by Van Thompson, Demand Media
If you love the art and science of photography, a small photography business could be a dream job. To be a successful photographer you’ll need to do much more than take good pictures. Managing the business side of photography is just as important as capturing stellar images, and if you can’t manage your finances and your employees, your business won’t succeed.
Finances and Taxes
You’ll have to manage your finances carefully, and this may mean incorporating your business and setting up a checking account in the business’s name. You might also need to take out a small business loan to get the start-up capital you need. You have to pay taxes on everything you earn, and freelancers typically pay higher taxes because an employer is not contributing to Social Security and Medicare. Get an accountant to help you determine your effective tax rate, and set money aside for taxes.
If you plan to hire a staff, ensure you choose the most competent, friendly people you can find rather than simply erring on the side of cheap labor. An ornery receptionist can alienate your customers, and a mediocre back-up photographer can hurt your business. Establish contracts, clear payment agreements and a strong working rapport with your staff, but don’t be afraid to lead. You’ll need to ensure your staff lives up to its promises and be prepared to teach new staffers about the business.
No matter how good your photos are, you won’t get customers if no one knows about you. Good advertising is an important key for managing your business. Use advertising campaigns that target your demographic of choice. A wedding photographer, for example, might advertise on wedding blogs or near bridal stores. Search engine advertising, blogs, social networking and traditional print advertising can all help your business succeed.
Business etiquette can help you excel. No matter what happens, always remain professional. Never lose your temper with clients or express any hostility if you don’t get a contract. Business etiquette can also help you manage clients with unrealistic expectations. For example, if a client wants you to come to her house to help her set up the living room in preparation for a photography shoot, keeping professionalism in mind can guide your response. You might say something like, “I’d love to help you, but because this was not part of our original contract, I’ll need to charge my standard hourly rate, plus travel time.”
Depending upon where and what you photograph, you might need liability insurance. If, for example, you accidentally break something during a wedding, liability insurance will cover the damages, and some wedding venues require photographers to carry insurance. You’ll also need to develop standard contracts for your business. These contracts establish the terms under which you and your employees will work, and can protect you from customers who try to skip out on their payment obligations. A contract also sets clear expectations at the beginning of a relationship and can save you the stress of having to explain your policies repeatedly to your clients.