Wouldn’t it be nice to have all the answers and wisdom when you first start out doing something?
Well, if I was to give my past self some advice I would tell him 7 things to know when starting a photography business, and this would have saved my past self a lot of time and heartache.
I started out no differently than probably most of you, with photography.
There’s nothing inherently special about my background, which I think is the most important thing to understand about my story.
Other than being a hard worker and pretty motivated, I’m just your average joe.
I’ve been able to make six figures in multiple areas of photography and enjoy helping others succeed in their photography business!
At the beginning stage of any business, there are always things to do in order to survive.
But we can easily fall into the trap of doing the things we think are important and losing focus on what really matters.
I’m not here to give you the holy grail of advice, everybody has a different path and journey in life, but here are some of the things I would have told myself, just to make the journey a little bit easier.
Alright, let’s get to it!
Here are the 7 things I wish I knew when I started my photography business.
1 – Focus on ONE Niche
If you have never heard of this phrase or term, let me simplify it.
Pick ONE thing and strive to be the best at it.
I know, I know this is really hard. Your friends, family, and people are always asking you to take pictures of something and you can’t just say NO.
I get it, when I first started my business I would just say yes to everything.
You name it I did it (weddings, family portraits, senior portraits, pet portraits, banquets, and anything people wanted pictures of)
I spent years jumping around from one thing to the next, finding out at the end of the year, I really didn’t make much.
Now don’t get me wrong.
I think it’s important to experience all the different areas of photography, but if you want to succeed as a photographer, you need to commit and master one area of photography
Understanding one area of photography means you know everything about:
- The market and what people want
- Pricing your service based on value
- Branding yourself as an expert in that field
If you want to be a wedding photographer then brand yourself as an expert and know everything about that niche.
If you want to be a newborn or baby photographer then by golly, let people know.
My business has evolved over the years and I now only focus on 2 areas of photography (Dance Recital Portraits and Commercial Photography)
Both niches I have been able to make Six Figures with because I understood what the market wants and created systems that allowed me to scale.
When you first start out, or even if you have been in business for a while, the concept of niching down can be difficult to do.
It is VERY hard to tell people that you are not a certain type of photographer when you know you are fully capable of doing it.
Advice to my past self: quit chasing squirrels, and commit to focusing on ONE thing, so you can put your whole heart and effort into it.
2 – Don’t Compare Yourself
Ok, we all do this, and is just human nature, but you have to cut that out.
I get it, you might be doubting yourself or things aren’t going as planned.
You start looking at other photographers and get discouraged because their pictures are so much better or it looks like they are killing it in their business.
YOU don’t know what really is going on with their business and you really shouldn’t care.
Don’t build your business off the perception of someone else’s business. Make it unique for yourself.
Yes, it’s important to find inspiration from other photographers or people you admire, but don’t compare yourself or try to mimic.
When I first started I thought I had to be like a certain photographer, or do what everyone else is doing.
- The same style of photography
- The same pricing
- The same services
This only led to being a copy cat and prevented me from standing out from the crowd.
Advice to my past self, stay in your lane and be unique!
3 – Leverage Your Time
Let’s think about this for a minute.
We all have the same amount of time in the day.
Speaking in business terms and not passion terms, don’t you want to provide a service that you can make the most in the least amount of time, that has great margins.
Let’s work smart and not hard. You don’t want to bust your but day in and day out, and still struggle to stay afloat.
Find an area of photography that has the potential to scale and grow
The nature of owning a photography business is people are wanting to hire YOU.
You are the one with the experience, talent, and eye for photography, which is hard to duplicate because there is only one of you.
So how do you leverage your time so you can grow?
Create systems for your business.
If you’re a portrait photographer, you need to hire out all the tasks that don’t maximize your skill sets.
- Customer Service
Pretty much everything that takes you away from the reason people are hiring you (to take Bad A@* pictures)
You also want to create a process that you can duplicate every time for each customer.
If you have to reinvent the wheel every time you want to drive your car, you are just creating a disaster for yourself.
So for example:
The reason I have been able to make six figures just photographing dance recital portraits in 2 months, is because I have a process that I can duplicate for every dance school, and don’t have to put any additional work or thought into it.
It’s all about creating something you can repeat, again & again.
Advice to my past self, find an area of photography that you can scale and automate, in order to leverage your time
4 – Take Action
Once you have determined what area of photography you want to specialize in, you need to take massive action!!
I fell in the Trap of trying to read and learn everything I could about business and photography.
I wasted a lot of time with hypothetical scenarios and tasks that didn’t get me closer to my goals.
What I learned is to constantly take action on the most important things and then learn as you go.
- Marketing your services
- Brand awareness
- Understanding what the customers want and like
You will NEVER know it all, and things will constantly change.
Advice to my past self, stop thinking about your goals and start taking small measurable actions toward them, even though you might feel scared and anxious.
You know what they say about confidence, the only way to get it is by doing and having experience.
You NEED to take massive actions toward your goals and you will build confidence along the way.
5 – Have a plan
As the saying goes if you fail to plan, then plan to fail.
You need to have very specific measurable goals that you can take action with.
Don’t just say I want to be a photographer and make a living from it.
How are you specifically going to do it?
Be very specific in exactly what you want. The plan may not go accordingly, with what you set out to do, but at least you have a road map to help you go in a direction.
Instead of telling yourself I want to make XYZ amount with your business, ask yourself how many customers do I need in order to reach that goal.
Then work backward’s.
Write out monthly, weekly, and daily goals with steps on how to achieve the bigger goal.
So for example.
You want to make $50,000 this year in your business.
Well if you’re a portrait photographer you might need 100 people to pay you $500
That comes out to photographing 2 portrait sessions every week for 50 weeks, consistently.
Advice to past self: Whatever goals you set, break them down into tiny actionable steps, to keep you motivated and prevent you from getting overwhelmed.
6 – Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
Alright, things will never go according to plan and this alone will determine whether you are going to succeed or not.
I spent countless hours worrying and focusing on small issues, and then when looking back, it really wasn’t that big a deal, but only created more work for me.
So for example,
If you had a customer who contacted you upset, instead of arguing and trying to prove that your right, just fix the issue and move on.
It’s not worth it. Just let go and move on.
Or another example would be worrying about losing a customer or clients, focusing on the loss and instead of shifting your thoughts to an abundance mindset. (There is always more fish in the sea)
Note to past self: You need to get real good at understanding what is important and what you don’t need to worry about.
7 – Learn from Someone with Experience
The last advice I would give my past self is, if you want to quickly succeed, learn from someone that has done it and has been successful at it.
It doesn’t matter what it is, find someone that is in your niche or inspires you and learn everything you can from them.
If you’re wanting to:
- better your skills in photography, find a photographer who can teach you that skill.
- Grow your business, find someone who has a proven strategy or system that you can duplicate
- Be better at online marketing, find someone who is crushing it online.
Whatever the skill you are wanting to learn and grow, don’t try to figure it out, find someone who has already figured it out.
You will save so much time doing this.
On that note, just because you are learning from someone you hope to emulate, at the end of the day the only way you are going to progress is if you take what you learn and apply it to your business and modify to fit your goals and aspirations.
Well, Aaron my past self, the future is amazing for you.
You will go through a lot of ups and downs with your photography business, but I hope some of this wisdom I have given you today will help you speed up your journey and keep you on the right track.
If your ready to explore a niche that can help grow your photography business, this is my step-by-step process of how to get started with dance recital portraits.
I wish you all the luck and success!
If you enjoyed this article or have any wisdom you would give your past self, please leave them in the comments section below.