Scaling A Photography Startup

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You know you’ve got a great eye, and you’ve been praised for the work you’ve put out. Your dream is to take your hobbyist passion for photography to the next level: turn your avocation into a viable business venture. Can you do it?  If you plan, strategize, and invest the requisite patience and sweat equity, the answer is a resounding yes. But how do you get your dream off the ground?

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Sounds Like A Plan

But before you get yourself  “out there”, you need to determine exactly where you’re going and how you’re going to get there. Translation: you need a solid business plan that gets your startup on the right path, ensures business growth – and allows you to devote the bulk of your time to your craft. This has to be a priority if you want your business to get off the ground. It should include:

  • Business overview: determine your position in the market, who your competition is, and whether you’re going to compete or cooperate with them.
  • Business strategy: define your business values, what action do you need to take to advance your business, what issues might you face.
  • Market research: How can you successfully grow your business – and what obstacles might you face? What services do the consumers in your market require?
  • Find your niche: Based on your market research, which segment of the market can your skills best serve? Niches offer a great bonus: when you focus on a specific subject area, you can build a portfolio of GettyImages – which in turn can generate a recurring stream of customers.
  • Managing your business: Consider your business requirements from an accounting perspective. Think about how you’ll register your assets, and what’s required to properly maintain your equipment.
  • Finance evaluation: Determine what income you’ll be able to generate and whether it’s sufficient to sustain and – ideally – grow your business. Be realistic!

Finesse Your Financing

This may sound like a no-brainer, but it bears repeating: don’t plunge into a startup if you’re in the red.  (The business startup graveyard is filled with wannabes who failed to follow this advice.)  You may be tempted to throw all your capital into purchasing equipment. Don’t. Instead, tap into equipment financing.

Determine your equipment needs and research your financing options. Decide whether you need the equipment on a short-term basis for a specific project – or whether it makes more sense for you to lease in order to keep up (affordably) with changing technologies?  You’ll be able to use the money you’ve saved for marketing and promotions instead.

Go Easy On The Wallet

You’ll know by now that desktop photo and video editing software can be expensive – but it doesn’t have to break the bank. Explore the many free online video editing apps and tools available – among them, InVideo, Filmora, and WeVideo. Use these to enhance your image quality without dropping a dime.

Another great free option: social networking apps and sites. This is a no-brainer for entrepreneurs whose business success is a direct result of being “seen”. So make friends with Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and other platforms where you can share your photos and extend your reach.

There are plenty of tools to make professional-looking videos for this purpose. Invest in a good YouTube Intro maker that can captivate viewers and draw them to your video.

Channel Your Energies: Partner Up

Thanks to the disruption caused by a global pandemic, many of the tried-and-true go-to-market strategies just don’t work the way they used to. Time for a re-think. How can you successfully scale your business, expand into new markets, and build your brand in a time of uncertainty?

The answer may be to develop channel partnerships. You want to get your work out there and seen by as many potential customers as possible. You’re much more likely to do that successfully under a banner that enjoys worldwide recognition than you are under your own humble moniker. So once you’ve established your niche and built up a portfolio, Connect and build relationships with companies like Shutterstock and GettyImages for guaranteed global visibility.

Don’t want to take that route? You could launch your own merchandise and sell them in places like Etsy.

Consider a multichannel strategy. Research your market. Zero in on agencies that are likely buyers for your subject and style. Work with them to become the exclusive provider of visuals for their needs

Make a list of print and digital media outlets that might be interested in your work. Show them how you can customize your work to meet their needs. Some businesses and industries need fresh content each month. Build a team that can deliver customized content every month for a recurring fee.

In other words: determine the needs of your target groups, show them how you can meet those needs, and devise tailor-made deals that they won’t be able to refuse.

Go Over The Top

Another notable Covid consequence: the boom in the consumption of internet-based video, and the resulting increase in the numbers of businesses moving to OTT (Over the Top) monetization options. If you work with videos (and – photography being a visual medium – you should) it’s time to get on board the streaming business.  An estimated 55 million people will switch from traditional TV to OTT streaming by 2022 – and that market will only continue to grow. That’s good news for businesses like yours that rely heavily on eye appeal. Developing an OTT app is a surefire way to introduce your services to a wider audience.

You’ve got several options to choose from Ad-Supported Monetization (AVOD),  Subscription-Based Monetization (SVOD), Pay-Per-View Monetization (TVOD), or a hybrid.

Keep in mind that OTT platforms are private, not public services. So if you go the OTT route, look for a premium online video platform that offers high-end security, advanced monetization options, and seamless integration with your OTT app.

As a startup looking to grow an audience, you’d be wise to leverage the benefits of the AVOD option. That way, you’ll only be paywalling your premium content. As you begin to grow your audience, consider switching to the subscription-based option to maximize revenues.

While you’re in the startup stage, that objective may seem elusive. Your immediate goal is to determine whether and how you can generate a steady income stream. Be realistic about your business’s potential, research your market, map out a business strategy, and look into the free and low-cost options that can help you get your enterprise off the ground.

The payoff? You’ll be doing what everyone aspires to: getting paid for the work you love.