A huge part of being a successful photographer is knowing the ins and outs of your passion and being able to produce stunning photos that people are willing to pay for. However, passion and talent alone won’t necessarily take you to the next step of your career. If you’re looking into how to start a photography business, there’s so much more that you need to know in order to set yourself up for success and ensure that you’re prepared for any potential obstacles ahead of time.
What do you need to start a photography business in the UK? How much does it cost to start a photography business? What does starting a photography business in the UK entail? In this comprehensive guide, we’ll seek to answer all these questions and more so that you have everything you need to get your photography business up and running with issues. Here, we’ll discuss:
- Create your executive summary/mission statement
- Determine what type of photographer you’re going into business as
- Figure out what type of tools you need (online and off)
- Research business formations
- Conduct competitor research
- Develop a marketing strategy
- Establish a funding plan
- Ask yourself, where am I operating out of?
- Review miscellaneous items (insurance, portfolio, etc.)
- Price your services
- Get started!
1. Create your executive summary/mission statement
Starting a photography business in the UK can be an exciting prospect. As a photographer, you love the work that you do and you wish to turn it into a profitable business opportunity. However, it’s important that you both know exactly what you’re going into business for and have a reminder as to why you need to stay motivated (especially when there are days that are trying). How? This all starts with an executive summary.
An executive summary or a mission statement is the who, what, and why behind your business. Who are you as a photographer? What type of services do you deliver? Why do you do the work that you do, and why should those looking for your services choose you over the competition? While this may seem like a very minor detail in the larger picture that is your business plan, this initial statement helps you figure out what you do moving forward and keeps you focused so that you’re able to see your vision through. Don’t be afraid to take your time with this if it’s a little challenging!
2. Determine what type of Photographer you’re going into business as
Learning how to start a photography business means learning how to be a niche photographer. While some of the bigger photographers out there may offer a wide range of services, it can be very difficult to thrive as a generalist starting out. Whether it's commercial photography, portraiture, weddings, or even street photography, you need to be a specialist. This will help you focus your marketing and ensure that you’re reaching the right audience for improved results.
Even if you have a wide range of photography that you like to engage in, ask yourself, what do I love most? A better question might be, what am I most skilled at? Creating a business that’s both sustainable and something that you enjoy running means finding what you’re passionate about and what people are actually willing to pay for. If you can start out with a more profitable niche and you have the skills to thrive in that niche, go for that one. Perhaps you could begin learning how to shoot and edit great e-commerce photos, for example. As with the above, this can seem like a simple point, but it may take more time and consideration than you initially anticipated.
3. Figure out what type of tools you need (online and off)
Running a photography business requires you to invest in a great deal of digital and physical tools. There are some on this list that are going to be obvious, but there are others that you may not have considered even while you were thinking about becoming a professional photographer. What do you need to start a photography business?
- Photography equipment: Photography equipment is the most obvious need, and it’s one that you likely already have covered. This category will include cameras, lenses, lighting setup, photography backdrops, and more.
- Technology: Modern businesses rely heavily on technology. Investing in technology that you can use for editing, photo storage, and day-to-day business activities is of the utmost importance. Some equipment you might need includes a laptop, a desktop (for your home office), a tablet, specialised printers, and so on.
- Business software: Software is going to be what powers you as you navigate your business. If you’re feeling especially bootstrapped, the good news is that you can find some essential software for free. A few examples of business software a photographer might need include scheduling software for bookings, calendar software so you’re always on top of your schedule, and photo editing software. Make sure you’re also working on your website as these will typically integrate into that.
- Office equipment: If you’re working at home or from an office, you need office equipment. Some ideas to get you started include a desk, chairs, filing cabinets, and other related items.
- And beyond…
This list is by no means exhaustive. Set aside some time to come up with a list of everything you can think of so that you have everything you need once it comes time to finally open up for business.
4. Research business formations
A photography business is a business, and all businesses need to be properly structured so that they’re fully supporting your business activities. At the most basic level, we have sole traders. Sole traders are those whose business and personal income are mixed together, and there’s not a lot to do on your end to begin working. If you want more protection, you need to incorporate, either becoming a limited company, a partnership, or a limited liability partnership.
There are advantages and disadvantages to every business structure. Some of these are minor, while others can impact you heavily in the future. It’s best to work with a business lawyer who can give you greater insight into what your options are and what’s the best fit for your current needs.
5. Conduct competitor research
When you’re looking into how to start a photography business, you might not really think about your competitors much at all. However, understanding your competitors is crucial to your own success.
Why? Your competitors will give you insight into who you’re competing for clients against, how they’re running their business and getting photography clients, and where weaknesses lie so that you can take advantage of these and strengthen your own. Granted, photography might be a more unique type of business in which you won’t find a host of competitors. Still, it’s critical that you take some time to look into competitors in your area who are offering the same services you want to.
When did they start? What does their portfolio look like? Their website? What sets them apart and how can you adjust your own services to attract the clients they’re missing? This might be a tedious task, but it can go a long way in driving progress once your business is up and running.
6. Develop a marketing strategy
Your marketing strategy is one of the most (if not the most) important aspects of your business strategy. If you’re not marketing your photography business immediately before and upon launching, no one is going to be aware that you’re offering the services that they need. Like competitor research, this can be an extensive aspect of starting a photography business in the UK. Here are some of the key areas to focus on as you develop a marketing strategy.
- Marketing budget: Marketing costs money. Even though there are free platforms, you likely won’t be able to sustain your business with free marketing. How much do you have to spend, and how can you maximise results without going over budget?
- Marketing channels: There are a host of marketing channels to take advantage of. Are you marketing your business locally and physically? Are you using social media platforms to generate buzz? Are you marketing on search engines to draw traffic to your website? Cover all your bases. This brings us to our next point…
- Buyer persona: You can’t market your business effectively if you don’t know who you’re marketing too. This is why you need to create buyer personas. What is the age range of your ideal client? Why do they need your services? Where do they look for your services? The better you know your clients, the easier it will be to compel them to book you.
- Essential tools: There are so many helpful tools out there to deliver your marketing materials. These include email software, social media marketing platforms that allow you to schedule your posts ahead of time and more. Look for the right tools to keep your marketing strategy on track.
- Goals and objectives: What are you trying to achieve with your marketing strategy? When are you hoping to achieve it by? How do you measure your progress? Create specific and measurable goals and objectives so you’re not marketing without a focus.
This can take a great deal of time. Work with a professional if you need help with the planning process or help with the execution process so that you’re getting the results you want immediately.
7. Establish a funding plan
Unlike some other businesses, becoming a professional photographer running your own business is going to cost money. This includes money for your equipment, the money you need to get a lawyer to ensure your business is operating correctly, money for marketing software, and more. How much does it cost to start a photography business? Conservative estimates are anywhere from £10,000 to £15,000, but it could cost considerably more.
Now’s the time to figure out where that money is going to come from. For some, they might have money that they’ve been setting aside specifically for their new business. For others, they might have friends or relatives that are looking to help them make their business dream a reality. Finally, there are always loans you can take advantage of to help you start your business that you can slowly pay back over time.
No matter which financial opportunities exist that you can leverage, create a plan that will allow you to find all the money you need for your new business. Also, establish a budget for everything so you don’t end up going too deep in the negative or finding yourself without the funds you need access to.
8. Ask yourself, where am I operating out of?
The traditional business dream is to have a brick-and-mortar location where you run your business from. However, this doesn’t have to be the case for business owners today. When you’re looking into how to start a photography business, ask yourself, where do I want to run my business? If you travel and you don’t have clients visiting you, you can always run your photography business from the comfort of your own home, whilst shooting in portable outdoor photo studios as you move around.
On the other hand, if you want to have a physical location for your clients where you can show your work to them in person or even have a photo studio space where you can shoot, you might want to lease out space instead. Keep in mind that this choice will have a massive impact on your business and on your budget. One can save you money, but the other might be more essential. There might also be additional permits or paperwork you might need to get set up.
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9. Review miscellaneous items (insurance, portfolio, etc.)
A business plan has a lot of odds and ends when you’re starting a photography business in the UK. Some of these might not fit onto this list, which is why it’s important to really delve into business plans to find something that isn’t necessarily the main focus. Say, for example, insurance. Being insured as a photographer and having your space insured can defend you against property damage or lawsuits.
Another area you need to think about right now is your portfolio. Building it up for prospective clients and making sure that it’s ready to draw clients in is critical as well. Is there anything you’re currently missing in your business plan? Make a note of it and create a plan to get it taken care of.
10. Price your services
One of the most important aspects of running a business is pricing your services correctly. If you charge too much, you can end up driving clients away. Charge too little and you run the risk of not making enough money and working too hard to be unprofitable. No matter what type of photography you do, establish pricing now so that it doesn’t become a major issue you have to deal with once you’re finally ready to launch your business.
11. Get started!
If you’ve gotten to the end of this list and you’ve done everything under the sun that you can to prepare yourself for success, you’re ready to finally launch your business. Now is an exciting time, and one that requires you to get busy as you book clients, build your portfolio, and establish the foundation that you need to run your photography business for years to come.
If you're looking to get inspired, why not check out these 8 unmissable photography exhibitions happening in London, or the best places to photograph in London.
However, if you’re operating from home, you might be having trouble finding the right photoshoot locations for your clients. That’s where Tutti comes in! We offer a hassle-free solution to help you find spaces in your area, connect with space owners seamlessly, and book them with ease.
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