As a photographer and creative business owner, you’re most likely an artist first, business owner last- or maybe not at all.
Most photographers I talk with say that they just want to take photos and not worry about all the other things. And I get that. You want to create, you want to be an artist. But unfortunately, it’s not the best photographer who books the most weddings, makes the most money or has the best business, or even works with the best people. Your business skills matter. If you’re struggling in your business, if you want to grow and improve, it’s (most likely) not about your photography skills, it’s not because your portfolio is too small. It’s because of all the things you don’t want to deal with.
I know that’s not what you want to hear, but if you want to keep being a photographer, especially without having to depend on a day job, you have to do a bit of business stuff as well. Preferably as soon as possible so you can free up as much time as possible going forward where you can focus on the fun, creative and artistic stuff that you love.
Now, This is the whole foundation of this podcast. I know so many extremely talented photographers who have ended up burnt out, exhausted from dealing with the wrong clients, not getting paid enough, and ending up quitting altogether, because their strategies aren’t in place.
I love the business side. The numbers, the strategies, plans, and processes, and I’ll do what I can do to give you a weekly dose of business insight. Some things you can implement right away and some mindset shifts as well.
Creative businesses aren’t like other businesses. Creatives are in it to create- more than to make money. It’s an outlet and it’s personal. That’s why you might struggle with things in a different way than other business owners. And it’s why the issues you have to deal with aren’t the same.
4 things you probably need to work on in your creative business:
1. A business needs to be profitable!
Chances are that you are undervaluing your offer. That you think no one will pay for this, or that you’re underselling it. For example, you’re not charging enough, or not doing enough to put it out into the world.
Not being profitable can also come from making the wrong investments. Like feeling the need to have more or better equipment, or a client wardrobe, or a studio or office, without actually considering if it will increase your profits or not. A lot of time, less is more. And you always have to think about how an investment will make you money before spending. Will it save you time? Or let you charge more for your services.
When it comes to the issue of money and profitability, it’s important to look at the actual figures. If not, chances are high that your feelings will cloud your decisions. Letting your feelings decide your prices or if you should chase down missing payments or invest in new dresses for your client’s closet might be what ultimately kills your business.
2. Your creative business needs you to ask for help
When you start your business there is A LOT you don’t know. And you don’t know what you don’t know. But buying knowledge, getting help from someone more seasoned, someone who DO know can help you get to where you want to go so much faster. You can figure out most things on your own, but it will take you a lot longer, and you’ll take a lot of costly detours on the way.
3. Stop doing too much at once
If you don’t have goals or a plan, it’s really hard to get anything done. Well, actually, you might DO a whole lot, and be very busy, but you might not be doing the things that will bring your business anywhere. A creative mind has A LOT of ideas. And you likely want to do it all. You want to be a wedding photographer, and set up a studio, and sell presets and do mini sessions, and at the same time, you make your own website and spend half your day on social media and get lost in trying new styles of editing and looking for models to build your portfolio. No wonder you’re busy. But, you don’t really need to be.
If you know what you want, you can focus your energy on that, instead of getting lost in all the different things. I bet so much of what you do is not really getting you anywhere. But don’t get me wrong – you can still do whatever fun and creative things you want, but if you do things in the order that makes the most sense, you can ensure that your business is profitable and moving forward first, and then spend whatever time you have left playing and creating.
When you don’t have a plan you probably also lack consistency, which can make your business come across as amateurish, both because one client isn’t getting the same professional experience as the next one and because of what you’re putting out into the world is all over the place.
4. Your confidence and your mindset.
I’ve heard countless times that “it’s really hard to be a photographer”. That it’s not possible to make a living from something you love. That you shouldn’t get paid for doing something you have as a hobby. And I bet you have too. And when you hear something like that a lot, you start to believe it. You start thinking: I don’t deserve to get paid for doing something I love doing. I need to charge very little so I’ll get booked. You might start to worry about putting your work out there for fear of what others might think. Your former co-workers, your family, and friends. Even other photographers. There are plenty of those who think it’s not possible too.
You might also suffer from imposter syndrome. Where you think you’re not good enough. That it’s just luck that you’ve even made it this far. Fears and thoughts like this play a huge part in why you’re holding yourself back and why your business might fail.
To sum it up the four things you need to work on are:
- Being profitable: Figure out what you need to charge, and cut your expenses.
- Asking for help: Invest in knowledge and save yourself from years of frustration and mistakes.
- Not doing too much at once: Decide what you want, and work towards that.
- Build your confidence: Talk yourself up, instead of down. Get to know other photographers and build your network, having friends who are like you really helps
The reason I know all this is that I’ve been there. I’ve struggled with the same things and made all the mistakes. And I don’t want that for you. By doing some small tweaks and getting awareness your creative business will be one of the ones that make it!
I know you want to create art and memories for people. That should definitely be your focus. But if you set up your business the right way now, you can save yourself from so much stress and heartache later on. By adding a little bit of strategy you can get paid what you need to for doing what you love. That will keep you in business for so much longer.
When I started out I didn’t know any other photographers. I didn’t know what I was doing at all, to be honest. That led to me making so many mistakes. And doing so many things in an unnecessarily complicated way. I’ve probably wasted many years as a photographer – meaning I could have gotten SO much further SO much faster if I hadn’t. But in a way, I’m very glad that I didn’t. Because now you can learn from my mistakes. I can be the person for you that I wish I’d known when I started out. Find me @ingvildkolnes over on Instagram and let me know what you want to learn more about. Of course, we’re going to cover everything we talked about today more in-depth in future episodes as well.
hi, i'm ingvild
This podcast is all about education and inspiration for photographers. A sustainable business is profitable and lasting. Instead of short-term wins you want to make sure you’re doing things that matter. Both to yourself, and to create the business you want. The goal of this podcast is that it will help you build and structure your business around your life, instead of the other way around.