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Tips & Tricks

How to Start a Photography Business: Creating the Business Plan, Part II

By Pye Jirsa on October 3rd 2018

And we’re back. The journey towards launching your professional photography business continues! In part one of this three-part series, I covered the first three steps for launching your business, which includes selecting your focus, researching the market, and identifying your direct competitors.

In this round, I’ll discuss how studying your competitors will help you improve your weaknesses and attract your target market.

Please note, if you haven’t yet done the following, please go back and read the first article and complete the first three steps:

  1. Select Your Focus
  2. Research The Market
  3. Identify Your Direct Competitors

4. study your direct competitors

Let’s continue from where we left off by selecting and studying our direct competitors. To do this, we will perform a S.W.O.T. (strength, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis on four of the direct competitors we identified in step three.

A S.W.O.T. analysis helps us analyze a new potential area of business. It’s valuable because it allows us to look at our direct competitors and determine their strengths and weaknesses, a process which helps us in identifying our own strengths and weaknesses.

5. Determine your strengths & weaknesses

We’ve already selected our direct competitors in Step 3 of the previous article. From here, focusing on strengths and weaknesses, complete the S.W.O.T. analysis with at least four direct competitors to see where you are in terms of your product quality, web presence, SEO, and content marketing. If you’d like to download our S.W.O.T. template, Click here.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are we strong/weak in the quality of product that we offer?
  • Are we strong/weak in our website design?
  • Are we strong/weak in our SEO?
  • Are we strong/weak in our content marketing?

It’s important to be objective when considering and answering these questions. We’re all going to favor our own work, but that bias doesn’t help us. We need to be objective in this comparison. Try to answer these questions from the perspective of a would-be-client.

For now, let’s focus on strengths and weaknesses within the S.W.O.T. analysis. Within the Complete Business Series, we discuss environmental attributes that are beyond the context of this article.

6. Respect Yourself, Start With Education

It is imperative that you respect yourself and start with education in every one of these areas that you’re weak. If you are a wedding photographer and you’re weak in your photography and technical ability, we have a complete training series for that. There are plenty of available resources, including SLR Lounge, Fstoppers, and CreativeLive to solve these technical weaknesses. Here’s what I want you to avoid. There’s no point in doing test shoots before first gaining a baseline knowledge and education.

Yet photographers constantly make this mistake. We select a genre of photography and then start planning test shoots. Without a baseline educational foundation, our learning process is dramatically slowed as we make every mistake in the book. Sam Levenson said it best:

“Learn from other people’s mistakes. Life is too short to make them all yourself.”

If an analogy helps, ask yourself whether other professionals would do the same thing? Would a heart surgeon practice by cracking open someone’s chest to see what’s inside. No, every profession requires schooling and practical experience in preparation for the work ahead. Jumping directly into a profession without education is to commit yourself to make a lot of mistakes and an incredibly slow learning curve. 

Instead, pair your education with real-world practice. After you’ve selected your focus, grab some resources from one of the websites above. From there, diligently study the materials while planning test shoots to practice the techniques you learn. Don’t waste your time just to save a few dollars!

Every dollar spent on your education will pay you back 10x more than the thousands of dollars you readily spend on gear.

7. Define Your Target Market

At this point, we must define who we’re actually trying to reach. Who is our main target audience? Are they expecting mothers? Are they brides? Are they brides who are slightly more into alternative photography, such as tattooed brides? Are we looking for seniors for senior portraits? Are we looking for actors and professionals for headshots?

We need to understand our target market because we will eventually need to know how we’re going to market to these individuals. What’s our message? How are we going to market that message on our own website? How are we going to promote that message externally? We have to put together a marketing plan, and for that, we must first understand who we’re trying to reach. Take a look at this target market persona.

In this target market persona, you can see that we’ve created an artificial profile for someone whose lifestyle represents the basic lifestyle of our ideal clients. We might create 4-5 of these in the process of identifying our target market. We will use these profiles as guides to creating content that is tailored to resonate with our target market. As I’ve stressed throughout these articles, having a focus is key. Without a single focus, we have to divide our attention between multiple genres and potential clients. We’ve also included this target market persona within the free download above. If you missed it, you can download the takeaways below.

To Be Continued

We will conclude part two here. Click here to receive the takeaways mentioned in this article. If you are interested in a complete business roadmap, be sure to check out the Complete Business Workshop Series.

If you enjoyed this article, please leave a comment below. We’d love to hear any other thoughts that you have.

Otherwise, be sure to join us next week for the conclusion of this article.

About

Founding Partner of Lin and Jirsa Photography and SLR Lounge.

Follow my updates on Facebook and my latest work on Instagram both under username @pyejirsa.

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