One of the things that gets under my skin more than anything is stumbling upon articles insinuating that a new photographer must spend top dollar and go into inordinate amounts of debt in able to be considered a “real” photographer. As if the amount of money invested is what buys you a place at the professional table. I’m here to tell you: It is NOT necessary to lock yourself into massive amounts of debt (and maybe not any) to start your photography business. With careful planning, strategic priorities, and some know-how about where to spend your money (and where not to), you can launch your photography business on a budget without being saddled by the burden of massive debt. Here are a few do’s and don’ts to get you off on the right foot!
DO: Plan for your business needs.
Meeting with a CPA, having a marketing plan, legal contracts, insurance and necessary licenses will all be important parts of running a successful business. While these things may not feel as rewarding as booking clients or purchasing gear, they shouldn’t be neglected. Save yourself the headaches down the road. Plan for your business needs, and take the appropriate steps to get your business set up the right way.
DO: Set goals for adding gear.
Learn, first and foremost, to master the gear that you have. And then set goals for purchasing new equipment as it becomes financially feasible for you. “When I’ve done X number of jobs and brought in Y amount of money, I will buy Z piece of equipment.”
DO: Purchase reliable, well reviewed equipment.
Do your homework before you purchase new gear. Read the reviews for the items you’re considering buying, and ask your peers for feedback. It is absolutely ok to buy used equipment from reputable seller. Just be sure to look for clear indicators of the item’s condition and familiarize yourself with any warranty information.
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DO: Seek out reputable education and mentoring.
Your personal growth as a photographer is one of the best investments you can make. I don’t know a single photographer who has invested in mastering their craft who has regretted it. You can have the very best equipment, the nicest studio, and rock solid contracts… but if you don’t have skill and a plan for continued growth, you won’t get far.
Network. Network. Network. It is free and an absolute must for growing a new business. You simply cannot do without it.
DON’T: Overspend on equipment.
The latest and greatest equipment will always be there, but now is the time to train your eye and close the loopholes in your business setup. It may be more fun to buy loads of props or fancy new equipment, but it’s SMARTER to put your money into making sure your skill level is growing and your business is legitimate.
DON’T: Chase the latest and greatest.
When it comes to camera equipment, there will ALWAYS be something new to entice you. Be cautious of buying the lie that better equipment will make up for a lack of skill or training. Good gear will absolutely be important to your business, yes. However, it is easy to be distracted by obtaining the newest lens or camera on the market when we should be focused on growing our skills instead. As you grow, you will begin to identify ways you are maxing out and outgrowing your equipment. That will be the time to upgrade. If you’re wondering if it’s time to upgrade your camera, you might read this article!
DON’T: Spend a fortune on branding early on.
Chances are, your style now will change dramatically before you really get settled in. Give yourself time to evolve and really discover how you want your brand to look before committing a lot of hard earned money to this process.
Getting a business started is a big process, and we know there are a lot of questions along the way. Take it from someone who’s been there: It’s not necessary to bury yourself in debt to succeed. We hope these tips help you as you navigate what is best for YOU and your business. We love to answer your questions, so don’t hesitate to leave them in the comments below!