As business professionals in the photography industry, we love it when a plan comes together. We want you to not merely survive; we want you to thrive. “Where to begin?” you ask. Here, with our ten essentials for ultimate studio preparation for success. These items can mean the difference between business success and failure. So, pay attention, friends….we’ve got you.
1. A Business Plan
Where will you be in 6, 12, 18 months? No idea? You need to set goals if you want to experience success. Having a solid business plan in place not only keeps your business on track, it ensures your goals are both relevant and attainable. Your plan must be more than goals, though; it should share the necessary steps for implementation, your mission statement, branding words and timelines for success. Since reading up on business planning is important (and because reading is fundamental), we highly recommend this book. Resources like this makes this potentially daunting task much more fun and creative, but still with a solid outcome: a roadmap to success vis a vis your business plan.
2. Back up equipment
Picture this: you’re shooting a wedding ceremony when, all of a sudden, your camera completely conks out. You don't have time to troubleshoot, and you don't have a spare camera. Can you say panic attack? Worse yet, lawsuit? Avoid gear gaffes by preparing for disasters with back up equipment. We like to keep extras of the last version of camera bodies as back up when we upgrade to the new ones, but If you don’t have the funds to get two of each, buy a lesser (or used) version of your camera, lenses, flash, etc. Pack along an extra camera body, lenses, spare batteries and extra memory cards. It’s also a good idea that your main camera body have two card slots for memory card fails. Trust us…they will.
Reliable insurance is incredibly important when you own a business. To protect your finances, invest in quality business insurance which covers your livelihood as well as your equipment. A stolen bag filled with $5,000+ in camera gear could mean the end of your business in less than sixty seconds. Don’t know where to begin? Talk to your homeowners insurance agent, ask your local photography guild, or see if any of your industry affiliations offer insurance benefits. Here’s a good resource for understanding the various types of insurance for photographers.
4. A Solid Legal Contract
Help yourself help your clients by providing the most complete legal contract possible. Difficult situations, nightmare clients and communication issues invariably crop up (ask any photographer who’s been in business at least a year). These days, you need to be ready for anything at any time. Save yourself time, money, and hassle by providing clients with a bulletproof legal contract which includes easy-to-understand timelines, prices and "what to expect" policies. For maximum efficiency and safeguarding, Design Aglow offers different contracts for portrait and wedding photographers here and here.
5. The Elevator Pitch
An elevator pitch is an engaging 30-60 second summary which tells what you do and why you’re the right person for your client’s needs. It sounds simple, but condensing years of experience into a few, high impact sentences can be a challenge for even the most eloquent person. Start by writing down the best way to describe your field, sharing your relevant skills, work experiences and accomplishments with your ideal client. Most importantly, practice ensures your pitch will sound natural and not like an infomercial. “The purpose of the pitch isn’t necessarily to move others to adopt your idea, it’s to offer something so compelling it begins a conversation,” according to New York Times bestselling author, Daniel Pink.
6. Organizational Systems
Because keeping track of every client in your system is critical, a studio workflow system should be the foundation of your daily business. Having a set series of intentional steps for inquiries, session consultations and processing is the smart way to work less, and it ensures you’re productive, streamlined and 100% efficient. See how a smart studio workflow system and studio planner helps the most successful photographers plan and stay on track. (It feels great!)
7. A Point of Differentiation
What happens when you Google: Your Town Name + Photographer? It's no secret the photography industry is over-saturated. Still, it doesn’t pay to worry about the competition, so why not stand out instead? Providing something special means crafting your brand, marketing, and point of differentiation with care and intention. Offer a high-end, custom boutique experience which shows off your studio’s signature, high quality products clients can't find anywhere else. Finally, consider how companies like Neiman Marcus, Mercedes or Ritz Carlton position themselves as tops in their fields. They aren’t competing on price, are they?
8. Sample Products
Offer clients something that brings digital files to life in a physical way. Irresistible albums, wall galleries and museum canvas showpieces are items to enjoy and treasure for years to come, and selling is easy when you offer in-person ordering sessions (and customized recommendations) with samples of your most coveted products. Not sure where to get started? Get support every step of the way with Selling Without A Studio or a Studio Look Book. Remember: Anyone can give away the digital disk; not everyone can create valuable, memorable products.
9. Professional Website
Your website is often the first (or the last) impression potential clients get of you and your work. Ensure success by presenting a professional, easy-to-navigate website which shows off your portfolio, blog, client galleries and highlights why clients want you. We recommend the gorgeous, SEO ready and user-friendly photographer website templates by Prophoto, who set the industry standard in online presentation. Fully customizable and created just for photographers, Prophoto is an affordable solution to a professional, polished presence. See our favorite ProPhoto templates here.
Starting out and need a super simple, affordable and polished first site? Check out Squarespace and have your sleek and intuitive site up and running in just a few hours.
10. An experienced CPA
Want to squander your entire year's profit? Mess up your taxes. If we had a dollar for every time we’ve heard “I didn’t know I was supposed to budget more for April 15th,” we’d be even further ahead on next year’s tax payments. Sleep easier at night putting the right experts on your team. Garner a relationship with a knowledgeable and experienced Certified Public Accountant (CPA) who can save you money and time. Good CPAs can also show you where to reinvest your profits and where you can budget for the future. Ask the most successful business people you know for their recommendations, ask your local photography guild, or ask if any of your industry affiliations offer CPA services.
Feeling a little overwhelmed by information? First, take a deep breath. The good news is these easy, actionable items can be phased in if you’re already up and running. If you can only employ one action item at a time, and start prioritize according to what makes sense for you and your business model. Need more support? Subscribe to the Design Aglow VIP Newsletter to keep you up to date and motivated each week!
What tips have made all the difference in your business? We love to hear from you, and we might even feature you!
~By Design Aglow contributor, Jamie VanEaton