Photographers are artists. And artists do not always think of the practical side of their businesses.
But it is a mistake not to have a business plan for two reasons: 1) a business plan will keep you on track in terms of your long-term goals and your practices, and 2) it will be in place if you reach a point at which you want to scale up and need investment money or loans.
Before you begin to craft your business plan, there are several things you need to solidify in your own mind, so that you can put them in your plan.
- Establish Your Business GoalsYour goals may be general in nature. Do you want to work full-time as a photographer? What type of photography will you pursue? What are your income goals for 1-year, 5-years, 10 years? Do some research through the Department of Labor income statistics so that you set realistic income goals.
- Identify and Describe our CustomerA part of your business goal development will be establishing the clients you intend to serve. These may change over time, but identify them for your current intentions? Identify a demographic for your clients, including age range, location, income levels, and reasons for use of a professional photographer. Your client profile is important so that you can develop your marketing strategies in your business plan.
Creating the Business Plan
There are five basic parts to a business plan. One word of caution here. If you intend for others to read your plan at any point, then you need to be certain that your writing skills are excellent. If you have any doubts, it would be wise to have someone else write and/or edit it for you. While there are many templates and sample to be found online, yours will be uniquely written with your goals and plans in mind. It must reflect excellent grammar and composition. Having said that, here are the five parts with a brief description.
The Executive Summary
This is a piece of prose that will describe your photography business in general terms and will include the goals that you have developed. This section should also include:
- The legal structure
- The service you will provide
- You client demographic
You will need to do some research to complete this part of the plan. You will need to describe the industry in general as well as provide an outlook for its viability in the future. A lot of this information you can gather from the Small Business Administration.
- Describe the needs of your particular client demographic and how you will meet them.
- Present data on the size of your industry, particularly in your locale. What is the competition? How will your service be different in filling a need?
- What is the size of your client demographic?
- What percentage of your client demographic do you think you can gain?
- Marketing PlanThis section will describe all of the strategies you plan to use to market your service. Focus on how you plan to gain needed exposure and the advertising tactics you will use. This section will also need a realistic budget, so you will need to dig a bit for figures. Include in this section how you will initially attract clients and continue to secure new ones.
You will need to develop a budget, and you may want to use the services of an accountant to set up your budget plan. Certainly you should if you plan to use the plan to gain investors or a loan. Here are the major aspects:
- What are the fixed costs?
- What equipment and supplies will you purchase?
- What will be the cost of each “gig” you have? (average)
- Will you need to secure training?
- What is your initial investment and where are those funds coming from?
- What is your pricing plan?
- How will you support yourself until you become profitable? During slow periods?
There are many things to think about, and the budget must be both reasonable and well-organized. There are business budget templates you can use, but running it on a pro will be a good idea.
As your business grows, how will you plan for that growth? At what point will you need additional staff? Where will you find them? What will your organizational structure look like with additional staff added?
Remember, a business plan is, above all, a large piece of communication. It provides enough information so that a reader has a very clear picture of your niche, your clientele, your financials, and your marketing/growth plans. Should you submit your plan to an investor or financial institution, you must plan on a meeting with those prospects. At this point, your verbal communication skills will be critical. Investors and lenders want to see passion, realism, and a presenter who can market well.