How You Can Start: A Step-By-Step Guide To A Profitable Photography Business
Welcome to VirtualPhotographyStudio – a site dedicated to helping photographers turn their passion and goals into a Six Figure business model.
This page is a starting point to help you with three core objectives:
1. Highlight the most valuable resources buried within this blog – with well over a 1,000 posts and counting, it’s easy to miss some of the most important resources – so we highlight them for you.
2. Provide you with the most optimal guide to business so you aren’t lost. Instead of saying “what do I do next” we want you to know exactly where to turn to.
3. Give you action packed tasks that help you convert your ideas into steps that bring in the business.
If you are curious about who created this guide, please visit our About Us page to learn more about our story.
I recommend you bookmark this page as it will take some time to work through it all. Refer to it again and again – I know it will help you build your own Six Figure Photography business quickly and efficiently.
Okay, ready to get started? Let’s begin …
Step 1 Register For The Newsletter and Download The Guide
To keep you on track, give you advice and resources, and push you to take action, we’ve created the VPS newsletter, which comes out twice per month. You must register for the newsletter to receive its benefits. Enter your name and email in the box at the right and press the register button.
The newsletter is a companion to our blog. You will receive emails twice per month walking you through the process of setting up and growing a Six Figure photography business.
When you join our newsletter, you will also receive a link to our very special report, A Simple Way To Bring In Clients For The Life Of Your Business. The Business guide is in PDF format and will be made available to you once you provide your information. I recommend you take some time to read through it to understand some very important strategies that will help you bring in a healthy client base for life.
From there, its time to begin digging in deeper right here on this blog. Once you’ve signed up for this newsletter you can click the login button at the top of this page, enter your name and email and you will be logged in. Work your way through each module on this page to learn of new resources, ideas and tasks.
Now let me explain what VirtualPhotographyStudio is all about…
Step 2 What You Will Learn
A few years ago, when I was starting up VirtualPhotographyStudio, I learned a startling fact.
Statistics show that a photographer averages an annual salary of about $26,100. The lowest 10% earned less than $15,240, the middle 50% between $18,420 and $37,370 while the highest 10% earned upwards of $53,900.
That means if you are making just $54,000 per year, you are one of the best paid photographers in the industry!
I knew that had to change and I began blogging away here at Virtual to bring education to the professional photography industry. With well over 1,000 articles on this site, it’s easy to get lost. Which is why this page will help lead the way. If you choose to follow this How You Can Start guide, you will:
- Find out what type of photography people are searching for and what they are willing to pay.
- Set up a business that will provide you a healthy full time income – and give you the freedom to do what you want, when you want to do it.
- Build a web presence that is full of relevant content that helps you attract the right visitors to your site.
- Discover how to reach out to your ideal clients and make them want to use you again and again.
- Optimize your business so you can be just as happy with your personal life as you are with your business life.
In order to achieve these goals, I’ve set up this How You Can Start Guide in five modules, which should be completed in order to reap the most benefits. They are:
While it only takes a few moments to read through the list above, the actual process will take you weeks, months or even years.
To keep you on track, I’ve divided this How You Can Start guide into the five modules and included timeframes to completion and action items to help you along the way. I encourage you not to rush ahead, as each step is created to build on the previous information. For example, there is no point in optimizing your business before you bring in your first client.
The core focus I build on here – and I want you to keep in mind as you move through every step – is to build a strong, healthy photography business that will give you everything you desire many years into the future. I don’t believe in “get rich” quick methods or trying out “spam” marketing methods that will leave you with a black eye for life. This information is based on our own personal experiences during the past 18+ years earning income from a professional photography studio.
We’ll focus on the entire business process, because I know it’s difficult to stay focused on the daily tasks that build a strong business. It’s exciting to get a new camera and play with your images in Photoshop; its not so exciting to file taxes and figure out your yearly budget. Yet those are the things you can’t ignore IF you want a successful business. We’ll be your guide as you make decisions and put things into place that will impact you years into the future.
Throughout this guide I will point you to various articles. Each of these resources we created at different points in time over the past few years. They may guide you to other areas of the site, point to different articles and resources, and leave you confused. When that happens, head back to How You Can Start and you’ll jump right back to the roadmap you’ll come to trust.
I promise if you focus on working your way through this guide, without taking shortcuts or rushing the steps, you will learn a tremendous amount about how to build your own successful photography business.
Step 3: Module A Choose Your Niche
Many photographers today start out in the general role. They jump into photography by becoming a “jack of all trades” and doing whatever happens to come in the door. Yet that’s the wrong approach. No one becomes well known for becoming a generalist – think Ansel Adams.
Your challenge is to identify a niche that is underserved and has high demand. If you design a business that no one is willing to pay for your end product, your business won’t last very long. But if you design a business where people love what you do and are willing to pay for it as well, your success can last years into the future.
When choosing a niche, you are attempting to put together a selection of ideas that create a successful business model. These ideas include:
1. What you personally enjoy working at and feel confident you could share with the world.
2. What is model-able and scale-able – it’s important to find others that have accomplished similar goals within the industry.
3. What the market actually wants or needs and will pay for on a regular basis.
This is not an easy decision. Yet it doesn’t have to be a lifelong decision either. Many successful photographers have morphed their business many times over during their career. It is possible. For instance, one successful photographer with a 30 year career in photography spent 10 years specializing in weddings, morphed that into a 10 year career in senior portraiture, and is currently working in their 10th year of baby portraits. Anything is possible. However before you begin, it’s important to have a solid understanding in where your market is and how you will reach out to them.
This might seem confusing right now, but don’t worry because we’ll cover all of this and more in the resources I’ve included here.
Study Resources For Module A – Helping You Understand More About Niching
This article focuses on why niche businesses appeal to customers and why they will ultimately bring in more money over time.
Many businesses today think they niche – yet nothing could be further from the truth. Learn how to niche your business by taking a look at how most people get it wrong.
How Can You Turn Your Passion Into A Photography Business?
The great thing about niching within the photography industry is that almost anything can be successful. Discover what your passion is and convert it into a profitable business model.
What name you choose for your business can ultimately set up who your target market is. We’ll cover a variety of aspects of a successful name, as well as planning for future changes and expansion.
Will people pay hundreds, thousands, or even tens of thousand of dollars on photography? You bet. Learn why as we look at what makes people buy.
Continued Study: Specific Topics
Tools and Resources:
Google Keyword Tool
The Google Keyword Tool is a free resource that will give you plenty of data as you build your business. Use it to find out what people are looking for online, both globally and locally.
Step4: Module B Set Up The Business
When you decide to go into business for yourself, you will become a business owner first, a photographer second.
In this module you will begin to learn the importance of setting up the business in the correct way from inception. We will focus in on how you can create a strong business foundation that allows you to not only grow into a successful photographer, but also how you structure a business to enjoy the lifestyle you desire.
Your two goals in this module are:
1. Understand the finer details of creating a successful business model.
2. Create the structure that will allow you to grow to any size you desire in the future.
My focus throughout this module is to provide you with guidance on what things are most important when setting up a business, including giving tips on things we’ve found to most beneficial.
The resources provided below will get you started in the right direction, so get busy!
Study Resources For Module B –Set Up The Business The Right Way
There are many things to think about as you are building a business. In this guide we’ll provide an overview to 10 things that will determine how successful you will be.
How To Create a Studio Anywhere
Considering making a part of your home into a studio? Or are you considering leasing space? We’ll cover it all in this guide.
How should you set up the business? Should you incorporate? Should you have a team to help you build it? We’ll provide you with resources to these questions and more in this article.
Are you running the business without insurance? Learn what could happen if you continue down that path and how to cover yourself in the event of an accident.
When you are in business, you will occasionally find yourself dealing with the problems. If you cover yourself before you run into problems, it will be easier to find solutions. Learn all about photography disclaimers, why you need one and resources to put you on the right path.
Continued Study: Specific Topics
Tools and Resources:
Nolo has been my go-to site for many years for legal information. While never a substitute for a lawyer, its still a great way to learn more about running a business, everything from incorporating to contracts.
One of my favorite tools for lead generation is aWeber. You can easily manage your email lists and send out both ezines and autoresponders. A MUST for anyone serious about finding clients online.
Step 5: Module C Build Your Online Presence
When you read the term “online presence” or web presence, what do you think of? If you thought of a simple website, 5 pages in length, think again.
While a simple website worked back in the 90’s, even then it was the businesses that expanded beyond that mentality that did really well.
An online presence includes your website and so much more. It includes the site and/or blog you put on your domain. If you have multiple domains, it includes each. It includes your Facebook account, your YouTube videos and the comments people make about you on review sites like Yelp. In short, your online presence is everything written by you or about you in the online world.
Because this may be the first time you’ve thought about how your business should appear to others, we’re going to cover a variety of ideas in this section.
Your goals in this module will be:
1. Set up a website that you can add to and maintain from this point forward
2. Understand how your website will merge with other online services to help generate traffic for your business
3. Create content on many other social sites and network them together so you are in control of your web presence.
My advice to you is to take it slowly and learn from each step you accomplish. Don’t expect to have a dynamic web presence that brings you in more business than you can handle in a short period of time. This is something you will build from this point forward. Learn to do it the right way now and you are set for success.
Here are the resources to get you started in this module:
Study Resources For Module C –Building Your Online Presence
Sometimes the best way to learn about the best way to design a site is to discover what NOT to do. In this article we’ll cover many mistakes that other photographers make and how you can avoid them with your own design.
What’s the most important page on your site? We’ll talk about what statistics show is the most successful page on the average website, and why most people get it all wrong when they create it.
What’s the most important thing on your website? While your photography is definitely at the top of the list, for overall design and marketability its your content. Learn why content is king and how it will help you develop a large audience for your business.
Your online portfolio is more than a few of your “greatest hits”. Your portfolio should be something that generates interest and quickly makes your visitors say WOW. We’ll cover how you do that and more.
Several years ago we made the switch to design all of our sites in WordPress and we’ve never looked back. Discover all the advantages to using WordPress and why it’s the only tool you’ll need to build your Six Figure Photography business.
Continued Study: Specific Topics
Tools and Resources:
Register your domain names here.
Make sure your site is on a reliable server that offers plenty of bandwidth and zero problems with load times. We highly recommend this service.
With thousands of WordPress themes available today, you’ll easily find one perfect for your business.
More About Blogging
There is an art form to blogging. The more you know about it, the more you’ll connect with your visitors. If you want to attract clients online, this is the only resource you’ll need.
Step 6: Module D Find The Perfect Customers
In Module D we will move into the area of defining and attracting the right clientele to your business. As you’ve worked through the previous sections, you hopefully have started finding patterns to your preferences. The more you define who you are and what you do, the easier it is to find the right customers for your business.
In this module we will cover:
1. Finding customers
2. Selling strategies
3. Customer service strategies
All three are equally important when creating a photography business and will ultimately determine your level of success. I suggest you work your way through each resource, taking notes and determining which areas you want to focus on in the coming weeks and months.
The resources below present simple techniques and long term strategies. I recommend you keep it simple to begin by choosing things that resonate with you and working at them until you see results. The more time you spend trying different things, the greater your chance of becoming overwhelmed with possibilities and wind up doing nothing. Simplicity is the key when building and growing.
Here are the resources to get you started…
Study Resources For Module D –Attracting The Right Customers
If you’re out there looking for business, freelance job sites might be for you. Discover a ton of great resources that can hook you up with a variety of great job opportunities.
Stuck on what to do next to bring in customers? Get some easy to use ideas from this list. Sometimes it’s the little things that can bring in a slew of prospects and customers.
Depending on what type of photography you specialize in, getting paid for publishing a few great images might be on your ticket to success. Discover the hidden secrets of publishing your work, and get noticed in one of the thousands of magazines published today.
Does it really matter if you drop your prices again and again? We’ll cover that and more in this timely article. Many photographers are faced with this struggle every day; yet if you cut today, what will it do to your business tomorrow?
Selling isn’t something you are born with; its something you learn. Discover some of the top mistakes photographers make when selling to their clientele and how you can avoid them from this point forward.
Continued Study: Specific Topics
Tools and Resources:
Animoto offers a great way to showcase your work in video format. Use it on your site or on social sites to give your photography the WOW factor.
Moo Cards are my favorite promotional tool. Use their business cards, greeting cards or try their MiniCards – perfect for getting people to talk about you.
Pricing Your Photography
Pricing Your Photography is my best selling guide that provides you with all the tools you’ll need to price your photography the right way the first time.
Step 7: Module E Optimize Your Business
By the time you start this module you should have a money-making business filled with customers. While you may not have achieved a Six Figure yet, you’re well on your way. This module is about increasing your efficiency and building wealth as a photographer. To do this you will need to set up systems to help you automate and complete certain jobs.
The challenge for most people at this level is to get rid of the “I can do it myself” mentality and begin relying on others to help you along. This module is about stabilizing your income stream so you don’t have the ups and downs that consistently come with a start up business.
The resources below focus on how to optimize your business. We’ll focus on:
1. How to fine tune your business
2. Trends in the photography business and how you can use them to your advantage
3. The differences between average and affluent markets and how to sell to each
4. Wealth building strategies to grow into the lifestyle you desire
At this level of business, you’ll quickly discover time is the most valuable commodity you have. If you use it wisely, you truly can do anything you desire.
Here are the resources to study for Module E…
Study Resources For Module E –Optimization and Wealth Strategies
Once you have your business built and sales coming in on a regular basis, its time to rev up your marketing and sales skills. We’ll talk about the easy ways you can change your business around and move it from a business you like into a business you love.
What does the future hold for the photography industry? If you’ve been in it for any length of time, you know it has done a lot of changing in the past few years. From film to digital, from print to online, customers are changing at a rapid pace. How can you tell what the future hold? Follow the trends.
Using your photography business to bring in a little extra income is an entirely different concept than building it into a income generating empire. We’ll talk about things you can do today to build towards the lifestyle you desire in the future.
Photography is more than snapping one picture; its about relaying an entire story in what you do. Master the art of visual storytelling and you’ll set yourself apart from your competition.
Who is your ideal client? If you are targeting the wealthier population, you have different rules of selling and marketing. Learn what the difference is and how to build it into your own business plans.