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How do I turn my photography hobby into a business?

Turning your photography hobby into a business may seem daunting at first. But, if you break it down into steps, it might become much less so. If you have the equipment and know-how, can start a website, and effectively market yourself, you have the basis for a strong photography business.

Almost all successful businesses start with a Business Plan that lists out the steps to get the business off the ground, as well as the main objectives and more. As you start your plan to turn your hobby into a side business, you may want to first assess how much time you have to commit to clients and to running the business. It does not require much to start a business, but you may want to briefly chat with a lawyer about state or local business registration requirements. Additionally, when it comes to photography, copyrights and client contracts are a rather important part of every job. It can pay off to understand or get some help understanding the intellectual property basics of photographers.

What is important to include in a photography Business Plan?

Just like any undertaking, a business operates better with a plan. To stay on track with your photography business and financial goals, making a Business Plan that goes beyond launching the business and into the daily operations can be critical.

When drafting a Business Plan for your photography business, you may want to include the following:

  • An executive summary.
  • A description of your business and the services offered.
  • A description of your target market (both your clients and competition).
  • Marketing and advertising strategies.
  • Detailed goals and timelines.
  • Estimated revenues, costs, and budgets.

Of course, as your business grows or you meet your goals, remember to revisit and revise your Business Plan.

What do I want clients to sign?

It is important to consider getting the proper legal documents in place to protect yourself and your business. This means having clients sign contracts that protect your business and manage your clients' expectations. For example, when accepting a new customer, make it clear that you do not begin working until a contract is signed and, at least, a deposit has been paid. A formal process with legal documents may increase your customers' trust and confidence in you.

Fortunately, you do not have to start from scratch. A Videography or Photography Contract can easily be tailored to your business. In the contract, you may want to include:

  • Your client's name, address, email, and phone number.
  • The date and time of the photo session.
  • A description of the services to be provided.
  • Any items the client may provide (such as props, outfits, or costumes).
  • When and how much clients pay (including deposit timing and terms).
  • A cancellation and dispute resolution policy.
  • A work ownership section that explains what clients may do with your work.
  • Signatures. Always get your contracts signed.

If you plan to use client work as part of your portfolio, or on your social media, you may want to make sure you have clients, or your photography subjects, sign a Model Release.

How do I determine how much to charge for my services?

Figuring out how much to charge for your services is a challenging process. Photography can be even more complicated as there is a lot more to it than just snapping a few pictures. Some basics you might consider when setting your prices include:

  • Researching your competition and market.
  • Reviewing the costs of running your business, such as your equipment, labor, time, studio, software, file storage, marketing, copyright, and tax costs.
  • Honoring your experience, specialty, and knowledge. If you are more seasoned, charge a premium rate. If you are newer, price yourself more competitively until you are comfortable charging more.
  • Accounting for the scope of each job. For example, a weekend wedding is a much more complicated job than a one-hour headshot, both during and after the event.

Additionally, you may want to adjust your rates as you get busier, or based on the type of customer or what your customers want. Prices may fluctuate based on how your images will be used (e.g. commercial vs. personal), whether the job will be billed hourly or at a flat rate, and whether there are upsells.

How can I protect my photography business?

Once you start a business, it is a good idea to think about taking steps to protect it. While making sure your clients sign contracts is critical to protecting your business, you may also want to establish your own brand, start a website, and get business insurance. After all, you do not want to jeopardize your hard work.

If you have substantial personal assets, own your own home, or run another small business or side hustle, you may want to consider incorporating your photography business. Formalizing your business can protect you personally if your business goes into debt, or gets sued.

How can I develop a strategy to promote my photography business?

Since every photography business can be unique, you may want to spend some time considering your strategy to reach your preferred clients. There may not be a one-size-fits-all approach, and it may take some trial and error. Here are some ideas that may help you promote your business:

  • Post your work on social media. Establish social media business pages that align to your brand identity and use analytics tools to further understand your audience.
  • Start a photography blog to increase your website's visibility. Publish often and consistently, optimizing your posts for commonly searched keywords.
  • Offer discounts or introductory package deals to get new clients through the door.
  • Build your email list. Email marketing is an effective way to send updates, share special offers, and stay top-of-mind with your past and prospective clients.
  • Network with other photographers. Networking can lead to client referrals, mentorship, and more.
  • Encourage friends, family, and former clients to send you referrals.

If you are ready to take your photography business to the next level, reach out to Rocket Lawyer network attorney for affordable legal advice.

This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. Rocket Lawyer is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.

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