The Photography Business Plan Overview
PLANNING FOR SUCCESS FROM THE START
With camera in hand and some shooting skills under your belt, some thought may turn to the possibility of shooting images for a living. No matter what genre of photography you consider going into, having a plan on how to make a living at it will give you a major headstart. To create a path to becoming a successful photographer and not a meandering trail – you need a business plan!
A business plan is a document that helps you define your business’s character and activities, as well as, the financial goals you seek to attain by creating your business. In the process of developing your plan, you will ask yourself the hard questions that will help you define your business and the personal goals it will help you achieve. Begin by creating a summary business plan that will help you formulate the overall concept of your business. Let us get started!
EXECUTIVE PLAN SUMMARY:
This is a summary of your business that summarizes the problem you are solving for your customers, your target market, an estimation of market size from demographic information and how you will reach your market. It is the first section of your business plan, but it is typically written last after you have written out your detailed plan. The Executive Summary is designed to describe the business from a high-level view. If a reader can get a feel for your business and its potential for success from your summary then you likely have a clear idea on where you are going with your photography business. If it is not clear why your business could be successful from this summary, then your plan may need refining.
PRODUCTS AND SERVICES SUMMARY:
Begin by describing the opportunities for photography services are in your view and the type of photography you plan to offer. Is there a high school nearby where Senior, prom and special event photography is needed? Are you located in a destination location where a large number of weddings are performed? Your plan will explain the niche you want to fill in your market and what you will offer to fill it.
As a photographer, you will likely provide both products and services. While fine art landscape photographers generally provide a product for sale, most other photographers provide both a service and sell products that result from that service. For instance, if you want to be a portrait photographer you are going to offer a photo session to create the images and then sell the prints from that session to the family or individual whose image you shot. In this part of your business plan, you want to detail how you are going to market and provide the photo sessions and then lay out what your mix of deliverables will be for your customers. The same holds true whether you are providing wedding photography, headshots, pet, architectural or lifestyle photography. In this section, you want to identify the need you will fill and the services you will provide. Include the products your services will create to satisfy those needs.
MARKET ANALYSIS SUMMARY:
Creating a market analysis is the combination of using both demographic data and your insight into the potential demand for the products and services you want to provide. If you want to shoot high school seniors, how many high schools are within driving distance and what are their enrollments? Want to be a wedding photographer, check the number of marriage licenses issued in a year in your area. Want to shoot architectural – determine the number of real estate agencies, architecture firms and builders there are in your area. Get a feel for how big or small the potential is for the services and products you want to offer. Your local Chamber of Commerce will have detailed demographic information for both your city and county to help you determine if your target market is present in enough quantity to support both you and your competition.
It is rare that you will not have some competitors doing something similar to what you want to do. Take a survey of your area to see who those competitors are. Map out where they are located and find as much information about them as you can. What services does each provide that you are considering offering, what products do they sell and what have you heard about them? Here is your chance to use that information to help differentiate your photography business from theirs and create your own brand.
STRATEGY AND IMPLEMENTATION SUMMARY:
Once you have an overview of your market and the services and products desired, you can use your imagination to create ways to fulfill those desires that will appeal to your potential customers. This is where you create your marketing plan, your internal sales plan and other processes for running your business. Here is where you want to think like your customer and design your business to deliver what they desire in a pleasing way. In your business plan, you will develop the framework for delivering your services. Once you have this thought out – you will ultimately want to develop an Operational Plan, which is a mental walk-through of your business activities from your point of contact with a customer to final delivery and payment receipt of your deliverables. The Operational Plan will be a completely separate plan from your business plan. I will cover that in another post.
FINANCIAL PLAN SUMMARY:
You need to identify what you are putting into the business in terms of funds and equipment, and make some projections. Hopefully, as you start you already have some business lined up and you can make some cash flow projections. One of the most important things you have to know so you can price your services and products to ensure your profit is your break-even cost.
Your break-even costs include all of the monthly fixed costs of doing business (rent, insurance, etc) plus the variable costs (utilities, fees, labor, supplies, fuel, etc) that it costs to run the business. You must generate enough sales each month to cover all of these costs and generate the profit to continue the business. Your goal is to build the volume of business needed to exceed the break-even costs every month and put money away to build with. Know your break-even cost so you know when to adjust your activities. To do this, make a few calls to Realtors, insurance agents and others to get some ballpark figures on rents, liability policies and other costs you will incur. Know before you go is the best motto.
Next to break-even cost you are going to have to project your cash flow. Cash flow is the timing of when income comes in to when it has to be paid out to cover expenses. You need to develop a flow of income so it is available when your expenses come due. Design your receipt of funds to arrive before your expenses come due.
By giving long thought to these six areas before you invest your future into a photography practice, you will see whether the time is right for you to pursue your vision or wait. Creating a business plan summary will help you clarify the viability of your ideas and whether you need more time, more money or a different market to be successful. It might just show you that you are ready to go on to the next stage: The Detailed Business Plan.