How to Write a Photography Business Plan

Written by sharon mcelwee
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Writing business plans can be challenging, especially for artistic types. While it is impossible to know for sure what the future holds, a business plan for your photography business is an important road map to success.

Skill level:
Moderate

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Look up local resources to assist you in starting your business. Most counties usually have some sort of business development centre that offers free counselling and low-cost or free classes. If you don't know where to start, try the Small Business Administration website, a U.S. government agency that helps small business owners. Many of these centres have excellent resource libraries you can use for free to do your market research.

  2. 2

    Look at sample business plans and cruise the Internet for detailed instructions. If you are just starting out, you will not have a lot of the information that goes in a polished business plan, but this isn't crucial if you are not looking for financing. If you have been in business for a while, you will need to pull the last 2 years of financial statements if you are trying to get money to expand.

  3. 3

    Take a free class if available, and purchase a book such as "Business Plan in a Day" by Rhonda Abrams. Many libraries also have a collection of business books that you can check out for free.

  4. 4

    Make an appointment and talk to a counsellor about what you are trying to do. This is critical, since the counsellors are trained in finding holes in your plan. Although this may seem like asking for punishment, you need someone to help you see your liabilities and help you overcome those challenges.

  1. 1

    Turn back to your sample business plan and study its structure. Notice that there are plenty of charts and concrete language. The basic sections of a business plan are as follows: 1. Executive Summary 2. Company Description 3. Your Customers 4. The Competition 5. Marketing and Sales Plan 6. How You Do Business 7. Your Team 8. Future Goals and Exit Plan 9. Financial Statements

  2. 2

    Write your company description. Though the Executive Summary is the first section, it will be the last one you write. Your description should include your company's legal name and type of business, address and where you will be doing business. If you are going to be doing photography on location, make sure you mention that here. Next, list when you officially started doing business and any major milestones. If you are a relatively new company, major milestones may include the day you obtained your business license, first customer and first repeat customer, for example. Don't forget to include if your company is a start-up, expanding, stable or just an idea. Be sure to mention how your company has been funded so far, using hard data like actual dollar amounts and where the money came from (owner, loans, sales).

  3. 3

    Include in the company description a list of products and services and how they will meet your clients' needs. Also include any future plans here. This is just a basic outline, so only a few sentences or a simple chart is needed.

  4. 4

    Describe your industry in general. Check out data from any professional associations, as well as the U.S. Census online to find out how many photographers there are in your area, as well as projected growth. The Census website allows you to look at regional as well as national data.

  5. 5

    Look at your customers, also known as your target market. If you have just started out, you might want to keep these questions in mind and answer them as you go: 1. Where will your customers be? Are you working only in your city? How far are you willing to travel? 2. Are your customers businesses or the general public? If businesses, what types of businesses? Industries? Sales? Number of employees? Their business needs? If the general public, how old would they be? Income? Gender? Educated or not? What do they do for fun? 3. Why do your customers buy? 4. How do your customers see themselves? 5. How do they buy, online or in a store? How often and who in the family decides? These questions may seem impossible to figure out. The thing about photography is that it is called a reputation-based business, which means that you have to actually start working to see if there is a need for your services. Answer as many of these as you can and put aside the rest for later.

  1. 1

    Take a look at the competition. Start by listing the type of companies you will be up against and the strengths and weaknesses of both. Next, move on to the competition. Search for websites of photographers in your area and list as many strengths and weaknesses as you can figure out. Go to the malls and visit portrait studios, getting information on their prices and processes. Pose for some shots and buy the smallest package possible. After you leave, write down what you liked and didn't like about the experience.

  2. 2

    Write down everything you know about the competition. Make a separate list of all your competitors and order them by how strong they are, starting with the most competitive working down to the least. Write a short narrative explanation highlighting both strengths and weaknesses of all of them. This is another area that may be lacking until you really have been working a particular area for several months.

  3. 3

    List all the reasons why you are better than the competition.

  4. 4

    Take some time to think about how difficult it is to get into your business and write it all down. Also think about future trends and companies that may be a threat to your business. Get this all down, too.

  1. 1

    Write a message in fewer than 50 words of what you're about and how you want your customers to think of you.

  2. 2

    Come up with a catchy tag line.

  3. 3

    Decide how you are going to get the word out about your business. While a website is important, you will need someone to meet with customers face to face and bring them to you, as well as some form of print advertising. If you're not comfortable with face-to-face sales, you might want to look at hiring someone to do this. Describe how often you are going to do these things, and write down what your budget is for marketing.

  4. 4

    Take some time to explore other marketing methods such as distribution agreements (finding someone to sell your photos on T-shirts or cards, for example), finding an agent and partnering with other related businesses that don't directly compete, such as writers.

  5. 5

    Write down your sales team. Include how they are paid (commission or salary or both), if they are full-time, part-time or independent professionals. Also include their training and motivation (contests, etc).

  1. 1

    List where you operate from (studio, on location), your customer service policies and equipment. Include how this helps your business (low operating cost, socially responsible, more responsive to customer needs by being on-site). Be sure to address any current problems with your current operations (lack of equipment, home office not centrally located), how you are dealing with them and any potential future problems. If money is required to fix current problems, come up with a number.

  2. 2

    Introduce your business plan readers to your business team. List the names and qualifications of all key staff, even if it's just you. Be sure to include what positions you will be adding in the future if necessary, and list all the people who help you with your business. This can include your accountant, lawyer and counsellors at the small business centre (advisers).

  3. 3

    Make a list of goals for your company in the next year (sales, new staff, new products), 3 to 5 years and 10 years.

  4. 4

    Come up with the milestones you will need to mark your progress. This may include sales and profits, number of employees and/or locations. Tie a date to these. We all know you cannot predict the future, so these can be adjusted as necessary. List the steps you will take to reach those milestones.

  5. 5

    Take a look at potential risks. This could be anything from the rise of digital photography, economic conditions, cost of materials or losing suppliers. List all these as well as any plans for reducing them. Also, come up with an exit strategy. When you are done working, how will you cease to be your business? Will you sell the business, or simply close operations? This is not a huge concern if you do not have significant amount of money invested.

  1. 1

    Download Excel spreadsheets to calculate your financials from any number of websites. Save yourself the trouble of writing it out by hand.

  2. 2

    Keep the Executive Summary below two pages, and be sure to include a chart to show sales, gross profit and net profit for 3 years (5 if you are seeking investors). The Executive Summary is usually the only thing a bank or lender will read.

  3. 3

    Sit back and relax. Now you can get back to taking pictures!

Tips and warnings

  • Use concrete language.
  • Include lots of charts
  • Most of your competition and customer information is going to come from what's called primary market research. In other words, you need to go into business to see how well your photography will do.
  • If you print your plan on one side of the paper, add related graphics to all the facing pages.
  • Do not put headings in boldfaced type.
  • Make your most important sentence on each page stand out by making it bold.

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