5 Reasons You Can Never Afford To Be A Photographer

There is always something in the way of your success. And there always will be.

I know. I’ve been there.

You may have a goal to put away a sum of money and use that to break free of the daily grind. That money will always disappear. The car will break down. The kids need something from school.

You may have a job you hate, and you struggle with it year after year waiting for your big break into photography. Yet that never comes. So the wait continues.

In both of these examples – and really if you look at every reason that is holding you back from photography – your reasons ultimately depend on money.

Emotionally you want to follow all of the experts advice, break free from the daily grind and work at you passion for the rest of your life.

Yet financially you just can’t get ahead. Your job gives you just enough to get buy what you need each week. Your spending habits mean you have to keep working – people depend on you.

And if you followed the experts advice, its easy. Simply spend less than you earn. The more you do it, the more you’ll save.

And that’s where the conflict lies.

We know in our minds we simply need to save. Yet if we want or “need” something, we simply buy it. And the cycle starts all over again.

With all of that in mind, here are 5 reasons your photography dreams may never be affordable … or attainable.

1. You are in denial

This is the easiest trap to fall into and where most people live on a daily basis. If you don’t admit to having a healthy financial picture that will allow you to do what you want, you don’t have to admit your failures. If you truly knew where you stand, you might have to change your habits and say no to some of the things you are currently doing. Who wants to do that?

2. You are a dreamer

There is a part of you that sees your future success. You can see yourself living the life of your favorite photography mentor. You know you’re good; success will ultimately find you. You just have to wait casually by until someone “finds” you and all of your troubles will wash away. [Read more…]

Crowdfunding – Is It The Solution To Your Next Great Photo Project?

Times are tough. The economy is in bad shape. Its hard to get a small business loan. And even harder to gain trust for a large project that may seem a little risky to some. So how are people doing it? Through crowdfunding.

Crowdfunding is described as the collective cooperation by people who network and pool their money and other resources together, usually via the Internet, to support efforts initiated by other people or companies. It can occur for a variety of purposes, from disaster relief, to world help, to artists seeking support from fans, to start-up capital for new businesses.

The great thing about crowd funding is it can work in many different ways. It can come in the form of donations. It can come in the form of small loans. Or it can come in the form of exchanging funds now in exchange for a final output at the end of the term.

I reviewed KickStarter a while back in How A Photographer Can Find Money For A Project. I’ve also been a part of a great program, Kiva, for many months now, and love giving small loans to business owners around the world.

While KickStarter is a great crowdfunding source for photographers, it isn’t the only option.

ChipIn – If you already have a great fan base, and they love what you do and are willing to support you in your endeavors, ChipIn might be the perfect solution for you. ChipIn is a widget you can quickly build and add to your website or blog, and it will showcase how close you are to your goal. [Read more…]

How A Photographer Can Find Money For A Project

What do you do if you have a great idea, but no money to support it?

That’s the idea behind Kickstarter. Their tagline is “We’re the largest funding platform for creative projects in the world.” And it may be just the idea that can, well, Kickstart your own ideas.

Kickstarter works by combining creative people in the music, film, art, technology, design, food and publishing fields, with people that are looking for ways to fund small business startup ideas.

Once your idea is in place, you submit it to the Kickstarter community. It’s then listed in the appropriate area – look at some of the current Photography projects. Your project must reach 100 percent funding level in the time allotted, or your project is cancelled – no money changes hands. So it benefits you to have a solid idea, and present it in such a way that people will be excited about what you have to offer.

When you set up your project, you choose different pledge levels, and offer different items at the different prices. $5 may get a name in the book. $25 may get an acknowledgment, plus a signed copy of the book. $300 may get signed copies of the book, plus limited edition enlargements. $1000 may get everything plus a keynote presentation. You decide what to offer at each level, and how many you’re willing to offer at each level – look at a few examples to get a better idea of how it works.

While you may think you have a great idea already in place, spend some time on the site first. Check out what else is being offered, and some of the success stories. Not only will it help you refine your own idea, but it may help generate additional ideas too.

Let me give you a couple of examples.

A Portrait of America Through The Eyes of a Photo Booth

Funded 108% for $32,645
They designed a traveling photo booth, and are using it to journey across the United States, taking photographs along the way for their book “A Portrait of America Through the Eyes of a Photo Booth”.

C-Loop Camera Strap Mount Solution
Funded 421% for $63, 163
C-Loop solves the problem of having a traditional top mounted camera strap get in the way, and relocates the mounting position to the bottom of the camera.

Glif  iPhone 4 Tripod Mount and Stand
Funded 1378% for $137,417
This simple iPhone 4 accessory mounts your iPhone to a standard tripod, and acts as a kickstand to prop your iPhone up at an angle.

Thinking of giving Kickstarter a try yourself? Let me know. I’d love to follow you along the way.

Setting Up a Workable Budget

This post is Day 9 of 30 Ways In 30 Days To Redesign Your Life With Photography. This series seeks to provide you with practical steps to get you from wherever you are today, to exactly where you want to be – this year! If your goal has always been to take your photography to a whole new level, hang on and start enjoying a new lifestyle you’ve always dreamed of.

In many industries, when people decide to set out on their own path and start a business, the first thing they look for is a financing option. They determine how much they will need and find a source for it, whether it’s through credit cards, dipping into a retirement fund, borrowing from family, or taking out a loan.

But for some reason, I’ve found photography to be one of those industries where the same doesn’t hold true. Maybe its because many photographers start out as hobbyists, have a bunch of equipment on hand, and decide to turn it into a business at that point. In any case there is a long stretch between having some equipment on hand, and running a profitable business.

Scour the Internet and you’ll find there’s no shortage of advice on how to fund your dream of operating a photography business. There are many sites dedicated to turn you from a small business dreamer to a multimillionaire in just a few short weeks using a “proven” method. Yet when you weave your way through all the smoke and mirrors, what it really comes down to is a budget. There are no tricks or secrets – you simply need to create a budget that allows you to grow your business.

The Best Road Is The Simple Road

It’s easy to print up a few business cards and begin telling people you have a photography business. But it’s a more difficult task to get business coming in on a regular basis. When it comes to getting your name out there, you have two choices.

1. Spend money on advertising methods to gain recognition.
2. Dedicate time to free activities that will gain recognition.

It’s easy to say you want to do the latter, but in reality there is only so much time in the day. It has to be a balance between the two in order to give you enough time to do what you truly love, and that’s photographing.

No matter how small it may be, having a budget will ultimately help you make decisions about how to move forward. “I have $150 to spend this week” will give you a guideline as to what you can do. “I can spend $1000 a month” will help you look for the right decisions, and not just grab at anything.

Specialize First, Pay Second

Most photographers are generalists. In other words, they do a variety of things within their business. So if you say you do baby portraits, seniors, family portraits, model portfolios, and weddings, you are a generalist – you do a variety of things within your business.

A specialist focuses on one area. As wedding photographers, we specialized in weddings, and that’s all we focused on. We did engagement images, weddings, and the occasional family portrait of our past wedding clients. But we never advertised for anything other than weddings. Our website was all about weddings. And we only focused on getting our name into the wedding photography world. We were wedding specialists, and even used that in our tagline.

The difference between the two is focus. Focus allows you to sidestep all of the other opportunities that are out there, and only focus on things that will help you become more recognized within that area.

Then once you are recognized, it’s easier to expand into other areas because you already have a following.

Once you have your focus, then its time to look into opportunities. Do you want to advertise in traditional sources, like bridal guides, magazines, or newspapers? Do you want to use direct mail? Do you want to join networking groups in your local area? Do you want to spend your time online?

The truth is opportunities are everywhere. And if you are talking with a salesperson, every opportunity can sound like a gold mine. Some methods result from trial and error. And some result from common sense. For example, can you really see today’s 20 or 30 something bride picking up the yellow pages to find a wedding photographer? No matter how well your yellow pages rep talks it up, if you think about it logically, you’ll soon realize the answer is a big NO.

Then realize that no budget is going to be 100 percent accurate, but a rough idea of what you are truly capable of spending will go a long way in helping you choose opportunities.

Let’s Get Started With Creating A Budget

If you’ve been through an accounting class, you’ll probably remember that on average a business spends about 10 percent of its gross profits on marketing. If a business wants to grow, it may bump that number up towards the 15 to 20 percent mark.

So that means if your goal is to make $100,000 this year, you’ll need to spend $10,000 to $20,000 on marketing. Break that down to a monthly amount, and you’re at around $834 to $1667 per month.

Seem a little steep for your lifestyle? Then simply break it down.

Earn Money With Your CameraIf you are just starting up your photo business, maybe your goal is to make $25,000 this year. Using the same philosophy, you would budget your marketing costs to be anywhere from $2,500 to $5,000 per year, or $208 to $416 per month.

Now you have something to work with. You have two ideas to work with.

1. How do I spend my $208 to $416 this month?

And more importantly:

2. How do I come up with my $208 to $416 this month?

If you know $208 stands between you and your dreams of creating a new lifestyle, what would you do to find that $208? Give up your daily coffee runs? Get rid of cable? Cancel the gym membership and workout at home?

Back in Day 5 I gave you my favorite quote:

“Entrepreneurship is living a few years of your life like most people won’t, so that you can spend the rest of your life like most people can’t.”

I got rid of my cable, and still don’t have cable television years after we made that choice. (I just don’t watch that much television anymore, and what I do watch I can get online.) I made choices because the alternative – creating a business – was more important to me.

Once you have your budget, it’s easier to spend it – AND to spend it wisely.

What! This will never work for me!

For you, you may have a larger or a smaller budget. It all depends on your desires, your obligations, and your opportunities. But if you really want it to work, you will find a way. Once you have a dollar amount in mind, its much easier to think in terms of a dollar amount, and weigh it against the opportunity that is presenting itself. Without the dollar amount, you have no idea of what is possible.

“I have a shoestring budget.”

“I’m living on a fixed income.”

“I have very little money to spend on my photography business.”

All of these phrases are a simple way of hiding behind the fact you have never taken the time to figure out what you CAN do, so you assume you can do nothing.


1. Test the theory. Pick a number right now that seems real and logical for you. How much do you think you can make this year? Take that number and multiply it by 10 percent and by 20 percent. This will give you your range of yearly marketing dollars. Now take those two numbers and divide them by 12. This will give you your monthly amounts. For example:

$50,000 x 10 percent = $5,000
$50,000 x 20 percent = $10,000
$5,000/12 = $417
$10,000/12 = $833

2. Choose one niche or specialty. If you focus on one niche or specialty – one specific type of customer – its easier to find marketing and advertising options. For weddings, you may sign up for a bridal expo, or for family portraits, you may invest in a BNI membership. With your specialty in mind, find one place you can advertise this month, and see if it works into your budget. In some cases it may take a two month budget – that’s okay. Just save up for the two months, and jump on your idea. Don’t waste the money on something else – save it for your desired option.

3. Track and follow. The only way to make this work is to dedicate the time to track and follow your results. Keep the funds separate and available so that you can take advantage of opportunities when they present themselves.