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You’ve reached the stage of wanting to expand your business and get a studio- Congratulations! It can be daunting to think about, but it also can be so worth it!

Unfortunately, many photographers open their studios prematurely, only to end up closing shop shortly after. Before you commit to a lease, make sure you’ve thought through the decision and weighed your options. 

Read on to see if you are ready to open a photography studio of your own. We’ll dig into some reasons why you might want to open a studio, as well as the logistics of actually getting your studio doors open in a profitable way.

Photographer Studio with plants and a couch.

How do you Know if You’re Studio-Ready? Consider These 5 Points

1Consider why you want a photography studio

Leasing a studio should be a carefully considered, strategic decision. You should sign the lease because it will help you expand your clientele and increase your income. So, start by considering your motivation.

  • Has owning a studio always been a dream of yours? It’s great  to pursue your dreams, but this shouldn’t be your only reason for making such a big move. You’ll want to check in with your decision by weighing pros and cons (we’ve listed a lot of these for you to consider in the second part of this article) to make sure now is the right time. Does opening a studio make sense right now? Or does it need to wait until a different stage in your career?
  • Do you think clients and other business owners will take you more seriously as a photographer? They might, and you may be able to increase your prices. But again, this reason alone isn’t good enough to rationalize investing in a studio front. You need to base the decision to open a studio on factors that are present now in your business, not ones that may happen in the future. There are other ways to build your credibility and experience before you make a leap to open a studio when you are not yet ready. 
  • Are you hoping that having a studio will help you attract more clients? It may, but remember that you’re also incurring extra costs. Often, the additional clients won’t be enough to fully cover these additional costs. The extra clients you get may not do more than cover the new cost of your studio. It’s better to open your photography studio when your financials and client base allow you to have a studio and a profit. 
  • Have you outgrown your current space? This is a solid reason to want to open a photography studio. Still, make sure you’re fully considering the costs you’re incurring for more space. (We’ll talk more about this next!)
  • Is a studio a better fit for your genre, clientele, and the services you want to offer? Some types of photographers don’t truly need a studio space (e.g., wedding and event photographers). But if you specialize in genres like headshots, newborns, and maternity, acquiring a studio is more likely and may be advantageous. 

You should also consider your portfolio. For instance, if most of your portfolio shots are outdoors or at event venues, how will you market your studio services to clients? Build a portfolio that will attract clients to your studio space before making the investment.

If a studio space will add to your bottom line, then it is a good idea to consider it! If it won’t help you grow your business, and the benefits don’t outweigh the costs, then a studio is not the best decision for you.

2Consider costs

Of course, cost is the number one consideration when it comes to leasing a studio. You don’t want to make a commitment that you can’t afford yet. 

A general rule of thumb is that you shouldn’t invest in a studio space until you’re paying yourself a reasonable salary from your photography business. Are your prices profitable? Do you have a steady stream of clients? If not, taking on the extra expense of a studio isn’t the magic answer. You want to be profitable and have a solid client base before expanding to a studio.

If you have a good foundation in place, the next step is calculating your additional costs per year, then creating a plan for covering those costs. Is it doable? Can you do it without completely losing your mind? 

Crunch the numbers and consider the pros and cons.

  • Start with your rent, then remember to add in electricity, Wi-Fi, and insurance. You’ll also need to consider build-out costs, signage, flooring, painting, and furniture.
  • Get a real estate attorney to review the lease. Are you paying extra for property tax? Will you be held liable for AC or heating repairs? Don’t let hidden costs sneak up on you later.
  • When you have all the information you need, run your numbers. What would be your additional cost per year?

Next, determine how will you cover those costs:

  • Can you raise your prices?
  • Will you get additional shoots?
  • Can you sell more products?
  • Will you be able to add additional services, like offering headshots?
  • Can you rent out the space when you aren’t using it?

Now, get specific. For example, if you’ll need to book more sessions to cover your costs, exactly how many more will you need? Be honest with yourself about how feasible it is. Will you be able to maintain a work-life balance? Is it doable, or will it put you on the path to burnout?

If you’re going to raise your prices, determine exactly how much you’ll need to raise them. If it’s significant and you’re worried about losing clients, make sure you have an aggressive marketing plan in place to quickly acquire new clients. If the marketing plan doesn’t work as quickly as you’d like it to, have a backup plan in place (e.g., more products, additional services, or renting out space).

3Consider location

Before you lease a studio, consider whether your clients will be willing to come to you. Can you find a convenient, accessible location? 

Even parking is important. If coming to your studio is a hassle, it could hurt you rather than help you. On the other hand, a centralized, easy-to-find location with convenient parking will encourage your clients to return again and again—and even refer you to their friends.

4Consider benefits

We don’t want to sound negative about having a studio, and we certainly aren’t trying to take the wind out of your sails. We want to share this information with you so you can consider the reality of leasing a studio and make sure it’ll help your bottom line, not hurt it. That said, having a studio certainly offers many benefits, and you should consider those too! 

For some clients, your studio will give your business more legitimacy. You can charge more for your services and expand the products and services you currently offer. And you won’t have to worry about your clients knowing where you live! 

Having a studio brings you non-financial benefits too. Consider whether leasing a studio will also:

  • Help your home life (You get your spare bedroom or dining room back!) 
  • Improve your work-life balance
  • Increase your self-esteem as a photographer

Many photographers find that having a separate workspace improves their relationships and overall work-life balance. It helps compartmentalize work, so you’re more present and relaxed when you’re at home. If the studio is affordable for you, this benefit alone can make it extremely worthwhile.

5Consider alternatives

If you aren’t completely sure about leasing a studio, consider some alternatives.

A few  options include:

  • Finding a studio you can rent by the hour / day.
  • Buying instead of leasing. 
  • Getting a studio built on your land or converting your garage (if allowed in your area). Buying or building a studio might look more attractive to you when you see all the rent you will be paying if you leased a studio. You also can look into getting a business loan to cover mortgage payments. It could be a great investment. 

Factors to consider when buying a studio space

Look at the rent payment and consider whether buying a property to invest in would make more financial sense. For example, if your monthly payment is $3000-$3500, perhaps you could buy for $500-550k? You know the rent won’t increase, and your money is going toward an investment. 

Think through your options to decide what makes the best business and financial sense for you.

Photographer shooting kid in her studio space.

Final Thoughts

Leasing a studio is a big, exciting step for your photography business. Take time to consider your motivation, costs, location, benefits, and alternatives. Do the benefits outweigh the additional costs? Is the studio affordable for you (without having to stretch yourself too thin)? Will it add to your bottom line?

If so, you’re studio-ready. Congratulations, and good luck on the next step in your business journey!

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