In our previous posts in this series, I suggested that aspiring photographers should not work for free, and should review their work against established pros who are members of the two professional photographer organizations in Canada—CAPIC and PPOC.
By now you should have good indication that this is a career path you wish to pursue. I also suggested that a formal education is the best option as you can come out of the gate flying, so to speak. For whatever reason, you may have decided that school is not the best option for you, and some of the best photographers in the world have simply “hung out their shingle.”
What most, if not all, of those well-known photographers did have was an acumen for business, or someone who was silently working behind them advising or managing their business for them. Frankly, if you are going to invest two or three years of your time in an effort to establish a business, and thousands of dollars in equipment, I cannot emphasize strongly enough that you give consideration to enrolling in business courses via distance learning, at minimum. There are many courses available through your local community colleges and reputable schools that offer online training—Seneca College would be a good place to start your research. At a minimum you will require a working knowledge of general business, marketing, sales, accounting, tax laws, insurance and liability, as well as industry-specific topics that like copyright and liability mitigation.
But before we rush to have business cards printed, let’s consider a few things. Most importantly, how much revenue will you have to realize just in order to earn an income and stay in business?
You are entering a service-based industry and for the most part, your skill level, locale and client base will dictate what you can charge as a fee. There are several web-based outlets that offer great advice, and are well worth reviewing. Mark Wallace (Adorama TV) has shared some great types in this video on You Tube.
In this video Mark offers a huge bucket full of sage advice; however, I would caution that you not plug his “days of work” numbers in your daily cost calculations as it is quite unlikely you will work 250 days on start up. To clarify, you will probably work more than 250 days, but what are your billable days? As a start up, if you can invoice two days per week, you are probably doing alright.
Another resource that makes life easier for calculating the daily cost of business is a calculator from National Press Photographers Association .
Once you manoeuvre through the various components of what it costs to be in business, you can fully understand how much you should charge to stay in business. You can’t be shy about charging what seems an obscene amount—you will only be working with your camera about 20 percent of your time, and time will be your most valuable asset.