8 Tips for Your Photography Business Plan

Most of us didn’t have the luxury of going to business school, and with all of the day-to-day activities that it takes to launch, grow and keep a photo business afloat, it’s often difficult to step back and focus on strategy and the large scale plans that will help our business sustain growth rather than just tread water. But it’s arguable that this process is even more important when times are tough, and it’s critical if you’re just getting started and expect to generate real income from photography.

Seeing a talented photographer simply treading water with no business strategy is not a pretty sight. Developing a business plan will help you systematically think through a few key areas of your business. After all, the difference between a professional photographer and an amateur is rarely talent; it’s often hustle and business savvy.

When you pause for a moment to think critically about your photography from a business perspective, you’ll surprise yourself how creative, smart ideas emerge about how you can attract clients and generate more income in a sustainable way. Here are a few key strategies and concrete tips to help you grow your business this year:

Define your products and services

Will clients choose you because you stand out for a unique product (i.e. specialty prints and books) or because you deliver a unique service? Can you clearly articulate what it is that you offer and how you do it better than anyone else?

  • Tip #1: Think about your ideal target customer and how your product and service may ideally address their needs. Can you delight them with a product or service that blows away their expectations?
  • Tip #2: Create a list of the products and services you offer. Determine whether it is of sufficient size, and generates sufficient revenue per sale to cover your cost of doing business and turn a profit.

Create a marketing plan

When it comes to business the “if you build it, they will come” philosophy is just plain false. If you expect to see an increase in clients, you need to market your business to attract those clients. Your marketing plan outlines the activities and timing for when you’ll execute this program.

  • Tip #1: Create a list of current and future marketing activities and a rough estimate of time and money that you will expend on each.
  • Tip #2: Prioritizing the right mix of marketing activities is tough, and will require testing over time. You’ll be able to pick the winners and drop the losers if you focus in on ROI (return on investment). Calculate the payoff in dollars that each initiative will bring in, vs. the time and money needed to execute them. Plan campaigns around high ROI projects.

Build your SEO

Search engine optimization – the art of improving your website to attract visitors via the major search engines – is increasingly the most effective way to attract prospects and generate new business. Your prospects are using search engines to find services like yours. So, when you rank high in search results, you’re being placed directly in their path at a moment when they specifically need you.

  • Tip #1: Create a keyword “hitlist” of 20-50 words that you want your website to rank for – words that your prospects are likely to search for. (e.g. “Model headshots in Houston”)
  • Tip #2: Check these words against Google’s Keyword Tool to determine whether they have appreciable search volume. Modify your list accordingly.

Follow up with old clients

There’s a very detrimental yet human habit that many of us commonly face. Following a project, we often neglect to follow up with our old clients. However, they can be a great source of new work, feedback for improvement, and even referrals.

  • Tip #1: Make a list of the clients you’ve worked with in the past 3 years. If you don’t have their direct contact information, use a social network like LinkedIn to reconnect. Keeping tabs via LinkedIn is a great way to know when old clients start new jobs (and ahem, may need new photography).
  • Tip #2: Consider either sending old clients a portfolio update or even asking for feedback on the prior project. Remind them if necessary of how you worked together, share a link to your website, and make sure they know you’re available for new work.

For more information, PhotoShelter’s 2012 Photo Business Plan Workbook is a free downloadable guide that covers key strategies on how to determine your audience and addressable market, fix your finances, build your social media presence, and tune up your website.

By Allen Murabayashi, PhotoShelter CEO


PhotoShelter is the worldwide leader in photography portfolio websites, photo sales, marketing and archiving tools for photographers.

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