5 Myths Beginning Business Mistakenly Believe
In the beginning, there’s always so much to learn. It’s no less true if you’re just starting out as a professional photographer. Some of those things can only be taught by experience. But other things, we hope you don’t have to learn by experience — as C.S. Lewis once noted, it’s a brutal teacher. I’ve complied five myths I commonly hear from beginning photographers you can avoid now without learning the hard way.
1. START OUT CHEAP. To get work, it’s assumed the best way to start out is far below competitor price points. How else are you going to get your name out there, right? While it’s true, you do get your name out there, but the problem is that it will get your name out there to people who want ridiculously low prices. That’s what everyone is doing and it’s not sustainable for anyone. If you ever raise your rates (which you’ll probably find you’ll need to soon), you’ll be starting your entire client base over.
Start here instead: learn your cost/profit ratios and charge accordingly.
2. CHARGING $100 AN HOUR MEANS YOU’RE MAKING $100 AN HOUR. If the shoot only took you two hours, and you charged $200, then you must be making $100 an hour. But that’s not a realistic time table. To complete the job, it takes more than just the shoot time — it’s the prep, travel, post-production, packaging/delivery time and client correspondence time. Also you need to consider your cost of goods verus your administrative costs. For most photographers charging $200 for a shoot, it boils down to less than miniman wage.
After all the expenses needed to maintain your business (COGS, vendors, website development, taxes, etc.), you’ll take home on average 20% of what your business brings in.
3. WEDDING/PORTRAIT PHOTOGRAPHY IS A FAMILY FRIENDLY BUSINESS. A lot of people think photography is a great way to work from home and take care of the kids. But the truth is it doesn’t leave a lot of room for your own family. You might not realize the full extent of what your business will take until you’re 3-5 years deep. Photographers work long hours during nights, weekends and holidays — the times other families are off and ask you to work. Every year I get several last minute calls from people asking if I’ll work Christmas Eve because everyone in their family is home for the holidays. Portrait & wedding photography can take a lot more from your family; be sure you know what you are prepared to sacrifice for it and what just isn’t worth the price.
Take a moment for yourself, take a walk, enjoy a good cup of coffee or a favorite drink. Ask yourself what does “your family” need? Set healthy boundaries for yourself and your family first.
4. BEING PUBLISHED IS FREE ADVERTISING. A lot of photographers get excited about “being published” in a magazine. Sure it’s exciting. But let’s be honest, if you look at the photo credits in a magazine, it’s because you are a photographer. Otherwise, just like everyone else, you wouldn’t read the fine print either. This gets complicated quick when magazines stop paying the photographers anything because the photographers believe it’s free advertising for them. The truth is it’s free advertising for the magazine. Photography doesn’t promote the creator (unless your logo is attached somehow), it promotes the subject, the product or story it’s associated with. Being published means very little if you aren’t be compensated for your work.
Don’t devalue your work just because other people do — find ways to build genuine exchanges value with magazines. Everyone wins when we build value. Everyone loses when we exploit it.
5. I’LL CHARGE MORE WHEN I’M HAPPY WITH MY WORK. When you start out, there will always be a feeling of insecurity and uncomforted in charging the rates you’ll need to survive. A lot of folks believe this subtle myth, ‘Someday I’ll be happy with the quality of my work and the idea of charging for it.’ But think about it. You’re an artist, when’s the last time you were happy with the quality of your work? You’re always growing and because of that there’s always a lingering dissatisfaction in what you’ve done yesterday — it keeps you producing something better next time. But it isn’t a reason to not get paid for the time, effort and heart you put into it.
If you charge accordingly to your businesses needs, you won’t need to worry about the quality of your work anymore — you’ll have the resources to deliver outstanding results you can be proud of.
Turning the Corner
If any of these myths has negatively affected you or someone you know, please know that you are not alone. This is the heart of why we developed FotoSeeds; we’ve seen too many people crash and burnout (sometimes taking their families with them). We’d much rather see a new culture of health and sustainability become the norm of our industry. That’s the #createsustainably dream.
Right now, we’re working towards that goal one relationship at a time with one-on-one growth coaching. You can learn more about growth coaching to find out if it would be a good fit for your business, and see what others say about their coaching experience.