10 Things To Think About Before You Turn Professional

It seems as if everyone you run into is a photographer these days. And part of that is true. With mobile technology, its easier than ever to capture photos and video simply because you always have a camera ready and with you.

And while many people love taking pictures, not everyone with a camera is ready to be a professional, nor do they want to be. They are happy with their day jobs, and are just as happy to take the occasional portrait of a friend or loved one when they ask. They don’t want to worry about marketing or finding clients. They don’t want the responsibility of writing up contracts and buying business insurance.

Yet for some, the thrill grows beyond just snapping a few pictures. They love the art form, and want to use their love of photography to grow something more. They want to share what they do and love with the world.

When you’re ready to move from hobby to professional, it takes a lot more than the photography. Here are 10 things you’ll need to do along the way.

1. Set Up The Business

In order to charge for what you do, you have to set up the business side of things. You can do that as simply as visiting your local government, establishing the business, and taking out a tax license. And you can get a lot more complex with it by filing for corporation status. But in order to keep things legitimate, make sure you take the necessary steps before your first client. The last thing you need is “complications” down the road because you didn’t get things established the right way in the first place.

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2. Think About Insurance

When you work for someone else, or buy a home, you sign on the dotted line, and have all the coverage you need. Running your own business is a bit different. You have to have business insurance to cover the cost of doing business. And if you are making this a full time career and don’t have a policy through a spouse, you may have to invest in your own health insurance policy. And finally, think about long term disability as well. If something we’re to happen to you, and you couldn’t pay the bills for 6 months, 1 year or longer, what would you do?

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3. Be Covered Legally

Every industry has its own set of legal requirements. While a handshake and a smile may have worked years ago, its hard to rely on that today, especially if you are in long term negotiations. Make sure you have a solid contract in place for all types of photography you will cover – portraits are different than weddings. And make sure you have model releases if you will be using your images for anything outside of handing them over to the client. I also use online model releases just to make sure clients know I will be using their images online and approve it. Its not a complicated process, and in many cases you can find examples to follow through other photographers. Be sure to check in with a lawyer to make sure you are fully covered for your circumstances – if its already written, reviewing is much less expensive than going through the entire process.

4. Establish Your Pricing

Don’t just guess at it; make sure you charge what you need to for your photography in order to stay in business. There is an art form to pricing your services and packages. Make sure you price to cover your costs, and to make a healthy profit.

Pricing Your Photography – the best way to build a successful business

5. Have the Right Attitude

Business doesn’t just come to you; you have to work for it. In hard economic times, it may take a bit longer and a lot more work. But if you have the attitude that says “I’ll do it no matter what”, you have a much greater chance of success.

One of the things that sets great business people apart from average one’s is keeping a professional attitude, no matter what. If a client gets on your nerves, you have to learn to handle it in a professional manner. And when you type a word, phrase or entire report online, you have to think of appearances first, not your opinion. Professionalism maintains 24 hours a day, and is affected by everything you do.

6. You Like Connecting and Contacting People

There is a difference between cold calling and connecting with the right people. Cold calling is selecting a name out of a list, one you’ve never had contact with before, and calling them to try and sell to them. Connecting is contacting people you have something in common with, and establishing a relationship that will lead to more business down the road. There are no shortcuts to building up these connections – you have to hand select them and work on establishing a great rapport. But the result is completely worth it.

7. You Enjoy Selling

Selling is probably the most feared thing by startup business owners. You don’t want to come across as the “used car salesperson”. But selling doesn’t have to be about hard-core sales. There is such a thing as soft selling, where you market yourself and enjoy what you do enough that people are ready to buy by the time they contact you the first time. When you enjoy selling, it is because you’ve built up a great system that makes the entire sales process easy.

8. You Have Reliable Cash Flow

One of the reasons most photographers start out part time is to have an income source “on the side” until they reach the level of profitability. We started out that way many years ago, and spent several months putting my income into savings, while the business covered our monthly expenses. Having even a few months can build your confidence, and put extra cash into the bank for the slow periods when you have no control.

9. You Are Ready To Market

I’ve heard successful business owners say running a business is doing 10 percent of what you love, and 90 percent marketing. Marketing is something you begin to do 24 hours a day as you build up your business. Today, when we head out to an event, a restaurant, or even a night on the town, we undoubtedly run in to someone we know, and we spend time connecting. Add in the time you spend coming up with new campaigns, new marketing tools, and checking on the status of current events, and you’ll quickly see where your time goes. It is a lot of fun – just be prepared for it.

10.You Have Vision

Have you ever read stories about professional athletes who envision the outcome before they even enter the contest? They see themselves making the basket, throwing the ball or beating an opponent, and watch it in their minds eye again and again. A great business owner does the same thing. They envision their clients, the checks they will put in the bank, and the awards they will win. As they learn of new tools, they will place them into their vision, and add to it along the way.

If you haven’t tried this before, try it now. Pick one thing you would love to have come true in the next week, and envision it. What will you wear? Where will it take place? Who will be there? What will it look like? What will you do? The more details you can add, the more you can see it. And you’ll also start picking up the details you’ll have to do to put it all in place.

It’s a very powerful exercise, one that can bring you that much closer to success.

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