Start a Photography Business on a Budget - Chelsy Weisz

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Hello! I' wedding photographer and educator in western North Dakota.  I am so thrilled to see you here on the blog!  Grab some coffee and dig into some wedding planning tips, business hacks, our farmhouse renovations, as well as  some behind the scenes at #chelsywieszphotography

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Start a Photography Business on a Budget

Starting a photography business can be expensive when you really start to look at the cost of things like equipment, advertising, and education.  It’s crazy how fast things can add up, $12 monthly subscription here, new lens there, oh, and you probably need some new props right.  Before you know it, you’ve spent more money then you made this month, which is not the point of a business right! We go into business to make money, not lose money, yet I often hear about photographers who are losing money on their business. That is no good, my friend!  In this episode, I’ll share the top ways you can start a photography business on a budget, so you can feel savvy and confident that you are being responsible, and get your business up and running now! 

We have all heard the phrase you have to spend money to make money.  While that is partially true, it doesn’t mean you have to spend all your money! Today I’m sharing the top 5 categories where you can save money and share with you the things that have made the most bang for my buck as I started my photography business. 

Learning

So let’s start with Learning. One of my favorite things about photography is there is so much to learn.  New techniques, best business practices, and ways of controlling light and your education inside the photography world are never truly finished.  You will always be growing and learning as a business owner and artist. That’s a good thing in life if we are not growing, we are dying, and the same is true for your business.  Eventually, you are going to pay for your education.  That is where I spend the majority of the money I reinvest in my business these days.

eventually you will invest

By investing in online courses and workshops, you are saving yourself a lot of time.  Because all the information you are looking to learn is ready and waiting for you in one spot, instead of bootstrapping your education and piecing together things from places all over the web. 

free education for photographer

  However, there are some fantastic free education resources out there, it just takes some time and dedication to find them and squeezing all the excellent knowledge you can out.  First off if you haven’t already subscribed to The Wise Photographer Podcast scoot over to your favorite podcasting platform and click that subscribe button The next place I suggest checking out is CreativeLive.  On CreativeLive you can watch classes live for free, and then you have the option of purchasing them to rewatch them after, over and over.  They also offer a monthly and annual pass that gains you access to over 15,000 online classes, which is a pretty amazing deal.  

YouTube is another excellent spot to find information and tutorials on all types of content. My biggest advice for YouTube is if one video isn’t making sense to you try the next, sometimes you might not get someone’s teaching style, and that’s okay; just move on to the next.  

Where you will learn the most for free!

However, the number one thing that is going to teach you the most and is absolutely free is practice.  Practice learning your camera. To be a photographer I truly believe you need to be able to shoot in manual.  Digital cameras are free to practice on too compared to film cameras since you don’t need to pay to develop your film rolls. So practice away.  If you are just starting to learn manual, I created a free camera settings cheat sheet you can print off and take with you on your next practice shoot.  You can find it in the link below, or by heading to thewisephotographerpodcast.com 

Equipment and props 

When it comes to equipment, please understand that the top of the line cameras are something you work towards, not something you need from the get-go.  I personally shot my first two years of my business on a Nikon D5100  I learned everything I could about that camera.  Then I upgraded to a used Nikon D3s.  Purchasing used gear is a great way to work your way up. When I started shooting weddings, I didn’t have two cameras.  Because the last thing you want to happen on a wedding day is for your camera to break or malfunction and not have some type of a backup camera, so I actually would rent a second camera body making sure to include that in the price of the wedding.  This let me try out different camera bodies to decide what I wanted to upgrade to.  I live in the middle of nowhere, North Dakota, so I used lensprotogo.com to rent gear. 

sourcing props for your shoot

When it comes to props, they can add up fast.  The first place I always look when I need some type of prop is my house.  Shopping your own home is a great way to save money on photography props.  A white sheet can be used as a diffuser for a window or used to bounce light. A white poster board also makes a great reflector and only costs a couple of bucks! Eventually, you will be able to reinvest in props for your business but always shop your house first! 

Marketing + online presence 

Alright, let’s chat about marketing and your online presence.  When it comes to your website, I highly suggest using WordPress.  With WordPress, you will have the cost of your domain and hosting.  WordPress is the most used and trusted platform for blogging.  You can find WordPress site templates at almost any price point.  I use Showit for my site design, which integrates with WordPress. Showit is a great platform and is extremely easy to drag and drop to create beautiful websites, but it’s pretty spendy right out of the gate. 

email marketing

When it comes to email marketing, my favorite company hands down is Flodesk.  Flodesk makes it incredibly easy to create branded emails on a budget.  They have a ton of pre-designed and pre-written emails to help get your creative juices flowing.  Their emails are easy to customize with your brand colors and fonts.  You can create workflows, welcome sequence, and so much more.  Flodesk is Best of all its all included in one flat fee of just $38 a month.  No getting penalized for growing your list or sending more emails. I’ve got something super exciting for you too, Flodesk is giving listeners of the wise photographer podcast 50% off their first year. Yep, you can get Flodesk for less than $20 a month with code WISEPHOTOGRAPHER.  Or You can head to the show notes below for a direct link! What’s even better is you get to try Flodesk for free for 30 days.  You don’t even need to put in a credit card!  Remember the code is WISEPHOTOGRAPHER to get 50% off after your free trial 

Graphic Design tools on a budget

Now that we have you looking like a professional email marketer, its time to make sure the rest of your graphics look just as swell! That’s where my favorite and free design tool comes in! Canva.  If you haven’t checked out Canva yet, you are missing out.  Canva has replaced photoshop when it comes to design work for me.  I can create graphics, Instagram quotes, marketing pieces for Facebook, pins for Pinterest, and my website all from Canva.  I love that it’s all stored online so I can access all my designs and templates from any computer with internet access. 

Leveraging social media

Speaking of social media.  Social media is the number one spot to market your business for free!  You can use native scheduling tools inside Facebook to batch your work.  Just remember you don’t have to be everywhere.  Pick one or two platforms and rock them.  Get consistent at showing up, and your audience will grow! 

Eventually, you may want to invest in tools like Tailwind or Plann to get more strategic on your marketing plan, but when you are just starting out just focus on using the scheduling tools already built into the platform of your choice. 

Gaining experience 

When it comes to gaining experience and building your portfolio, personal projects are a great way to get started.  A personal project is something you are doing for yourself and your business; no one is paying you.  If you are looking at planning a styled shoot or portfolio building shoot head back to episode 29 where we walked through the process from start to finish. 

Once you start booking clients 

So business is starting to pick up, emails are coming in, and the phone is starting to ring.  Now it’s time to start investing in things that will help your workflow and ensure you are providing your clients with a consistent and efficient experience.  The first thing I suggest investing in at this point is some type of client management software.  I personally use HoneyBook.  It’s effortless to use and navigate.  It also looks great since you can customize your client portal to reflect you and your brand.  HoneyBook stores all your contract templates gives you the ability to send questionnaires to your clients, keeps all your emails, invoices, and notes in one place.  They have an easy to use app that even notifies you when you receive payments! Honeybook is giving listeners to The Wise Photographer Podcast 50% off just head to honeybookwithchelsy.com to receive your 50% off discount! 

Legal Things

Once you start getting people wanting to book a session with you, you will want to invest in contract templates.  ShopCreativeLaw.com is my go-to spot for all things legal.  You want to ensure you are keeping yourself and your clients protected legally; that is why it is so important to have every client sign a contract.  It’s also going to make you look legit to your clients because you are! 

Welcome Packet

The final thing you will want to invest in is some type of welcome packet for your clients.  A welcome packet will clearly explain your policies, what your clients can do to prepare for their session, and what to expect during the session.  It also is a place to let them know how things will go down after the session. You can include things like what to wear tips and tricks, how you will chat with their kids for a bit to get them to warm up to you before you pull out a big camera and stick it in their face.  

The goal of the welcome packet is to help prepare your session to work with you and answer any questions they might have before they even ask. A welcome packet can be as elaborate as you would like.  It’s a great way to reaffirm your clients made a great decision by deciding to work with you.  

digital welcome packets are a must and only cost is the first investment

Welcome packets can be printed in a magazine. It can even be made up of multiple separate cards inside a nice folder. Or they can be digital.  To save money, I highly suggest going digital right away.  You can use Canva to create your own, or you can check out the welcome packet designs at ChelsyWeiszShop.com. The beauty in digital welcome packets is you can change things as often as you need. This means you can update images or change wording, and it won’t cost you to reprint anything.  You can store your PDF on google drive or as an attachment to an email and just email it over as soon as your client has signed their contract and paid their deposit.  

Once you start raising your pricing, you may want to consider going with a printed welcome packet or welcome magazine. But for now, there is no excuse not to do a digital one. 

Wow, guys, that was a lot! It’s easy to get overwhelmed when it comes to starting a photography business. There is so much to do.  That’s why I created a simple little checklist with the 12 things you must have to start a photography business.  Grab your copy of the checklist, head to the show notes below. Thank you so much for tuning into this episode. I hope you feel armed with some savvy tips on starting a photography business on a budget.  That’s it, for now, I’ll see you guys in the next episode! 

I'm chelsy

hello!

I'm Chelsy a small town farmwife from western North Dakota. I built an elegant wedding photography business in the middle of nowhere with nothing but a camera and a google search bar. When my husband's one heart surgery turned in to a three-year-long battle, it turned everything on its head. I vowed to help other small business owners put systems into place to ensure the business can still run even if you have to step away.

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