I am going on my third year in business, and for the first year or so, I felt like I had to practically give away sessions for people to book with me. I was throwing in any “extra” I could to get them to pull the trigger! By the end of the year, I was already burnt-out, dealing with clients that didn’t appreciate my art or my business, horrible self-confidence, and was ready to quit. I cried MANY times because I really felt desperate to make it work, because it was my baby, something I loved SO incredibly much…! It was only after a nightmare session, that I realized that I was going to have to market myself differently:
This nice young woman emailed me about how her adorable little girl (which of course, she included pictures of in the email) was turning 2 and she wanted birthday pictures. Attached to the email was a slew of Pinterest images from a various amount of photographers, ranging in all different styles (c’mon…you’ve gotten this, right??). All of the images were in a beautifully-lit studio, where the little girl is dressed, to the nines, in a frilly pink dress adorned with sequins, with makeup splashed over an antique vanity, and wearing her mom’s high heels. Honestly, I had not booked a [paying] session in months, so of course I emailed back with an anxious, “Yes!”. That next week, we had the session and I thought it went well. I rushed home, edited them all that same day, and eagerly emailed them to her. About a week or so later, I get an email back saying how they were nothing like she had hoped, and that the light was all different from the pictures she sent me and totally not what she wanted. She even had the ‘audacity’ to send me a link (from Pinterest, naturally) with the title “How to edit like a Pro (Even Though You’re Not!)”. I was so incredibly offended, then hurt, then nervous, then finally, mad at myself. I had booked a session that I had no interest in and no passion for. In turn, I had an upset client that disliked her images.
After a 3 hour pity-party, it hit me: Why did that client come to me in the first place? Was it the image quality I had in my portfolio? Was it the emotion I evoked in my images? Why had I allowed myself to take on a session that was absolutely not my style? Then I started asking myself, “Is it better to book a session at a cheaper price that you don’t care about, or wait for the clients that will pay you what you’re worth?” I sat back and realized that I needed to put my energy into the things that I love, so that I can work with like-minded clients, who appreciated my art, and then in turn, appreciated me and my business.
Two years later, my business is quality or quantity, when not long ago, it was the opposite. I also have made quite a few good personal friends out of a few clients. By setting up clear boundaries for the sessions that I do NOT take, and more passion for the sessions that I do take, I have made myself, an
d my business, so much happier. By shooting the subjects I love (which happens to be Motherhood and all things birth & baby), people book with me specifically for those images that I love so dearly. Before this realization, I could not convey what my “style” was, but now, I absolutely, 100% know what my style is, because it’s 100% the authentic ME. I am attracting the right clients, and they are investing in my style (brand), and I can now make a living out of my art, instead of just a side hobby.
One of the first things I recommend to photographers on their path to getting legit is business insurance. Business insurance may be the single, most important purchase you make as a business owner. It’s more important than the latest fancy gearBefore you have anything else, this can be the one thing that will save your butt in a bad situation and every photographer should have it. I’ve put together a list of common questions we see on Photography Awesomesauce about business insurance for you guys to look through.
What is liability insurance and should I get it?
Liability is a type of insurance that protects you (the business owner) against claims from any customers you might have that come under your insurance policy. Liability will protect you if a client attempts to sue you for getting injured on a photoshoot and things like that. Business insurance is two-fold and liability is something every photographer should have as part of their policy. If you are a wedding photographer you may find that venues require photographers who work there to be insured and provide a copy of your insurance or even specifically alter your policy to reflect a listing of their venue. Liability insurance is pretty general in that it usually covers things like bodily injury, property damage, personal injury, etc.
What is E&O insurance and should I have it?
E&O stands for ‘Errors and Omissions’ and is sometimes referred to as Professional Liability insurance or even Professional Indemnity Insurance compared to general liability (which is what we covered in the previous question). Errors and Omissions will protect you against situations where a client may claim negligence with the service you provided. In the medical field it’s often referred to as malpractice insurance. For photographers E&O would help cover you if a memory card failed and you lost images or similar circumstances. This is insurance coverage I would recommend to any photographer, and especially wedding photographers. Negligence can be scary to be accused of so make sure you have a good plan in place when you are transferring memory cards, storing them, and storing photos for clients. Taking care of the most valuable thing you do in this business (the images you create) in the best way possible will help you avoid the need for ever filing a claim under E&O.
How much liability coverage should I get?
A very typical general liability coverage policy will cover up to one million. Most wedding venues that require photographers to be insured require this amount as a minimum policy.
What should my deductible be?
Choosing your deductible for insurance is truly up to you and your finances personally. It’s very similar to car insurance in that if you want a smaller deductible you’ll pay a higher monthly/annual premium. A very average deductible choice in the photography industry is $500. In terms of equipment insurance this means that any equipment worth less than that amount you’d probably want to pay to replace on your own in a bad situation instead of going through your insurance.
How much does business insurance cost?
Quotes can be all over the place depending on who you go with and how much coverage you want. On average I have seen photographers discuss annual quotes ranging anywhere from $400-900. Again, the price will vary depending on the coverage you want to have.
How can I start getting business insurance and where do I go?
There are lots of great options for insurance. Professional Photographers of America (PPA) includes a basic insurance in their membership. Many photographers use PPA and upgrade their insurance package within their membership to have fuller coverage or still purchase insurance separately to ensure they have full coverage as well.
Not all insurance companies offer business insurance and even then some won’t insure photographers. One popular insurance company for photographers is Usher and Hill. Statefarm, Secura, and several other companies also insure photographers.
The best place to start with insurance is to get quotes from several companies, compare and make a truly informed decision. Your business is your livelihood, so it’s especially important to ensure you are protecting it as such.
How do I insure my camera equipment?
Equipment insurance is separate of liability, so your policy will have two parts. Depending on how much equipment you have you may be insuring different amounts than your neighbor so it may change the price of your policy premium.
Camera equipment usually comes to mind first when insuring your gear, but don’t forget to insure anything else that may leave the house with you as a business owner like your computer.
I am still building my portfolio and don’t have a lot of paying customers (or any at all). Do I still need business insurance?
Yes, the first thing I recommend to any photographer who is photographing people and property that you could potentially damage is to have insurance for both general liability and your equipment. Whether you are paid for your services or are still building that portfolio you are taking a risk when stepping out your door with your equipment. Your equipment could get stolen. Let’s say you were shooting a client for free to build your portfolio and you asked them to jump or stand on a ledge and they fell and broke their ankle, you want that covered. Regardless of if you get paid for your work or not, a client can still attempt to sue you for bodily injury. Even though you may not have all your ducks in a row as far as making your business legit, like your business license for example, you still can get business insurance and should have it.
Taxes suck. Let’s all say it together. I remember back before I owned my own business and how much I hated to do my income taxes. Then I realize I had no idea how bad it could get back then and I’d take back those days anytime. 1040EZ? Hello! That would be amazing! Now that I’m a business owner taxes get way more complex. I’m assuming if you’re reading this you are a business owner too, otherwise – you probably shouldn’t waste your time too much. This article is for those of you who somehow managed to get through this year and want to take next year by storm. Here’s a few tips to help you prepare better!
1. Organize Your Expense Categories
Don’t just save all those receipts and stuff them in a shoebox for taxes next year. This will quickly become your worst nightmare. Depending on how you file your taxes, which will depend on your business type, you will need to sort out your expenses a little bit more. I like to keep track of expenses by the month. This helps me break down the cost of doing my business and it’s convenient to know for all kinds of fun records like tracking your success. At the end of each month each expense sheet shows where and how I’ve spent money on my business. These would be nice and easy tracking sheets to hand over to my tax guy instead of him looking through receipts to figure it out. However, we can take this one step further and categorize our expenses. This is my preferred method of giving my expense information to my tax guy. Then it saves him some work and me a little bit of money. Your expense categories as a photographer can be broken down into a lot of different things. Decide where each expense is and list it.
Advertising Expenses – Business cards, signs, cost of expos, booth items for expos, samples and freebies to promote business, fliers, print or media ads (online or in print), anything related to advertising.
Car/Truck Expenses – Mileage for your Vehicle OR the expenses associated with gas, oil changes, repairs, tires, etc. – You can only pick to expense one or the other. I generally choose mileage because it adds up much quicker.
Commissions/Fees – Business license fees
Contract Labor – This is where you put your pay to second shooters
Insurance – Business and liability insurance. This is only for insurance related directly to your business.
Interest – Interest on loans used to finance your business
Office Expenses – Office supplies like printer ink, paper, pens etc. as well as fees associated with a studio or office space you may pay for (cleanings, snow removal, lawn care, etc.)
Rent – This expense category on taxes is divided into two sections for rental equipment and another for renting or leasing an office/studio space
Repairs/Maintenance – Any fixes done on your computer or camera equipment, CPS or NPS (Canon or Nikon Professional Services)
Travel, Meals and Entertainment – Any workshops, conferences or other photography events you attend that require travel away from your business ‘home’ as well as any meals eaten during those times. With meals you only get to claim up to 50% of the total paid.
Utilities – If you have a home office you will be able to deduct a certain percentage depending on if you have a specific space set aside for your home office, how large that space is, and how much of your time spent using your utilities is directly related to business
Miscellaneous – Any other expenses are generally not listed separately when filing a Schedule C for your taxes. As I said, it depends on how you file and your business type. These kinds of miscellaneous expenses can be camera equipment, fees associated with accepting credit cards for payment, print orders, and more.
There are more categories for expenses than these listed above, however I’ve used these mostly as a business owner. Some may apply to you and others may not. I just listed the most used ones for photographers.
2. Save All Receipts
You can’t claim it if you don’t have proof you spent it. I mean, you could, but if you were to get audited that could get pretty messy. Always keep proof of what you do. Some receipts fade over time so it’s a good idea to take a photo of them and print out that photo later. I take time each week to print off any expenses (receipts emailed to me), expenses I have receipts for in person, as well as any invoices for profit I made. Afterward I divvy them up and file them by month. I list them on a basic tracking sheet, which stays in the file with the receipts.
3. Use a Ledger or Software
If you’re crazy like me, maybe you like to do your accounting by hand. There’s just something really hard for me when it comes to logging in, doing things in Excel or software like Quickbooks. However, there are other business owners who swear by it! Do whatever is right for you. I find accounting quicker and easier to manage doing it on a simple tracking sheet by hand since I have to file paper copies of those receipts anyway for tax records. I have one day a week (it’s usually Fridays) that I call “Print and File” day. On Print and File day I take the time to print out all my receipts, collect them up and file them away as well as mark them on my tracking sheets so my accounting is always current each week. This also helps me remember when I received cash or check as payment so I can be sure to add that into my income.
4. Turbo Tax
Do I recommend it? I can’t really say that it’s worked for me. This year our old tax guy was no longer available to us (sadly). I was nervous about finding a new one. You know how it is, once you find one you really like you don’t want to start the search all over again. What a pain. So, I figured I could try to do my taxes by myself. Turbo Tax is just plugging in the numbers right? Wrong. When you are a business owner taxes are so much more than plugging in the numbers. You may not be getting as much out of your taxes as you can when you do it with this method. I highly recommend hiring a tax professional to do your taxes for you. Remember you can claim that as an expense on next year’s taxes. It will save you time and so much stress. It may even save you thousands of dollars as well (I know it did for me).
5. Pay Estimated Taxes
For business owners that are self employed it can be a really huge deal at the end of the tax season to owe a large chunk of money to the IRS. There’s a great way to prevent this from happening by simply paying out estimated taxes quarterly. Based on your previous income you will pay your taxes that you owe every quarter. This way when you get to the end of the year and you file your annual taxes you may not owe anything, or something may be owed back to you because you overpaid on your estimated taxes. It helps you set aside how much you owe for taxes, but not have a huge bank account building for a year.
Estimated taxes if you are filing as an S-corp, sole proprietor, corporation, or partner are an option for you. If you will end up owing over $1000 or more this year or any year you file you will be asked to pay estimated taxes. If you are a corporation that amount drops to $500 or more. There are some easy forms you can fill out at tax time to let the IRS know you plan on filing estimated taxes for the next year.
6. Business Bank Account
If you want to make your accounting for taxes super easy to track, and if you want to really make your tax preparer happy you can use one simple business account or regular checking account to track your incoming profits and expenses. If you use one bank account you would need to have all of your business profits deposited there and all of your expenses coming out of that account. That way you can print off all your monthly statements and hand them over to your tax preparer. Unfortunately this method, while it sounds simple, isn’t for everyone. It’s okay if you are a sole proprietor to not do this and manage your finances however you like. If you are not a sole proprietor a business bank account may be required depending on the type of business you are as well as your licensing. This can also vary by state as well.
7. Utilize Paypal
What I love about using Paypal across the board and exclusively for business is the fact that it tallies up how much I make at the end of the year and sends me a 1099-K. This is like a W-2, but for self employed people. It makes you appear a little more trustworthy to the IRS heads who want to make sure that you’re not hiding cash under the table. I love the simplicity of being able to report almost all my income in this method and not having to worry about cash, check, or other payment types too much.
8. Claim Your Home
Recently the laws have changed about claiming a home office for small business owners. I think these new laws actually make it easier to claim. If you have a space dedicated to your business in your home you should claim it. It’s best to consult a tax preparer on this because there are still a lot of rules and regulations on how much you can claim and why. You definitely want to stick to these rules.
9. Log Your Mileage
Above where I listed the types of expenses you can claim for your business I talked about car expenses. You can chose to claim either your mileage or your other car expenses. You cannot claim both. Personally, mileage has always paid out better than car repairs, gas, etc. When you are logging your mileage it’s best to keep a log that has the date, location you were going to, the car you were driving, and how many total miles that took and what your odometer in your car read for mileage when you left and when you arrived. You can record mileage driving both to and from a location related to business. This means mileage when you go to and from photoshoots, weddings, client meetings, trips to Office Depot for business supplies, and any other business related travel.
10. Know How You Filed Last Time
There are sometimes a few checkboxes, rules, and policies for business owners. The IRS likes to see you file in the same format each year so make sure you have a copy of last year’s taxes to take to your preparer or refer to for yourself if you want to do them on your own (I hope not).
It really does sometimes. It’s easy to start out with this photography dream. You have a nice camera, you take a couple nice photos, your friends and family tell you that you should start a business. At the time it seems like this glorious idea. You can quit that crappy low-paying job, make your own money, work your own schedule and do something you really love.
Well…there’s a reality to owning a photography business that I think people just don’t talk about. Sure, people say it’s not easy, but at the same time you see all these photographers out and about on social media bragging about how many weddings or sessions they have to edit, how many clients they have to photograph this weekend, the new equipment they just bought and more. Seeing those kinds of comments makes it easy to believe that running a business can’t be that hard, right? Or it may lead you to believe that success will come sooner in your business then it actually does.
I wanted to write this post because sometimes I feel there’s a contradiction in our industry. Photographers are always talking about how difficult this job is, but at the same time we see photographers who make things look easy. That alone gives us the impression that we aren’t booking enough clients or making enough money. You should never judge a book by its cover and I wanted to include some of the things I did in this post when I first ran my business that made it hard to get started.
Somehow the photography industry has set up these imaginary expectations that we should all be able to become awesome photographers at the drop of a hat and be running a profitable business in a year or less. I think there’s a lot of information floating around out there that adds to these illusions, because that’s what they are. Photographers don’t like to talk about or admit where their failures are, or where they started, or that they ever worked for free. Some photographers want others to believe they were always successful right from the start.
So here’s a few realities of my own that I learned the hard way. I am still always learning and making mistakes. I hope this gives you guys a look into what being a photographer is like the first few years and dispels the illusion that you can make a quick buck.
Reality #1 “Fake it ’til you make it”
Ever heard that line of advice? Some of those photographers posting and sharing about their busy schedules are well…lying. It’s a common business practice to make it seem you are more in-demand than you actually are. It helps other potential clients want to book you if you seem in-demand. Plus, no one wants to admit they’re a big crappy failure. Sure, there are a few photographers out there who are actually very busy. I’m just saying, don’t believe everything you see. You never know if what you are reading from other photographers is true or a marketing scheme. I’m not advocating using this as a marketing scheme nor am I putting down anyone who does. However, I wanted to point out that some of the things you see may not be true and you shouldn’t let them define how your business is doing by comparing your business to theirs.
Reality #2 Earning a Profit Takes Time
Here’s the reality. You aren’t going to make a profit for a very long time. Yep, I said it. A slow-grown business will more likely have success and last for years to come than a business that jumped in feet first without thinking twice. You know how people always say that loosing weight fast means it’ll just come back as soon as you’re done dieting compared to losing weight slow will help you keep it off? A business is sort of like that. Taking the time to really build your business will eventually pay off.
I have to be honest that you are not going to make a profit right away. You are going to spend more money than you make, it’s going to cost you a pretty penny. I spent the first 18 months of my business building my portfolio and working for free. Sometimes I see photographers start charging after only a short period of time building a portfolio and then complaining they aren’t getting any clients. Clients want to know that if they pay you they trust you can get the job done. Maybe what I did was excessive and maybe there are photographers who could start making profit in less than a year, but they are not the norm. Take the time to build an extensive portfolio before charging. When clients finally start coming in and you’re ready to charge you have all the work you need to justify what you are ready to make and your clients will trust you more, be happier customers, and more likely to recommend you.
I’m just starting my sixth year of business. I’ll tell you that it took three years…yes THREE YEARS for me to make a profit. Part of this was due to the idiotic decisions on purchases I made at the beginning. I purchased Photoshop actions and all kinds of things I thought I needed and ended up not needing. I purchased the wrong lenses and equipment many times over. I feel I only just learned this lesson recently.
It’s also important to note that statistically it takes an average small business three to five years to start making a profit. Even the IRS in the United States knows and expects this. They don’t expect to see you show a profit on your taxes until after your third year of business. They expect to see you spending more money than you make.
The reality shows me that sometimes we expect too much upfront. We expect things to happen immediately and when they don’t it’s easy to get down on ourselves. If you aren’t making a profit yet, but you are dedicated to being a photographer know that it is going to take time, and expect it to take lots of time. Make a plan for the future for when you expect to be making a profit. This is what business plans are great for. 🙂
Reality #3 Getting Legit
Being a legit business sucks. Did I tell you I’m getting audited for my photography business sales taxes? Not because I did anything wrong, but because back in January when I was being all organized and on time I screwed up. I was getting ready to leave for China and I had to mail my annual sales taxes to the state and the city. I was even mailing them in early (how awesome am I, right?). In all the stress of leaving the country I accidentally put the checks in the wrong envelopes. Yep, the state’s check got sent to the city and vice versa. I can’t begin to tell you how much trouble this has caused me. I mailed those envelopes on January 7th, 2013 and it’s now September 11, 2013 and the problem is still not resolved. The city sent the state its proper check. So what did the state do? They cashed both checks and are auditing me because they’re confused about why I “overpaid.” Meanwhile the city wants its check too.
I could have easily avoided all this hassle over a $100 check if I decided to run my business under the table, but that’s just not the kind of business owner or person I ever want to be.
Being a legitimate and official business is probably the MOST IMPORTANT thing you can do for your business. Before you purchases lenses, camera bodies, and Photoshop actions you should be getting your licenses and all your official ducks in a row. It’s not fun and sometimes it’s a real pain in the behind; especially if you’re like me and you could have just mailed the checks to the right places in the first place. Doh! Don’t worry, it’s not that bad to clean up. It just involves a lot of bureaucratic phone calls – the best kind of phone calls there ever was.
The reality is, if you’re not running a legit business it’s going to catch up with you later and it’ll be a bigger mess to clean up than it would be to figure it out in the first place.
Reality #4 Behind the Business
I thought being a photographer would be super glamorous. Spending long days staring at my computer, doing my own accounting, and all kinds of other things I didn’t imagine also became part of the job. Now I needed to be good at social media. I needed to be amazing at online communications and making sure people understood the meaning I was trying to convey. I needed to get the fastest speed of internet available to upload photos at a decent rate. As a result I’m the one that causes the neighborhood’s internet to slow drastically during peak hours. I needed to become a writer so I could blog. I have to pay more taxes and I get no health benefits or vacation days. Buying my own health insurance sucks so much and is so expensive we can only afford for one of us to be insured. My husband is currently not insured although this is changing very soon (kinda excited).
I’ll tell you that behind the scenes it’s not so glamorous. The first few years we were barely scraping by and were lucky to have help from our parents. Things are more steady at this point and we can rely on my income to live off of.
Reality #5 Facebook Makes Me Hate Business
Oh Facebook, how I loathe you! I do get about half my clients from referrals just by simply existing on Facebook. Now, I’m not complaining about Facebook’s rules (see last week’s post). I think their policies are their own and they can do what they like. What I don’t like about Facebook is how much harder it makes running a business. Here’s why:
– Sometimes I spend hours on Facebook that I could use working. It makes me less productive.
– I compare my work to other people and think I’ll never be good enough.
– I see other photographers posting about how busy and awesome their clients are and wonder what the heck is wrong with me when I am not busy with tons of clients.
– I join photography groups on Facebook in attempt to try to network and find a community of like-minded people only to get shut down by an industry bully.
– Photographers post mean stuff about each other and it makes me nervous to even be part of Facebook.
– Photographers pass around these memes that in some ways mock clients’ naive questions when they hire a photographer. I don’t like these. Since when did it become an us vs. them mentality? We need these people to want to hire us, right?
– Photographers are always complaining about how hard it is, but are making it look easy.
– Nobody will answer me when I have a photography question because people want to keep their business secrets private.
In other words, sometimes Facebook makes photography seem like a hopeless business to venture into. I have struggled with all of these things on this list at some point or another. Often times I dread checking in on Facebook because it’s not a positive place where I feel that as a person I can grow. I feel like it’s a place where I have to approach wearing full-on knight’s armor to defend myself.
Facebook makes me hate being a photographer. Here’s my reality… I had a photography Facebook page for about 2 years before I realized that everyone else did too. I was in my own little naive bubble. I was friends with the people I knew on Facebook, added clients as they came in, but I had no idea there were photography blogs, other photographers, photography groups, or photography pages of any kind. I feel lucky that I was naive to others when I started my business and that I could start without their judgement or making myself feel bad every time I made a mistake or wasn’t as good as someone else.
The reality of Facebook is that it can help you grow your business, but it can also be detrimental to your emotional health. My advice? Turn off and unlike, leave, or delete things on there that you don’t like. Make it a positive community for yourself by not engaging in situations or places on Facebook that cause you to question yourself or make you feel bad.
If you need a good Facebook photography group, feel free to join the Photography Awesomesauce one >here<
Reality #6 – Booking Clients
Part of this overall theme is about how we see what other photographers are doing and are comparing our own businesses. You see other photographers booking lots of clients and don’t book any on your own.
Here’s the reality about booking clients. It takes a LOT of time to get clients inquiring regularly about your services. I have to be very honest that when I started my business I didn’t book a lot of clients and the main problem wasn’t the price or me, it was that I wasn’t very experienced and my photographs were not that good. Nobody wanted to pay for something that didn’t look as awesome as Photographer XYZ down the street. I don’t blame them. Alas, sometimes consumers actually have good taste! 😉 That was probably the number one reason I didn’t book a lot right away. In order to book more clients I needed to improve my skills. That’s why I did a lot of portfolio building sessions. If I didn’t have clients coming in the door, I’d find someone to do a session with for free so I could continually practice. As my skills improved so did the demand for my services. It takes time for your skills to improve and a lot of practice. If you want to be booking more clients the best thing you can do is find people to photograph so you can practice and improve.
Set a goal for yourself to find someone or something to photograph at least once a week. If you’re not booking sessions make sure you are getting out there with your camera and sharing those photos on your website and Facebook. Make it your own personal goal to have a portfolio that is so full of experience no one will be able to deny your services in the future. Spend time educating yourself on better business and taking better photos. There is always something new to learn. Practice these newfound techniques!
As far as booking my own clients goes…as I said before I’m just beginning my 6th year of business. I’m very proud. I would say that it’s only been the last 2 years where I had to spend less time chasing down clients and they were coming to me on their own wanting what I had to offer. The first several years of business I would fight for clients and do just about anything to book them. My goal for the first two years of business wasn’t to have a session every week it was to have one photo “experience” a month with a client, be it free or paid. I didn’t care, I just wanted the experience. Make your client goals small, so they’re easier for you to reach. Sometimes it’s easy to say “I want to book at least 1 or 2 sessions a week” and then when that doesn’t happen you get frustrated. Realize that most photographers are not photographing this often all year round. During May-September I have about one session/wedding per week. Sometimes 2 or 3 a week and then none the next week, or nothing for even 2 weeks. October-April can be hit or miss. This year I have 2 weddings in October and one styled shoot. I have nothing in November, 1 wedding in December, 1 in January and nothing is booked February, March and April for next year. That’s what an average photographer’s schedule looks like. I may get more things booked as times goes on, but the winter months are very sparse and sometimes I go an entire month without any clients. I consider myself a successful business owner at this point, but even I see photographers who talk about being booked up completely months in advance and it makes me feel bad sometimes. Don’t let those things make you feel bad. Everyone’s business is different and building clients is going to take as much time as getting a profit is. It will come eventually, just focus on practicing and make your goals less lofty and more feasible.
Final Reality – Stop Letting Other People Decide What Success Looks Like for You!
In conclusion, I wanted to tell you guys that we need to stop letting other people’s standards for their own businesses define our own successes. Everyone’s situation is different. You may be a full-time photographer with all the time in the world for lots of clients. You may be a stay at home mom who can only take on 2 sessions a week. You might be a mom, a full-time worker, and a part-time business owner which really limits how many sessions you can take on. Success is going to look different to each of these people. The bottom line is we need to decide what success looks like for us. Once we do that we will be much happier with our businesses.
Emma and Josh are photographers who get featured a lot on weddings blogs online. I don’t have a lot of experience in this area so I invited Emma to come and write a little bit about how it works for her. It can be a great marketing tool. If a wedding blog choses to feature your photos they will link back to your website, which can help your SEO!
There are a couple different ways to connect with blogs and submit your photography to be featured. One is the old-fashioned way – emailing them a link to a gallery or just emailing them photos. However, many blogs are now using an online service called Two Bright Lights to submit their photos and connect with blog owners. Emma has been featured many times by using their service so I’m super thankful she’s taking the time to tell us about it!!
Two Bright Lights is a website/service that helps you streamline your submission process to blogs, as well as gives you an option to share your photos directly with vendors. I personally only use it for submissions to blogs and share my photos with PASS for clients.The amazing thing about this system is everything you need to know is right online. They list ALL the blogs/Magazines and Editors ( that accept via Two Bright Lights, not every blog accepts submissions with this online service. ) They have information on who is accepting what. If you want to read more about each blog you can and Two Bright Lights gives you information as to the blogs’ publication schedule, how often they post, and how many images they post. It’s really great information.The submission process is very simple. After creating an account you can first upload photos into an album on the website. Then list all the vendors involved in a wedding or photo shoot so they are credited accordingly. A vendor you worked with might already be listed, so you can search the database to see if they are on there. If not, add them manually. Then you can move to the actual submission process.Two bright lights walks you through the submission process using various filters to narrow down who you can submit to. For example you’ll want to decide between exclusive and non-exclusive blogs. An exclusive blog will expect that you feature a certain wedding or shoot only with them and with no one else. There are categories to submit weddings/engagements/ parties/lifestyles/pets…you name it. There are also filters such as location, style, and budget. When you are finally done Two Bright Lights filters out so you get a list of blogs/magazines who are accepting those types of weddings and shoots. You can choose where you want to submit. Finally, you use the categories to break your event down with colors, cultures, themes and add in any additional information and ‘SUBMIT.’
Submissions might take as quick as 24 hours or up to 2 months. Each publication lists the time it might take, and you wait until you hear back. Two Bright Lights also shows you when your submission is under review and you will get an email if it’s accepted that includes a publication date. If you’re not accepted you may receive an email saying, “sorry not at this time.” Sometimes they list reasons and sometimes they don’t. You can then resubmit to another publication if you wish.
If you’re selected to be featured, when the publication date hits, you get an email saying your feature has been published and right from that email you can share directly to Facebook or tweet about it! THAT’S COOL!
A few tips to keep in mind…
1. Make sure you follow instructions. Most blogs want non-watermarked, single images and they request a certain amount of images. If a publication wants 100 images and you submit 40 odds are you won’t get accepted due to failure to follow instructions. So, always read up on who you are submitting to and know the rules.
2. Dont take it personally if you’re not accepted (which is hard – I speak from experience), but there are many blogs and sometimes they just have a different vision. Try, try again…
3. Being published doesn’t make you a rock star and it wont get you 10 bookings. However, it gives you exposure.