Many successful small businesses start out as hobbies that eventually become profitable endeavors. If you've got a knack for photography, you might opt to work as a part-time freelancer or special events photographer, or you might open your own full-scale photo business. Consider what you need to get started. An investment in good quality equipment and key marketing products is vital to getting yourself established as a professional.
Create a Business Plan
A business plan can help you chart the path you want your photography business to take. It is also a necessity if you plan to take out a small-business loan to cover your start-up costs, such as investment in camera gear, darkroom supplies or digital photo editing software. Writing a business plan can help you identify the appropriate markets in which to sell your photography services as well as assist you in calculating your anticipated expenditures and earnings over the short and long term. Regardless of whether you want to dabble in the photography business from home or open a storefront, you’ll need to get a business license from your local business licensing authority and a tax identification number from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service.
Develop Marketing Materials
Photography is a visual product, so your marketing efforts should be centered on visual promotions that grab customers' attention and demonstrate the range of your skill and ability. Invest in at least minimal marketing materials, including full-color business cards, a brochure with vibrant reproductions of your work and a website where people can view your full portfolio through a gallery-style feature.
Your approach to selling your photography business depends on your area of specialty. For example, if you plan to be a commercial product photographer, market your services through industry associations, business trades shows and publications that target this niche market. On the other hand, if you want to be a sports photographer, market your services to schools, community centers and recreation leagues. Identifying your target market will help you make educated advertising and marketing decisions.
Freelance photographers often find steady work through newspapers, magazines, advertising agencies, wedding and event planners. You might also subcontract your services to large, established photography studios that need extra assistance or someone to cover on-site photo shoots. Draft a marketing proposal that promotes your services and availability, and use it in soliciting these outlets.
Expand Your Services
In addition to taking pictures, you can expend your photography business to offer related services. Consider establishing a fee schedule for printing, matting and framing photographs; sell prints of your best work, such as pictures of local attractions or nature shots. You can also promote and sell your work through art shows and your website.
Ask existing customers for referrals to others in need of photography services. Word-of-mouth advertising is an effective tool for small and start-up businesses. Offer discounts on future projects for return customers or provide photo calendars or other keepsakes to keep your name and brand in front of clients.
Promote your photographic services through networking. Join traditional business groups, such as chambers of commerce or Rotary clubs, and look for niche industry associations to participate with as well, such as Professional Photographers of America. Consider local camera clubs, art societies and advertising organizations that focus on photographic and visual arts.