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Business 101: Creating a Photography Brand

When something goes wrong with your car, it's probably not unusual for you to call a friend that is a mechanic and ask for their input or to help diagnose the issue. Or perhaps you have a plumbing issue, and you reach out to a friend for a general assessment before you go and replace something that was never broken in the first place. No? Just me? Am I'm the only one that abuses my friendships when I am in a pickle??

In any case, this past week, a friend reached out to me with questions about starting her own photography business. I was eager to help and I am always incredibly flattered when friends look to me for help with any and everything photography.




When it comes to starting your own business, it can be overwhelming. Once you've done sessions for close friends and family, and the clients start coming in, how do you legitimize yourself and make things official? How do you go about making a name for yourself (literally), a logo, a website, etc? Well, while each and everyone will find their journeys to be unique, here are my recommendations for finally pressing play on your budding photography career.


CREATE A WEB PRESENCE

There area lot of great resources for blogs and websites. Blogger and Wordpress are probably the two most popular. You can purchase a domain name (www.yourphotographybusiness.com) to help professionalize your business, while still running on an easy to use platform like Blogger. I highly recommend a combination blog/website. Blogs are vital to establishing a business. Essentially the more posts you make, the more presence you have on the internet, and the more likely Google is to pick you up when someone searches for a photographer. Why does this matter? Because when you've taken pictures for all of your friends and relatives, you'll need to acquire new clients.

Cliffnotes: Get a free blog, an inexpensive domain name to look more professional, and blog like you've never blogged before! Oh, and look into a professional Facebook and Instagram account as well. 


CREATE A LOGO AND BRAND IDENTITY

Deciding what to call yourself is key. I've seen many photographers slap a studio name on their images, build up a brand and reputation, only to have to start from scratch when they rename their company because they hate or have moved on from their original concept. When in doubt - "John Doe Photography" is usually a safe bet.

Graphic designers are expensive and a luxury that most photographers just starting out cannot afford. Until you've established your business enough to shell out the cash for a graphic designer, I would highly recommend buying something premade. Etsy has countless logos for sale at an incredibly reasonable cost. If you've never designed a single thing in your life, steer clear of attempting to design your own. Homemade logos look just that: homemade. Why else don't I recommend using a graphic designer up front? This whole business thing is very new to you. Your style is new and your focus may not be clear yet. Spending a lot of money before you truly know what you want and what direction you want your business to go will come with time. With time comes money, and money better spent down the road.

Cliffnotes: Get a professional premade logo from a "bargain" store like Etsy until you can pay to have one custom made for you, when you've established an identity and name for yourself.


LEGITIMIZE YOURSELF AS A BUSINESS

When you start commanding money for your services, you'll want to look into legitimizing your business where you live. This is the least fun part of running a photography business, and one unfortunately many "businesses" do without. Depending on where you live, you may need to register for a business license. You'll want to register your business as a sole-proprietor or an LLC. In doing so, you'll need to register with your local government to collect and pay sales taxes on your services or goods. You can register with the IRS on their website, giving your business it's very own and unique identification number. These items and registrations may not be free or cheap, again, depending on where you live. I pay a yearly LLC registration fee, monthly sales tax and quarterly federal taxes, in addition to a year-end tax return each year.

Local Facebook photography groups are a great resource to help you network with established photographers who can better educate you on what is needed in your specific geographic location. It can be incredibly confusing to make sure you've covered all your bases!

When you start collecting payment for your services, you are running a business and should be operating as such. Only you will know when you make that leap from "a hobby" or "just portfolio building", and only you can decide when to be honest with Uncle Sam and your clients as to how you operate your business.

Cliffnotes: When you are ready to call yourself a professional, look into your county and state business requirements. Register with your local and federal governments, and begin paying and collecting sales tax. 


PROTECT YOU AND YOUR GROWING BUSINESS

As you make money and grow your collection of equipment, you'll want to protect your investment in case it breaks, it is stolen, etc. There are a lot of great companies that will insure not only your gear, but yourself from liability in the event something happens while you're on the job.

NOTE: most homeowners insurance policies will NOT cover your gear if it is used for business. I have unfortunately had friends and fellow photographers learn this the hard way. Did you also know that many insurance companies will not replace your gear if you drop it, even if a guest bumped into you while dancing at a wedding? This additional coverage is often referred to as an "inland marine policy" and can come at an additional price. For me, it was a deal breaker when insurance shopping. I WOULD be that person who drops my camera into the fountain at the Ritz.

When you work at venues or locations, they may require you to show proof of liability and insurance. This protects both you and the venue if you break something on location (like bumping into a crazy expensive vase), or even if your clients get hurt while you're working on location. I currently work with a local agent to insure all of my gear and protect my from liability with State Farm. I found their rates to be the most competitive and what my business was looking for. Anytime I leave my house with my gear, I love having that piece of mind.

Cliffnotes: Insure your gear and equipment in the event of damage and theft. 




As you can see, there is so much more that goes into running a photography business than a nice camera. This is only the beginning! You'll learn and make a lot of mistakes a long the way. I know I did! So much of my business today is founded on those mistakes I made. It's how you'll grow, and how you'll build your brand. While it may not always be financially rewarding in the first while, if photography is truly your passion, it will be emotionally rewarding. I love capturing images for my clients and seeing them hang in their homes. I am so grateful for where I am in my business today, and I hope this helps start someone else's journey as well.

2 comments

  1. THANK YOU for posting this! It's so much easier to refer to than my misplaced notes. ;) And it was way fun to be like "that was ME!"

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    Replies
    1. Thank you for inspiring this post! My reply back was a great rough draft =) I figured this way I could expand on my reply without completely overwhelming you!! I can't wait to see what's next for you.

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