Googling this topic will get a whole lot of bad advice mixed in with a few gems. What I’ve tried to put together is the nuts and bolts bottom line. No fluff…
1. Build your skill.
Cost & Time (a month): Free- $25 , 4-20 hours
It doesn’t matter if you are learning the skill or perfecting your art, this is the biggest and most important step for the success of your business.
For the mainstream skills and techniques the paid resources will be a better quality and save you time.
(Free, works anywhere)- Have them ready to listen and watch at any given opportunity. This free tool has all the quality of the paid services but are not condensed on what you want to learn and when. (For you super iPhone, iPad users you can have your iOS seamlessly read you an internet page to you while you drive with three clicks. In settings turn triple click on to “ask”. Go to safari web page (or any source) and click “reader” in URL bar. Now that all excess text is gone triple click home, select voice over, click on page.)
(2) Digital Books
Focus on ones you’ll have access to refer to later. Books bought from Kindle, iBooks or Audible are great because you can delete today and redownload them next year.
(3) Paid video services
Lynda.com ($25/mo) is the best for learning any media relatwed software use. Scott Kelby ($25/mo) is the best for learning capture. Video to brain ($15) focuses on media software as well. all these services produce top notch, 5 star products. don’t be afraid to skip around to just those portions you need help with.
(4) Other experts
Looks for people in your area. Offer your services for free. Offer your services for a small fee. Offer an “exchange on information”. Teach them the latest on how to use X software if they’ll take you out on their next shoot. The media community should be less competitive than other fields. Try to keep this true and share everything with other profesionals. It will only help you in the long term.
(5) Trials and Error
Try the skill while learning and comprehension is much better. Have the software open and walk through with them while they are discussing it.
$5 once , 1 hr/wk
$2 ; iPhone iPad visually based organization of ideas. Great for maping out your digital workflow for example.
$5; iPhone, iPad, and Mac database app. Data entry is great while listening to podcasts.
Free; All platform with auto syncing, sortble, email new entries, voice capture new entries.
Find a reason to apply your new skill. You’ll be much more likely to remember the camera setting for shooting with an external flash or video editing if you try it out after learning it in a real world trial.
The next step? Enough can’t be said about step 1. Hopefully this is where your hobby or schooling years were well spent. How do you know if you are there? Check out the portfolio’s of those around you. How do they compare? If you begin to feel bad for their customers then it’s time to get going on the next steps.
Building a portfolio is a necessary way to commuicate to future customers. You might need to do it to discover your market and focus. If you already know your market then go through your picuteres and pick portfolio with them in mind. If you don’t know what market you are going after then go through your pictures and pick those you are most proud of (most profitable) and what kind of people would buy them? When going through them keep in mind your post processing abilities. Here is some good advice for consistancy. This is absolutely essential if you want to market to a certain market.
4. Get Customers
a. Name and Logo
Free-$200 , 1 hour Don’t be afraid to pay a graphics designer to create a logo or a consultant for the right name. Start with focusing on who your customer is. Then think about different options based on what would draw that person to your product.
$8/mo , 10min-2hours; The technology has gotten to the point that if you are tech savy enough to fill out a form on a computer you can make a beautiful webpage. Keep in mind, that this is soley for adertisement! Do not keep your customers up to date with your latest shoot, do not blog your thoughts on Apple’s new product and DO NOT post more then 20 pictures. I recommend SquareSpace. It’s quick, capable, easy, professional, very customizable and cheap.
(1) Company Specific Facebook page.
Free , 20min; This looks more professional and official. It may be a little harder to use family and friends to promote you business.
(2) Visually appealing business cards.
$26, 1hr; I made very appealing, modern, multiple purpose 2″x2″ business cards easily and cheaply. Take your brand designed by a professional (I did my own) and go here, Printrunner.com. I got 1,000 for $26 shipped to my door. That means they cost about $0.03 each. If you pick a different size you’ll pay lots more. They look shiny and modern and slick. They are very high resolution. They are actually stickers but you wouldn’t know by looking at them. This makes them perfect to stick on the back of prints I sell. This site has a template to open in Photoshop. Send them the file and they will send you a digital comp.
The only thing I have on my card is my website. I say everything is there you may want, my blog, my store, my email address.
If you hope to reach anyone born after 1970 do not buy business cards pages and print on them from home. Those perforated home made look just screams small business and the 1980’s, and not in a good way. I think my technique is cheaper and easier then the do it yourself method.
(3) Professional Associations
$40 / 5min; Professional Photgraphers of America (PPA) has a service available for seasoned pros that adertises your sites as a part of being a member. Other associations have similar offerings.
(4) Keep going. (Free / 5min ) Don’t be afraid to search through and post on Craiglist. Don’t be temped to get paid too little. The word of mouth they would provide would probably not bring in customers good for you in the long term. Zaarly (Free / iPhone) is a service similar to Craiglist thats more private and automated. Try it out, I had to turn down offers the first weekend I posted on Zaaarly.
(5) Search engine ready. Free / 10min-2 hours)
Most require about 5 min to create an account. Don’t feel like you have to give your home address out if you don’t have a studio customers will come to.
5. Business logistics
(1) Backup. Two on site, on offsite. Here’s what I do;
I stick my SD card (1st copy) into my laptop and download them onto my internal hardrive (2nd copy) using Aperture. I don’t really care where Aperture is putting them because they won’t stay there forever. When downloading I put them into an Aperture folder called 2012 and an Album of the event.
I do all my editing and all my out processing. They stay on my hardrive for max performance and convenience. During this time the Time Machine backup has saved the changes to my Aperture Library onto an external hardrive. This is just a temporary third back up as decribed later. Here’s my SD card. At 32 GB and about $30 I can afford to leave the media on here until I’m sure it’s comepletely backed up.
The first night i will do a sync of all my media Smugmug. (only off site backup)
Once I’ve processed and outputed the media I move the originals to a FireWire (soon USB 3.0, the point is make sure its not just USB 2.0) external harddrive using a toaster.
I back up the toaster to a second external hardrive.
All my data is now stored on two external hardrives and offsite. I can look at full screen sizes of all my pictures and movies, sort, rate etc… right on my laptop. If i want to edit or open movies I have to plug in the toaster.
All of the above steps only take one mouse click. they is no sorting or sifting of pictures to accomplish this backup.
(2) Proofing. I recommend hard porrfing if you media allows this. Show them a large print of a similar concept and a smaller 4×6 of their best shots. You may spend $.80 to make $800.
If you are choosing to do digital proofing I recommend Smugmug. With Smugmug you can set print costs specific for each client and allow or not allow digital purchasing.
(3) Taxes preps. (Free / 20min – 1 hr) Go straight to the horses mouth, here. I read the IRS info and then searched the web for complimenting help. In every case I found the individual blogs or major professional write ups on this were more verbose then the IRS’s own info, left out things applicabel to me, re-worded and made it confusing, and in some cases misquoted.
(4) Other Legalize. ($X / 30min -2hr) Contracts, release forms etc…
PPA’s webiste has great stuff for photographers and Videographers. It’s free for non-members. I looked around a bit on this and its the best I could find. It was made by lawyers who deal with intelectual property for photographers.
Contracts- These are needed for when smoeone is hiring you to take pictures of them or for them for a product. At the end of the day here you should have a piece of paper you can hand to a client explaining what they are expecting from you for a set price. It should explain what they can and can’t do with the pictures. If you don’t want to do the real research and reading this one app (iPhone/ $3) will give you contracts templates for a customer and release forms.
Release forms are really only needed if you shoot someone and might want to later use the picture to adertise something. This app specializes in release forms (iPhone / $10). It doesn’t matter if that someone is a client or a stranger. You have the total right to take pictures of anyone anywhere as long as they don’t have the “reasonable right of privacy.” You can use that picture as your portfolio and even sell it as art, ie a print.