Whether you’re starting a photography business or taking your current one to the next level, you need to know how to write a photography business plan. This will become your roadmap — stating your goals and outlining your plan to achieve and measure them. You can use it to monitor your professional progress, decide if changes need to be made to your setup and evaluate which new projects you want to take on. At the point you look for investors or business partners it will also play a key role in those discussions.

If you’re not sure how to write a photography business plan or you’re looking to improve how you’ve done it previously, we’ve broken the process down here into six key elements.

1. Executive summary

The executive summary serves as a business overview for your reader. Make it direct and succinct to draw the reader further into the business plan. It should be enticing but not over emotional. You’ll dive deeper into the fine detail later on, so use this space to talk big-picture about your photography business, focusing on the things you want people to really know about.

Things to include:

  • Your business’s name and location
  • A concise description of what it is and what it does
  • A short introduction to its management team
  • A punchy mission statement

2. Company description

You might have a clear vision for your business but you need to be able to communicate that to others — not only clients, financial backers too. A company description highlights the most important characteristics of your photography business. You can write emotively here as it’s a little more like an elevator pitch than a dry summary. As always though, stick to the most compelling information.

Things to include:

  • A brief summation of the points in your executive summary
  • Your company history — how the business came to be
  • A deep dive into your photography services — what you offer
  • Your objectives — where you’re trying to get to
  • Your vision — what things will look like when you get there

3. Market analysis

The market analysis uncovers specific nuances of the local industry and identifies trends vital to your success.

Things to include:

  • An overview of the market as a whole
  • A description of your photography specialism and where you fit into the wider industry
  • An overview of your target market, including their demographic and psychographic groups
  • A competitor analysis that identifies other photography businesses in your region

Competitor analysis

Your business plan should detail what other professional photographers work looks like within the market you want to serve. Look at both the geographical area you want to cover and the niche type of photography you’ll offer, such as wedding photography, studio shoots, commercial or Press. Professional photographers often travel widely for work.

Your business plan should evidence either:

  • enough customers and work to allow you to break into the market despite an established competitor already being there
  • how you’ll win customers from your competitors.

For each competitor, list what they offer, what they’re missing and how you’ll compete.

Consider:

  • Operating area (what geographic area they serve) – is the town or city you want to serve already saturated with similar businesses or is there a gap in the market?

  • Pricing – how does yours compare? If your prices are a lot higher, will customers be willing to pay? If yours are much lower, can you still be profitable? Show how and why.

  • Services – do your competitors offer everything you plan to? Do you have a unique selling point in terms of a service you offer, such as drone aerial pictures or instant prints? Have your competitors thought of something you haven’t and could you add that to your business plan?

SWOT analysis

From this section, create a SWOT analysis of your photography business:

  • Strengths.
    Outline your unique experience, knowledge, skills and professional network. You may also find strengths in things such as your location, if for example there are few competitors locally.

  • Weaknesses.
    What are your areas of vulnerability? This could include a lack of necessary equipment and staff support or a hard-to-shift price point that isn’t benefiting your business.

  • Opportunities.
    Identify your business goals and the industry opportunities within your area. Where is there a gap in the industry and do you have the skills and means to fill it?

  • Threats.
    Determine threats to your business, such as existing in a saturated market, competing with well-established businesses and dealing with various economic factors that affect your clients’ spending power. All of the available work being concentrated into a short period of time could be a threat too if you don’t have the staff to get around to it all, such as in the case of wedding photography where Saturdays may be very busy, for example, but weekdays generally quiet.

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4. Photography services

Here’s where to expand the description of your service offering. What experience do you have in certain niches and what impact do your location and facilities have on the services you can provide? Determine the photography equipment you have and the items you need, whether rented or owned.

5. Marketing plan

This section of the business plan outlines how you intend to promote and sell your services and products. Start by writing a positioning statement explaining how your business fulfills your target markets’ needs better than your competitors do.

Then consider how you’ll let customers know about you and make them want to buy or commission your photos.

You can pay for advertising via traditional media such as posters, leaflets and mailshots. Online, there’s a lot you can do for free with your own website and social media, for example.

Then you should cover:

  • Portfolio.
    Every photographer needs a hub of previous work for potential clients to see. One of the most professional and eye-catching ways to do this is through your own website. If you don’t have the coding skills, don’t worry — there are plenty of drag and drop e-commerce solutions that can yield beautiful results. Creating an online store could be an additional revenue stream to sell your photos more widely if the copyright remains with you and they’re not commissioned pictures that the customer holds the copyright to. You can create a free online store with Square. This may be particularly relevant for photographers who take artistic or landscape shots, though even wedding photographers may find that by making prints easily available to guests as well as the couple, sales can be enhanced.

  • Marketing programmes.
    Detail the ways you can develop your customer base and boost engagement with your brand. This might include building out an email marketing, referral or loyalty programme. As an expert selling their skills and knowledge, content marketing is an area you can make use of by starting a vlog, blog or podcast. You might also invest funds into paid ads across social media or Google. Clearly define who the audience is for each program, what your goal is, how you’ll measure the program’s success and what assets or budgets you need to get started.

  • Organic social media.
    Since so much on social media is visual, it should be one of the marketing channels you use. Build a social media strategy focusing on the platforms that make the most sense for your business, that is those that your target audience are using most.

Over time, you’ll need to build a strong following and create a network with other local vendors who can help boost awareness of your business. If you’re a wedding photographer for example, link up with local event planners, venues and florists.

And don’t forget that you can advertise on social networks too. Most provide sufficiently advanced targeting tools to ensure your message gets in front of the right people in the right locations.

6. Financial plan

Within the financial plan, a great deal of focus should be placed on startup costs. These costs represent everything you need to get your photography business off the ground, such as legal advice, website design, photography equipment and payment systems. You should project the total and timeline of these costs as accurately as you can before exploring funding options. Such options could include small business loans, grants and crowdfunding.

Next, complete a break-even analysis to determine how much revenue will be required to create a viable, long-term venture.

This will all help to inform your pricing strategy. The pricing strategy should address what makes your business viable and competitive in the market. Will you provide packages or will all pricing be à la carte? Will you charge by the day, per shot or by print and download? You also need to address how you plan to take payments from clients. Invoices are a common payment method for high value items in the photography industry, but you could also set yourself up to take payments in person and over the phone as well.

You should include any existing financial statements in this section as well, such as a balance sheet or business account statements. You may only have a few of these to begin with, but you should keep adding them over time. Long-term, they will help you create a cash flow analysis and monitor the financial wellbeing of your business.

The financial aspects of the business plan are some of the most important and also sometimes the trickiest. If you’re less familiar or simply not comfortable with the world of finances and accounting, it’s a great idea to reach out to a professional for advice. With your skills, you might be able to get discounted services in return for some free headshots.

Writing a business plan is a crucial step when you’re starting up. At the same time, try and see it as a working document that grows with you. As your photography business changes over time, as well as the space you work in, the business plan can be used to guide your growth.

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