Whether you’re already a professional photographer or simply someone that aspires to be one someday, you probably already know that it takes money to make money. You’re not wrong either. Being willing to make a financial investment in what you do is a big part of what it means to be serious about your craft and ultimately earn a living at it, but how much is too much?
The fact of the matter is lots of photographers tend to overspend when it comes to growing as professionals. The following are just a few of the most common ways it happens. Which ones are you guilty of? Which ones could you see yourself becoming guilty of in the future?
- Camera Equipment
Even the greenest amateurs understand that they can’t expect to take professional quality photographs with just their cell phone or a throwaway instamatic camera. For that reason, investing in a really good camera just seems like common sense. However, it’s important to realize that “really good” doesn’t necessarily mean “prohibitively expensive”.
Although camera equipment companies would probably love it if you thought otherwise, you don’t need to sink your life savings into your camera equipment in order to take great pictures. Just invest in as much camera as you need to capture the images you’re after, focusing only on features and accessories that you can actually use.
- Expensive Websites
Here in the 21st century, professionals that don’t have websites are considered to be out of touch and tone deaf as far as how to run a business. Of course, no photographer wants to be seen as either of those things, especially by prospective clients, so they shell out a small fortune having a mega-expensive website built.
While it’s definitely important to have a website, it’s a common misconception that great websites have to break the bank. You can achieve perfectly awesome results by hiring a couple of talented freelancers to help you with graphics, web building, content writing, and so forth.
- Studio Space
It’s also common for would-be professional photographers to decide they need to rent some massive studio space if they’re serious about becoming successful. To begin with, ask yourself if that’s something you even need on any scale. Plenty of successful photographers simply run their businesses out of their homes or their existing office spaces, especially if they specialize in location shoots.
Should you decide a dedicated studio is a must for you, make sure you’re sensible about choosing your space. Size isn’t everything! Better to rent a smaller space that’s perfectly set up for everything you need to be able to do than to spend a fortune on a huge space that’s inefficient.
- Photography Conventions
Photography conventions can be a great way to make forward progress when it comes to your profession. To begin with, you pick up a lot of valuable knowledge. You also enjoy countless opportunities to network with others in your field. The downside is the cost, especially if you’re new to professional photography or are dealing with limited funds for any number of reasons.
If you’re really strapped for cash, consider limiting the number of conventions you attend. They’re beneficial, but they’re not a must. A couple of really great business books on concepts like sales, marketing, and client outreach can be just as helpful, if not more so.
- Scheduling Software
The busier you become as a professional photographer, the more important it becomes to have a good, reliable calendar system in place. You probably already know this. What you may not know is that you don’t have to spend a small fortune on software in order to keep your schedule in check, especially when you’re just starting out.
Try exploring free resources like Google Calendar first. You can create and color-code different calendars to make it easier to keep things straight. You can easily share any calendar you create as well, which is perfect if you’re trying to coordinate with other members of a team. No expensive price tag required!
Labor can easily be one of the most expensive costs associated with running a business. However, again, lots of professionals jump the gun here and start sinking money into this expense before they really even need to because they think it’s “just what you do”. Full-time in-house employees don’t just require monetary resources either. You also need a place to put them, benefits to offer them, and so forth.
Instead, consider hiring home-based freelancers to help you with various aspects of running your business on an “as needed” basis. You win because you’re never paying for more labor than you actually need at a given time. The people you hire win because they gain another great client. Outsourcing tasks you don’t absolutely need to do yourself is a great way to save yourself a lot of time and energy as well.
- Printed Brochures
Sleek, fancy printed promotional material is yet another thing nearly all professionals think they need, but could probably get along without. Sure, a glossy brochure looks professional and is fun to hand out to people that may be interested in your services. Such materials can also set your business back thousands of dollars. Plus, most of the people you give them to are just going to throw them away.
Instead of sinking a small fortune into printed promotional material, try exploring options that think outside the box and might actually set your business apart. Spend time blogging or building your social media presence. Actual business and marketing education is also a good idea, as it will teach you what really works when it comes to putting your business on the map.
At the end of the day, professional photography has a lot in common with any other industry. Making a success of what you’re doing is less about spending loads of money left and right, more about thinking smart and being resourceful in all the right ways.