Whether you want to start a photography business or take your current one to the next level, you need a business plan. A business plan is the roadmap for your business — it states your goals and outlines your plan to achieve them.
You can use this plan to monitor your progress and evaluate any changes or new projects you want to take on. Additionally, if you’re looking for investors or partners, a business plan is something you can show them to aid those discussions.
If you’ve never written a business plan — or if you need a refresh — here are the six elements you should include when creating a photography business plan.
Your executive summary should serve as a clear preview for your reader. This is where you define the objectives of your photography business and your mission statement. You can dive deeper into your clientele and target market later on, but you should use this space to talk big-picture about your specialty (weddings, portraiture, kids) and what sets your business apart.
Include the key components for the success of your business in this section, whether that’s the experience you provide during a shoot or how you market your business. Writing these down will help you implement them later on.
You may have a clear vision for your business, but you need to be able to communicate that to others, like clients and financial backers. A company description is written to highlight the most important points about your photography business.
First, decide on the business entity that best fits with your current business state by researching your business formation options. Talk with a lawyer or financial advisor to determine what structure is best for you: a limited liability company (LLC), general partnership, sole proprietorship, or another organization.
Then, determine where you want to do business. If you’re doing a lot of studio work, it might make sense to lease or buy a space. But if you primarily shoot events, a studio might not be necessary.
Your market analysis allows you to uncover specific nuances of the local industry and identify trends vital to your success. Your market analysis should include:
- A description of the photography industry or the specialty you plan to pursue — occasion-based photography (weddings, special events), portrait photography, commercial photography, etc. — and specific market segmentation
- An overview of your target market and demographics of the audience that will be most interested in your photography services
- A competitive analysis that identifies other photography businesses in your region
From this, create a SWOT analysis of your photography business:
- Strengths: Outline your experience, expert knowledge, unique skills, and professional network.
- Weaknesses: What are your areas of vulnerability? This could include a lack of necessary equipment, skills you need to improve, and a price point that is too high to be competitive or too low to support 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 that gap?
- Threats: Determine threats to your business, like a saturated market for your specialty, competitors with well-established businesses and the current economic state, which could determine if photography services are a luxury service, not a necessity.
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Expand on your service offerings, such as event photography, editorial, portraits, or commercial work. Include the location — whether it is on-site, in a personal studio, or rented studio space.
Also, determine the photography equipment needed for services, whether that be rental equipment, computer and editing software, printers, a leased space, or additional props for photoshoots.
Your marketing plan is a comprehensive examination of how to sell your photography. You’ll want to start by writing a positioning statement explaining how your business fills the consumers’ needs better than your competitors’ do.
Then you’ll want to make sure to cover:
Pricing strategy: Your pricing plan should address what makes your business viable and competitive in the market. Will you provide packages or will all pricing be à la carte? Or will you charge by the day, per shot, or by print or download? You’ll also want to address how to take payments from clients. Invoices are a common payment method in the photography industry, and using an invoice template can help you get paid quickly. Learn more about the nuances of photography invoices.
Portfolio: You need a home base, somewhere you can send prospective clients via marketing activities to show off your work. These days, the most efficient way to do that is to create a website. Make sure the design of your website is optimized to highlight images and that it is simple for customers to find your contact info.
Marketing programs: You’ll want to think of all the ways you can develop your customer base and boost engagement with your brand. This might include building out an email marketing program, referral program, or loyalty program. You may want to consider doing some content marketing (you could start a blog or podcast), or you might invest some funds into paid ads across social or search media.
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.
- Social media: Since so much of social media relies on visuals, it should be one of the marketing programs that you use. Build a social media strategy focusing on the platforms that make the most sense for your business (Instagram is a good place to start).
Then build a following and create a community with other local vendors. For example, if you’re a wedding photographer, link up with local event planners, venues, florists, etc.
And don’t forget that you can advertise on social networks as well. Most provide pretty solid targeting tools, so you can be sure your message will get in front of an audience in your area.
One of the most important components in your photography business plan is creating a solid financial plan, and a large part of that is startup costs. These costs include legal advice, website design, photography equipment, and technology — basically everything you need to get your business off the ground.
Estimate how much capital this will take and then explore your funding options, which could include sources like small business loans, grants, and crowdfunding. Next, complete a break-even analysis to help you determine how much money you need to make to cover your costs.
Later on, once you’re up and running, you might include other financial statements in this section — like a balance sheet, cash flow and income. These types of statements help you create a cash-flow analysis and monitor the financial well-being of your business.
If you’re less familiar with the world of finances and accounting, you might think about reaching out to a professional for advice. (You might even propose trading financial advice for some free headshots.)
Remember, writing a photography business plan is a crucial step when you start a business. But when it’s complete, don’t let it sit in a folder and collect dust. Your plan should be a living document that you update regularly to reflect the state of your business.