So you know how to work a camera and you’re comfortable shooting in manual most of the time. You’re ready to start your photography business! Or are you? Knowing when and how to start your own business isn’t something most people learn in school. Most of us have to figure it out for ourselves through years of trial and error. Whether you’re starting out in photography or another creative pursuit, it’s normal to feel overwhelmed.
Heck, I’ve been doing this for years, and I’m still learning. More often than not, I feel like a tiny boat in the middle of a big ocean, trying to stay afloat and row myself back to shore. But hopefully, the pointers below will help you make that first step to starting your own business. Join me in sticking it to the man, popping some champagne (and maybe some anti-anxiety medication) and showing yourself grace in your journey to becoming a creative entrepreneur.
Practice, practice, practice
With very few exceptions, every successful business person you’ll meet started from the bottom and now they’re here. Even the Kardashian-Jenner family had to start somewhere. There are no shortcuts to success. It takes practice to become really great at something, so whatever it is you’re inspired to make a career or, practice the heck out of it.
If you’re a photographer, never leave the house without your camera. If you’re a graphic designer, learn new techniques in Photoshop or Illustrator. Start building those portfolios! Been practicing for a while? Try working for free, with boundaries. You’ve got to start somewhere, and doing an unpaid gig or two will help you understand what your time and skills are worth. Offer to shoot family portraits for free or design a poster for your friend’s show. Just create! It’s never a bad idea to reach out to local professionals or creatives you admire and offer to buy their time or mentorship. It may not be in your budget, but it can definitely pay off.
Get officially, official
Put aside your paperwork dread for just a second, because it’s time to get official. I hired a local CPA who was able to help me apply for a business license, become an LLC, set up sales tax and open up a bank account. Tax laws vary by state, but if you’re based in Louisiana and you’re a photographer, you’ll be required to pay sales tax monthly on both prints and digital images. The more you know! Depending on your type of business or industry, this can look different for you. But the gist of it is, figure out what you need to get official and do it before you get too far along. You don’t want the IRS banging on your door.
Hire professionals to get your brand lit
Part of being a business owner is crafting a brand that reflects you, your values and what it is you do. You’ll need to decide on a name, a logo, a website…the works. It’s okay if you’re not a branding expert! Fortunately, there are folks you can hire to help you. They may ask you questions like, “what do you want to provide for your clients,” or “what is your brand’s voice?”
My target client is someone who does things their own way and marches to the beat of their own drum. I want to provide a personal experience for my clients and make them feel appreciated. I want to present myself as confident and self-assured, an expert in my field. And I try to channel all of that into the look and feel of my brand.
If you’re looking for visual branding help, I can’t recommend the following folks enough: Cindy Nguyen, Minmoo Studio, Saturday Studio, Sydney Michuda, and Nhi Nguyen.
Once you’ve nailed your branding, it’s time to go live! I use Flothemes (see what I have to say about them here) for all my website needs, but Squarespace is a great budget-friendly solution. Squarespace is incredibly intuitive, but if you need some guidance, I highly recommend my sweet friend Blake. She’s a Squarespace expert and offers her services at reasonable prices, and if you mention my name in your inquiry, she’ll give you a 20% discount! You’re going to want to hop on that.
Take a deep breath in, and out. Starting a new career or business venture can be terrifying, but in the end, it’s probably one of the most rewarding things you’ll do in your life. You just have to start.