1. Business

Getting Your Business Started

Intro by Skip Cohen

Years ago at a workshop in Ohio, I heard Jerry Ghionis talk about running a business as an artist. I’m paraphrasing a little, but you’ll get the point.

The way we get started is all backward. We get our gear and start shooting, building our skill set and at the same time developing our creativity. We’re supposed to be artists and also run a business.

What we should be doing is starting out as second-shooters for a couple of years so we can learn the skills we need, get to know our gear and learn to be creative. Then, after two years we’d be ready to take on the challenge of a business. Instead, we take on everything at once – both learning to be an artist and running our companies. It’s so hard to do both.”

In this guest post from Lori Nordstrom, she’s connecting you to the Small Business Administration and reminding you of the importance of planning. Photographers are notorious for buying gear and then thinking “* poof * I’m a professional,” simply because they’re now charging for their services.

In scuba diving, there’s a great expression – “Plan your dive. Dive your plan.” Why? Because you’ve got limited air and not following a plan is going to get you in trouble. The deeper you go, the faster you use up the air in your tank. However, planning your depth, direction and talking with your dive buddy about what you want to see and do creates a dive that lets you enjoy the scuba experience safely.

Just like diving, you’ve got to plan all aspects of your business and nobody explains it better than one of my most favorite people in the industry, Lori Nordstrom!

I hear from so many photographers who are ready to go from “portfolio building” to get their business started, and even from established photographers who know they need to make changes in their business.  The decision has been made, and the question is, “Where do I even start?!”

There is so much to do – marketing, pricing, selling, workflow, business management and more… so what’s first?

Well, you’ve heard it before and I’ll say it again – “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”  Yes, now you’ve heard it one more time, it starts with a plan.  It astonishes me that we will plan a party, plan a trip, plan a date or a lunch with a friend, but we don’t plan for a profitable business!  Which is more important?

In early 2000 I decided to purchase a building for my first retail studio location. It was recommended to me through my bank that I go through the SBA (the US Small Business Administration) for my loan. The SBA required that I supply a business plan before they would consider working with me.  I have appreciated that (then dreaded) requirement so much over the years!

After writing that first plan in 2000, I have revised my plan yearly – asking myself: “What worked for me last year?” and “What can I improve on?”  I learned that a business plan is a living, breathing document.  It can and should change and evolve.  Just as a trip that you planned might change directions and even destinations, it never would have gotten the start without a plan to go.

Don’t let fear stop your planning.  A plan is just that – a plan.  It can be modified and adjusted as you go, so write a plan for your business and see what happens once you determine the direction that you’re heading.  Start there.