Hey there Miss Megan,
I promised I would send you some thoughts about starting a photography business. My last letter was about improving your skills and learning from advanced artisans.
That suggestion to intern with successful photographers?
That was a "two-fer".
Not only would you improve your artistic skills, you would also absorb a lot of information about what goes into sustaining a successful business. And, you might see "what not to do" while owning a creative business. I think it's a universal maxim that we learn more from the "what not to do" experiences in our lives!
My first suggestion may catch you off-guard. Yet, it really is the most important!
Check your mindset
You might think this is some sort of Sedona Woo-Woo, but it's really not. Your thoughts will influence every minute, of every day, that you are in business. Just as your thoughts influence every moment of your non-business life.
Who you are in your non-business life and what you think...are exactly the same in your business life.
Your thoughts about people will influence how you approach potential clients.
Your beliefs about what people "will pay" for your work will influence how those folks respond to you. Hint: You are not responsible for those people's spending decisions.
Your thoughts about your own self-worth will influence how you charge for your services.
Your personal definition of success (do you have a personal definition of success?) will either hound you to distraction or support you as you forge ahead. Whatever your personal definition of success is, or becomes, DON'T let it be an excuse to be a slacker. You can't own a sustainable business if you're lazy about what needs to be accomplished.
Recognize what you still need to learn...then learn it. A few business courses, maybe a sales course, a marketing course will be immensely helpful.
I tried it once and it didn't work...
"no one bought anything therefore, it's not worth doing again."
This is why you need to learn about sales and marketing. It takes at least 7 contacts with your name and your work before some one will buy from you. If you don't know this information, you will forget about building relationships with your potential clients. You will become discouraged and want to quit.
Relationships are so important. This is the point where having a website, an email list, a blog all come into play. You want to build a relationship with your potential client base. They want to hear from you.
You'll need to register your business with the state. You'll have to pay sales tax. You'll have to pay federal tax.
You and I both know artists/photographers who profess they are professionals yet are working "non-legal". First off, this is totally unethical behavior. You know I'm a maniac about unethical behavior. I lose respect for those persons.
Did you know it's a criminal offense not to remit sales tax to the state? The idea of trying to slide out of paying sales tax isn't worth the risk, is it?
Know your numbers...the money numbers
How do you know when you're ready to open your own business? Calculate your costs of doing business and your cost of goods sold. Your costs of doing business are those costs that have to be paid, regardless of whether you've sold items or not. All those things such as utilities, rents, equipment, insurance. It's a real eye opener to see how much money you must bring in every week just to keep the doors open, the lights on.
Your cost of goods sold is anything that goes out the door with your customer. This calculation includes your labor cost/hour for each image you make and sell.
Let's say your cost of doing business reveals you must generate a minimum of $1734 per week just to keep the doors open. Do you have that much money set aside in a special account to cover up to 6 months of that dollar amount?
If not, don't quit your day job just yet. Start building your business part time, gently, slowly. There is no reason to submit you and your family to huge amounts of financial stress.
It breaks my heart to hear from colleagues who have less than $20 in their account and have to find a way to feed their kids that evening. Yes...I have seen this scenario several times.
There is no shame in having a job while building your business. Indeed, it's probably the very smart thing to do.
It's hard work
Building a business and making it sustainable is hard work. Just as the construction worker in the opening image, you'll be climbing on to an open scaffold. Each day, you'll be pounding metaphoric nails and adding more structure. You will have days when you question your sanity, as well as your decisions.
Over time, with each new nail, each new stud, you will build something strong, something useful, something sustainable. You have to keep building with the final structure in mind. Make that structure something that will transform people, their thoughts, or their conditions. The world needs useful beauty.
There is so much more I need to tell you about starting a business, about finding a business mentor, about business relationships, about determining your target client, how to reach those potential clients.
I don't want to overwhelm you. Lord knows you'll have enough days feeling overwhelmed.
Just let me know how I can assist; what information you need to know at this moment.
I believe in the "on demand" model. Get the information you need at this moment, take the appropriate actions. Make sure it's working relatively smoothly, then move on to the next bit.
In the meantime...
Expect the best. Anything else is an adventure.
Hey - I'm Rebecca! I'm the owner of Rebecca LaChance Art & Photography. I'm a professional photographer in MD specializing in twilight images (until I decide to master another genre). Sometimes, I paint. Connect with me if you want info about business coaching for your art or photography business. Have any questions about something you read on my blog? Drop me a line in the comments below.
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