You know that whole adage “you have to spend money to make money?” Totally, TOTALLY true. I remember during my senior year at Radford, I somehow got it into my head that photography “is like a free profession! I mean, it’s not like you have to PAY to take people’s photos, after you’ve bought your camera it’s like you’re making money without having to pay a dime.” Oh Abby, you sweet-yet-woefully uninformed 21-year-old. Being a small business owner of any kind is going to incur costs, some more expensive than others. Today we’re going to chat about the three biggest investments I’ve made, but keep in mind these are the ones that have also paid off the most.
1. Education. This is the FIRST thing I recommend to new photographers! Find a photographer whose work you love and pay to attend a workshop or mentoring session with them. My first workshop was with Katelyn James back in 2011 and I learned so, SO much about running a business! The next workshop I attended was Walk Through A Wedding with Justin & Mary, and I CANNOT recommend that one enough. I’ve also done two coaching sessions with Katelyn, and attended pretty much every other intensive/mini-workshop offered by J&M. I’m sort of a groupie.
If you admire the way someone shoots, blogs, runs their business, handles their clients, whatever, the best thing you can do is to go learn under them. I’ve paid a lot for education over the past four years but it’s been worth every single penny.
2. Website design/Branding. You can try and skimp on this, but trust me: you’ll just end up paying more for a redesign a year or two down the road. A great designer is going to be able to hone in on YOU and the kind of style you’re going for, which will ultimately [hopefully] lead to a better ability to reach your ideal client base. A bad website can turn people off within seconds of landing on your home page, meaning they don’t even have a chance to see your beautiful work.
A well-designed website, however, means your work has the best opportunity to shine and invite the viewer in. And in the same way that a well-written resume is the means to an interview, a stellar web presences is the means to a client reaching out for a meeting. If your website sucks (sorry Mom, I know you hate that word) and turns people off, no one’s going to bother wanting to meet with you.
3. Equipment. I know this seems like a no-brainer, but hear me out: I believe that investing in top-of-the-line equipment is something I owe my clients. If I’m promising them a professional photographer, I believe I need to be using professional equipment. I was fortunate that when I started out, I was able to invest in the gear I needed right at the beginning due to working at a corporate job as I built my business. Everyone’s situation is different though, which is why places like BorrowLenses.com are so awesome- now you can rent the equipment you need until you have the funds to purchase!
There are certain pieces of equipment that every photographer NEEDS to have at any gig they’ve been hired to shoot, and those things are: a camera body, a BACK-UP camera body (rent this if you have to, but for the love of buttered toast, bring a back-up!), an extra (fully-charged) battery, more than enough memory cards, and whatever lens(es) you need to do your job properly. If you’ll be shooting indoors/after dark, you need at least one flash, preferably two in case the first one fails on you. (Go here for an outdated blog post of what’s in my bag, in case you care to see!)
Photographers, I’d love to hear what your three best investments have been so far in your business!