Starting a photography business sounds far easier than it really is, and many very talented photographers rush into entrepreneurship before doing their homework.

It takes a huge amount of time and effort to succeed in the professional photography industry and build a business from the ground up. But it also takes more than artistic and technical prowess; you need to be a savvy businessperson to survive.

Photo from kenny_lex

Below are seven of the biggest mistakes made by photographers new to running their own business and how to avoid them.

1. Overlooking your cost of doing business

When you start a photography business, it’s absolutely necessary to calculate how much it costs to provide your service. All too often photographers jump in without making careful considerations about their everyday expenses, and this can ultimately lead to a fouled startup attempt.

You must be keeping track of all the variables that go into the preparation, shooting, editing, shipping, and any other aspects of your workflow. Gear insurance and upkeep, studio utilities and transportation expenses are some of the most commonly overlooked costs when determining the cost of doing business, so make sure you’re budgeting for these as well.

2. Undercharging for your services

Another way in which many photographers shoot themselves in the foot is by undercharging. This is a direct result of neglecting the costs of doing business, and the next best way to drive a fledgling business into the ground.

Photo from flickrsven

Remember that time is money. Make sure you’re accounting for every minute you spend working for the client and keep track of the costs involved. You need to be charging enough to meet your cost of doing business and the taxes you’ll inevitably owe for being a self-employed business owner, all while still gauging enough for actual profit.

3. Lacking an accountant

Accountants cost money. And since new businesses need to cut down on as many expenses as possible, some make the mistake of shirking a professional accountant’s services.

But this can be one of the worst mistakes in the book. If you’re serious about running a business, then it’s vital to hire an individual who will keep track of your finances. An accountant makes sure that you’re budgeting for annual taxes, that all your expenses are recorded and that your profit goals are on track. He or she is the person who can give you an idea of how efficiently your business is operating and how you can adjust the numbers to better meet your goals.

So don’t skimp on getting an accountant; it can make the difference between financial success and bust.

4. Acquiring hefty debt

Many times it’s necessary to take a loan out when you’re starting a business, but it’s wise to either avoid borrowing or cut it down to a bare minimum.

Photo from Steve A Johnson

Don’t go gear-crazy when you’re setting up your photo business; buy only what you need and determine how to make the most out of what you can actually afford. Spending several thousand dollars on new equipment can be a recipe for disaster down the road.

The more you borrow at the beginning, the more you’ll owe later on, and this can delay the progress of your business goals as you begin to grow. Digging yourself into a hole of debt is anything but smart when you’re establishing yourself in the industry, and as interest stacks up on loans, it can become far more than what you bargained for from the outset.

5. Not reinvesting initial profits

For the first several years of owning a business, it’s important to be reinvesting a portion of your profits into growing and maintaining your business. Of course, part of the profits will need to serve as your source of income and subsequent paycheck, but you should do whatever you can to put some of that money back into your new business.

If there is no reinvestment by the business owner, then future profits are far more likely to stagnate and the risk of failure becomes much higher.

6. Lacking a marketing plan

Getting your new business’s name out there is going to be the first step to growth. Many photographers don’t put enough emphasis on marketing themselves, and it holds them back from reaching out to new consumers.

Marketing doesn’t have to be expensive, and it can take the form of many different mediums. For example, social media marketing is one of the most valuable and personable types of modern day marketing, and it’s an approach that’s easily accessible to an up-and-coming photographer.

7. Lacking a business plan

Too many green photography businesses don’t think far enough ahead. When you become an entrepreneur, there’s a lot to juggle, but you also need to mind your long-term goals. Lay out a plan and settle on where you’d like to see your business go in six months, one year, five years, etc.

A business plan could include goals as broad as “increasing overall profits by 25%” or as particular as “hiring a part-time second shooter by the end of the second quarter next year”. The point is that you should always be setting the bar higher for yourself and be able to accomplish your objectives in a timely manner.

If you’re intending to start your own business, don’t take the pursuit lightly. A keen and well-educated business sense is necessary to succeed in the modern day photography industry, so make sure you know what to look out for before you jump in!