Magazine Article


Keeping Your Photography Business Afloat
Top 10 Major Mistakes to Avoid

Photo of Food
Rick Souders

Photo of Food
Rick Souders

Photo of Food
Rick Souders

Photo of Food
Rick Souders

There are 10 major reasons why photographersí businesses fail. Letís start with number 10 and work our way to the top.

10) Servicing Your Clients

Many photographers forget that clients pay the bills. Service your clients, listen to their needs. Get the work done on time and deliver it professionally. Donít scribble on CDs, print labels. Package jobs in nice envelopes and remember the thank you cards. This sounds easy, but research shows that 60 percent of photographers arenít impressing clients with their delivery presentations.

9) Good Communication Skills

Number 9 is not using good communications skills. Itís amazing how important this tip is. Donít be argumentative with clients. Try not to say ďno,Ē but rather show them a better way or explain a better option. Make clients feel comfortable puts them at ease and theyíll call again.

8) Recreating Your Style

Not re-creating your style is mistake number 8. Many times, visual creators get stuck in a rut. We light, compose, and see the same way. There are dramatic trends in the imaging industry, as there are in fashion and architecture. Climb off your comfortable pedestal and try new techniques, angles, focus, etc. Not only will you grow as a photographer, youíll have fresh work to show clients.

7) Toys for Gain, Not for Vain

Number 7 is buying toys for gain and not for vain. Sometimes we want to own the newest, latest, coolest equipment. The fact is, these all should be looked at as tools. Rent equipment to try before buying. Make sure you will use the new toy. Have a plan for making it pay for itself. Sure itís nice to own new toys, but they can add up. Many photographers buy too much stuff and canít crawl out of debt fast enough.

6) IndecentProposals

Indecent proposals, problem number 6, sounds like a scandalous term, and it can be. You better get this one right. We are referring to your photography proposals. Make sure you ask all the right questions, get layouts, and price out vendors such as talent, assistants, etc., before you bid. If you canít account for all job costs, you have no idea how much money youíll be making or losing. Job estimates reflect directly on your professionalism and your approach to photography.

5) Staying on Topof Technology

Youíre halfway to a more successful photography business. Mistake number 5 is not researching your industry and staying on top of technology. In all aspects of business, technology plays a huge roll. In photography, with new digital technology, photographers have to grow and adapt. Learn about new technologies, software and business markets so you can make an educated decision whether it applies to your business specialty. In this age, ignorance and lack of willingness to learn will set you up for failure.

4) UnderstandingColor Management

O.K., the number 4 problem is not understanding color management. Yes, in additional to all the hats that photographers wear, we have stepped into the realm of prepress and printing. Photographers must take color management serious. Color calibrated monitors and printers are important. Having color-accurate digital files is an absolute must. If you are just taking pretty pictures and handing them over to your clients, stop everything and learn color management. Youíll be more valuable to your clients and youíll see better images as a result.

3) ExposingYourself

Exposing yourself, as it were, is one of the biggest, most important career steps you will take. Our number 3 tip simply means failing to advertise to gain exposure. People canít hire you if they havenít heard of you. Three of four photographers donít take marketing seriously. You must show your portfolio regularly; have an attractive, updated website; utilize marketing collateral, such as printed pieces. At least 10 percent of your budget should be for advertising. This includes portfolios, website development, and printed materials. Very few photographers are so famous that people flock to them with open wallets.

2) Knowing What One Day in Business Costs You

Number 2 is a simple, but often overlooked and fatal business mistake: not knowing what one day in business costs you. Take all your business expense categories, such as rent, phones, gas, equipment, office supplies, advertising, etc., and track these expenses for a period of three to six months. Break these costs down by the average number of business days in a month. This illustrates what one day in business costs you. If you havenít worked for three days and then get an assignment, your photography fee is not profit. It is covering your overhead for the other days. When you approach your business this way, you can always track earnings and adjust expenses.

1) Knowing What You Are Worth

And finally, the number 1 road to business failure: not knowing what you are worth. If you track expenses, stay on top of technology, advertise, and research the competition, youíll know the answer to this. You need integrity and standards to place a value on your creativity. People who donít know the value of their creativity tend to lower the standards of the industry. Negotiate price knowing what you are worth and what you need to run your business. Avoid these 10 mistakes, and you will be at the top of your game.