If you want to make money with your photography business, the easiest way to start is by saving money on expenses. Cutting back on spending may not be glamorous (actually, it definitely isn’t), but saving money means a fat paycheck at the end of the day for you – the business owner, and that’s pretty fantastic in my book. So if you’re ready to start treating your photography business like an income producing machine, read on to find ways to minimize what comes out of your pocket.
Stay Out Of Debt
Avoid debt like the plague. Both personal debt and business debt make interest work against you, when you should be using it to your benefit. If you can’t see any way to avoid going in debt, you may have started your business too soon. There are definitely advantages to being a part time photographer, and staying out of debt is a big one. It’s not impossible to run a studio with debt, but it definitely stacks the cards against your success.
Network Before Advertising
Advertising is expensive. It’s not only expensive in terms of running a few commercials, it’s expensive in the return you get on your investment. If you haven’t read Guerrilla Marketing, you can stop thinking about saving money for just a minute and spend $10 for a wealth of great information. One of the points the book brings up is how many times a regular consumer has to be exposed to an advertisement before the message sinks in. I don’t want to spoil the book for you, but I’m going to let you in on one of the secrets in the book – the number of exposures before purchase is pretty high. Directly talking to potential customers and referral sources is free, and it’s usually more effective than mass marketing. Networking usually has a much higher return on investment than throwing money at the media.
Create Your Own Website
If you have some talent and time, but you’re low on cash, make your own website. Even if you’ve got no talent in web design, there are quite a few free or low-cost templates out there. I do need to let you know though, that as soon as you start to book sessions and bring in money, I’d definitely look into having a professional design your website. I’ve got a buddy who runs his own web design company, and I’d recommend that you put him at the top of your list when you start looking around for a web designer.
Do Your Own SEO
I know, I’m throwing acronyms around like it ain’t nobody’s business. SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization, and it means getting your website to show up higher in the search results for Google. We get probably close to 1/3 of our new business from search engines, so it’s definitely worth the effort. You can expect articles on SEO for photographers in future blog content, so subscribe now to make sure you don’t miss anything.
Don’t Rent Retail Space
Getting a retail studio doesn’t mean that you’re going to be a more legitimate photographer. It just means you’re going to be scraping by at the end of the month. Not only do you have to pay for rent, you have to pay for additional utilities, upkeep, etc. I know a home studio isn’t an option for everyone because of zoning restrictions and limitations of your location, but if it’s doable, it will save you big money. You may be hesitant to try a home studio, but if you’re going to save a few thousand dollars a month by avoiding retail, I’d say it’s definitely worth a shot.
An alternative to having your studio based out of your home is to shoot on-location. If you decide to go this route, don’t think of your on-location shooting choice as a limitation. Sell it as a benefit – ie we want to make our photography as convenient for you as possible, so we’ll meet you at your home or at a place you’re familiar with. Plus, you can do some pretty amazing locations that retail studios don’t get to do much because they’re usually tied down to one location.
Hold Off On Big Purchases
If you don’t absolutely need to purchase big-ticket items, wait until you have the need. I’m not talking about bad planning. Obviously you can’t shoot a wedding without a camera and lenses. You can, however, shoot a wedding without a prime lens for every focal length. If you’re just starting out, you won’t need all the same software as a big studio. Find free or low-cost alternatives to start out. I remember we started out with the calendar and financial software built in to our phone until we got too busy for this to be practical. I wish we had known about Studio Cloud’s Free Studio Management Software, but we didn’t at the time.
Hire Professionals When Needed
Sometimes, saving money is really throwing money away. I know for the first few years we were in business, I did our taxes on my own. Who needs accountants anyway? After we finally broke down and got an accountant to do our taxes one year, I found out that skipping an accountant isn’t always the best move. We missed out on big deductions when I did our taxes myself. In fact, we would have come out with more money in the end even after hiring an accountant. Ok, so I’m not such a genius, but that’s not news to you anyway. Also, don’t forget about lawyers. They may charge a few hundred dollars on the front end, but they could be saving you thousands of dollars and headaches in the long run.
Don’t Hire Employees
I think we all wish we had employees to do the work we’d rather not do for our business. Unfortunately, if you do decide to get a full-time employee, you’re probably going to waive goodbye to 100K after salary, healthcare, taxes, etc. If you’ve got the work to justify the employee, by all means, bring somebody on. If you can handle the work on your own, though, I’d definitely recommend holding out for as long as you can.
Doesn’t joining PPA cost money? Yep, yearly membership dues. So how can you save money by joining PPA? They’ve got partnering businesses that give amazing discounts to members. The Office Depot discount is one of my favorite. I’m pretty sure the discounts we get at Office Depot alone pays for our PPA membership. Plus, PPA gives plenty of educational material if you’re willing to invest the time to learn.
So I’m sure that for every suggestion I have, there will be photographers with differing opinions. I’ve got no problem with that – in fact, I’d love to hear from you, so please leave a comment. Even with all the different opinions on how to save money, I think most seasoned photography business owners agree that the bottom line for saving money is that we have to look for ways to practice delayed gratification and to carefully watch where the money is going.
Did I miss any big money-saving techniques that you use? Have you found that saving money has made a big difference for your studio’s bottom line?