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Business of PhotographyNew Photography Business...require a great deal of serious dedication!

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Learn from the pros what it takes to build and maintain a successful professional photography business.
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Ed Shapiro
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New Photography Business...require a great deal of serious dedication!

Postby Ed Shapiro » Fri Feb 13, 2015 10:01 pm

When contemplating the opening of a new photography business there is a vast and sometimes overwhelming degree of planning to be done. If you are going to be a single business operator or a “mom and pop” business you will have to “wear many hats” especially during the physical, legal, promotional and financial preparatory stages of your project. There is going to be a mountain of work to do. This is not an insurmountable job to accomplish and if I had to come up with a single word to define the most necessary attitude, attribute or trait required for success in starting a new photographic business the operative word would be “dedication”! Perhaps good old fashioned
stick-to-itiveness is even more descriptive. Even if you are a savvy organizer and efficient planner and manage to put everything in place in an orderly and timely fashion; the real hard work has only started to begin and the bulk of it is yet to come. When a new business opens, I strongly feel that it is on “life support” for an unspecified span of time until business volume and cash flow stabilizes. I don’t mean any of this article to be discouraging or scary but I want the new entrepreneurs to have a grasp and an overview of what the real world professional photography is like. Even a well established photography business requires a great deal of time, long hours and can be hard on one’s family and social life.

It is wonderful if one can control ones time management to allow for a more humane lifestyle and of course have more family time. Problem is, that certain fields of photography such as wedding and event photography and some aspects of commercial work can entail some pretty erratic schedules, insane working hours and feast or famine cash flow issues and at times; not a whole bunch of good fun unless you are fully prepared for it and know exactly what to expect. In the wedding business we work when other play.

Now matter how vigorously one promotes their business, there are seasonal fluctuations, tight deadlines and circumstance that can bring on sleep deprivation. For a long time, my studio offered more than one specialty and a certain degree of time-dependent variations can cause conflicts and some seriously grueling work days.

With weddings and portrait work, both luxury services, We have to work at our client’s pleasure when they are available and when specific events occur. With today’s typical two income families with kids in school, it is not likely that they can come in for a family portrait between 9:00 AM and 5:00 PM on weekdays- so there goes your evenings and weekends. Most weddings and social functions happen on weekends as well. Folks coming in for consultations, sittings and wedding planning sessions usually want to do that on evenings and weekends as well. Most jurisdictions no longer have Sunday closing laws or maximum or limited working hours and this has brought about 24/7 business environment.

Corporate work can usually be done during regular business hours but some industrial assignments have to be done in the middle of the night when factories are not in operating mode. I have done food shoots in hotel or catering kitchens at ungodly hours when we can access the kitchen facilities without interrupting operations.

We also have to maintain regular office and studio hours for drop in customers, inquiries, pick ups and deliveries, production work and administrative duties. Rush deadlines can create utter havoc but this oftentimes comes with the territory in commercial and advertising work and its all about creativity on demand. When the work is there, we gotta do it. especially where loyal and repeat clients are involved.

Most photographers do not have major assignments or contracts to fulfill every day- theses tend to happen in clumps and lumps rather than in an even flow. Oftentimes almost overwhelming amounts of rushed and difficult work must be done to compensate for some long periods of down time.

Nonetheless, bookkeeping and accounting must be done in order to gather annual statistics that will govern our prices and fees and make certain that all overhead expenses are well covered and intrinsic in our prices. Sometimes this is a task that converts apparent chaos into logical mathematics.

With today’s costs of living, the costs of doing business and the state of the photographic business as it exists in today’s unpredictable marketplace- I don’t know of any successful photographers who maintain banker’s hours. Nowadays even the banks are open late to accommodate their client’s busy lives.

Many professional photographers, despite their talent, fail in business simply because they don’t have a solid financial business plan, the have no savvy with accounting and business analysis and neglect necessary sales and promotional requirements. Hard work and long hours will not usually kill a business. A serous lack of business savvy, organizational skills and good financial management is usually the killer. Even before photographers open the doors to the business and begin investing in equipment- the very first important investment should be in the services of a competent account and/or experienced business adviser. Some business are doomed to untimely death before the get started because of issues of under-capitalization, bad planning and lack of dedication. Good professional accounting and business advice is money well spent- your business plan is just as essential as you cameras and lights.

Efficient time management is certainly an important aspects of running a business and more impotently, running you life. Some businesses really present a challenge in that area- good luck to all!

Ed :thumbup:
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Bobby Deal
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Re: New Photography Business...require a great deal of serious dedication!

Postby Bobby Deal » Wed Feb 18, 2015 9:21 pm

Excellent article Ed, while a whole book could be written on the topic this is a good and basic primer. Of course the devil is in the details and in today's business there is a plethora of legal requirements to be a legitimate business and they vary widely by City, State, County etc. Then there are those that look at their business as a part time venture and do not feel they must follow the traditional legal route and run the business as a paid hobby. For those the concept of Overhead does not compute. So many who would call themselves working professionals and "in business' "serving clients" fail to structure their "business" as a legitimate business" to this new class of armature professionals the concept of profit = $100 billed = $100 paid = $100 Net Profit. No overhead, no license, no insurance, no taxes just money in the pocket. This creates a serious conundrum for the working professional who does choose to legitimize their business by obtaining all the proper documents, licenses, liability and Errors and Omissions Insurance, Tax licenses, accounting services, equipment depreciation, utilities, storage, computing, software licensing, training, printing costs, retouching time, file organization and archiving, backups and on and on the list can of hard costs (tangible expenses related to a job or project) and soft costs (expenditure of time and inventoried resources) that need to honestly be accounted for in order to have a healthy view of ones business. In no part of the world does a $100 in paid receipts equate to $100 in Net profit in any business. Anyone who believes it does is not looking honestly at their venture.

I can not encourage those looking to step off the ledge and take that leap of going into business for themselves enough to do it by the book. It is easy today to believe that you are in business when you say you are and I do not want to discourage anyone from starting out or deny any person the ability to go into business for themselves but I will repeat that for the sake of you, your business, your clients and even the market in which you find yourself competing I encourage you to take the extra steps and do it the right way. It is more work and competition is fierce and there will be many struggles to establish yourself in a sea of bloody red water but the blue water is out there for those who are willing to build a business with all the legal and structural integrity that legitimizes it within the community and marketplace. For those that elevate their business to a legitimate level the rewards go far beyond the financial. Structurally strong and documented businesses become building blocks in the foundation of their communities and to know you are a strong contributing member of your community is a reward unto its self. Sadly today for every documented business (in any trade) there are several more undocumented businesses with zero structural integrity

Today this lack of shall we call it structural integrity in business creates issues for clients and competitors.

For clients it lowers the bar of quality expectancy because there is no true level of accountability for a undocumented business. They do not use contracts and have no real enforceable refund or satisfaction policies. Small Claims Court Judgments against an undocumented business are worth the paper they are printed on as the business will have no attachable assets. The policies of an undocumented business are only as good as the true integrity of its proprietor. Of course no one goes into business with the intent to mislead, deceive or under serve their client base but disputes in this world and in this industry are a matter of when not if. Under capitalized businesses are unable to respond appropriately to such disputes as the fees collected on services are often times spent before they are ever collected.

Undocumented businesses also place an additional burden on the documented business proprietors in the marketplace. They by virtue of having no recognized overhead naturally offer services at price points with which the overhead burdened documented business simply can not compete. Less and less do the potential clients of today shop and compare service providers based on quality but instead have grown increasingly willing to shop based on price alone. In a market dominated by price pinching clients the documented business that has real overhead to service finds the market to be an ever shrinking one. That said the bright spot here is that the best and most prestigious clients will always demand legitimate documented business partners to work with. Those clients with the real budgets for their projects will rarely if ever risk them by taking a chance on a service vendor who does not have a business license, insurance and documented accountability to their clients and community.

So if the point of starting a new business is simply to monetize your hobby by taking jobs from a few friends and acquaintances here and there simply report the income as hobby income but if you truly want to present yourself as a pro then please go the legitimate route and do not only yourself but your community and your craft proud. Anyone who is interested in more detail of what it takes to run a full time photography business I am always happy to answer questions and shed light where I can.

Bobby Deal - Commercial Photographer

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Ed Shapiro
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Re: New Photography Business...require a great deal of serious dedication!

Postby Ed Shapiro » Thu Feb 19, 2015 7:38 am

I could not agree with you more Bobby!

I have a few more business articles on the go that I will post soon. One is about the importance of creating a viable business plan and the other one is about getting the business “street legal”. One of the main causes of early business failure one going off half cocked and attempting to create a business by the seat of one’s pants without any serious planning, forethought, incite and projections. Any experienced photographer/business owner will agree that there is enough to do on a daily basis without having to deal with the taxation authorities due to illegal or unlicensed business operation or sloppy bookkeeping. I feel that a new business is on “life support” especially in its infantry and needs to be closely monitored by its owner.

Making the transition from a part time occasional shooter or a hobbyist to a professional photographer seems easy enough to the uninitiated but psychologically speaking, it can be rough going unless one immediately becomes acutely aware that their business is now going to provide for their livelihood, there will be no longer a pay check from the “day job” and everything that they do in business must be cost efficient, profitable and successful in the eyes, hearts, and minds of their clients.

Starting a new enterprise should be a joyous, exciting and optimistic life experience and should be celebrated; however, starting up without the aforementioned prerequisites is like inviting the Grim Reaper and Mr. Murphy (he of Murphy’s Law) to the party.

I hope the new and aspiring guys and gals tune in for theses business articles!

Ed :thumbup:

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Re: New Photography Business...require a great deal of serious dedication!

Postby Olivia » Sun Feb 22, 2015 4:40 am

Thank you for those great advices!!! (OK)

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Re: New Photography Business...require a great deal of serious dedication!

Postby Bobby Deal » Sun Feb 22, 2015 7:34 am

Olivia wrote:Thank you for those great advices!!! (OK)



You are welcome Olivia. So glad to see you here.

Bobby Deal - Commercial Photographer

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Re: New Photography Business...require a great deal of serious dedication!

Postby Olivia » Sun Feb 22, 2015 8:39 am

i'm learning a lot of good stuff! thank you all for sharing your knowledge!! :clap: :thumbup:


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