When you hear the term “business plan,” you might think of a large business with many employees. But having a solid plan is helpful for every business, from small startups to major corporations.
A business plan is a roadmap for your goals and how you plan to achieve them. It outlines your strategy for pricing, marketing, operations, finances, and more — all important aspects of your business to consider in advance.
Whether you want to start a new photography business or take your existing business to the next level, a business plan is a powerful tool to point you in the right direction.
To run a successful photography business, you can’t rely solely on the strength of your photography. It requires a combination of talent, hard work, and business acumen. You don’t need an MBA, but it’s helpful to take some business courses and have a strategic plan for success. Check out our list of the best business resources for photographers for a list of amazing courses.
Lack of planning is a major reason that many small businesses fail. Creating a business plan helps you think through your pricing structure, target audience, financial projections, marketing strategies, and potential obstacles. You’ll feel confident and prepared to navigate the business side of your photography if you take steps to prepare in the beginning.
Your business plan will also help you stay on track toward your goals, identify problem areas, and adjust your strategy as needed.
For your photography business plan, you don’t have to stick exactly to a traditional business plan outline. Your plan should include the sections that make the most sense for you and your business. In general, most business plans include some combination of the following sections:
Including these sections will help you form a cohesive and consistent plan for your business. But if there’s anything else you’d like to map out, feel free to include that too!
Now, let’s take a closer look at what goes into each of these sections.
The executive summary appears first in the business plan, but you should write it last. It describes your business and includes brief descriptions of the other sections that appear in your business plan.
Your executive summary should begin with the name, location, and mission of your business. Write in an upbeat tone that conveys why you have a great idea for a successful photography business.
Next, mention your unique value proposition (also known as a unique selling proposition). How do your services benefit your customers? What sets your photography business apart from others?
Briefly explain the legal structure of your business, including whether you’ll operate as a sole proprietor. If you have employees, list their names and roles.
Include a subheading for each section of your business plan (e.g., Services and Pricing, Market Analysis, Marketing Plan) with a two-sentence summary of the information you’ll cover in those sections.
Finally, conclude your executive summary with a few sentences outlining your goals for the future. If you’ve already been in business for a while, you should also mention the milestones you’ve achieved so far.
After the executive summary, it’s time to dive into the details. List your services and products, along with a price and description for each offering. If you need guidance on setting your prices, check out this post on setting your prices.
Include the type(s) of photography you do, such as newborn or wedding photography, and the sessions and packages you plan to offer.
Mention products such as prints, photo albums, holiday cards, and anything else you’ll sell. Some photographers also offer services like workshops and mentoring. Whatever products and services you’ll list for sale, describe and price them here.
Your market analysis will identify your target audience and competitors. It may also include a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats). Also include your USP, or unique selling proposition in your marketing work. What is it? Basically, it involves figuring out what makes you unique, which is really important when starting your photography business. WHY would people hire YOU and not the competition? For more on developing your USP for your photography business, grab this free how to start a photography business Ebook.
Many small business owners want to serve everyone, but this isn’t an effective strategy. If you market to everyone, you’ll fail to reach anyone. Generic messaging doesn’t connect or resonate with potential clients. So, choose your niche and focus on customers who want and need your products and services.
When you’ve identified your broad target audience, segment your list and name a few characteristics of each segment. Include information like age, family size, location, and income. Can you find information about why and how they buy? When they post looking for photographers, what criteria do they list? Are they more likely to look for photographers on Facebook, Instagram, or via recommendations from close friends and family? Are they searching on Google or a genre specific website (eg. the knot.com)?
For more information on developing your ideal client, check out this post on Defining Your Ideal Client The more you know, the more effective your marketing will be.
Next, list the top competitors in your area and briefly analyze their strengths and weaknesses. This process will help you determine how to differentiate yourself from your competitors.
Research photographers in your area who offer similar services. Browse their websites and portfolios and read their reviews. Who is their target audience? What do they do well? Are their prices and product offerings straightforward and easy to understand? What do you bring to the table that they don’t, and vice versa? If your market is saturated with similar style photographers, how are you going to differentiate yourself that is not price. Your price needs to be determined by your income needs, time, costs for you to run your business - not from someone else’s - you don’t know their business model or profitability. For more information on determining your pricing, head to Picsello’s Smart Profit Calculator™
Many business plans also include a SWOT Analysis. Your SWOT Analysis will list your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
Strengths are areas you excel in and advantages you have in the photography business. This may include existing clients and connections, a strong portfolio you’ve already built, and any differentiators you found when researching your competitors.
Weaknesses are areas for improvement. Your weaknesses could include a lack of business knowledge or experience, skills you need to build further, or the need to create a portfolio and find clients. Identifying these areas can help you build a plan for continuing to improve and grow as a photographer and business owner.
Opportunities are external factors and trends that you can leverage to grow your business. On the other hand, threats are the external obstacles and challenges you’ll face, such as well-established competitors or a decreasing demand for photography in your area. Evaluating your opportunities and threats can help you plan how to capitalize on advantages and overcome obstacles.
Now that you know your target audience, map out how you will market your photography business to them. How will you structure your website and increase traffic? Do you have a strong online photography portfolio to feature on your website? If not, how do you plan to build and improve it? What is your budget for marketing your business?
What social media platforms will you use? How will you encourage friends, family, and existing clients to spread the word? Will you attend local trade shows? Partner with local businesses? Use email marketing campaigns or direct mail initiatives? Also, don’t forget to optimize all of the copy that you have on your website for SEO (we have a post for you specifically about SEO for Photographers).
Most photography businesses have fewer logistics than traditional brick-and-mortar businesses. Still, it’s important to consider the day-to-day logistics of running a successful photography business.
Describe where you conduct your work and the operational needs of your business. Do you have a home-based office or studio? Do you shoot on-location, or are you planning to rent a studio? What are your overhead costs?
The financial portion of your business plan may be the most time-consuming, but it’s one of the most important. Consider enlisting the help of a financial advisor, accountant or consultant with this section of your plan. Starting your business with the right financial plan will ensure you not only make money from your photography but you also stay in business.
First, list your expenses, including equipment, website and marketing costs, editing software, insurance, travel to and from locations, and equipment maintenance and repair. You can use this expense tracker to keep everything in order.
Try to project your costs and income for your first three years (or next three years) of doing business. Make a realistic estimate of the number of clients you’ll have multiplied by the average amount of money each client will spend.
Compare your projected income with your projected expenses. Is your margin large enough? If not, what expenses can you cut? How many more clients will you need? Are your prices too low for you to be profitable?
Continue crunching the numbers and making adjustments until you have a reasonable financial plan that sets you up for profitability. If this gives you anxiety or you don’t know how many clients you can realistically photograph, use Picsello’s Smart Profit Calculator™ as it helps you create a pricing structure that will set your business up for sustainability and profit.
Alexander Graham Bell said, “Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.”
Even if you never present your business plans to others, it’s an essential tool for your personal use. Writing a business plan requires you to think through every aspect of your business. It gives you a chance to troubleshoot potential issues, plan how you’ll navigate obstacles, and take advantage of your strengths and opportunities before you book your first client.
Sign up | Access tools | Get the business you want