How to Write the Ultimate Photography Business Plan: A Detailed Guide
Are you looking to start your own photography business? Or are you someone who already owns one and are looking to take it to the next level? Having your own photography business plan is the first step!
Creating a business plan for photography is one of the most important things you can do to ensure that you have a higher chance of success. It gives you clarity on what your goals are and how you go about achieving them.
In effect, it is a road map to success.
In fact, research shows that 71% of the fastest-growing companies have written documentation for their plans and business owners who took the time to write them saw growth 30% faster than those who did not.
Photography is a highly competitive industry where reputation matters. As a startup, it is hard to break into this industry and gain market share. Doing the initial research and creating a photography business plan will give you a head start.
Read on until the end to find a downloadable photography business plan template that you can use to create your very own!
Here’s what we will be discussing in the blog:
- What exactly is a business plan and why should you write one?
- How do you go about writing a business plan?
- What is the lean business plan?
- Traditional business plan vs Lean business plan: Which one is right for you?
What exactly is a photography business plan and why should you write one?
A business plan is a document that outlines the product or service that you are selling, your strategies to market the product, your financial strategy (the revenue model and how revenue is generated) and includes information about day-to-day operations.
It also specifies the goals that you set for your business and your ideas on how to achieve those goals. Ideally, you should create a business plan when you start your business but it’s never too late to start.
Having a detailed plan in place ensures that you are never confused about the direction your business should take and this helps you align day-to-day decisions with the overall goal you have for your business.
Writing a business plan involves analyzing the target market as well as the competition. This step might reveal to you that maybe this business is not as lucrative as you thought it would be. You might save a lot of time and money by altering your course.
If you plan to raise funds to start your business, either by approaching investors or lenders, a business plan is all the more important. A good and thorough document tells them that you are serious about your business and this gives them the confidence to invest in you.
How do you write a photography business plan?
An important question to answer is how to write a business plan for a photography business. It may seem like a daunting task at first, but we assure you, it is anything but.
Here’s a photography business plan outline, read on to find out more about each section:
- Executive Summary
- Business Description
- Market Analysis
- Competitor Analysis
- Marketing Plan
- Operations Plan
- Financials Plan
1. Executive Summary
This is the first section of the plan. This section is where you summarize the contents of the plan into a short pitch.
Potential investors go through multiple photography business plans in a day and don’t have the time to read through each of them in detail. The executive summary is what they will focus on.
You should clearly and concisely explain what your company is about, where you are now and what you hope to accomplish in the future. Make it short, sweet, and to the point.
Include the vision you have for the company, its mission statement, and a short photography business description of the products/services you provide. Since it is a summary, it is recommended that you write this section last but make sure to spend some time on it.
Here’s a photography business plan executive summary sample that you can look at to understand exactly what points need to be included in each section.
Remember, you have to include only the most important points in the executive summary. Make it engaging and interesting to read by creating a narrative. This will ensure that the reader remains captivated and reads the whole thing.
When writing a vision statement, you need to ask yourself, “Where do I see my business in 5 years?”
Having long-term goals gives you a target to work towards. An important point to remember here is that you shouldn’t sell yourself short when setting long-term goals. At the same time, your goals should not be too unrealistic either.
Because these goals take a long time to achieve, you might forget about them as time goes on. You may achieve certain milestones and become complacent. Having solid goals ensures that you remain on track no matter what. They help you monitor your progress and correct your course if need be.
Your business’s goals are determined by the niche that you are in, and your own personal situation such as how much time you can devote to the business.
Some long term goals could be:
- Having your own photography studio
- Employing 10 people
- Generating $500,00 in annual recurring revenue (the average revenue for a retail photography business is $238,689)
- Having 100 repeat customers
- Working for a retail client
- Having your work showcased in an art gallery
- Having your photo appear on a popular magazine cover, etc.
Next comes the mission statement. A mission statement is the business’ reason to exist. This is where you explain why you are doing what you do. Here’s what you need to include:
- Value – What is the value of your photography business in the market? How can it help your clients?
- Inspiration – Why should people want to come to you?
Make sure your mission statement is clear and concise. Your short-term goals should have time frames associated with them.
A photography business plan example of a mission statement is:
“To deliver professional and creative images at an incredible value, we make sure that customer satisfaction lies at the heart of everything that we do “
Just reading these two sentences tells you what the company does, and what it is they represent. This is what you should also aim for with your mission statement.
Writing an executive summary for the first time can be confusing and you might get stuck wondering what to include and what to leave out.
To help you out, here are some topics you can include:
- Business overview
- Product overview
- Target customers
- Management Structure
- USP and other success factors
- Long term goal
2. Business Description
This is where you describe your business. Ensure that the name of the company is clearly stated here. Clearly mention your niche and give a short overview of what that involves.
Some popular niches in the photography industry are:
- Wedding photography
- Portrait photography
- Commercial photography
- Event photography
- Product photography
- Freelance photography, etc.
Next, you should provide an overview of your business. Describe what the business does. Start with a short sales pitch. Make sure to mention the USP of your business.
For example, “We provide wedding photography services to clients at an affordable price point. Customer experience is at the heart of everything that we do and customer satisfaction is our number one priority”.
Next, mention the structure of your business i.e. whether it is a sole ownership business, partnership, LLC, or corporation. Include the names of the proprietors and other stakeholders in the company.
Additionally, you can also include when the business was started, the struggles you faced along the way, and how you overcame them. The reader should be able to get an idea of what your business is by reading this section alone.
Then, list the services that you offer. Write a brief description of what each service entails.
Highlight the services that bring you the most profit. These are the services that you should be focusing on when growing your business.
3. Market Analysis
Write a detailed analysis of the target market that your photography business aims to serve. You would have identified a niche that your business intends to cater to – like portrait, still life, landscape, travel, etc.
Write a detailed analysis of the target market for your particular niche. This is where you prove to potential investors that you have a clear understanding of the needs and wants of the target market.
A great market analysis will answer the following questions:
- Who are my potential customers?
- What are my customers’ buying habits?
- How large is my target market?
- How much are customers willing to pay for my product?
Start by creating a client profile. Describe your ideal client. This gives you an idea of who you are selling to. Fine-tune your marketing efforts keeping in mind these customer profiles for maximum engagement.
Creating a professional-client profile would ideally include customer demographics, customer psychographics, etc. This will help you identify who your potential customers are, and what their buying habits are:
For example, if you are a wedding photographer, your research will tell you that your average client is around 30 – 35 years of age. People in this age group are part of the millennial generation. Research shows that millennials spend an average of 2 hours and 34 minutes a day on social media. Therefore, your chances of reaching them are highest if you market your business on social media.
If your business is already operational, you can look back at the previous clients that you have had and analyze them to find common trends. This can provide valuable insight into who your ideal clients are.
Next, analyze the industry. Include the current size of the target market, the growth rate, and so on.
Photographic services is a $35 billion industry globally, with the US accounting for $15 billion or 40% of the total market share. Further, the industry is growing at a rate of 0.6% annually in the US.
4. Competitor Analysis
Running a small business can be extremely competitive, especially a photography business where reputation counts for a lot. So in order to be successful, it is imperative that you have a very good idea of the competition that you are facing.
This is where competitor analysis comes into the picture. A good competitor analysis tells potential investors that not only is there a good market for this business but also that you have a great understanding of the market. This improves your chances of securing funding.
Start by making a list of your closest competitors. These are the people that offer the same services as you do and appeal to the same clients as you do.
For each competitor, make the following list:
The benefits of doing this are twofold:
- You will know exactly where you stand with respect to the competition
- You might notice some additional opportunities that might otherwise have remained undiscovered.
Competitor analysis helps you identify gaps in the industry that are currently underrepresented. Focusing on these gaps will ensure that you have fewer direct competitors.
Alternatively, you can beat your competitors at their own game by offering the same services that they do at a lower price, or by offering additional services that help you stand out from the rest.
Any good business aims to solve the problems that people face. The inferences you draw from this analysis, combined with the market research, will help you address the pain points that customers have in this industry.
For example, you might have learned from your market analysis that the customers would like the option to buy photo albums. Your competition analysis might reveal that only 1 among the 5 photography studios in the area offer this service. In this instance, offering customers the option to buy photo albums will help you stand out.
5. Marketing Plan
In this part of the photographer’s business plan, you outline how you get your product or service across to customers. The marketing plan should include the promotions strategy, outreach, and PR campaigns to be undertaken over a period of time. Write down the cost of these marketing strategies and compare them against the potential benefits to measure their effectiveness.
Make a list of the various promotional activities and strategies that you plan to do. These can include:
- Cold calling
- Advertising, both locally on billboards, etc, and in the media
- Distributing pamphlets
- Referral programs, deals and discounts
- Workshops, etc.
- Converting CTAs on social media channels like Instagram and Facebook
For example, if you are a wedding photographer, you can tie up with a local bridal clothing store and shoot some of their new collections, and have the photographs printed and displayed in the store. This will be a free promotion for you as you are creating awareness among the customers of that particular store.
You can also host a photography workshop that is free to enter. This builds customer relations and brand awareness in your locality.
Innovative marketing methods like this can get word of your business across to potential customers while reducing expenses on your end. The ideal photography client will need around 15 to 20 touchpoints with you and your business before they’re ready to make an inquiry. This requires a lot of effort in advertising and marketing.
If the marketing plan is complex, it may be difficult to implement. In this case, identifying marketing firms that you can outsource this task to makes your life easier and leaves you with more time to focus on the core business.
Make a detailed sales forecast for the next quarter, the next 6 months, and the next year based, and include deadlines for your sales forecasts so that you have a target to work towards. This will ensure that your business is on track and leave adequate time for corrective measures if you find that it is not.
6. Operations Plan
The operations plan describes the day-to-day operations of your photography business. A proper operations plan ensures that everything you do on a daily basis is aligned with your long-term goals.
A well-written operations plan will streamline your workflow and ensure that things run smoothly and efficiently. This implies that your clients will have consistently great experiences when doing business with you. As long as a good operations plan is in place, your business will run like a well-oiled machine.
Each process should be documented. Segment your processes as follows:
- Lead generation
- Meeting the client and understanding their requirements
- The actual shoot
- Editing the images
- Delivering the finished product back to the clients.
Having such a detailed operations plan in place will ensure that your business will come across as a professional outfit and clients will keep coming back.
The more tasks you can outsource to employees or third parties, the more time you will have to focus on what actually matters; the core business. Hiring editors and other photographers can reduce your workload. You may need an accountant to manage the finances, a marketing manager to oversee all marketing efforts, and so on.
The operations plan should clearly state the distribution of roles of each employee working in your company. This removes ambiguity and ensures that work gets done in an efficient manner.
An example of the role distribution is given below:
You, the owner: Oversees all day-to-day operations, meets with clients, takes decisions on important matters, primary photographer at all major shoots.
Assistant photographer: Assists with larger shoots and handles smaller shoots. Takes care of logistics when going for shoots.
Editor: In charge of post-processing. Decides which photos are included in the final draft. In charge of printing oh photo albums.
Receptionist: Schedules customer appointments, handles day-to-day tasks and answers phone calls. First point of contact of client interactions.
As your business grows, you may need to hire a receptionist to handle appointment scheduling. Alternatively, photography booking software can handle all your appointment scheduling needs. It also offers a lot of additional functionality like reports that help you stay on top of your business.
7. Financial Plan
A good place to start is by creating an expenses worksheet. This is a document that keeps a track of all your expenditures.
One-time expenses are those expenses that you incur at the time of setting up the business. This usually constitutes the biggest chunk of the pie.
Some examples of one time expenses are:
- Certification Costs
- Insurance Costs
- Other photography equipment like lights, memory cards, etc.
- Studio remodeling
- A company car, etc.
Next, list the recurring expenses. These are essentially bills that you have to pay on a recurring basis.
These can include:
- Software subscriptions
- Employee salaries
- Marketing and advertising costs
- Office supplies
- Phone bill, etc.
Included below is an example of an expenses worksheet. You can use this as a reference when creating your own expenses sheet.
Next, elaborate on the revenue model you have chosen for your business.
In photography, there are broadly 2 revenue models:
- an hourly-rate model where you have a fixed hourly charge
- a fee-upfront model where you charge the client a one-time fee depending on the service you provide.
You can decide upon one or the other, use a mixture of the two, or come up with a system that is unique to you.
Once you have decided upon a revenue model, you have to decide on prices for your services. Depending on your market positioning, you can charge a premium for a better service/experience. As long as you offer something unique compared to the competition, that is also in line with your pricing strategy, your business should thrive.
It is essential to remember that pricing strategies are not set in concrete. Maybe you are resource-limited in your starting days. You might only be able to provide a few basic services. This is by no means a death sentence.
Eventually, you will have more money to invest in people and equipment, allowing you to offer more services. As your client experience improves, you can charge more. The pricing strategy is dynamic. One thing to keep in mind is that you should always provide a value proposition, no matter the price point.
Now write down estimates of monthly revenue taking into account your billable hours, your expenses such as rent, utilities, staff salaries, and other instances of cash flow. Another approach to pricing your services is to start with a target monthly income for your business and work backward, dividing that income by the number of billable hours to get an estimate of how much you should be charging per service per hour in order to achieve your goals.
The appendix contains links to supporting documents. This can include links to research docs, renders of your office/ photography studio, names of supporting businesses that handle marketing, logistics, etc. Basically, any document that is not directly relevant to the business plan but you feel may add context can be included here.
To help you avoid spending a lot of time on creating the design of your plan, here is a free photography business plan template for you. All you need to do is enter your email below and you’ll get your very own downloadable copy!
What is the Lean Business Plan?
If you are not looking for external funding and feel that a full-fledged, fleshed-out plan is too complicated, you can try creating a lean version. As the name suggests, this is a condensed form of the business plan for a photography studio. It is just one page long and gives a broad overview of specific aspects of your business.
While the business plan primarily exists to secure external funding for your business, the lean version helps you optimize your business and manage it well.
If you are just starting out with your photography business and don’t have the time or necessity to create a business plan, you should look into creating a lean version of the same. This helps you define your goals and ensure that you are on course.
The lean business plan has 4 sections:
- Business specifics
Remember, the perspective of the document changes because it is a document that you are creating for yourself. The information in this is for your reference.
At the end of the day, you know your business better than anyone. This document is there to provide some guidance as you are starting out and to ensure that you are on track to achieving your goals. Try to keep it as short as possible. Use bullet points wherever you can for easy readability.
This is where you define the strategy that your business will use to become successful. Define the target market, the problem that the target market faces, the solution to this problem, and why you think your business is better than the rest at solving the problem. This will give you clarity on what your business needs to be and what you should be focussing on to succeed.
Execution deals with the day-to-day tasks that you need to do in order to achieve your goals. It includes everything from product, to management, to sales and marketing. Start by defining the services that you offer. This is the core of the business and everything else wraps around it.
Next, describe the management structure of your business. Who does what should be clearly defined. Create roles for each of your employees and delegate specific tasks to them. Some scheduling software help you assign staff roles and empower employees to make their own decisions. If you feel that you have a shortage of manpower, identify those areas where you need employees and create a recruitment schedule.
Create a marketing plan that you are going to use in order to raise awareness amongst the target market and generate leads. This should include all advertisements, PR campaigns, and other outreach activities. Estimate the cost of your marketing efforts and create a timeline.
Finally, write down sales projections based on your marketing efforts. Make sure you include deadlines so that you have targets to work towards.
This is where you describe your business. Start with your niche. Then list the services that you offer and explain briefly what each service entails. Also, describe the USP of your business. Include a short description of the operations.
Start with the money that has been invested into the business. This is your capital expenditure. Specify whether the business was bootstrapped or if the money was borrowed from a bank. If it was borrowed, write down how long it will take for the business to be debt-free.
Write a brief description of the pricing model. Include financial projections. Make a list of your monthly expenses and current monthly revenue. List how much you charge for each service and determine how profitable they are. Finally, write down how much you should charge for each service to achieve your financial goals.
Traditional business plan vs Lean business plan: Which one is right for you?
When writing a photography business plan, the first question that you need to answer is, “Why am I writing this? Is it for myself or am I writing it to pitch to investors?” The content and structure of this document will depend on your answer to these questions.
If you are writing it to secure funding, it is recommended that you stick with the traditional business plan. It has a more rigid format and will include all the relevant information banks and investors look for. Remember to go into as much detail as possible so that the person reading it can get the full picture.
If, on the other hand, you are writing it for yourself, then you can be far more flexible with the content and structure. In fact, this is the perfect opportunity for you to write a lean business plan. You can include only those parts you find relevant to your business and word it however you want
You don’t need to follow these exact steps when creating your plan. You can pick and choose those topics that you find most relevant to your business.
It is important to know the basics of how to write a photography business plan when applying for a loan or pitching to potential investors – that means including the executive summary, business description, operations plan, and financial plan is a must
Make sure to include all the relevant information so that the readers can get a complete picture of your business. Remember, a photography studio business plan may not be necessary to start a business, but a well-written one can save you a lot of time and money in the long run.
While having a written plan for your investors will facilitate your business to be profitable, as a business owner, you have a responsibility to make sure your processes are optimized as well. A booking software will do exactly that! It will not only help you book more, but also save time by managing your daily admin, boosting booking convenience, helping with marketing, and much more!
Don’t believe us? Try our 14-day free trial to decide for yourself!
We at Appointy, help business owners grow and run their businesses with our online scheduling software. This blog was a part of our ‘Manage your Business’ category, where we provide expert tips, resources, or simply talk about the challenges that small and medium businesses face every day.
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