Cost to Start Photography Business and more...



Cost to Start Photography Business

I've previously shared what the recurring overhead costs of a photography business can be, but many people want to know what the investment would look like if they started from scratch, so here's a breakdown of costs I would expect someone starting a photography business to incur...

Liability Protection: $600- $800
This usually includes $1-3million of liability insurance to work on-location for events, portraits, and commercial assignments.  Some venues require a certificate of insurance before you are allowed to enter the building with photography equipment of any kind.

Photographic Equipment: $4000 - $9000
In order to be a professional, you can't just have one camera, because if that one camera fails on the job, than you've lost the rest of the job you showed up to do, so every professional needs two working cameras for every job.  There are a lot of other things you also need duplicates of as well: backup batteries x2, extra memory cards x2, backup lighting x2, additional lenses to cover a variety of focal lengths.

Computer Equipment: $2000
While it's tempting to cheap out or hack a computer together, most professionals find that they need a well designed machine that is optimized for processing speed and large storage transfers.  On top of that, there are usually hundreds of gigabytes of photos taken each year which also need backup drives, and perhaps even online cloud storage solutions in order to make sure that images are safe even when drives fail.

Software: $400
Most photographers use Lightroom and/or Photoshop to process their images, along with several other softwares to manage their accounting and/or customer service.  You may also want a website, custom domain name, hosting, etc.

Accountant: $400
While you can do accounting on your own, you will come out much further ahead in many different ways if you have a professional relationship with an accountant who helps keep your business on good financial and tax grounding.

Accessories: $500
A camera bag to protect your gear and help you travel with it safely, a random new lighting accessory, a reflector, light stands and umbrellas for your flash, or other items you may need beyond the basics.

Education: $2000
While this could be an optional expense because there are many free resources like this lovely blog available to help beginning photographers, I find that people who are in the first few years of a photography business tend to spend a lot on education.  Even if they went to school for photography, they quickly realize that there are many more things to learn and understand in the real world that weren't exactly taught or relevant in their university setting.

While everyone's initial costs can be vastly different based on the rate that they acquire equipment before they start a business, this provides a guide for those who want to be prepared and plan ahead.

This brings the initial investment total to somewhere between $7900 - $15,100... and the recurring annual expenses may be closer to around $16,000 before taking a salary from your business.  If you take out a loan to purchase equipment in the first year- remember that many of your initial jobs will simply go to paying back the cost of investing in your business.  This is also why many people do photography part-time while working other jobs.  If you have a solid business structure and profit margin, you should make enough in your first two years to pay back your initial investment so that you can start seeing a profit in your second or third year, even if you work part time.  Otherwise, photography will be a very expensive hobby until you cross that profitable threshold in your business and finance management.

That being said, you don't need all of this equipment to begin building a portfolio of work that you create for yourself before taking clients, and you don't have to invest in everything at once.  In fact, its best to create a portfolio and expand your creativity with equipment that you already have, and then add equipment needs slowly and only as necessary.  Your eye should be able to make a great images that people want to purchase regardless of what equipment you use.  However, if you're planning to charge someone else to create images for them, backup equipment and liability insurance will be part of the professional expectations.

Anne Ruthmann is a professional photographer in New York City. With over 10 years of success as a full-time photographer in weddings, portraits, editorial, and now architecture and interiors, she spends any extra time she has helping others find smart solutions to business problems.  Stay in touch on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook.
      
 
 

Do I Need To Be On Snapchat?

Every time a new fad social media thing comes on to the market, we all have to ask the question, is this something good for me and my business?

The questions I always start with are:
1. Are my current clients using it and inviting their friends to join?
2. How is it currently being used to add value to my clients?
3. Is it aligned with how I want to present my work to others?
4. How effective are you on the other social media channels you're already using?

Right now, the people I see joining snapchat are my colleagues, but not my clients.  Photographers tend to be early adopters and heavy social media users, so that makes sense.  Does this mean clients will follow?  Maybe, but also maybe not.

We thought they'd follow to Twitter, but Twitter has remained quite a B2B environment with most people using twitter for spot news, PR releases, and brief public announcements or questions among other B2B users and marketers.

Did they follow to Instagram?  Only a few here and there- mostly photographers and clients who were already visual artists or business owners at some level and had enough visual content and loveliness that they wanted to share and see from others.

Facebook & LinkedIN are still the two most frequently used social networking sites by people who have jobs and purchasing power.  How are you leveraging those networks- where there's already active engagement for business and professional use?  If you aren't leveraging those networks, how is adding another one going to be any different?

More noise in more places does not equate to more business or more success.  If you aren't already "killing it" and attracting new clients through Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Periscope, or YouTube, than you definitely do not need to be using SnapChat for your business or personal life.  Feel free to prove me wrong and then create your own success story of how you landed new clients on snapchat to share with everyone here on this blog.  I love a good success story!

Anne Ruthmann is a professional photographer in New York City. With over 10 years of success as a full-time photographer in weddings, portraits, editorial, and now architecture and interiors, she spends any extra time she has helping others find smart solutions to business problems. Stay in touch on InstagramTwitter or Facebook.



      
 
 

Why $300 Should Be A Professional Minimum

I've run the numbers from here to the moon on what it takes to operate as a professional photographer for myself in multiple areas of the world, as well as for dozens of other photographer owners who've consulted with me, and one thing remains the same no matter how the numbers are crunched... it never makes sense to take a gig/job/headshot/portrait for less than $300.

The biggest reason for this bottom line is to make sure you've covered your costs, backup, insurance, and fail-safe options that allow you to operate as a professional, no matter what life throws at you.

For example, let's say a photographer charges $200 for a portrait shoot and they've collected half up front upon booking the shoot, but two days before the shoot, their apartment is robbed and camera equipment is gone.  The insurance deductible to replace everything is $500, but the photographer's credit cards are maxed out, and they were counting on this portrait shoot to provide a little cushion to get by.  The client can't reschedule their shoot because they need the images for a conference presentation in two days.  The photographer doesn't want to disappoint the client, so they need a back-up solution, and fast!!

The photographer figures they can use computers at the local library for processing images and uploading, but since the camera and lenses are in some thief's car trunk, they have to rent a kit to be delivered the next day.  How much will that cost?  About $240 for a very basic kit without any additional lighting, which is $40 more than the client is even paying for that $200 shoot!  On top of that, the photographer needs to pay for mileage, parking, and the online services to help make that shoot happen.  That $200 shoot may also have included all of the files as well, so there won't even be additional sales on the back-end to help pay the insurance deductible to replace equipment.  The price point has created a no-win situation for the photographer who can't operate as a professional and a disappointing situation for the client who counted on the professional they hired.

When creatives charge less than it takes to even RENT the gear needed to do the job, it puts the creative business in an UNPROFESSIONAL position of not being able to serve a client who has expected professional service.  When not charging enough to have easy access to backup equipment, is almost better to not charge anything at all, because at least then it won't attract the expectations that come with being a professional.  Once money is exchanged, a professional exchange is also assumed.

Now yes, there is always an exception.  For example, photographing 4 Rental Property Shoots for $75 each in one day with minimal post-production, which still ends up at $300 for one day of work.  Or doing 10 mini sessions at 15min each for $50 each in the same time and location, with the same amount of post-production as it would normally take for one $500 session.  Most often the frequent exception to the $300 minimum is in the case of guaranteed volume within the same day.

There is one more exception for the advanced professional - those who are really great with post-shoot sales can consistently take a $0 - $200 booking fee and turn it into an average of $1200 in revenue during a sales process after the shoot, with plenty of sales acumen to make up for a client who walks out and pays $0.  When a creative knows how to generate more revenue after a shoot, even when the starting price is low, they are also probably operating a business in such a way that they're already covered for emergency situations from previous sales.  However, this is not the case for most people who are in the under $300 category.

Now, when I wrote about this bottom line in another group, someone mentioned that they thought this would be considered industry "price fixing".  There always is and always will be room for discount pricing, sales, specials, and portfolio building individuals who charge less than a professional rate.  It's impossible to fix prices in an industry with millions of independent sellers.  However, it shouldn't deter individuals from establishing what would be considered a professional pricing strategy.

Being a professional means operating under the professional expectations of delivering your service and product no matter what life throws at you.  If you can't afford to rent all of the gear you need with the price that you charge, than it's time to take another look at your pricing and consider what it would cost to operate professionally in the face of unplanned circumstances.

Take Action: Know your rental options and costs in advance by pricing out a rental package that would be needed if everything you needed to do your job was stolen.  Below are some of the most popular national photographic rental companies: 

Lens Pro To Go
Based in Concord, MA

Borrow Lenses
Based in San Fransisco, CA & Boston, MA

Adorama Rentals
Based in New York, NY

Please take a moment to share this information with others to help inform the general public about what it takes to operate as a professional photographer so that together we can raise the expectations of what being a professional means in the photography industry.

Anne Ruthmann is a professional photographer in New York City. With over 12 years of success as a full-time photographer in weddings, portraits, editorial, and now architecture and interiors, she spends any extra time she has helping others find smart solutions to business problems.  Stay in touch on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook.

      
 
 

Is Social Media HURTING Your Business?

Companies do a great job selling us on the idea that Social Media outlets help our business by keeping us in touch with our client base or introducing us to new clients- but what about all of the ways that it might actually be hurting a business?  See if you fall into any of the social media traps that are more harmful than helpful for your business....

1. Wasting Time
Have you ever opened your phone, Facebook feed, instagram feed, pitnerest feed, snapchat, etc. first thing in the morning, or during a break in the afternoon to think you were just going to spend a quick minute checking in to see what everyone was up to, only to find yourself endlessly scrolling and eventually wasting an entire hour looking at nothing particularly important?  How many emails could you have answered in that time?  How many solid work tasks could you have completed instead that would have actually helped your business, rather than mindlessly looking at whatever other people post?

2. Feeling Less Successful
Even though we all know how deceiving social media can be with regards to only showing the highlights of someone's life, we still end up finding ourself fall into the trap of jealousy by comparing our real life to someone else's social media stream.  For many people, these comparisons aren't empowering and motivating, instead they feel self-defeating and irritating because we "think" someone else is doing better or living a cooler situation based solely on their social media stream.  If you can't stop yourself from having those feelings, than the only solution is to cut off the source of that jealousy until you can do the inner work to return to the social media stream with more clarity and confidence.  Constantly comparing yourself to others does nothing helpful for yourself or your business, unless you're using it as positive fuel and examples of how you can move yourself forward.

3. Expecting Social Media to Bring Clients
Social media may appear like a great place to connect and stay in touch with clients, but how many of your social media followers are people who are really paying you for your work?  Too often someone thinks that if they just do all the right "social media" things, they'll bring in more clients, and that's not alway the case.  Social media may have a global reach, but your business may only have a local reach, and if you're too busy connecting with people who aren't going to hire you in a another part of the world to take time connecting with people in your local area who can actually hire you, than you're expecting social media to do the work that you should be doing in person with networking events and local face-to-face connections.  Look at your actual sources of income and where those clients came from - nurture those connections first and foremost before investing heavily in social media.

If you've ever felt like you're drowning in the social media lives of others and not fully living the beautiful life you have, it may be a good time to take a social media vacation by removing all those social apps from your phone to see how differently life feels when you aren't trying to keep up with what everyone else is doing.  It's amazing how much more of your own reality you can start to appreciate when you aren't comparing it to everyone else's social media reality.  You may even find that you may actually want to connect with people more in person, to see what's real and true for them at a person-to-person level rather than a "what I want the world to think about" level.  If you've never tried a social media vacation, it may be time to really step back and consider how taking a break may actually be more helpful to your business and life than always being tied into the stream.


Anne Ruthmann is a professional photographer in New York City. With over 11 years of success as a full-time photographer in weddings, portraits, editorial, and now architecture and interiors, she spends any extra time she has helping others find smart solutions to business problems. Stay in touch on InstagramTwitter or Facebook... but only if you aren't taking a social media vacation... ;-)


      
 
 

10 Ways to Benefit From Down-Time

When I started as a freelancer, I didn't know how to make the most of the space between clients.  I was either "on" and happily working on client projects or "off" and being a sloth or stressing about not having client projects.  It took me a long time to really learn how to effectively use my "off" time so that it became "on" time, even if it happened in long stretches.

If you're finding yourself in the middle of an "off-client-project" time, here are 10 things you could be doing to stay "on" in your creative business:

1. Trying Out A New Skill or Software
Testing a new skill or software is far easier and less frustrating when you aren't trying to meet a deadline.  If you've put off learning something new, but know it might help your workflow, it's best to catch up on your skills in between clients rather than in the middle of projects.

2. Building Your Portfolio With Personal Creative Work
The work that gets the most buzz is rarely work that created for a client.  It's often an extreme or highly artistic vision, fully cultivated by an artist that creates the most buzz and award-winning creative work.  Pushing your creative limits helps keep you feeling creative, even when client requests demand that you stay inside the box more than you'd like.

3. Attending Workshops / Watching Educational Videos
People who have been creatives for decades know that there's always more to learn, always another perspective to try, and always more knowledge to learn from.  If you're ever feeling stale or out of date, ramp up your awareness about what else is going on by tuning into the latest educational offerings.

4. Meeting With Colleagues & Previous Clients
It's often said that your "network is your net worth" and the way to cultivate that network is through regularly staying in touch with the people you've enjoyed working and interacting with in the past.  Who doesn't love receiving an invitation to hang out, especially when someone else is willing to pick up the tab?

5. Attending Networking Events
It may be impossible to ask a new client or connection out to lunch if they don't know you yet, but it's not impossible to get to know them during a networking event and create a connection that last beyond one event.  Search Eventbrite, MeetUp, and Facebook for events on topics that you're passionate about to find people who might be interesting to collaborate with.

6. Getting Healthy
If you're a freelancer who tends to sacrifice your health while working for clients during intensive projects, than you really need to bring back more healthy-time into your down-time, so that you can return to each future project with more health and resilience than you had before.  

7. Portfolio Organization
Have you ever had a new client ask for examples of a project you know you've done in the past, but couldn't find easily due to a lack of organization or a need to update your portfolio?  The more you can streamline access to your work for future inquiries, the more likely you are to land the next prospect.

8. Seek Publicity Opportunities
Have you wanted to be featured in a favorite website, blog, or magazine?  Spend time pulling together the required materials and developing a pitch for a feature that will drive the traffic of your target market back to your work.

9. Volunteer
Some amazing connections and opportunities can come from volunteering for something that you care about.  Pick an organization that is aligned with your values and find ways to donate your time or talent during your down-time.  When done with an open heart and desire for something greater than yourself, volunteering feels good in a way that goes beyond a simple working relationship.  

10. Spend Time With Loved Ones
Freelancers may often sacrifice time with loved ones in order to serve clients or get projects done on deadline, so it's important to take time to fuel the relationships that are there for you no matter what your work load looks like.  We have precious little time to nurture the closest relationships in our lives, and every little bit of positive guilt-free time together helps strengthen our spirit and ground us in ways that client and colleague relationships cannot.  


Anne Ruthmann is a professional photographer in New York City. With over 10 years of success as a full-time photographer in weddings, portraits, editorial, and now architecture and interiors, she spends any extra time she has helping others find smart solutions to business problems.  Stay in touch on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook.
      
 
 
 
   
 
You Might Like
Email subscriptions powered by FeedBlitz, LLC, 365 Boston Post Rd, Suite 123, Sudbury, MA 01776, USA.