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FORUMS Post Processing, Marketing & Presenting Photos The Business of Photography 
Thread started 12 Jan 2013 (Saturday) 09:14
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My Proposed Business Plan - Feedback Wanted

 
Fettaugraphy
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Jan 12, 2013 09:14 |  #1

Hi Everyone

I am working on business plan that I hope will someday lead to a profitable photography business and would like your feedback.

First a little background:

I am a middle aged working professional with 2 kids which does not leave me with too much spare time to develop a proper business so my timeline will be somewhat longer. I don't plan to leave my current employer so this would be a part time gig. The ultimate goal is to have a business up and running on a full time basis after retirement 10-15 yrs.

I enjoy doing portrait work and presently do a lot of kids action sports photos since it dovetails with what my kids already do.

Step I

I plan to put together a 3 yr and 5 yr plan. Using a spreadsheet I have worked out what equipment I would need and annual reinvestment of gear, depreciation of equipment and annual expenses.

For the annual expenses, I have considered the following. Insurance, web hosting fees, on-line gallery fees, office supplies, car expenses ( gas, etc ). Membership fees . Am I missing anything ???

Ultimately , I have come up with a base $/hr fee I need to consider to just break even in 3 yrs . The assumption here is that all of the revenue would go back in the business. In my case, to not lose money I would need to charge about $85/hr given the limited time I have to shot. Obviously, I would like to charge more but I need to see what the local market is willing to pay which leads me to part two.

Part II

I have scanned the local photog websites to see what they offer and try to get an idea of what they charge. I put together a little survey that I would like them to answer . It consists of generic questions on how they advertise, how they came up with a price structure and the importance of specializing etc etc . I am hoping that they will not get there guard up and are willing to share some of there insights into their business.( much like POTN member do ).


That's it for now. Comments on my approach are welcome. Would you do anything differently?

Thanks in advance


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Fester
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Jan 12, 2013 09:34 |  #2

Your title is a little mis leading, It should say plan for a business plan.

I like where your headed, as business man my self, I would never answer your survey from a stranger. From a business perspective, I dont care to help out any potential competition. There are times I get a call from my competition asking general questions trying to get my rates etc. But then I do the same, too.

Since your talking retirement and retirement income, how much do you NEED to make? Yearly?
In the states here we have Social security and it limits how much me can make, with out loosing or getting taxed on the Social security. What are your limits, EH?

The good thing about Photography is most checks are made out to us personally and can be cashed and not report to uncle sam.

How many hours do you want to work weekly, after all your talking retirement, not a career change.




  
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J ­ Michael
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Jan 12, 2013 09:52 |  #3

It's in your competition's best interest to share their rates with you since the last thing they need is someone severely undercutting them. You also need to do a market analysis to determine whether there is sufficient business to allow you to clear the $85/hr. For instance, survey buyers of sports photos to find out what they would like to buy that is not currently available, which package of several proposed packages (and price points) that they would be most likely to purchase, etc.




  
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MichaelAnthonyPhotography
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Jan 12, 2013 10:38 |  #4

Fester wrote in post #15478672 (external link)
Your title is a little mis leading, It should say plan for a business plan.

I like where your headed, as business man my self, I would never answer your survey from a stranger. From a business perspective, I dont care to help out any potential competition. There are times I get a call from my competition asking general questions trying to get my rates etc. But then I do the same, too.

Since your talking retirement and retirement income, how much do you NEED to make? Yearly?
In the states here we have Social security and it limits how much me can make, with out loosing or getting taxed on the Social security. What are your limits, EH?

The good thing about Photography is most checks are made out to us personally and can be cashed and not report to uncle sam.

.

How many hours do you want to work weekly, after all your talking retirement, not a career change.

That last statement is a sure fire way to an audit, and will get you in trouble. All income is reportable and especially if it is traceable. To the OP take advice like this lightly and consult an accountant


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dave ­ kadolph
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Jan 12, 2013 13:36 as a reply to  @ MichaelAnthonyPhotography's post |  #5

As far as the sports photography angle--I recently put that part of my life behind me.

In 2004 when I started and equipment was expensive it was a viable option --now every soccer mom has a DSLR --and some of them are pretty darn good.

You would be lucky to clear $8.50 an hour IMHO.


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SOK
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Jan 12, 2013 17:34 |  #6

It's refreshing to see a thread where the OP has actually put some thought into things without blindly and abitarily asking "how much to charge"?

Things you've possibly missed in your expenses; marketing material (business cards, clothing, flyers, online ad campaigns, banners etc etc) and professional fees (legal, accounting, web etc), services (phone, internet, PO Box??)...otherwise pretty well covered for a part-time start up.

I'm not sure how you'll go with a survey. You may have better luck engaging with one or two existing businesses and explaining what you're trying to and that you're not just out to undercut everyone. J Michael is right in that it's in their best interests to guide you on the 'going rate' but in reality I'd be extremely reluctant to share too much with potential competition.

Dave brings up another good point...shooting the stuff that every man and his dog can shoot is not going to net you much revenue. If you're just out to try and make some cash from what you already do, you might find it tough. If you're genuinely trying to build a profitable business you need to target the things that the layperson can't (easily) replicate.

FWIW: OP I'm in a very similar situation to you and my first few years basically followed the path that you're aiming for. PM me if you want to chat more.


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Fettaugraphy
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Jan 12, 2013 18:27 as a reply to  @ SOK's post |  #7

Thanks SOK et al.


I do plan to claim all income. The taxman up here can be pretty brutal on cheats. My wifes accountant will handle my stuff.

Regading the survey, I agree it will be a tough sell but hopefully I can spin it by sharing the results to all of those that participate. I will try to use survey monkey on line to send them.

I agree that kids sports are tough unless you do team and indiv. which I do not want to do since i cannot compete on the $25 packages some people offer.

I have the advantage of being allowed on deck for swim competitions so I will see how well they sell once I set up on line.


Thanks again and I would like to hear more from the biz hounds out there including grumpy.


Canon 5D3,7D
16-35 f4L IS, 70-200 f4 IS L , 85 f1.8 ,35mm f2 IS, Tamron 24-70mm f2.8 VC , Sigma 50 mm 1.4 art , 135 L
http://www.stevefett.c​om (external link)

  
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banquetbear
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Jan 14, 2013 00:25 |  #8

Fettaugraphy wrote in post #15480276 (external link)
Thanks SOK et al.


I do plan to claim all income. The taxman up here can be pretty brutal on cheats. My wifes accountant will handle my stuff.

Regading the survey, I agree it will be a tough sell but hopefully I can spin it by sharing the results to all of those that participate. I will try to use survey monkey on line to send them.

I agree that kids sports are tough unless you do team and indiv. which I do not want to do since i cannot compete on the $25 packages some people offer.

I have the advantage of being allowed on deck for swim competitions so I will see how well they sell once I set up on line.


Thanks again and I would like to hear more from the biz hounds out there including grumpy.

...I'm a big proponent of a strong business plan: but I'm not entirely sure what your plan is with the survey. How do your competition advertise? Well, you found them somewhere, how did you find them? There should be enough information out there to be able to get an idea how your competition is pricing themselves. As for the importance of specializing: why would you ask your competition that question? For those who specialize its very important: and those for those that don't specialize it isn't.

Don't waste valuable time seeking out answers to obvious questions. You need a good general idea of the nature of your competition and the prices they charge. You don't need to know every intimate detail of your competition. You don't need to go on their radar. Keeping a low profile can be handy. Do you really want to tell your competition "hey, I'm new, I don't know much, tell me what you know?"


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Fettaugraphy
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Jan 19, 2013 05:49 |  #9

I want to thank everybody for their input. I think the general take away is that yes a business plan is important but over analysis is not going to help in the long run and probably takes away valuable time to set up your own practice.

Glumpy ....sorry for lumping you into one of Snow White's gang. It was not my intention.:oops:


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HappySnapper90
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Jan 19, 2013 12:58 |  #10

Fettaugraphy wrote in post #15478632 (external link)
For the annual expenses, I have considered the following. Insurance, web hosting fees, on-line gallery fees, office supplies, car expenses ( gas, etc ).

You forgot: paying yourself, equipment (camera and computer) equpment service, marketing, accounting/tax service, taxes as well as any filing fees for being a registered business where you live.

In your "breaking even" does that even take into account paying you a salary?!




  
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I ­ weston ­ I
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Jan 19, 2013 13:13 |  #11

First of all, good luck with whatever you choose to do!

I'd also recommend making a business model over a business plan as your plans will often change over the course of weeks, let alone a 3-5 year plan. This will also allow you to figure more detail on what your expenses will be.

My business model would answer basic questions:

What will you take pictures of?
Who will buy them?
What will set you apart from others?
What will you need to capture these images at a bare minimum?
How will people find you/what is your advertising plan?

The first two are the most important. A lot of people start with how much will I charge? You'll notice I didn't even list that in the business model...Simple reason - You will charge what people will pay. If a soccer mom with a 60D + kit lens can get acceptable pictures to her, you will have a hard sell convincing her to buy prints for more than $10-20.

I am currently looking at options for real estate photography so here's some things I have answered:

1: I will take pictures of for sale or for rent real estate for higher end homes / units.
2: Realtors/landlords/for sale by owners
3: Availability, post processing technique, interpersonal skills
4: Tripod, 3+ strobes with filters, UWA lens, standard lens
5: Active advertising, meetings with realtors to get a foot in the door. Business cards, pamphlets with sample images.

Then it's just a matter of acting on the model. No plan needed to get started if you can answer those questions and find the risk is low enough to be comfortable.


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1000WordsPhotography
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Jan 19, 2013 15:13 |  #12

My two cents tho its not specific to photography:

I wouldn't start any business without a business plan, i just wouldn't. It doesn't have to be an exercise thats super complete but you need to have an idea of how your business is going to work, whats it going to cost to run it, who your competitors are, etc. The things I think you definitely need are a pretty complete estimate of expenses and a plan for how you sell your services as well as some of idea of who'd buy them and why.

There are some good books out there on business plans, pick one up and thumb through it.

I'd also think of that 3-5 year plan in a slightly looser way, consider it a framework, a set of goals.You don't need to know that in 23 months I'm going to open an office, but you do need to know things like "I expect to start making a profit in X time, here's how I cover my expenses between now and then"

I'd also plan the business with the worst in mind, instead of planning to make say $10k your first year consider what happens if you make $5k. How does that affect your lifestyle, can you carry on like that for 24 months etc.

Business planning shouldn't be all wine and roses because very few business launches are and thats something you usually learn through failure. But if you take a hard and realistic look at how the business will actually work you can save yourself many problems before you begin.

Also I like the idea of your study, I in fact commissioned a telemarketing company to do the same thing for me. I found the information helpful but in the end not in the way that you think. It gave me a good idea of the local lay of the land and a meaningful measure of the size of the market. It helped me figure out some gaps thats I hadn't assessed in my business plan. But to do this its going to cost you time or money, no way around that.


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Fettaugraphy
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Jan 20, 2013 09:00 |  #13

HappySnapper90 wrote in post #15508701 (external link)
You forgot: paying yourself, equipment (camera and computer) equpment service, marketing, accounting/tax service, taxes as well as any filing fees for being a registered business where you live.

In your "breaking even" does that even take into account paying you a salary?!

Thanks for your input Happy. As for the camera, lens and computer, they are accounted for as capital costs that have a depreciation attached to them.

The way I have set up the spreadsheet is to calculate all of the expenses for what I want to do ( the plan ). Look at what the hourly rate would be to breakeven in the first three years based on the time I have to put toward the business and the percentage of time that I would actually be making money shooting. So for example in the first year, I am being conservative and for example if I have 15 hrs a week to build my business, only 20% of that time would go towards making money.

Once I have an hourly rate calculated it would tell me a number of things. a) is it competitive, b) do I need to re-plan for reduced expenses c) do I need to increase the number of hrs into the business.

I am hoping that this along with the survey will give me a better lay of the land and tell me whether I should just keep this as a hobby or transition it to a part-time business.


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16-35 f4L IS, 70-200 f4 IS L , 85 f1.8 ,35mm f2 IS, Tamron 24-70mm f2.8 VC , Sigma 50 mm 1.4 art , 135 L
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dave ­ kadolph
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Jan 20, 2013 09:22 as a reply to  @ Fettaugraphy's post |  #14

You talk about depreciating a camera and a lens.

One of the basic fundamentals of shooting for hire is the need for a backup for every critical piece of gear.

Take a look at my gear list--the equipment necessary to support 2 event shooters at the semi-pro level. Shooting a Friday night football game and halftime show takes easily over 10k in gear alone for one shooter counting backups.;)


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1000WordsPhotography
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Jan 20, 2013 10:53 |  #15

I'll tell you something most would consider strange, I'm not really counting the cost of any gear I've already got as a cost of starting a business. With the exception on one lens, there isn't a single thing that I've bought "just for business" most of it is stuff I just wanted so I'm considering that a sunk cost.

Things that I'm buying now, studio lights, extra camera body, etc are things that I am only buying to run my business.


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