Congratulations on making that leap from taking photographs as a hobby to taking them professionally, whether it be part time or full time!
I remember when I started up and the excitement of wanting everything done NOW – I’m pretty headstrong and when I want something doing, I want it done yesterday. In hindsight (that wonderful thing) – I jumped too quickly into making decisions, I didn’t do nearly enough research and learnt most things along the way…so here’s what we suggest you do before you get started…
1 – Get the basics in order
Decide on a business name –
You can use your own name or trade under a business name. There are rules on using a business name. For example, you can’t:
- use the terms ‘Limited,’ ‘Ltd’, ‘public limited company,’ ‘plc,’ ‘limited liability partnership,’ ‘LLP’ or their Welsh equivalents
- use sensitive words or expressions unless you have permission
- suggest a connection with government or local authorities
- use a name that is too similar to a registered trademark or an existing business in the same area or sector
- be offensive
You must include your own name and business name (if you have one) on any official paperwork, like invoices and letters. So that means you need to have a good search (if you’ve decided on a business name that isn’t your own name) to make sure that there are none already trading in your area.
2 – Website
If you’re planning on running a photography business I strongly recommend having a website, whether that be a free site such as WordPress or contacting a web designer and having one designed – You’ll need all the information a potential customer requires at their fingertips and whilst a lot of photographers don’t advertise their prices on-line, for me, I’d rather they knew my prices before contacting me to book.
Display your best photographs on your site, have references and testimonials available along with ways for people to contact you.
TOP TIP – some websites require Flash Player to view galleries which aren’t compatible with iPhones!
3 – Buy that domain name!
You can buy website domain names pretty cheaply, mine cost £9.99 for two years! – Think about whether you want your site to end in .com or .co.uk (a quick Google of ‘domain names’ will bring up many companies where you can purchase them from).
4 – Gear!
I’ll let you in on a secret, when I first decided I wanted to pursue photography I enrolled at college (I still always recommend that you should have some knowledge of the basics of photography, whether it be a college course or training / mentoring or just a heck of a lot of research!) and then I decided I NEEDED, I *really* needed a photo cube, yup, I had this idea that I’d take this ‘cube’ to customers homes, set it up, take their photographs and then take it down… I was sure that the typical ‘white background’ photographs screamed ‘professional’ and that’s what I wanted to do… or so I thought… My fantastic cube with flash lights took about 2 hours to set up and filled my medium sized living room – this was NOT going to work… I very soon realised that I didn’t want to take photographs with white backgrounds, I wanted to be outside, I wanted to chase children, to see the wind in their hair, smiles that weren’t forced and wanted to have FUN. To date that cube *shudders* was my most expensive mistake. You see, all you really need is a good camera and a couple of good lenses, I use perhaps 3 different lenses, please don’t think you *need* this and that, the likelihood is, you don’t.
5 – Use social media
Social media is a very powerful tool, I’d highly recommend getting a Facebook Business Page set up, a Twitter account and any others you can think of, Instagram & Pinterest are popular amongst photographers too! (remember to keep your branding consistent)
The girls and I (at TDR) haven’t used any form of paid for advertising since starting our businesses and we rely purely on word of mouth and from adding photographs to our Facebook pages and websites –
I find that being on social network sites also gives your customers an insight into ‘you’ you’re not just selling your photographic skills you’re selling yourself so be professional and remember that what you’re saying is viewable to your potential clients.
6 – Register your business
In the UK you have 3 months to register as self employed (sole trader) with HMRC, you could face a fine if not. From that time you are responsible for your business debt, to keep records of anything you buy / sell and submit a Self Assessment Tax return once a year.
7 – Branding
This is one thing I didn’t think long enough about, what logo I wanted, what kind of ‘look’ I wanted. Your brand needs to be eye-catching, I changed my site and logo so many times in those early days and that’s a big no no for brand recognition, so make sure you’re decided before you design! Take a look around other photography websites, get some inspiration but ultimately make it YOU.
8 – Insurance & Terms
Get your equipment insured, get yourself insured! Especially for wedding photography – Public liability and professional indemnity insurance are not required by law though it’s advisable that you do get yourselves insured.
You’ll also need to set aside some terms & conditions that your customers must read, make sure you both know what their expectations are from your shoot, and what happens in certain circumstances, it really does need to be thorough – be clear on who owns copyright, plenty of photographers who sell digital images retain copyright and only allow their customer a print release. Having a page dedicated to terms and conditions means everything is clear to you and your customers.
9 – Get tech savvy
You’ll need to stay on the ball if you’re stepping into the world of social media and/or updating your website yourself – remember that Google is your friend!
10 – Enjoy!
Enjoy the journey, take time to look over your work, see how you’re improving, learn lessons, be kind and remember when that self doubt creeps in that you’re not alone, and yes, YOU CAN DO IT!
There are other things you can do to make your business complete, from ordering business cards, packaging and stationery to having a business bank account set up (many banks will offer at least 2 years free for new businesses) these things aren’t a necessity but over time you’ll need to look into them.