A photography business plan helps you assess the marketplace, define your niche, and determine how you'll acquire clients. It's your blueprint for success and growth. Here's what experienced photographers recommend including in yours.
Business plan basics
A photography business plan is a written document that maps out how you'll run your business and earn money from it. A typical business plan includes:
- Executive summary—a summary of the business plan
- Company description—the who, what, when, where, why of your business
- Products and services offered
- Target audience
- Market analysis
- Competitive analysis
- Operations and management
- Sales and marketing strategy
- Financial plan
If you need to apply for a business loan for equipment, studio rental, or other significant expenses, you'll need a full-blown, detailed document. Otherwise, a concise business plan will work just fine.
“I think what's more important than creating a comprehensive business plan is to get together a checklist of the critical pieces that you'll need to get started," Pete LaGregor, a professional photographer and practicing attorney, says.
Angela Goodhart, a photographer and author of "123 Launch It: How to Start a Photography Business When You Have No Money, No Time, and No Energy," adds, “I absolutely recommend a business plan, but for my target audience of busy, often overwhelmed multitasking moms, I recommend that the plan be quite simple."
The essential research
For an executive summary, Goodhart recommends starting with a mission statement. Hers kept her going when things got tough. “The mission statement is a combination of why you chose photography and your overarching goals, which may not all be revenue goals," she says.
In addition, researching your target audience, local market, and competitors is essential. This will allow you to:
- Identify opportunities or unmet needs that will influence your specialty
- Be clear on who is most likely to appreciate and pay for your services
- Create a sales model that includes pricing and photo packages
- Develop a marketing plan
Use this research to develop your firm's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. “This helps photographers figure out what makes them unique in their niche and why clients should book with them. It will also greatly inform the marketing plan," wedding photographer Emma Thurgood says.
Find a niche
Use what you learn about your local market with your photography skills and interests to zero in on a profitable niche or specialty. This is your product or services.
“Knowing right from the start that you are going to specialize in one or two genres will help to define the client archetypes for the business and develop a strategic marketing plan from there," Thurgood says.
Your niche will also help determine expenses for the financial plan section. For example, if you specialize in portraits and head shots, you'll need to budget for studio space. Common expenses for all niches usually include equipment, insurance, editing and contact management software, advertising, and website design and hosting.
“Most full-time photographers have upwards of $12,000 in nonclient-specific expenses alone," Thurgood says.
Develop a marketing strategy and system
A marketing plan, one of the most important elements of your photography business plan, outlines how you will attract customers and generate leads. Don't skip this step.
“Many photographers think that if they create beautiful images and put them online, the business will come to them automatically. It just doesn't work that way," LaGregor says.
“Posting in response to every 'in search of photographer' post in Facebook groups is a time-consuming and often fruitless way to gain clients. So is advertising really cheap fees for sessions repeatedly, since the clients you'll attract won't return for higher-paid sessions," Thurgood adds.
Once you've determined who is most likely to pay for your services—your ideal customer—identify where you'll find them online. Create accounts for your business on those social networks and share content that both attracts and engages your audience. In addition, find other businesses that serve that audience and propose partnerships. If you're a wedding photographer, for example, that might be florists, wedding planners, and venues.
Keep your business plan handy
Refer to your business plan regularly, especially when you're tempted to veer off in a new direction or spend money. It can be easy to lose sight of your original mission. “My business plan helped rein in my expenses and debt, because I could more easily pass on all of the very tempting workshops and gear, props, or backdrops that weren't aligned with my target clients," Goodhart says.
Find out more about Starting a Business