Photography – I could do that…

Why most people couldn’t

Photography is one of the more common “I’d like to be…”  occupations.

Kawai piano keys

My piano - it takes more than buying a Kawai grand to play well

One of the reasons I’ve written some of the articles here about the business side of photography, is that I get a lot of people asking me about that tricky bit – that transition between taking photos you enjoy and taking photos to earn a living.

It so happens that I enjoy most of my photographic work, but the photos are there to meet client needs – if they don’t, then my chances of running a business for very long are remote.

Let’s go back to those ‘I can do that’ thoughts

What is it that you can do?

As photographic equipment has advanced, it’s becoming much easier to generate technically competent photos. It’s also becoming relatively cheap.

This means that there are a lot of people around taking photos like yours.

But people have said your work is good…

With all due respect – what do -they- know about the business of photography?

Seriously – what is their expertise? Is it relevant? Can you make use of it?

Testing your ideas

Most people have good ideas – very few ever get acted upon.

If you can get past the idea stage, then you’ve taken a big step.

Put together a short outline of what it is you want to do. Be sure to write it down (this is one way of making it more likely you’ll act on an idea)

If you’re feeling confident, then make a one page ‘business plan’ – although I find that a loose outline is more effective at this stage, since it helps you think of the whole business and not get bogged down in detail.

Ask friends and family – ask them to be honest and emphasise the business aspects.

Do you have potential customers in mind? (Hint: always a good idea) – then ask them how they would use a business like yours.

business meeting - presentation

There are lots of free business development resources for people looking to start up a business

Find out what they want and what their problems are. Remember that the essential role of your business is to solve customer problems (whether ‘we want memories of our wedding’ or ‘we need this construction project documenting’)

Try to find people in your chosen business who you can talk to.

One caveat here… Most professional photographers are pretty poor at the business side of things.

At a recent business event the presenter mentioned his 1:4:15:60:20 ‘rule’ (for all businesses)

  • 20% of businesses are in decline, on their last legs
  • 60% are doing OK or ‘getting by’
  • 15% are doing well and growing at a modest rate
  • 4% are really forging ahead
  • 1% the real stars – trend setters, the ones business magazines interview

So, do you really want to follow the example of the 80% or the 20%? You could almost say that 80% have ‘got it wrong’.

I’d suggest that there are things to learn from all of them, just be sure to consider what category you are dealing with, when discussing your plans.

I regularly go to business events, to network with other business people and to get ideas. A good event is not just one that makes you think about stuff, but prods you into doing something about it.

It’s about running a business

Professional photography is primarily about business if you want to have more than an enjoyable hobby that makes some money on the side

Having given regular ‘real business’ presentations to photography students I’ve seen the look of disbelief/horror when I say that being a (successful) pro photographer is more about business acumen than photographic skill.

I’d go so far as to suggest that you could teach someone with real solid business skills, the amount of photography needed to run a business, far more easily than you could teach the business side to a creative and intuitive photographer.

It also occurs to me that this competent business person might well hire ‘fresh’ creative types, with little business aptitude, to do the creative stuff, whilst they made the real money…

Oh dear – have I discovered the secret of some of those awful portrait photography franchises that rip off people with tacky formulaic photography and hard selling? ;-)

Remember that few pro photographers do much more than create a job for themselves – not many create a business.

Are you still with us?

If what I’ve written above hasn’t put you off, then congratulations.
I’m inclined to believe that you deserve to advance to the next level – actually doing something about it!

You might also like to read my 5 big business mistakes for photographers

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