Start with strategic thinking. As an entrepreneurial photographer, you should set the bar high. Not only as a businessperson but as an artist. Part of it is putting your studio in a location where people will seek you out. In order to write this eBook, I’ve sought out different photographers from different areas to speak with. The pattern was consistent how much location matters. The best thing to do is start by visiting local studios and by running web-searches on studios worldwide. First figure out which studios are most successful. Then study the location of each. Most people (if they can afford to) will open their business on either main-street, the business-distract or a location of high-visibility. While being in public sight is important to success, it will also have an effect on your bottom-line. Don’t be afraid to start out at a cheaper, less visible location; and, in order to make up for it, work hard on developing your reputation and with running promotions. Once you’ve established yourself, move to the pricier location. In the meantime you will have incurred not only less expense; but, in the case of debt, on outgoing interest rates. While the old adage that ‘money breeds money’ generally holds true, some of the biggest fortunes in the world were build on hard work and frugality. Take the example of the wealthiest man in the world, Warren Buffet, who got his start by running a paper route.
TIP Look at the pattern of the most successful millionaires in the world: None of them ever lost sight of their goal. In the case of the Entrepreneurial Photography: Never lose sight of your art!
In the process of building your business and developing your pricing structure, keep your eyes on operating profit. It tells you the percentage of sales that become profit. The operating profit excludes other expenses such as taxes. Because of this it gives an accurate picture of the profitability of your studio and an idea how to price your work. If there are reductions in this figure over time, you might need to reassess your pricing structure and/or find ways to reduce your operating expenses (such as by minimizing exposure).
On asking a businessman I know recently about how he’s fighting the recession, he stated that minimizing exposure was a key factor. “For those ready to jump, the money and opportunity will be there,” he stated. A high priced newspaper ad may yield a nice return in terms of traffic but it may also cause you to do more work for less profit once the price of the print run is deducted from operating profit. This doesn’t mean you should run off and hide because there’s a downturn, it means now is the time to hone your skills as a marketer and to find what works best. Read articles online by marketers and other photographers, keep a close eye on competition (i.e. what’s working for competitors and what isn’t), and keep things moving. Practice, keeping an eye on the market, and trial and error will build your skills as a marketer. Some of the best selling products and services aren’t those that are priced the most aggressively, not the best products nor are they the most original. They are the ones that are packaged and marketed the intelligently.
Above all- think big. Aim for 150% growth rather than 50%. Think for yourself and never give up in your art or your business.
Remember that marketing can be as important as the end product of your art. The difference in the entrepreneurial photographer and the conventional is that the entrepreneurial photographer knows how to balance business and art; promotion and marketing; props and portfolio. The difference comes from knowing how to make money with your work. The difference comes from knowing how to simultaneously push the boundaries of both your art and your business model.
As in any other business model, the following components are needed for success.
1.) Competitive Strategy
2.) Value Proposition
3.) Value Chain
4.) Revenue and Margin
5.) Competitive Margin
A key element in finding sustainability as an entrepreneur and photography is being able to weather- in the same was as we have storms, hurricanes, seasons, rainy and sunny days; and somewhere out of there- the end of the rainbow- economics cycles as they present itself. Try to go above and beyond ordinary strategic thinking and prepare business plans to use in different economic climates and focusing on different types of photography. Here are a couple starter plans to prepare for your business.