Looking to start your photography business or are you just starting out? Costs add up quick amiright?! There are so many tools and resources out there that it can be overwhelming to know what to use. Fear not my friend, I am going to share the best free tools and strategies I used when starting out.
As your business grows, so will your tools. Don’t stress over finding the “perfect” client management system right now because you can always change later. Make it work, then make it better!
You can check out the current gear and tools I use in my business here.
My first few sessions, I printed contracts for clients to sign in person. They paid me in cash or check. Then I would mail them a CD (I know, I feel so old). Getting to the post office was a huge pain as I took on more and more shoots – enter shootproof.
Shootproof allows you to upload photos to a URL that you can send your clients to download their photos or purchase prints! So much easier for boths of us. The best part about shootproof (that many other galleries don’t offer) is that you can send contracts and invoices online.
You can use their free 100 photo plan then upgrade as your business grows. No lie, I would delete galleries and add my next gallery to stay on this plan as long as possible. I have since switched over to Pic-Time because they offer a more user-friendly client gallery interface and their unlimited photo plan is cheaper so I can just leave wedding galleries up forever.
If you would like to try out Pic-Time use code W8DUEV and we will both get a month free woo!
Canva is where I create all of my graphics for facebook, pinterest, for my website, I create e-books and guides in there. I love it! So much easier to use than Photoshop or InDesign and it is free!
You can use it to create a pretty pricing PDF or welcome magazine as well as any marketing materials you can imagine. Here is an example of a Pinterest pin I made for this post in Canva 😉
There is a free trial of JPEG Mini you can download here. This software compresses your image file sizes so they are 1/12th smaller, but still the same print quality! The small fee to get the pro version will save you tons of money in storage costs down the road. Plus small image sizes help your website load faster which is key to getting clients online.
You can start your website + blog 100% for free on wordpress.com . The best part about using this as your first website is that your blog posts can transfer to your new website on wordpress.org or showit+wordpress later 🙂
If you want to get real fancy, you can usually get your new domain from Godaddy for $1 for the first year and have it forward to your wordpress.com site. For example – if I got kacilouphotography.com, when somebody types it in then it will show the wordpress.com site.
You can setup an email with gmail for free + it includes their Google Drive products and storage 100% free. You could have firstname.lastname@example.org for your business email. That also gives you access to storage for your files and photos, google docs for writing proposals, spreadsheets for bookkeeping, and so much more.
I have since upgraded to G-Suite, basically the price of a single coffee a month so I can have a branded email – email@example.com, email templates (I just click a button to insert a template response, saves a ton of time), and more storage.
Trello is the lists of all lists maker. You could use it to keep track of where your leads and clients are in your process aka your workflow. You could use it to assign tasks to your partner. I personally use it as a brain dump for all my blog posts ,course ideas, and to-do lists. Then I can easily change up the order to prioritize what I should work on first.
The best organized online notebook. This is where I keep all my hashtag lists for instagram, anytime I have an idea for copywriting it gets dumped in here, and I used to keep notes on my clients so I could write my blog posts about their session later. Check out evernote, it is great for business and personal use.
Free browser extension that checks your spelling and grammar! Grammarly is so helpful when writing anything – emails, blog posts, social media posts, everything!
This is probably the most underutilized resource out there. Libraries have free wi-fi, free books, free rooms that you can work in or meet with clients at, and even movies for date night. Many libraries also host networking events from time to time. I also know photographers that teach mini-workshops for a small fee at their library.
The best feature now though is Libby – the free app that lets you listen to audiobooks or read books for free right on your own device. I highly recommend reading at least one new business/mindset book each month. You can check out my favorites here.
When I was first ever thinking about starting this business, I met with a liason at our local chamber of commerce. They helped me so much with knowing what I needed to get started – the legality of it, setting up an LLC, the business plan, all for free.
Bonus – it is a great place to network with other business owners + they usually have very affordable accountants and lawyers you can work with.
This site has the most courses and videos to learn photography and business, plus it is a really affordable! When classes air for the first time they are typically free 🙂
If you want to buy a class, you can use this link to get $15 off or go for the monthly pass to access tons of videos at a great price.
Often forgotten, google and youtube especially are great places to learn more about photography and business!
I wish I knew about these sooner! Search facebook for a local (city or state) photography group or entrepreneurs group. You can connect with other photographers to learn and refer each other work.
Tuesdays together is a free networking group for creative entrepreneurs. We meet once every month to discuss a different business topic. I always learn a lot and have made awesome relationships there!
You need to grow your skills as a photographer quickly as well as get your protfolio poppin…styled shoots are the best way to do that. There is no pressure. You get to choose the style. You can set them up for free or minimal cost. Want to be a family photographer? Just ask one of your friends with kids to model for you.
Styled shoots also create an easy way to network with other vendors. If you want to be a wedding photographer you could reach out to a wedding venue and florist and offer to give them photos if they collaborate with you on a shoot.
You need to let everyone know that you are a photographer. Update your headshot and personal profile to reflect that. Start a business page for free. Then when you post your clients photos you can tag them.
Join facebook groups to get referrals; this could be photographer groups (to second shoot with or to take their clients if they are booked) or join groups where your clients hang out ie a mom group if you photograph families.
My favorite strategy on Facebook is using Facebook ads to give away a free mini-session. This is like a try before you buy method. For example, if you want to book weddings you can give away a free engagement session then chat with everyone that entered about their wedding.
Facebook ads allow you to target your ideal clients. You can target engaged people or parents, whoever it is that would need your service. Check out this free course from Facebook on using their ads.
The most important part to booking on instagram is engaging with other accounts and using locations to your advantage.
I would follow people that would make great clients and interact with them. You can also network with vendors easily.
When sharing a post or story always tag your location (note: for safety, I don’t post until I have left the location). You can also use local hashtags like #utahphotographer, #parkcityphotographer, #provoweddingphotographer.
I save a lot of time by pre-writing my instagram posts and using Tailwind to post them for me throughout the month. Get your first month of tailwind free using this link.
Blog all of your sessions! This will make your clients feel awesome and also help you show off your work. You can blog questions your clients ask like what they should wear or where they should take photos at. This helps your SEO and makes you look like an expert!
Pinterest goes hand in hand with blogging. After you publish your blog post, pin some of your images to Pinterest. There is a free browser extension you can add or you can use tailwind to schedule your pins.
Get your first month of Tailwind free by using this link.
I booked my first weddings from craigslist for $500. I know people that have used Facebook marketplace, thumbtacks, and other directory sites. You can try an ad on Wedding Pro (The Knot and Wedding Wire) but they are typically expensive and not worth it for most photographers.
Starting out you need to get experience fast! As you gain experience, raise your prices, build your brand, your marketing strategies will change and that is totally okay. Remember – Make it work, then make it better!
First, I want to talk about financing. Being an entrepreneur is about taking risks and so the amount of risk you can handle is totally up to you and your situation. You can hustle at a 9-5 and save up, get a second job, doordash, then grow your business. You can also get 0% financing through Best Buy, Paypal and many other sources for 1-2 years. You can ask for support from family and friends. There are so many ways to fund your dream!
Here is a general idea of what you need starting out-
You can check out the camera gear I currently use here.
Most entrepreneurs start their business on a LEAN budget, like ultra-tight scrounging the couch cushions for change. There is no shame in that; I actually think that is the best way to start for so many reasons.
#1-You learn to prioritize! you have very little wasteful/impulse spending since you have to save up for your purchases.
#2-You have to learn everything yourself. In the beginning, I didn’t have money to outsource tasks so I wore all the hats. Now, I know my business inside and out and can easily train people to outsource tasks.
#3-You have time to figure out what your ideal business is. It would suck to spend $20k on your business only to find out you don’t really enjoy photography or perhaps that you don’t want a studio, you want to do landscapes. Growing your business slowly gives you time to try different things and find out what you love.
Congrats, you have made it to the end! I know this post will help you grow your photography business in the most cost-effective way 🙂 Let me know if you have any questions or recommendations to add to this post in the comments!
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