Start a Photography Business

This article breaks down a step by step playbook on starting a photography business and all the tools youll need to get up and running. Lets get started:

1) Photography Business Plan 

Its helpful to take a step back and spend some time thinking about what you will be building. 

  • What area of photography will you focus on?
  • As you know, there are many areas to focus on. Are you going for an area more profitable (like Weddings, etc) or keeping to your passion?
  • What is your unique value proposition for photography?
  • What differentiates you from your competitors?
  • What are your key strengths in photography that you can double down on?
  • How long do you think it will take to become profitable and self sustaining?
  • How much savings or capital do you have just in case it takes longer to become profitable?

Taking the time to think about these questions as well as your business will really benefit in the long run. 

2) Name & Branding

Now that you have a better idea of what your business and core offerings will be, its time to come up with a name that embodies what you are trying to be. 

If you are creative and good at coming up with a name, fantastic! For those that need some help, you can get a branding package for a very reasonable price on Fiverr from anywhere between $10 to $80.

3) Incorporate Your Photography Business

For the majority of photographers, the decision will be between an LLC vs S Corporation. The S Corp and LLC corporate structures are both quite popular among small businesses. 

A large majority of photography studios will choose the simplicity of an LLC to protect personal assets and to streamline bookkeeping. Both of these types of corporations provide one level of tax and also provide that layer of protection from personal liability.

LegalZoom is a great service to incorporate your business accurately and reasonably in price for $79 + state filing fees. 

You will receive an Employer Identification Number (EIN) number from LegalZoom. Keep this number safe and accessible as youll need it when trying to set up business accounts, taxes, accounting, etc.

4) Photography Services Agreement

A Photography Services Agreement is needed to ensure that all necessary details of your services are covered, including who owns the intellectual property and how payment is expected to be made. It also contains standard contractual provisions: things like a limitation on liability and intellectual property protection clause, as well as termination and governing law.

Once again LegalZoom is great and can help put together your photography service contract for free (you just need to sign up).

5) Business Bank Account & Credit Card

If you jumble together personal and business finances this could pose a lot of trouble if you undergo an audit by the IRS for your taxes. 

It would be your responsibility to show proof in the form of receipts or invoices that can support your claims. If you cannot, then I have seen people who have been fined hundreds of thousands of dollars - so not worth the risk.

Here are banks with their respective benefits of each:

6) Business Phone

When youre starting a company it might seem ok to use your personal phone number for your business. You can do this, but from our experience using your personal phone becomes a nightmare as your business grows. 

Heres what you can expect when using your personal phone for business:

  • Never-ending spam calls
  • Identity theft
  • No way to set boundaries
  • Difficult to separate personal calls from business
  • Doesnt scale with your business

What we recommend is setting up a business phone. It's a pain to carry 2 phones around all the time, but whats great is there are services out there that allow you to have a business phone on your existing cell phone. 

Riser is a great service to separate work and personal calls easily with two numbers on the same phone.

7) Website & Business Email

Nowadays consumers have so many options at their fingertips, it becomes table stakes for your business to have a website now. It establishes trust and confidence with the customer and since you have your own business domain, having a business email account looks much more trustworthy and professional than someone using Yahoo or Gmail.

Squarespace provides awesome photography specific websites for as low as $12 / month. 

Getting business email through Gmail is another $6 / month and will establish professionalism that is appreciated by customers.

8) Customer Acquisition

Now you are ready to get customers and start getting paid! Getting customers is a huge topic and weve put together another article focused on this. 

At a high level, there is Free vs Paid customer acquisition. Investing in strategies to get you more free customers is ideal, but takes time and effort. 

If you can get good conversions through Paid marketing channels this can also be very lucrative. Heres our breakdown of the strategies involved and how you can lower your customer acquisition cost (CAC)

9) Accounting & Taxes

Setting up accounting earlier can save you so much time and money in the long run. is a service that is slightly cheaper in price ($149 / mo) to CPAs ($365 / mo) where you can also get taxes done as well for additional fees. 

This seems steep especially in the beginning, so if you want to hold off on this expense you can. However as soon as you have good cash flow you should set this up. 

There you go! Follow these steps and you have a solid foundation to your business. With this playbook in place you can focus on photography and growing the business. Good luck!

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