Learn about the variables that go into pricing your work as a photographer.
- The challenge in starting any business, especially in photography, is how to make money. You're not going into the business to be a philanthropist, you're in the business because you want to produce revenue, you want to support your lifestyle, and you're expected to run a business effectively but a lot of times photographers don't have the background they need. Well I'm Skip Cohen and I've got a background in photography that goes back for the entire, well my entire adult life, or at least the time I was supposed to act like an adult. And I really want to give you some tips on things you should be doing to make sure that you're profitable, to make sure that your business runs the way you anticipated it would run when you first got started.
So let's talk a little bit about my background. I've been working with professional photographers since 1987, so that's almost 30 years of experience in understanding what things work, and what things didn't work over the years. I've co-authored six books on photography with some of the most talented artists. My section of every book has always been the business and marketing. So while the book may have been about a specific technique or style of photography, my sections and the part that I was mostly contributing to have always been business, marketing, paying attention to how you run your business.
In 2009, I was tired of living vicariously through all of my friends who were entrepreneurs and decided it was time to see if I could really walk the talk, and I started my own company. There's another piece of my background that's so relevant to so many of you. And I was afraid about starting my own business because I wasn't getting into it for it to be a charity event. The idea was that I wanted to build a business that would make money, to be able to pay the mortgage and not be eating macaroni and cheese or Ramen noodles every night.
In 2013 I founded SkipCohenUniversity which is again, new company, new concept. It's an online educational resource for professional photographers, primarily or aspiring professionals. Primarily talking about business and marketing, and then maybe 25% of the time there's a lot of great information there just to help you build your skill-set. I have a major pet peeve in this industry. That major pet peeve is photographers who don't pay attention to revenue.
And most of the time there's so many of them that have no idea whether or not they had a good year or a bad year, until they meet with their accountants before their taxes are due in April. Now this is also a great example of "Never leave Skip alone" with an iPad and any kind of software that's distortion, manipulation. And that's me on the right, but that's exactly how I feel every time I get into a discussion about photographers and their ability to make money. In fact, not too long ago I had a lunchtime conversation with Sarah Petty.
I'll be mentioning a lot of different photographers today, Sarah Petty is one you should Google. And Sarah and I were arguing about whether or not it was 95% or 99% of the photographers in this business that are just not good business people and have no idea whether or not they made any money until they meet with their accountant. So, let's get started and talk about three areas that we're going to cover in detail. First, it's so important for you to understand revenue. You need to pay attention to it. And whether you're interested in commercial photography, or wedding photography or portrait, children and family doesn't make any difference.
The point is, that in a class like this, there are only so many things that I can cover and I'm going to give you a lot of suggestions today that relate to making sure you're understanding revenue, but then you're going to have to do a little digging on your own within each specialty. The second thing I want to get into is defining your goals. You need to think through, what do you want out of this business? How much work are you willing to put in? Starting your own business takes a lot of discipline and takes a lot of attention to detail to make sure that you're doing all the things you can do to always be profitable.
And then the third thing I want to make sure we cover in terms of how you're going to get started, a lot of you have full-time day jobs now, and you're really chomping at the bit to become a full-time professional photographer. Well that's great, and that's an incredible aspiration to have, but there are also some benefits to possibly staying part-time, and you also don't want to make the jump to full-time until you're really ready and you know you've got a continuous stream of revenue. There's the quote that really describes everything in business today: "A business that doesn't make any profit "is a hobby".
And for most of you, photography up until now, has been a hobby. You love doing it, you have fun with it. Your family puts a camera in your hand at every particular event, you've got the responsibility to capture images of your family or vacation shots. But there's a big difference when you go from the passion you've got of just doing something as a hobby that's fun, to suddenly having that hobby be responsible for everything that supports your family, your lifestyle and all the things you want in life.
When it comes to talking about revenue and financing, I want to make sure all of you understand, one, it's not rocket science. And two, I'm not trying to turn you into accountants. For the most part, all of you are right-brain, creative types and accountants are left-brain, operational business marketing types. The point is, that you've got to respect both sides of the brain, and both areas of expertise. So as I go through all of this, we're going to be talking about points that you want to make sure you've covered with your accountant or your accountant is covering with you, so that as you start to build your business you're building the best foundation you possibly can for future success and building a continuous, reliable revenue stream.
- Understanding revenue
- Looking at target demographics
- Understanding your target audience
- Identifying your real costs
- Deciding which products and services to offer
- Pricing your products
- Working with key suppliers
- Controlling your costs