Ready to go full-time with your photography? Here are 3 things you MUST do before you quit your day job to become a photographer.
You have the gear and you know how to use it. You even have a marketing plan in place! What else do you need before launching your full-time professional photography business?
Here are 3 things every new photo pro should prioritize:
If you’ve already started your photography business and don’t have these tips in place, do not panic! We’ll show you how to add these elements into your existing workflow. Your business can still have a solid foundation moving forward.
#1: Save 6 months of income into an emergency fund.
Six freaking months?!? What am I, a money tree?
I know, I know, it may feel overwhelming to think about setting aside enough cash to cover your personal and business expenses for six. whole. months. But it is SO necessary—especially for a photography business owner like yourself. Think about it:
What happens if you get sick or injured and can’t serve your clients for several weeks? Who will you call? How will you compensate them for handling your workload?
Don’t put your brand-new beautiful business at risk by not preparing for a crisis. Because crises WILL come. It’s just a question of “when.”
“But my business is already rolling and I can only afford to save $___ a month!”
Okay: then save that much each month! Do what you can. Some is better than none, right?
Until your emergency fund is complete, you might also want to look at areas of spending where you could cut back. Maybe now isn’t the time to buy that new lens or drop big bucks on a private studio space.
Keep your options open and stay focused on long-term success, not merely short-term wins.
#2: Protect yourself and your business with “tax stuff,” insurance, and contracts.
This is severals tips rolled into one, but they all needs to be established around the same time.
First, tax stuff.
Start with a tax pro who can help you properly license your business and define your tax structure. The way you set up your business from the beginning can make a huge difference in your tax liability later, so don’t delay on this part.
A tax professional who’s familiar with self-employed entrepreneurs can help you get all the appropriate state and federal documentation in place.
If you’re in the U.S. or anywhere without nationalized healthcare, health insurance is a must-have.
But I get it: it’s wildly expensive if you’re buying a policy outside of a larger corporation’s umbrella. That’s why you need to move to Paris. (Also: crêpes.)
If France isn’t an option, consider
- A) researching major medical coverage (cheaper and better than nothing), or
- B) maintaining a part-time job somewhere that can give you affordable health insurance.
Or marry a member of Congress.
You also need disability, liability, and general business insurance!
This isn’t as scary as it sounds, but it is super-important.
- Disability insurance will help you pay your expenses if you experience a long-term illness or injury.
- Liability insurance helps protect you from being personally financially liable if you’re ever sued.
- General business insurance covers your equipment, among other things.
You can research individual policies from a variety of insurers, or you can purchase a policy from a company who focuses on photography businesses. Here are some popular providers:
- PPA: Professional Photographers of America
- Progressive Commercial
- The Hartford
Good news! Small business insurance isn’t all that expensive, so you can keep your business protected without breaking the bank.
If you’re like me when I first started my business, you probably snagged a contract from a photographer-friend (or the internet,) customized it to suit your needs, and moved on with your life.
Maybe that’s better than nothing, but a bad contract can actually be worse than no contract.
Not only do you need to use a contract for every single client you photograph, but you also need each contract to be tailored to the job. You know: wedding photography contracts for wedding clients, newborn photography contracts for newborn clients, boudoir photography contracts for boudoir clients, etc.
TheLawTog can get you started with a variety of contract templates, or you can have a local attorney customize a contract for you according to the laws in your area.
And if you’re using ShootProof for your online client galleries, you get access to our contract builder and invoices! (Plus you get two months FREE when you choose an annual plan!)
“But I have none of this stuff in place, and I’ve already booked a ton of clients.”
Don’t let another day pass by without getting in touch with a tax pro and applying for insurance.
As for contracts: if you’ve “booked” a bunch of clients without a contract, you can still reach out to them and ask them to “finalize” their booking by signing an agreement.
Some may say no, and you should still follow through on your arrangement with them. But many will likely be happy to sign and get the agreement in writing. It can’t hurt to ask!
#3: Know your budget before you book your calendar full.
I remember the day I looked at my calendar and realized: I’ve booked so many weddings for this year, I have no choice but to quit my day job!
It was a super-exciting moment! Unfortunately, what I hadn’t done was learn my CODB (costs of doing business) before I set my prices and booked a gazillion clients.
What did this mean?
Well, it meant that I quit my day job only to recognize: Oh, sh*t. I’m gonna be broke.
I solved this problem by doubling my prices overnight then working my butt off to make ends meet until I’d completed those underpriced contracts. IT WAS NOT FUN. I’m talking the no-Netflix-and-no-eating-out-EVER kind of not fun.
So here’s how to get your finances in order:
First, establish your personal and business budgets.
Tanya Hirschy outlined some fantastic steps for keeping your business financially healthy—which means keeping yourself financially healthy, too.
Next, figure out what to charge.
It doesn’t matter what your photographer-friends charge, or what the photo-celeb on that podcast charges, or what someone on Facebook told you to charge. What matters is what you NEED to charge to run a business that will allow you to retire one day.
“Uh-oh. I’m definitely not charging enough.”
Yikes. That sucks to realize, but at least you realized it! So what do you do next?
You raise your prices! Just do it! Right now! Go change all your session fees and package prices and print prices, and start earning what you’re worth. Period.
Now are you ready to be a full-time photographer?
If you have all of the above steps in place, the answer is YES! (Well, and of course you should know how to take great photos, but that’s a given!)
Next on your to-do list? Plan a brilliant marketing strategy and get connected to your dream clients!