1. Learn your camera inside and out. Study and experiment with various settings in different lighting situations so you can learn as much as you can about photographing with it, especially in Manual mode. If you need help understanding manual mode check out this blog post.
2. Use whatever resources best suit your learning style to learn as much as you can about photography, photographing in different circumstances, posting, anything. Grab some books from the library or search the internet.
3. Figure out that legal side as soon as possible so you won’t be breaking the law. Legal stuff like taxes, sales taxes, and business licenses vary by state, and it’s important to know what the requirements are if you’re considering making photography your full time business.
4. Get business insurance. Even if you’re starting out shooting to build your portfolio or free it’s important to have insurance for your business. If you’re not earning money you’re still risking that a client may be getting injured while shooting with you or that something happens to your camera and you’ll have to close business until you can afford a brand new one.
5. Take a good look at your equipment to see what you have. Often times we start out a photography business using the equipment we had to start with. It’s important to consider what equipment you might need in the future in order figure out what you need to save for and what goals you have for being able to use your equipment.
6. Get business cards. Your first set doesn’t need to be anything fancy, but it’s just nice to have something to give out to people when you meet them so you can start getting your name out there and even more importantly practice talking about your business with potential clients.
7. Look for portfolio building opportunities. There are many ways to build your portfolio and you can do whatever works best for you. It’s simply just important to practice, practice, and practice some more. Once you think you have it all nailed, keep practicing.
8. Use a contract. Even if you’re doing work for free this raises the bar of expectation of your clients. You can outline what’s expected of them, have them sign, etc. If you’re working for free and you require a signed contract it’s less likely that you’ll have clients be ‘no shows.’
9. Get an EIN/EID if you’re a US based business. It’s free and it’s the number you’ll use when you start filing taxes for your business.
10. Create hours for your business. It’s easy when you just start out and you’re building a web presence or working on your portfolio to end up finding all your free time is consumed with building your business. Define hours that you’ll work per day. Plan what you’ll be working on so you don’t get off course. Create a set of hours that clients can contact you so you don’t feel the expectation to respond to every email or phone call immediately.
11. Start thinking about marketing. Here’s a blog post on some free marketing ideas.
12. Build a website. Creating a web presence isn’t only about Facebook. Having your own corner of the internet where people can visit you, see your work, and who you are is important too.
13. Start having a social networking presence. This does go along well with having a website. People can find your website and connect with you on different social media they have in common with you.
14. Start Blogging. You can get a free blog through WordPress. Start blogging a couple times a week (regularly) to boost your web presence. If you don’t have any current photo sessions to blog about, share things about you or share personal photos so clients can get to know you.
15. Focus on what you’re doing and not what others are doing. It’s easy to fall into the trap of seeing what other photographers are doing when you’re starting your business and feeling inadequate or worrying about other photographers in your area. Thinking about others and comparing yourself does nothing for you or your business that’s productive. Create a business based on what works for you and practice, practice, practice.
16. Explore new things. There are photography trends and styles that can vary greatly from one photographer to the next. Not every photographer is the same. Try new things, try out different types of photography or different styles. It takes awhile to develop your photography vision and it’s something that will always be constantly changing and developing as your business grows over time.
17. Eventually you’ll decide if you want to be an LLC or a sole-proprietor. If you’re just starting out, worry about that part later. Just get the right business licenses required by your state and you can make this decision when you know if your photography business is the right path for you.
18. Create a business plan. Decide what your goals are for your business, how many shoots you want to do per year, how and when to spend money and on what.
19. Create expectations for yourself. What kind of business do you want to run? What kind of policies will you create for yourself so you approach your business with consistency and happily?
20. Don’t let the word ‘photographer’ define who you are. Even if you love photography and it’s a deep passion you have, don’t let your job define who you are. Keep plugging away at other hobbies, spend time with your family and doing other things you love too.
Tonight is our free live online class! We’ll start with some information about getting better catchlights and sparkly eyes and then the floor will be open to your questions! >Register<