idea how to start a photography business. I knew what I wanted, but I wondered if it would ever really happen for me.

Looking back, I realize there were a few things keeping me from going all-in on my dream:

  1. I was afraid of failing. “What if I opened my business and couldn’t find any clients?? What if I put all of that time and money into learning and practicing, only to find out I wasn’t good enough to make my business work?”
  2. I told myself I didn’t have enough time. “But I work 10+ hours a day already. I have two kids to take care of. Where am I supposed to find the time to start a business?!”
  3. I didn’t know where to start and hadn’t thought to break down my dream into actionable steps. “There’s so much to do! Do I build my portfolio first? Or go looking for my first clients? Maybe I need to get a business card made??”

I decided that for a while, I would just keep learning and practicing my craft until I felt “ready” enough to start the business.

I used a week of vacation time to attend my first week-long photography seminar, and I left the seminar excited and filled with ideas of how I could transition this passion to a career.

However, when I returned to work that Monday, I learned that the business I worked at would be closing its doors forever, and that I was no longer employed.

That moment was a blessing in disguise, as I decided this was my opportunity to go full-time with my photography and jump in with both feet!

I went from being without a job in May, to booking and photographing six local day-cares by September.

In my mind, I had imagined that I would start the business part-time and gradually transition it into a full-time business…

…But with the turn of events that took place, I had no choice but to figure out how to make this business work as quickly as possible.

And the results?

  • Now, I make my own work hours and I’m able to take pride in being my own boss
  • I’m able to spend more time with my family and enjoy my other hobbies
  • My revenue as a photography business owner has grown to be a significant increase from my day-job salary
  • I get to wake up everyday and do what I love for my work!

Why am I telling you all of this?

After chatting with some of our readers on the Hobby to Pro Photo Facebook page, I’ve come to find that a lot of hobby photographers are going through the same things that I went through starting my own business.

This includes a major fear: “Will I ever get my photography business started?”

You are not alone, and it is possible.

This post is the first of a series to help you get to the point where you are ready to answer that question with a resounding, “yes!”

Now, it’s your turn!

QUIZ TIME:

Imagine yourself in my shoes: you just lost your day-job and need to create and make your photography business successful as soon as possible. What would you do first to make it happen?

Be sure to leave your answer in the comments below!

P.S. – I’ll be back in a couple days with my own answer!

  • Deb Cunningham

    Ok this is happening in 3 months or less? I need a business plan, package order forms, contractual agreement papers,and clients!
    Looking for the paperwork for business, any samples?

  • Karen DeCicco Hawkins

    I wish I knew! if I did, I would already be off and running! Help?!

  • Heather Powell

    It is overwhelming feeling that you fear to fell at something you love…that is how i feel right now. I just got to dive in with my eyes wide open and make the best of it. So many people in my community call themselves photographers and are able to get clients by who knows who with the small town environment. Glamour Portraiture is what I like to venture into and believe it will be good. Just concerned with financial outlook and want to be successful.

  • Tonya Berrier

    I think I would look for my first clients, and then wonder how I was gonna edit them, if I dont have a computer and photoshop.

  • All great thoughts, Deb! We will actually be offering paperwork / contracts / forms etc. soon 🙂

  • Yes! The figure-it-out-as-you-go approach is a great one to have in a situation like that!

  • Stay tuned, Karen – more help is on the way!

  • Thank you for your comment, Heather. Fear of failing is the biggest reason why most people don’t do what they truly love for a living. But if you really love photography and are willing to take a chance, I know you can do what it takes to be a success!

  • Angel

    I started 3 years ago, slowly but have a full plan but its all over the place, I want to do so much and I can, but I sure don’t know where to start so my first guess would be recreate myself and my name and start with promotions

  • Karonhioktha Leigh Thompson

    I would like to practice more with my camera. I think of myself as a beginning enthusiast who did lose a day-job and would SO like to have my photography become a real income. I would need a business plan, back drops and people I can photograph to build my portfolio.

  • This is what I have been going through! I lost my job with the recession. I’m just feeling my way along and I am not confident that I know how to make a go of it. I didn’t start on this journey with starting a business in mind it just happened and it sort of chose me. I got a dog about two years ago and started photographing her at the local dog park. I made a Facebook page so the dog park users could stay in touch. I slowly started to upload images of my dog from the park, then I began to upload images that I had taken of other peoples dogs at the park in order to keep people interested in the page. Through this experience I discovered that people really wanted pictures of their dogs so I made a webpage and began selling higher resolution images. My name began to become known and a doggy daycare asked me to take pictures of their clients dogs for Christmas. It was at this point that I realized that I had better become official before I got into trouble about taxes etc., so I formed an LLC (Tracey’s Photography LLC). I just got my EIN (employer Identification Number) so I can get a business bank account and legally deal with taxes. I thought that it would be great to get together with a dog groomer since the best time to take photos of dogs is after a bath (and after they’ve had some exercise). I just met with a local mobile pet groomer today and I think we both have something to offer each other. I have also been taking pictures of barrel racers (horses). One of the mothers of a child barrel racer ordered a collage of her child competing in the barrel races at the state fair. She wrapped it and gave it to her daughter (9 years old) for Christmas. After her daughter unwrapped it she took a picture of her with the collage and uploaded it to my Facebook page so I could see. It was a thrill to see my images in someone else’s house on their wall! I’ve been doing photography since 1981 and I can’t not do it and I obviously love animals in motion. So I thought this would be a good fit for me and I’m just hoping that I can’t get past my insecurities so I can really make it happen, I would be so proud of myself. I still need to figure out how to change the names of my web pages, I need to learn about marketing and overcome the feeling that I am asking people for a favor instead of selling them a high quality product. I need to determine packages and their costs as well as how to deliver products, I need to learn how to keep track of everything (bookkeeping etc.) including what I have promised to whom, how to get more clients, etc. etc. etc. Also, you think you know a lot about photography especially having done it for 34 years, until you start doing it for money, then you suddenly realize just how much you need to learn and that’s something else I have been doing as well as adding new equipment.

  • Tracey, thank you for sharing! It sounds like you are already off to a really great start. You’ve defined your niche and brought in your first clients! It sounds like the biggest roadblock in your way is confidence in your pricing, which is 100% normal! Have you seen our pricing series? This may be a good place to start: http://hobbytoprophoto.com/worksheet-how-to-price-your-photography-services/

  • All good thoughts – it’s definitely possible!

  • Thanks for your comment, Angel! Getting organized can be really tough in the beginning. We’ll have more info to help with this soon!

  • Melissa Stone Lewis

    I would love wake up every morning and take photos. For a living so sceared I make every Excuse why I can’t start a business from I don’t have the right lens to edited program to backdrops. At the same time my family is trying to push me forward to get started.

  • Thanks for sharing, Melissa! Fear will stop us from stepping out of our comfort zone and reaching any of our goals if we let it.

    One great way to start is to just begin bringing in clients on the side, maybe on the weekend, just for fun. You don’t need to go from hobby to full-time career overnight – taking baby steps will help build confidence and get you prepared to make a living with photography!

  • yvonne

    I just freaked out about what i would do!!
    I don’t know if i should make business cards first, build my website, continue with friends and my kids and advertise on foot, umm…..
    I am afraid of failing still and i promised myself i would not be that girl anymore.
    That question is basically me now, i want so badly to never have to bartend again due to the disrespect in the workplace and the time it takes from my personal life but i do believe i will have to be pushed out of there to get started on my own path.

  • yvonne

    This is great and a definite area i haven’t even thought of. How can i keep from losing this important piece of the puzzle?

  • Hi Yvonne, we really appreciate your honesty! I find that simply identifying your fears is a great way to begin getting past them.

    Analysis paralysis is a huge issue for everyone looking to start a new business. There really are an unlimited amount of things you could do. The key is to just pick one thing and work from there, one by one. Be sure to continue reading the other articles in this series, those should help you figure out what to focus on!

  • Summer Kegeris

    I lost my job this past March. I thought that is I worked really hard by building a website, up grading my camera, taking class after class, really working hard on my craft I could make this a go. I’ve done freebie work, charity work, friends and family discounts to help generate business. I’ve added a nice studio to the mix, even won a couple of awards with my work…but I cannot get this business up and running for nothing. Sure I’ve done a few actual paying jobs, but nothing that has equaled to the price of my camera…. I’m including a sample of my work.

  • Chrys Campbell

    I “would” research online, ask a lot of questions (provided I knew what questions to ask.) This seems to be my biggest challenge, knowing what questions to ask, who to ask and that in turn should get me a valid response, but I have noticed a lot of snarky people work in the photography business and I am not getting answers. 🙁 I actually lost my job in August, and I have been working towards this as hard as I can the last 5 months. Truth be told, I am about to have to go back to work at a far less paying job than what was taken from me (oilfield lay off) and I am beginning to feel like a failure at getting business started successfully.

  • Sarah Marie Benitez

    I have a photography business. It’s not taking off as quickly as I would have liked. Any suggestions?