Introduction To Being In Business

Jeanne Griffiths shares some tips from her latest book that's billed as the essential business guide for photographers.

Posted 12/Mar/2012 - 2:29PM

This is an extract from The Bigger Picture: The Essential Business Guide for Photographers.

Begin In Business

Canon EOS 5D Mk IIIAs a freelance photographer, you may not consider yourself a business, but you are. It's that 90% business, 10% photography, so the more you know about the business side, the greater your control over it. You may think you can survive picking up a few commissions and selling a bit of stock, but it might not be enough to allow you to continue as a photographer. It certainly won't be the route to riches.

On many photographic forums and in interviews, even established photographers say they wish they had taken a business course or studied business books and websites early on in their careers. But it's never too late (or early) to learn. Business Link is closing its regional offices and help lines but still intends to offer advice via its website,, HMRC's website,, offers advice on tax and VAT. Banks also produce free guides for new / small businesses. There are also several small business websites for the UK as well as many detailed books.

Business Plans

It is often said that a business which fails to plan, plans to fail. A business plan can help you clarify your ambitions. It can help you determine where you want to be by when and how much you need to make to afford that sports car or even to just survive. Your plan needn't be complex nor is it set in stone but it is a useful exercise.

  1. You start with a summary, called and executive summary.
  2. Explain what your business is.
  3. Give your business entity (i.e. sole trader, partnership, or limited company) and how it will operate and who is involved.
  4. Include your skills (photographic, IT and business) and those of any others involved (assistants, companies to which you will outsource, such as accountants, agents, etc.)
  5. Briefly describe in which markets you will offer products and services.
  6. Outline your main competitors.
  7. Write a bit about where you will operate from (it might be your home, a shared office, a studio).
  8. Describe your financial and photo management systems and software.
  9. Sum up your capital costs (cameras, lights, computers etc.) and fixed outgoings – rent, rates, phone, broadband, insurance, travel (leave out any guess at expenses for commissioned jobs – you will hopefully be reimbursed these expenses by the client).
  10. Describe how you intend to reach your market – whether marketing yourself through a website, seeing people etc., or using an agent, working through a press agency, selling stock photos.
  11. Put an estimate of how much you will charge – your price list for commissions. If you intend to sell prints and / or products, add your price list and estimate sales.
  12. Then comes the fun bit. Estimate how much you think you may earn, your financial forecast, in sales in years 1 – 5. It should include your proposed fee structure for commissioned work. You can also estimate other future sales, such as stock photography sales.
  13. A one year, three year and even five year plan is a good idea.

If you want a loan for a business, to buy a studio lease / camera gear / car etc., a business plan is essential. Banks and funders will demand one. If you don't know the answers to these questions, make your best guess based on your research of markets or do more research. Making realistic estimates is one of the benefits of writing it in the first place. Review your plan after year one. You may be more or less successful than you hoped and may need to consider other fields of photography or related work, so adjust your plan.

The process of writing your plan will focus your mind on how your business needs to operate to give it the best chance of success. In the plan itself, you then go into greater detail for each section. If nothing else, it gets you researching potential markets and considering your prices.

Fortunately, help is at hand. Many banks, small business sites and Business Link offer guidance and often free downloadable templates for writing a business plan.

This is an extract from The Bigger Picture: The Essential Business Guide for Photographers.

About The Author

Jeanne Griffiths
Jeanne Griffiths is the author of The Bigger Picture - The Essential Business Guide For Photographers. The Bigger Picture is an interesting read which gives a comprehensive introduction to the photography business ( Take a look at FPME's review of the title here: The Bigger Picture Book Review).

The Bigger Picture: The Essential Business Guide for Photographers has an RRP of £12.99 and is available from Amazon: The Bigger Picture


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