I asked each faculty member to answer the question, "What advice would you give new photographers?" Doug Box gave me so much great information that it deserved its own blog post. There are six outstanding points here...whether you're new to the industry as a professional photographer or you've been at it for years, each one has so much validity in building strength for your business.
Follow Doug on his site and check out his faculty page! Skip Cohen
#1. Spend as much time marketing, learning marketing, selling and learning selling as you do learning and doing Photoshop. There are two ways to make more money in our business, save money on expenses or bring in more income! Doing your own retouching and printing “saves” you money – not much, but some. Developing a marketing plan and selling to your clients instead of taking orders can bring in thousands of dollars. Which is a better use of your time?
#2. Learn to run a business – develop a business plan, then a yearly marketing plan. Learn to love selling or hire a sales person. Consult with an accountant to set up your books and your business! Join a local, state and national professional association. They have tons of resources and, you will foster friendships and relationships with fellow photographers and vendors alike.
#3. Do what your clients can’t do! If you are taking close up photos of small children with no lighting or posing techniques, your clients can do that themselves! Be creative! Use different backgrounds, props, poses or even different lenses than you’re clients don’t have access to. Look for a niche – who do you know? Does your son play baseball or is your daughter in the local ballet. Then develop a plan to work with this niche business. What are you interested in? Do you love babies but live in an area that is full of older families? Then babies may not be the best niche for you. Three hot niches that are hard for clients to do themselves are families, pets and photo restoration.
#4. Be realistic – there is nothing wrong with having a small part-time photography business. Going full time, having a studio space, hiring full time employees is a BIG STEP. Remember, it is not how much money you handle, it is how much money you keep that determines success!
#5. Watch the trends. If putting a couch in the middle of a field and photographing a family with lens flair is hot, then do it! If clients want the files so they can share them on Facebook, etc, figure out a way you can still make money and give them what they want also! Try a sliding scale – the more your client spends on photography, they less the files cost.
#6. Don’t listen to negative naysayers. You have the same right to start your own photography business as the photographer who has been in business for years! They were new at some point and got better and so will you! Don’t undercharge – you won’t make money, you will go out of business and you will dilute the market. This is where an accountant, your professional associations and fellow photographers can help you. Figure out what you need to charge to make money, establish that as your price. Then when you are starting out, you can give a discount in some areas as you learn and build your business, but you have established a fair price for your work. As you grow, your discount gets smaller. This is much easier than starting cheap and having to raise your prices to make money.
I guess the most important thing I can tell you about having a photography business is Never Stop Learning!