There can never be a comprehensive guide on how to start a photography business from home because intersecting the particularities of photographic art with those of a constantly evolving market means that any business (and especially one that turns out to be successful) is an experiment and an adventure.
Nevertheless, in this post, we will try to draw a realistic sketch of the financial, the legal and the marketing aspects of what even a modest, home-based photography business entails. You will get a fairly accurate picture of how much money it takes to venture into this sort of enterprise; what you will have to do in order not to upset the personnel at The Castle; and what you will need to learn, acquire and do for the sakes of our masters, the clients.
The Financial Side of Things
“Everything in life boils down to money” or “you need to spend money to make money” are clichés because they are true and everyone has already grasped their meaning. If you want to (at least) make yourself look professional and for any client to choose your services, then you definitely need to invest in a few key areas.
As far as photography gear is concerned, many people say that you don’t need to bury all your resources in expensive equipment. That may be true, but at the very least you’ll need a professional camera and a suitable replacement camera because electronic failure does happen. Furthermore, as you will need to market yourself as a specialist (otherwise you may be perceived as an indistinct individual) so, for the sake of argument, we’re going to consider portrait and wedding photography.
Next, one needs to bother with covering the spectrum of lenses. A crude minimum would be 3 lenses, however, as we discussed both portraiture and wedding photography we’ll contemplate 4: the AF-S FX 50mm f/1.8G, the 70-200mm f/2.8G, the AF 1923 35mm f/2D, and the AF FX 85mm f/1.8G, from Nikon. That’s going to net you in excess of $3,000.
Other pieces of equipment that you will require – several flashes, flash triggers, light stands, and reflectors – are about $1,500 at the very least.
And this is where the “fun” really begins, as Uncle Sam and the economy require such delights as:
- a well-crafted portfolio;
- a website;
- attorney bills;
- business insurance;
- software licenses
They amount to at least $2,500 and that’s assuming you already own bagatelles like an adequate computer, portable hard drives; and are adept at self-educating (in the ABC’s of marketing and sales) since even introductory courses in the indicated subjects can put further strain on your budget.
These very benevolently-calculated expenses make up for a crude grand total of $10,000, a figure that, while not frightening, is really indispensable as a start-up sum. Now, we’ll concern ourselves with the judicial aspect of how to start a photography business – a few tips on what to expect.
How to Start a Photography Business from Home Legally
We have mentioned, in passing, some aspects in the previous section. That, however, is only the tip of the iceberg in the (hopefully) blissful relationship that you must maintain with the authorities, in order to legally function as a business. These aspects, though not as costly as the equipment, will nevertheless take up a significant part of your time.
You should become acquainted (in a little more detail than is presented here) with the legislation (that will vary slightly from state to state and county to county). Here are the mandatory steps you must follow:
- Fill out a DBA form (Doing Business As) – for the state to recognize that you will engage in legally-recognized economic relationships (perform services and receive remuneration) with your clients. It is usually filled out at the county courthouse.
- Apply for a sales tax identification number – the tax that is levied by the local government. The form can be filled out online, yet you might want a professional’s opinion on the sections your work is subjected to in your specific jurisdiction.
- Income tax is best left to a tax specialist unless you have a background in the field.
- Zoning the property on which your home is situated if you live in a city and plan on meeting your clients at home. Depending on the actual positioning of your property you will need to address either City Hall or your Home Owner’s Association. This one is a pretty open and shut procedure as it can be performed in a few hours.
For a better understanding of things, besides solo Google research, you should definitely consult a CPA before you even make a first attempt at completing these steps, and search for photography forums that concern your state, as activity-pertinent recommendations should be found there.
As we have explored in a previous post, marketing is mostly online marketing. Due to space constraints (and other articles that examine the topic more profoundly), we will only discuss the major tools you will need to master to perform this action adequately.
- Website & Portfolio – these two are intertwined because the website is the vehicle through which one makes his/her portfolio visible. If you don’t have a meaningful experience in web design, we recommend getting in touch with a company, as their services are becoming more and more affordable.
- Social Media Profiles – everyone stresses the importance of presence on social media, and we feel that it cannot be stressed enough.
- Workshops or Mentors – the apprenticeship phase of one’s career may not be what it was in Renaissance times, however, everybody frequents photography courses and a more personal approach towards learning the tricks of the trade could be your secret in succeeding. It goes without saying that you should get as much experience under your belt as possible.
- Try to Always Be Your Best Self – this is about projecting an image of professionalism and success, and begins with how you dress, how you react when you approach/get approached by potential clients, how you interact with other members of the photography community etc.
- Do Not Underestimate the Importance of Traditional Marketing – even though online marketing is the norm, conventional channels may contribute to the trickle of your workflow, especially if your business is situated in a small community.
This guide on how to start a photography business from home has provided you with some practical information and some theoretical aspects of what it means to engage in this complex undertaking. However, as we have already mentioned, these are not to be construed as a recipe for success, but mere pre-requisites of embarking on the road from passion to profession.