Setting up a (Landscape) Photography Workshop Company
Written by Cheryl Hamer
Six years ago, I handed in my notice in my previous local government role and set up my landscape photography workshop company, I had been dreaming of doing it for 10 years, and when the chance to take redundancy came up, I decided to take the plunge. I most certainly don’t regret it, and I would do it again in similar circumstances, but it hasn’t been easy, and I’ve had lots of ups and downs along the way. In this blog I’m going to share some of my top tips with you to hopefully help you decide if it’s the career switch for you.
Firstly, I should say that it’s so important to try and live your dreams; life is relatively short isn’t it, and if you’re stuck in a job that is tearing you apart or boring you to tears, (both of which, mine was), then I’d wholeheartedly recommend making a change. That motivation to make a better life will be crucial in helping to keep you going as you face the challenges of setting up your own business.
However, you need to be realistic – there’s a lot of (famous) competition out there! They’re not going to go away or be less attractive just because you’ve joined the fray – you will have to find a way to learn to live with them, so just settle your mind to that!
Any new business takes at least 2 years to find its feet; the likelihood is that you’re going to struggle financially during that time. I found that I wasn’t really making enough money for the first three years. So, you need to have some money behind you to keep you going whilst you get over this initial ‘hump’ – or maybe a supportive partner who will shoulder the financial burden while you get properly up and running. (I had some redundancy pay which was a godsend.)
There will be lots of new skills that you need to master – it’s not just about taking fab photos, and your time to do the latter may be more limited than you’d like to think. These are just some of the skills you need: -
Website development & design
SEO (search engine optimisation) of your website – so that it comes high on a search
Self-assessment tax compliance
Understanding the various insurances, you will need
Fabulous interpersonal skills!
I’m sure there are others that I’ve forgotten, but that’s enough to get your head around I think! Sure, you can pay others to do some of those – but it all costs money, so mastering at least some of them will save you some of that valuable commodity!
Just a more detailed word about marketing. Magazine advertising is very expensive, however, don’t settle for what they are offering you, the mags are struggling because of social media, so try and negotiate a better deal with them – you may be surprised.
Social media marketing is a specialist field all on its own, and there are webinars you can do to find out more. Whatever you do, your following of committed ‘devotees’ will grow slowly – however many people ‘like’ what you do, or ostensibly ‘follow’ your page. Additionally you may well get some negative feedback too – people love to criticise, so you need to develop a pretty thick skin!
Contrary to popular opinion, I haven’t found that offering ‘freebies’ brings in any extra business.
However, it’s not all doom and gloom – honest! Because your job is photography, it is perfectly acceptable – nay crucial – that you give yourself some photography time to really go out there and get some fantastic shots – and then publicise those every which way you can. Make sure though that you always publicise your very best shots – no taking something that’s quite good anymore, you’re selling yourself, so take the time to really make the very best photographs you can.
Try to network with other photographers, even if at first it may seem as if you’re in competition with them! My experience is that photography is a ‘not what you know but who you know game’ so it makes sense to be on good terms with others – and actually my overwhelming experience is that other photographers are very supportive.
Try to develop a specialism – you may already know what that is, or it may grow over time, but it’s really useful to provide something that differentiates you even just a bit, from others. My ‘bag’ these days is teaching people to take impressionist style photos in camera using multiple exposure and intentional camera movement, and since I developed that my clientele had definitely increased.
You will have down days, when it feels like you’re not making progress and no-one likes or cares about what you do! Try to remember that we all have them and create some strategies for yourself to help you get over them.
Being your own boss, and having the opportunity to get out there and take photos, beats sitting in an office, or any other tedious job, hands down – even when the going gets tough! So, gird up your loins, fire up your dreams, and go for it – but do so with a bit of realism behind you too.
Good Luck to you all!