The 5 Worst Business Mistakes New Photographers Make

Starting a photography business can be overwhelming and scary for new photographers, and I’ve noticed most new photographers keep making the same mistakes as they struggle to build a client base and earn a living. Each of these mistakes is overwhelmingly common in the photography industry and can have serious negative impacts on your ability to build a sustainable and profitable business. Luckily, they can all be easily avoided!

1. Booking clients without a retainer and contract

No matter who the client is or how far along you are in your business, you should always require a retainer and signed contract in order to book a session. Requiring these two items will help prevent so many possible problems later on in the session process, that there’s really no way to even list them all! Just to name a few, using retainer fees, even a small one, will help you attract clients who value your services and avoid clients who “book” a date, and then either don’t show up to their session, or repeatedly ask to reschedule at the last minute. Contracts should also be used with every single client, even if they are a friend or family member, for a multitude of reasons. Not only do they help set clear and consistent expectations of the session process with every single client, but they also protect you and your business. Implementing these two items are crucial to building a successful business and will save you time and money over and over again.

2. Failing to set clear expectations with each client

As I mentioned above, using contracts with each client is just one way to set clear expectations from the very beginning of the session process. Besides having clients sign contracts, you should also have CONSISTENT policies that apply to every client, and consistently verbalize those policies to all clients. Being sure to speak your policies directly to clients is so important, because most people don’t thoroughly read any emails or documents sent to them. When you consistently set clear expectations, you’ll be less likely to have to deal with people trying to constantly bargain with you over prices, ask for you to make special exceptions for them, disrespect your time and work, and devalue your whole service from beginning to end.

3. Sending pricing info over email, text, or Facebook messenger

If you have been doing this and wondering why you aren’t able to book any clients, you have your answer! People can afford what they VALUE. If a potential client says they can’t afford you or you are “too expensive,” 9/10 times it’s because you didn’t convey the value of your services to them. The best way to convey the value of your services and get clients to book with you is by scheduling an in person consult or talking on the phone. It’s basically impossible to build a relationship with clients through email, text, or messaging, but when you actually speak to them over the phone or in person, you are able to build trust, confidence, and your perceived VALUE.

4. Failing to charge your worth

Besides the simple fact that charging pennies on the dollar for photography services is harming the industry, your business will never succeed if you aren’t earning a profit. Most new photographers begin by charging less than $100 for a session and don’t even realize how much money they’re losing! Running a business is EXTREMELY expensive, and a photography business is no exception. We are not just pushing a button for a few photos and rolling in the dough after that $100 session fee. Instead of charging basically nothing for a session just to get practice with clients, spend your time doing free model calls to build your skills and portfolio. Then, once you are confident in your ability to produce consistent, quality work, evaluate your REAL cost of doing business and charge prices that will allow you to not only cover costs, but also make a profit. Professional photography is a LUXURY, not a commodity, and is not meant to be cheap.

5. Spending more time and money learning photography than business 

While improving your photography skill is obviously important, running a successful photography business is only 20% your photography skill and 80% business skill. For every fancy new lens or pack of presets you buy, you should be investing twice that in your business education. It will never matter how good your photos are if you don’t know how to price your service profitably, attract and book potential clients, or run a sustainable business.  

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Becca Mathews: Maryland Senior Portrait, Equine, and Couples Photographer

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