Preface – An Introduction to Starting Your Own Photography Business
A famously wealthy man once said:
“The depression was a blessing in disguise. It reduced the whole world to a new starting point that gives everyone a new opportunity“…very positive indeed! However, when starting your own business, you may hear things such as:
- “It’ll never work”
- “You are mad”
- “In this economy?”
- “You are better off with a nice safe job”
These are some of the things I have heard from various people throughout my working years whenever I talked about working for myself and I must admit, when I was younger, I listened. If I hadn’t listened and had followed my heart and instincts a lot sooner, I may have been a lot further towards my goals than I am today.
Don’t get me wrong, I am doing ok and loving it…not poor, not rich…well not so rich in monetary terms but rich in so many other ways. I love my work and I got to see both my kids being born, their first steps, first words and just about everything else in between and since. All by simply working from home and being my own boss.
Now there will be some people reading this that love their jobs and maybe just want to make an extra buck on the side and that is cool but I will write this as though I am addressing what I consider to be the majority (I may be wrong), i.e. the people wishing to go full time in their own business one day or break away from what they are currently doing.
However, if you are the former (happy where you are) please don’t let my ramblings put you off because also intertwined in this section/eBook/course are many ways in which you can make money with your camera albeit full or part time.
So why should you listen to me?
When I was studying business studies at college at the tender age of 17-20, I worked as an apprentice with a local professional photographer 1 day a week, and on Saturdays I worked as an assistant in a photo retailers. Both positions gave me a valuable insight into two different areas of the same industry…I was hooked and loving it.
As I progressed with the business studies, the last year’s syllabus meant we all had to run our own business for the year and guess what I chose?
I would shoot all the college events, get the photos developed (remember this was in the days of film, the only digital I knew was my wristwatch), put them in an album and pass it round the college selling prints for 50p each.
It worked really well. I went on to get a Triple “A” for my end of course assignment, the highest grade ever given at that college and, to my knowledge, still unbeaten today.
For reasons unbeknown to me, maybe it was the lack of guidance in the 1980’s or the fact that my father taught finance at the same college, I went on to work, office bound, in finance for 10 years in London.
Whilst I was in that/those jobs, I ran a part-time postcard/wedding photography business with two others. Whilst we had some success shooting portraits, pets and many weddings, some of which were fairly “high society” at venues such as Sandown Racecourse and English Stately Homes, it was never enough for three of us to go full time so it fizzled out after a few years.
During those long 10 years office bound, I always looked for a way out, something I could do for myself, I was prepared to work hard and filled every space of time I had with exploring other things.
That included trying companies like Amway (haven’t we all tried that?) and another multi level marketing company called Nu Skin and that one worked really well but was incredibly hard work.
(It was a legitimate business with great products and the idea was, and still is, a perfect way of marketing products…word of mouth. It just got a reputation from the people that abused the system with get rich quick schemes).
I would stand at Waterloo station underground at 5.30am every morning for 2 hours before work giving out my business flyers which I ordered in bulk loads of 10,000 at a time. I would wear a suit and be as polite as possible as I handed them to busy commuters.
Some evenings after work, I would spend 2-3 hours posting those same flyers through letterboxes, on car windscreens and anywhere I thought they may be read, as well as taking phone calls from “prospects”.
I worked out that from every 1,000 flyers given out, maybe 25 people would call, 10 would arrange to come and meet me at the Hampton Court hotel to watch my presentation, 4-6 would turn up and 1 would join my business.
Regardless of what people think of multi level marketing, the experience taught me more about people, sales, marketing, statistics and a positive attitude than 4 years of business college and gave me an incredible amount of confidence by placing me continuously out of my “comfort zone”.
(I even got “headhunted” by a director of Allied Dunbar in the city for “looking after his wife” so well! I turned him down…)
I had people in my “down line” working with me holding and taking presentations in Knightsbridge, London. I was training them to do exactly what I was doing and it was all going very well.
So well in fact that I had around 130 people in my down line, I was a gold executive and had started making a residual income plus I had made it into various journals and articles within the business. The only trouble is, the more I delved into the business and marketing/motivational aspects, the more I talked myself out of what I was doing and into more adventurous things.
I was so motivated by what I read and studied for the next couple of years that I eventually gave it up as well as my job, gave away or sold most of my possessions and headed off for Spain in search of something that I couldn’t quite put my finger on…the photography had taken a back seat at this point.
I was still so motivated that in my first job in Spain (property sales) I was asked during the training week what I wanted out of the position. I told the training manager “Your job”…he laughed. I made 4 huge sales in the first week, continued to do well and within 18 months I had his job!
Then I found digital photography…I was back!
DSLR’s had just been “born” at this point and I saw someone shooting at my workplace with the Nikon D1 with a 2.74mp sensor…I fell in love with photography all over again!
We moved to the mainland of Spain during the property boom in Andalucía and even though I ended up working as a property photographer with the Canon EOS D30 and EOS 10D, I couldn’t help but start up a small property company…after all I had clients being thrown at me by a happy, former client and I was in the thick of it.
Surviving the crash
Anyway, I rode that property boom for a couple of years and sold countless apartments and villas at ridiculous commissions until the crash started in 2006 which financially hurt a lot of people and one which we narrowly avoided. Luckily I had my passion for photography burning inside me.
About the same time as the property crash, another boom was blossoming on the coast where I lived… weddings in the sun!
I built a website and started promoting myself as a wedding photographer in ways I will explain later on during this course but what happened then was quite amazing.
At the time, there were only about 4 serious, professional photographers on the coast and there were literally hundreds of couples planning to get married over the next few years.
We cleaned up and it got so crazy that myself and a couple of other photographers were continuously throwing leads at each other that we couldn’t handle due to being fully booked…brilliant!
Inevitably, people cottoned on to this and many more “photographers” came out of the woodwork to join in the fun. Many were not photographers at all and just bought a camera and worked from the boot of their car shooting weddings (badly) for ridiculously low prices.
This diluted the industry and things fizzled out a bit but the savvy photographers kept going, promoting, re-inventing themselves and coming up with new angles to keep the business coming in…again, we will discuss this throughout the course.
All things comes to an end however, and as the property crash “sunk in” and the worldwide recession grew, people stopped getting married abroad quite as much and that is when we moved back to the UK to raise and school the kids. Even during hard times, I know of photographers thriving in Spain still…diversification is the key!
You need to continuously watch the market, follow trends and always be aware of what is happening around you because if you don’t, you will be left behind. Any opportunities that rear their head, grab them and work at it.
Whatever happens with the economy, good or bad, there are cherries to be picked and opportunities to make money if you just look hard enough and put your savvy business head on.
As a wise man called Jim Rohn once said, “Your income is related to your philosophy, NOT the economy. Don’t wait for the economy to change, change your philosophy”.
I have spent the past 10 years learning about marketing both on and offline and feel I am fairly qualified to help others…I just hope that comes through in the following pages.
I have learned a lot over the years and I hope that I can teach and motivate you enough to get you started on whatever route you wish to take and of course, if I can help in any way…well, that is why I wrote this book and built websites like All Things Photography.
Disclaimer: This book/section contains ideas, advice and facts about many aspects of running a photography business. Some come from working professionals, some come from governing bodies, some come from my own experiences and others from research.
Please use the advice at your own risk, use your own due diligence and if in any doubt when planning different stages of running your business, please seek professional and/or legal advice.
There are many topics covered in this book and for most sections, we cover just the basics which should be enough to get you started as each subject could be a separate book in its own right if we went into greater detail.
This is not just a section about how to make a quick buck in photography (although we do cover that). It is more about building the entire structure around running a successful business of any sort, but focussed on photography, and covers all facets of everyday life and how you can change to make it better.
Next Page – Getting Started