If you’re contemplating going professional with photography, there’s more than just gear that you need to invest in. You’ll notice that most of what we’ve discussed here hasn’t crossed your mind, and the costs can quickly mount up before you even start with your first paid assignment. So, make sure you have it all covered before you take the plunge.
Arguably the most important investment you’ll need to make, a website is your portfolio and the primary revenue-driving machine. Of course, you can host your images in social media or in a million other places, but there’s nothing like customization and owning your own space. That’s what professionals do to look “professional”.
Your investment in the website will include costs for storage, hosting, maintenance, and a whole lot of other nitty gritties. So, figure out what you need and plan for it.
#2. Accounting services
Going professional also means going commercial, which translates to taxes, registration, and legal expenses. Make it easy for yourself—hire an accountant.
#3. Business insurance
Based on your location (country), insurance is an essential investment that will cover liabilities and losses, as well as future heartaches. Not just for the business, but also for your equipment. Also, remember there’s no “one policy covers all” utopia, so factor in your specific needs when you decide on the perfect safeguard. Don’t fly blind.
#4. Computer and software
You’re going to be spending as much time, if not more, on the computer as you would with your camera. For editing, storing images, managing your online presence and portfolios, and so on.
Expenses can range from the computer itself to hard drives, calibration units, and software like Photoshop or Lightroom. Skimping on essentials can lead to disastrous results. Like the many stories we hear about photographers who store all their images in their computer, with no backup copies elsewhere—and eventually losing the pictures and their reputation to inevitable machinery breakdowns.
#5. Branding stationery
If you’re a professional photographer, you’re also a brand. Heck, that’s the only way to define commercial entities these days. As a brand, you need visiting cards, branded stationery for proposals, contracts and such, rate cards, and pretty much everything that acts as a “touchpoint” with prospects and customers— and lends character to your business.
#6. Marketing expenses
Your marketing expenses are determined by your channel of choice. That again depends on the kind of photography you do. Wedding photographers often find social media to be the most cost-efficient marketing channel. Speak to your peers, research extensively, and invest wisely. Your profit margins are primarily a function of your marketing expenses.
Industry connections and eventual referrals can help you grow as a business. Of course, it doesn’t have to be a paid membership to be part of exclusive photography communities, but often there are unspoken benefits that you may not know about. For example, Fearless Photographers is popular not just for its awards (mind-blowing ones at that!), but also for photography advice and business opportunities (by connecting you with potential customers).
A growing photographer needs nutrition. More training, more education. Workshops by established photographers give you sharper teeth to cut down barriers and grow as a photographer—and as a business eventually.