4 Things I Wish I Would’ve Known When Starting My Photography Career

By no means has this been easy, my current 9 to 5 is with a financial institution that changes processes/procedures almost daily… so it’s saying a lot that getting into photography has been the hardest thing I’ve ever had to work through. I want to take a few moments to discuss a few examples of how I structured my plan. By no means do you have to follow this as a guide, it’s simply a few tips I wish I had been given and hopefully you can learn from some of the hiccups I went through! Further below I will dive into each of these further however here’s a quick recap of the topics will cover in this post: 

  1. Social media
  2. Organization
  3. Services
  4. Portfolio

Let’s first start off with social media. It’s easy to feel that this channel isn’t going to really make a difference in your business including learning, growth, and overall success… but you’d be wrong. Everything I know about photography (outside of “gut feelings”) is from self taught social media. Social media does not hand you the answers, but it gives you great direction to go off and practice until you find that best fit for YOU. Instagram, TikTok, Pinterest, Facebook, and YouTube are my main go-to’s. Not only does this give you an opportunity to find inspiration whether that be styles/locations but also things that could take you years to figure out… experienced photographers are happy to clue you in on. Often there are going to be demographics that you meet with each source, for example there are some people who just refuse to download TikTok, however you likely could still connect with them via Facebook or Pinterest. 

Make sure that when you are first starting out and find a name/brand that you want to build, go through and create an account on each of the above platforms to reserve your name (or close to the name if not available). Whether or not you use each one, you at least want to avoid someone else from utilizing your handle on a social media site- that can get confusing! The other piece of advice I’d give is to get organized. We will discuss this more in the next section, however have a plan for social media usage. This could include ideas that come to you to post, when/how often you want to leverage each account, and tracking what you’ve done on each platform. I’ll provide you examples of what this looks like for me in the next section. To sum this up, leverage social media! 

Wish I would have known & avoided: setting up social media accounts before you have a set name. I did this before I registered my business, and my original idea ended up not being available through my state. Not fun to go change all emails/accounts and in some cases make new accounts!


Next up is organization, and it’s the topic I feel most passionate about. My corporate job has created a monster who loves spreadsheets and honestly it has helped my business immensely. It will be easiest to just bullet point the programs I use, and what I use them for:

Excel spreadsheet tabs

  • Items to do
  • Tiktok/reel ideas
  • Location wishlist
  • Creative Shoot ideas
  • Shot lists
  • Expense Tracker (taxes)
  • Folders within external hard drive

Hard Drives

  • Sessions- break down by year, subfolder for client, then within each client folder they have a “edits” subfolder to easily find those jpegs
  • Branding Pack- all the color schemes, logos, fonts that I use for my company brand
  • Business documents- anything related to registering the business, all emails saved from the state or IRS, receipts subfolder taxes
  • Purchases- where I keep any items I paid for such as education, presets, or other templates

Cellphone

  • On the go I’m constantly thinking about my business and things to try out- but even at 28 my brain is hazy and I WILL forget these by the time I get home to my computer. I keep my notes app on my main phone page for quick access to jot these thoughts down.
  • Post templates- I keep a note for each type of post I may make during the week, so I don’t have to find my commonly used format/hashtags for each social media platform
  • Calendar app not just to keep track of appointments/sessions (I leverage this to schedule myself weekly tasks as well such as post XYZ reel today). 

Even writing that felt like a lot… and truly it is. Starting a business and getting into the “groove” is NO JOKE. Now image this on top of your regular 9-5, actually having consistent photoshoots, the client management aspect, possibly having a family or spouse, and trying to manage your health both physical and mental. If you have a loved one that is starting a business, GIVE THEM A HUGE and maybe some Starbucks! Again these are not things you HAVE to do when starting your business, these are just items I feel work for me. 

Wish I would have known & avoided: Having NO organization plan whatsoever or feel as long as you take some notes here and there, it will be sufficient. There is so much information available to us that I would write down pages of information and when I’d review, it was too overwhelming and I would want to quit. Play around with it and see what works best for you!


Now let’s get into the systems/services I use that have really made a difference! Yes I pay for each one of these, it can add up, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

  • PicTime- Delivering client galleries on a professional platform and provides them high quality products for purchase (1 FREE month code- M275PS)
  • Honeybook- online service for client management, helps automate tasks for example “as soon as client sends in XYZ document, the system shoots them the contract to sign”. It saves so much time! (20% off)
  • Lightroom- Photo editing
  • Photo Mechanic- Photo culling system that helps me go through thousands of photos in a JIFFY prior to Lightroom importing, works in tandem with Lightroom to flag which photos you’d like to edit, and will import directly for you.
  • Canva- Program to build social media content, I also used this for building all guides for my business.

Wish I would have known & avoided: signing up for things before you need them. For instance, when I started out and had minimal clients, I wish I didn’t pull the trigger on customized accounting. Once I found a consistent client stream, I could have done this however I personally feel confident in my tracking/organization for taxes purposes when I’m only managing a few clients. I wish I didn’t pay hundreds for an accountant before I actually needed it. As small businesses start up, money can be tight, I would really do your research on what you need vs. what you think you should do because you saw it on the internet. Again I am not a financial master, this is just my two cents!


Portfolio time! This is something that I was so worried about when starting… if I’m just starting, how am I supposed to get clients?! My honest answer- ASK PEOPLE! Ask your friends, mother, neighbor… anyone you feel comfortable working with! Not only does it give you a chance to practice, but they get free photos (saving hundreds mind you). 

Now, this also depends on what you want to shoot, but when you are starting you really should shoot anything purely for practice. This also helps you really nail down what you want, you may think couples are fun to shoot, but when practicing you find that families are where you have the most fun.

It will be very hard to get any paying client to trust you enough to book, without examples of what your results look like. If you are going to offer family shoots, I recommend having at least 2-3 full session examples you can showcase to a potential paying client. 

I also found that creating guides that not only showcase your work, set an expectation for pre & post sessions, and then having a professional gallery to deliver images is HUGE for the client experience. At the end of the day, there are a ton of photographers, but I want you to focus on how you set yourself apart in the experience you provide (this is what clients will remember and share)!

Wish I would have known & avoided: Thinking your first session will be how your pictures will always look! Even if you like them, you will find your photography game will change/grow with each client. Take each session seriously, learn all you can, and try to prepare… but do NOT get down on yourself if everything doesn’t go 100% perfect, as long as you take steps to avoid it the next session. 

This has been such a learning experience for me, and continues to be each day.  I’m always happy to talk through things if you have any questions, feel free to shoot me an email or DM on instagram. Keep your chin up, it doesn’t get easier, but you will continue to get better!

xMeg

May 26, 2021

Meg Vanscoik

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