Starting my own business - Costs associated, what do I need?

Discussion in 'Photographic Discussions' started by RMThompson, Aug 19, 2008.

  1. RMThompson

    RMThompson the TPF moderators rock my world!

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    So as mentioned in another thread I have been out of work since March and really am interested in starting my own full time photography business. I would be able to do this and probably supplement the income with a part time job as well, but I need a little help getting started.

    A few years ago I met with the local Chamber of Commerce regarding an idea I had for a subshop/donut/coffee house. He helped me chart locations and was in the process of helping me build a business plan in order to have the Chamber back a Small Business Loan. I gave up the idea after the location I wanted sold (they put a Starbucks and Firehouse subs there, so I was on the right track!)

    I imagine that starting a photography business would be less expensive than a restaraunt, but I want to do it right. For now I wouldn't need a location as I have a home office and don't plan on doing studio work.

    So, what exactly would I need for costs? I've estimated a bare minimum of around $8,000 dollars to cover the cost of another (better?) body, another flash, a wireless trigger of sorts for some flashes with umbrellas, other equipment, insurance, some advertisement money and some money to get my awful website (www.rmtphotography) done the right way.

    If you're a self-owning business owner Id LOVE to get your thoughts as I feel like I am SEVERELY underestimating what I need.
     
  2. ksmattfish

    ksmattfish Now 100% DC - not as cool as I once was, but still

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    Unfortunately the gear is the cheap part. I found advertising to be the most expensive and difficult to figure out. I still haven't figured it out, and tend to rely a lot on word of mouth. Word of mouth works great now that I'm 5 years in and have had hundreds of clients, but at first it was pretty rough. There are many, many advertising options; almost all are really expensive, and most are useless! The trick is to figure out which ones to spend your money with.

    For instance in my town there are at least 4 different phone books. All of them charge an arm and a leg for a small listing. A phone book ad seems like a must have, but when I asked a number of local pro photographers if they thought phone book listings were worth it I was surprised to find that most said NO! They all agreed that while they got calls from the listing it rarely resulted in actual business. A good website that comes up on the first page of Google and Yahoo brings in much more business, and is usually cheaper than listing in multiple yellow pages. It may be different in your area, so I'd ask any pros you know if their phone book ads are worth it.

    There are also a million websites that want your money. Many do offer a free option for a reciprocal link. I go with that, and if I find clients saying that's how they find me then I upgrade to a paid listing. I've found that 99% of the websites I'm linked with bring me no business, and that if clients are finding me through another website other than my own it's often the same one over and over. But this can change. I've found it's not uncommon for the flow of clients to dry up through a particular site. I don't know if it's because the linked site lost it's high Google ranking or what, but it's important to ask people how they are finding you, and spend your money on the sites that are producing business.

    Networking is the best advertising. Having a live person say "So-n-so is a good photographer" is better than the fanciest ad you can buy. People will check you out from an ad; they will often decide to hire you without even checking you out based on a recommendation from someone they trust. I try to meet with all the artists, photographers, wedding and event vendors, etc... that I can, and participate in any related events. Volunteer work is often good for getting the word out.

    The hardest part is getting things rolling. I went "full time" years ago, but until recently it's always been a little scary worrying whether or not I'd get enough business every year to make a real living (I've got health insurance again, woo hoo!). It's always worked out in the end, but this has been the first year where I'm so busy that I'm actually turning down some business.
     
  3. henkelphoto

    henkelphoto TPF Noob!

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    First off, Good Luck!

    Second, I think you're underestimating your costs by a good bit, but it really depends on what type of photography you are setting out to do professionally.

    For instance, I am a photojournalist. While I work full time at a newspaper, if I were to go into freelance, all I'd be worried about equipment-wise is updating a few lenses and getting a D3 body. That alone would run me somewhere around $7k. I already have a servicable set of lights and a portable backdrop holder with a couple of backdrops.

    If you want to do studio photography there are a couple of things to think about.

    First is what is the possible conflict with running a business out of your home? If you live in an HOA, they probably won't let you at all, even if you don't live in an HOA, the city may have objection with your home business, lastly, your neighbors might not like having a bunch of strangers coming in and taking up street parking.

    As for equipment, a good set of studio lights will run you somewhere in the neighborhood of 2-4k, of course, you could start out with a nice cheap set for around 1k and then build up. Umbrellas, stands, boom, posing stool, backdrop stands and backdrops will also add up. I don't know current pricing on these items, but figure umbrellas will run $100 and up, stands (good ones) will run 100-150 (or more) each, a good boom will run 200-300, and backdrops run the gamut from about $50 to several hundred dollars. As for cameras, you can probably get away with a Nikon D80 or equivalent for studio work, and you'll need a wide zoom and standard lens, maybe a 100 for tight face shots. Of course, if you location photography, you'll need reflectors, maybe a battery-powered light system and a longer lens.

    As for advertising, I really have no clue since I work full-time for a company. But I'm sure it's expensive.

    Jerry
     
  4. SpeedTrap

    SpeedTrap TPF Noob!

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    I will have to agree with everything above.^^^^^^
    One of the most important thing is a good support system, if your wife/girlfriend or anyone else in your life do not support you to do this you need to re-consider starting your own company.
    You need to be strong and motivated, and those around you need to be twice as strong to keep you on track when you are ready to pack it all in.
     
  5. RMThompson

    RMThompson the TPF moderators rock my world!

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    No no, I certainly would not be doing studio work, and if/when I did it would be when I could afford a studio outside of my home.

    My local laws regulate I can run the business from home as long as less than 20% of client visits are at my home.

    My idea is more to be hired for weddings/events and commercial photography on location; restaruants, product manufacturers, etc.
     
  6. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    For weddings & portraits, I don't think you need to run out and buy all the latest & greatest equipment right away. Although if you get a loan, you could certainly make a good start.

    We tell the newbies, time and again, that it's not the equipment that makes a good photo...but the photographer. That being said, a good photographer usually knows to use good quality gear to help them get top quality results. A decent quality body would be nice, but a top quality lens will be your best investment.

    It's important to have backup equipment. I didn't start shooting weddings professionally until I could afford to have backup equipment that could get the job done if my primary equipment failed.

    After that, I think the issue will be getting work. As mentioned, some things work and some don't. There are countless ways to 'get your name out there' and it will probably take some time and a lot of hard work...but if you do a good job and treat your clients well...word of mouth can really help you to start the snowball effect.
     
  7. photo28

    photo28 TPF Noob!

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    I heard that Google AdWords is good for advertising your work, maybe you should look at that.
    I would start off with good equipment, not the best there is, and then over time upgrade. You dont need the greatest equipment in the world for wedding photos, just a good camera and lens, and photographer (you) that knows how to use them very well.
    Good Luck!
     
  8. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    I've heard from photographers who have had good results from Google Adwords...but also from some who have had bad luck. It seems that the key is to know how the system works and stay on top of it. You need to find an ad that works for you...look into it and learn about how the system works.

    Other people have used sites like Facebook to attract attention. You can advertise on Facebook as well.

    A lot of people put a lot of time/money/effort into SEO...search engine optimization. It can be really helpful if your site comes up at the top when they search for 'Photographer + your area'.

    And of course, having a great website will really help.
     
  9. photo28

    photo28 TPF Noob!

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    Definately, get something that is the easiest for you. As long as you know how to use it and keep updated your good.
    One of the most important things is tags, or key words. They will ask you to list 30 (depending on how much you bought, you can keep buying more tags, 40 tags, 50 tags, etc.) tags such as Wedding photography, wedding photography in New York City, Portraiture, etc. Tags correspond to what someone types into Google or yahoo, etc. If a site has "Nature Photography" as a tag, when someone types Nature Photgraphy on Google, the sites with that tag will list. So dont be too specific like wedding photography done by john Doe, becasue not many people will know to write your name in, but put wedding photography becasue you will get a wider amount of people. Writing wedding photography in Boston would also be more general and you will get a lot of people from your area. Make sure to put as many commonly typed in things as your tags. Do that by saying what would I type in Google if I want a family portait or picture: I would say family portaiture in Boston, so that could be one of your tags. you want to be less specific and get the most amount of people while still staying on topic.
    Hopefully this helps!
     
  10. RMThompson

    RMThompson the TPF moderators rock my world!

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    Thanks for the advice guys.

    Basically I've done some of this already. I AM somewhat established in my area, and I do get some clients via word of mouth. My main concern would be to get a loan for new equipment, and the proper permits/licenses and most importantly INSURANCE.

    As for equipment, the D50 isnt the BEST camera in the world but I love the damn thing. I would probably get a second body, even something like a D70s that I can use a Sb-800 in Commander mode on would work great, because then I would only need a SB-600 and stand to have a nice little wireless setup.

    So this is what Ive got right now, in addition to what Ive already got, anyone wanna add to the list?

    Extra Body
    SB-600
    stand for above with umbrella(s)
    Insurance
    Licenses/permits

    What am I forgetting?
     
  11. Mike_E

    Mike_E No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    RM, do yourself a huge favor and buy then read then reread this book.. [ame]http://www.amazon.com/Best-Business-Practices-Photographers-Harrington/dp/1598633155[/ame]

    I'm betting your last $100 bill that it will be worth it's weight in gold.

    BTW Best of Luck!!! :)
     
  12. mshervey

    mshervey TPF Noob!

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    I started my own business a couple of years ago. I publish a local monthly real estate magazine, sell, and market for it. Here's a few things I learned, or I believe made it "work".

    1. Have a solid business plan. Duh. I know. I hate obvious, analytical things like that too. But it'll save your a$$, and business. Have someone else look it over and C&C it. SOLID PLAN = BETTER ODDS OF SUCCESS

    2. Advertise! Have an advertising budget in mind? Double it. Spend it wisely, but spend it. I've been in advertising for 15 yrs. Barter to start out if you have to. Give a senior a free session if they bring in three other appointments, etc.

    3. Do NOT sell yourself, abilities, products, and services short. I cringe when I read of so many new photographers starting out, selling themselves short. Your time and talent are worth more than you think. People will pay for it, if you present it properly, and you will start out with a 'the quality photographer' reputation.

    4. Check out what your three major competitors charge. Do you want to be a bottom feeder and live off their scraps, or vise-versa? Use their prices, and up yours by 30%-50%. (I have three direct competitors in my market area, and my rates are double the cheapest. I'm known as the 'quality publication', the 'slick guide', and I treat my clients accordingly and it has paid off.)

    Remember, you're the Lexus of photographers in your market. Sure your client can go down the street and spend less on the Yugo, but they are not going to get...(this where you differtiate yourself with stuff that 'brands you' and differentiates you from the others). Stick to dealing with people that have more money then time rather than people with more time than money.

    Sorry for the long winded reply. I just really, really like it when people can make a dream come true.

    Good luck!
     

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