As a photographer, you have the vision and keen eye necessary to bring conceptual ideas to life. Now you’re embarking on perhaps your biggest project of all: Starting and growing your very own photography business.

You’ll be responsible for balancing the creative and entrepreneurial aspects of the job — in order to do your best work behind the camera, you need a solid business foundation supporting your company behind the scenes. These tips will help you set your small business up for success.

Finding Your Angles: What’s Your Brand Identity?

‘Photographer’ is a broad term. There are portrait photographers who conduct photoshoots in studios and adventure photographers who work out in the field. Some professionals cover events like weddings, parties, and concerts; others capture images of food and inanimate objects for commercial or editorial purposes. Some people take pictures of real estate and architecture almost exclusively. Others take lifestyle shots of people and animals. You get the picture.

Many niches exist within the industry. Instead of trying to offer a little bit of everything, narrow your scope of focus. Ask yourself: What brand identity do you want to achieve? Forging a reputation of being really good at one aspect of photography (or a few) will help you stand out from the pack.

Finding your angle will also help you understand your target clientele — whether that ends up being engaged couples or editors at print publications.

Anticipate Your Operating Costs

Budgeting is a major component of your overall business plan for being a photographer. Anticipating your operating costs ahead of time will help you stash away funds before you need them and set your prices accurately to offset expenses.

You know better than anyone how crucial your equipment is to the quality of your output. Having the right tools — cameras, lenses, laptop, editing software, printer, scanner, external hard drive, tripods, cases, memory storage, camera bag, lighting accessories and the like — is absolutely essential in your industry. You should also set aside money for repairs and replacements so you’re not left in the lurch if something breaks unexpectedly.

An itemized budget is the best way to map out your operating costs. You’ll have both fixed and variable expenses to track. A fixed cost is one that remains pretty much the same month over month, like the rent on your commercial studio space or your monthly software subscription fee. Variable costs are more unpredictable; you might spend $500 in travel one month and none the next.

A budget template will provide the flexibility you need to log both fixed and variable expenses over time. It’s also important to record every dollar you earn so you can compare your company’s income against expenditures.

Protect Your Photography Business

Anytime you’re working in a fast-paced industry with lots of moving parts, there’s an element of risk. So, do photographers need business insurance? The short answer is yes. The long answer is also yes — it’s advisable to carry a few different types coverage to protect against various threats.

Insuring Your Equipment

You’ve invested thousands of dollars in specialty equipment. Whether you work out of your home or rent a studio space, you still have plenty of property to protect. Property insurance will cover the value of your equipment and premises against many forms of theft and damage. Instead of having to pay out of pocket for major losses, you’ll file a claim for the value of the property affected.

Insuring Your Business Operations

As careful as you try to be, accidents can still happen at any time. General Liability insurance for photographers will protect your small business from shouldering the cost of liability in the case of bodily injury, property damage to others, and personal injury.

Here are examples of each type of liability covered under this form of business insurance for photographers:

  • Bodily Injury: Your client trips over a cable in your studio, taking a tumble that results in a visit to the emergency room. Suddenly they’re asking you to cover the cost of their medical care, time off work, and physical therapy.
  • Property Damage: A light stand falls over during a shoot in a client’s office, shattering a mid-century modern glass coffee table valued at thousands of dollars.
  • Personal/Advertising Injury: A competitor alleges the logo you’ve printed on all your promotional materials infringes on their copyright. Or another business accuses you of slandering their reputation to your customers.

Insuring Your Professional Services

Professional Liability insurance protects you from claims relating to the performance of your professional services, such as if a client threatens to sue because they’re unhappy with how their wedding photos turned out.

Insuring Your Work Vehicle

You’ll need to take out a commercial auto insurance policy to supplement your personal policy if you put miles on your vehicle for work.

Insuring Your Employees

You may need to cover assistants and junior photographers with a workers’ compensation policy. Look up the requirements in your state to learn more.

Even if your budget is tight, there are flexible options for business insurance today. Photographers can even purchase hourly or daily coverage through Thimble to protect against liability during photoshoots.

Show the World Your Chops

People can only hire you if they know your business exists and they like what they see. It’s time to bring some awareness to your skills and services.

Start by optimizing your business website so it’s both visually stunning and easy to use. Make sure visitors can get an immediate feel for your brand personality and portfolio. Then do the same for your social media pages — Facebook and Instagram especially. Turn these platforms into a hub for posting photo shoots, industry news, relevant content, and promotional offers. Invite website visitors to join your newsletter or mailing list, too.

Word-of-mouth marketing is huge for fledgling photography businesses. You may want to create a referral program for happy clients — if they send friends and family your way, both parties receive a discount off their next booking or even a freebie.

It’s also smart to ask all your clients to leave honest reviews on social media and Yelp. Why? Because people seek out social proof from other people when they’re deciding which companies to patronize. If people see that past clients have been impressed by your artistry and professionalism, they’ll be more likely to contact you.

Launching and growing a successful photography business goes beyond producing picture-perfect images. It requires a plan, a budget, a brand, savvy marketing, and business insurance. Explore flexible General Liability insurance options from Thimble!