In this guide, we will be covering the steps you need to take to write a solid photography business plan.
While this guide is tailored to photographers (since I am a photographer), the concepts and steps apply to other artists and creators.
After reading this guide, you will be able to:
- Define what a business plan is
- Understand why it’s important to have a business plan
- When you should write your business plan
- Steps to write a solid photography business plan
- How long a photography business plan should be
Let’s dive in.
What is a Business Plan?
A business plan is a document where you lay out each state of starting and managing your business.
Your business plan will serve as a roadmap for how to structure, run, and scale your business.
Business plans help define your vision and “north star” so all the efforts you put into your business can be focused and directed towards the goal.
If you ever decide to bring on new business partners or investors, a business plan will be the tool used to influence these individuals about your business venture.
Why is it Important to Have a Photography Business Plan?
If you are a photographer and you create your photography business plan, it will help you gain perspective and alignment.
One of my favorite quotes by Benjamin Franklin is “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.”
It is very true and applies to everything in life, especially business.
When Should You Write Your Business Plan?
You should write your business plan right when you have a business idea.
What you do not want to do is go all in on a business idea, pour a bunch of money into the idea, then create a business plan and then realize you have no plan or the business idea is not that viable based on further research.
The process of creating a business plan will help you identify any serious flaws in your business concepts.
For example, you may uncover a very small target audience that would be saturated very quickly, or uncover very tough competition resulting in financial projections that you made to be unrealistic.
If you already wrote a business plan and you need to pivot as a business because the current landscape is changing and the demographics in your market are changing as well, then it would be good to revisit your business plan and tweak some areas to reflect the changes.
How to Start a Photography Business Plan?
When it’s time to start your photography business plan, there are 12 simple steps to execute and create a solid business plan.
Before diving into the steps, it’s important to note that unless you are getting funding, then your business plan does not need to be an elaborate document with perfect heading structure.
I first wrote my business plan on a piece of paper that was all scribbled up.
The main benefit of the act of creating this business plan is to help transfer all the ideas onto paper so you can gain clarity on the vision of your business.
Now let’s dive into each step.
1. Executive Summary
The first step is the executive summary.
Most business plans start with the executive summary and if you were a start-up going for investing, most investors read the executive summary first and if they don’t like what they are reading then they might not even read the rest of the plan!
Although the executive summary is first, you may write it last because it essentially summarizes other points of the business plan which you will see.
The executive summary usually includes your mission statement (listed in step 5), the product/service you are offering, and some high-level information on the employees in your business and the location of your business.
In our Photography Branding Guide, we dive into how to create a mission statement.
Essentially, elements of a strong mission statement include making it clear what you do, identifying the target audience, and focusing on what makes you stand out from the rest.
For example, the mission statement of Imaginated.com is to “inspire digital-age artists and creators in business, artistry, and mind through educational content in the form of blogs, guides, downloadable content, case studies, and videos.”
For the rest of the items in the executive summary such as high-level information about employees and location — you can list that out yourself.
2. Company Description/Purpose
Next is to describe the company/business description and purpose.
This part is similar to the mission statement except for a couple things.
Use the company description section to describe the problems your business/company will solve and list out the consumers or business your company/business plans to serve.
In this section, you can also list out the competitive advantages of your business.
For example, if you are starting a wedding photography business, you can state that you have 3 wedding photography experts in your business who have been photographing for 10+ years, they have deep connections in the industry, you are located in an area where there are a lot of weddings, etc.
3. Organization & Management
The organization & management section will identify how your business will be structured.
This is the area where you can describe the legal structure of your business. Such as if it will be a corporation, an LLC, a sole proprietorship, etc. I recommend checking out the SBA.gov resources if you have not yet legalized your business or do not know what structure is best for you.
In this section, if you are not the only “employee” and you have other employees working for you, you can list out the organizational chart to lay out who is in charge of what.
List each person’s experience and what they will contribute towards the goal of the business.
4. The Need
In the “Need” section, you want to lay out the needs of your target audience.
Put yourself in their shoes and understand their pain points and why they seek out the products/services you will provide.
For example, if you are a wedding photographer, then the need of your target audience, which in this case is wedding couples, is that they want beautiful pictures so they can remember the special moment of their wedding day.
But it’s important to understand it even deeper than that, what are the underlying needs as well?
Think about a wedding couple. They are nervous for their big day, they want everything to go smoothly, they are paying a lot of money for the wedding (not always).
Because of this, they “need” a wedding photographer who is professional, can work without being told what to do, knows all the angles, is personable etc.
Understand your target audience and list every “need” that they could want from your product/service offering.
The “Mission” section is where you write out your mission statement as first touched upon in the executive summary step above.
Your mission statement should align with the “Need” step that was listed above.
You uncover the “Need” and you align your mission statement to fill the unfilled need listed above.
As mentioned, your mission should include what your product/service is, the audience your product/service is targeted to, and what makes your product/service unique.
For example, using the same “Need” example as above, if you wanted to focus on filling the need of easing the wedding couples’ nervousness during their big day — your mission statement could be “Capturing every special moment for wedding couples for 10+ years so they can focus on their big day,” — or something like that!
6. Market Potential
The market potential section is about identifying the current target market and ensuring there is enough audience there for you to dive into that market.
This section is about doing your own research.
Using a simple example, if you lived in a climate where it’s always cold and snowing and you want to start a portrait photography business specializing in beach photos, it might not be the best market to dive into.
The seventh step is to list out the potential competitors in your market.
In our Positioning Strategy Guide, it is mentioned that there are 3 competitors to be aware of — direct competitors, indirect competitors, and internal competition.
Though each industry is unique in its own way and you will come across your own competitors based on the location of your business, you will still encounter these 3 types.
Direct competitors are competitors that offer the same product/services as you. Examples of direct competitors in the business world include McDonald’s Big Mac versus Burger King’s Whopper.
If you are a wedding photographer, then direct competitors would be other wedding photographers servicing your area.
Indirect competitors include substitutes of the target audience keeping their money and choosing not to engage in your services/use your products.
Examples of this include owning a burger restaurant, the indirect competition would be a substitute of the target market grabbing take-out sushi instead of going to your restaurant or picking up a frozen pizza from the market and cooking it themselves.
If you are a wedding photographer, examples of indirect competition could be a wedding couple choosing to hire a photo booth rental, keeping their money, or buying disposable cameras for all the guests to take photos of the wedding.
Internal competition includes you competing against yourself.
This often occurs when you “cannibalize” your products or service offerings and confuse your target audience.
In our Positioning Strategy Guide, I dive into other examples of product/service cannibalization.
For example, using a simple one, let’s say you are a wedding photographer and you specialize in wedding portrait photography which is capturing portraits of people at weddings.
If you start to also offer wedding event photography and charge different prices and packages, you could cannibalize these two services you offer because you are offering two services that target the same customers.
By doing this, you could end up confusing customers because they don’t know which service to get and you will end up taking profit and market share away from each service.
Always make sure that each product/service you offer provides a “key” for a “lock.” You don’t want to have two “keys” for one “lock.”
8. Revenue Model
In the revenue model section, you should list out all the possible ways you will be generating revenue.
In our Pricing Guide, we touch on some of these revenues.
- Product/service — the actual photoshoots
- Selling Lightroom presets
- Selling photo albums
- Affiliate marketing
- Photo retouching services
You want to think of all the ways you plan on making money with your business.
And for further reference, in this section, other businesses could list “e-commerce purchases, advertising, transaction fees, etc.”
9. Marketing Strategies
In the 9th step, you will want to dive into your marketing strategies.
You can think of this like the tactics that will be used to execute the vision of the strategy.
If these terms are new to you or you want a framework for how to approach these concepts, I highly recommend reading our Marketing Framework Guide where we lay out the foundation for creating a marketing strategy.
In the Corporate Image section, you will want to lay out how you plan to establish your corporate image, maintain your image, and strengthen your image. We dive into each of these in-depth in our Corporate Image Strategy Guide.
Establishing your corporate image consists of creating the mission statement and sticking with it.
Maintaining your corporate image consists of your product/service quality, meeting or exceeding expectations, and developing and maintaining connections with your publics.
Strengthening your corporate image involves promotion of your business.
Once you determining how to position your product/service based on market needs, competition, and external influences, you will want to lay out your positioning tools such as:
- Color guidelines
- Mascot (if you have one)
- Product shape (if you were offering physical products)
After listing out your positioning strategy, you will want to list out your product/service strategies.
In this section you will list out your core products/services and their different options.
Being a photographer, examples could be portrait photography, event photography, food photography, etc.
In the pricing subsection, you will want to list out your pricing strategy. For different pricing strategy examples, I recommend checking out our Pricing Strategy Guide.
Distribution is the process of placing your product/service in the marketplace to make it convenient for your target audience to find, use, or buy your product/service.
The two main distribution channels are direct to end buyer and wholesaler and retailer.
Since the photography business is a service, it is direct to the end buyer and includes selling services via direct channels such as your website, phone sales, or even via sales with face-to-face contact between you and your clients.
Promotion is the last subsection of the marketing section.
The promotion section is listing out the channels and how you will be communicating your benefits to your target audience.
When thinking about promotion, it’s best to think of the channels you will use or will want to use in the future to promote the business. Such channels include:
- Social Media
- Speaking opportunities
- Article placement
Once all of these subsections are laid out, it’s time to dive into the next step.
Projections can be difficult but they are important.
An example projection could be based on your financial goal as stated in the above.
For example, if the goal was to make $100,000 in a year and you are currently making $50,000 a year. That’s roughly $4,150 a month. If you are averaging around 10 photoshoots a month, that’s ~$400 per photoshoot.
Going back to the goal of $100,000 a year, you will either have to double the amount of photoshoots you do in a month or increase your rates.
Once you determine that projection, you can then re-align the rest of your components such as your pricing strategy or promotion strategy to align with the projections.
In the future section, you will want to list out future goals and plans for your business.
For example, if you are just offering photography services now, you may want to break into other markets such as retouching services or website affiliate marketing.
Lay out your future plans so you can already start planning subconsciously how they will be achieved.
Business plans often include an appendix as well.
This could be the section where you list out all of the calculations you made in your projects and forecasts, or graphs and charts you made to illustrate a finding.
It’s important to have this section if you did some calculations and math so you can come back to it later and adjust numbers to fit new business goals.
How Long Should a Business Plan Be?
If you check out the SBA.gov resources, you may find that they state most recommend a business plan should be around 30 to 50 pages.
This is not college where there is a page-minimum for your business plan. The most important thing is that it is in-depth and covers all of the bases.
If you are getting investing like some start-ups do, most VC’s don’t even read the rest of the business plan if they don’t like the executive summary.
But unless you are looking for investments because you are planning to start a business that expands outside of photography services, then the purpose of creating a business plan is to help wrap your head around the business and lay out a roadmap and game plan for success.
This was an in-depth guide discussing how to write a business plan. I hope you enjoyed this guide and learned some new insights.
It’s important to take action and take any new concepts you learned and apply it to your own business.
Now I want to hear from you!
If you found any of these tips to be helpful –
Be sure to let me know by leaving a comment down below!
Nate Joaquin Torres is a portrait photographer based in Southern California. As a photographer, Nate loves testing different photography styles and gear to expand his skill set. Outside of photography, Nate enjoys learning about new digital marketing strategy and new ways to think creatively. Nate is also the founder of Imaginated.com, DEEP IN THE MIX, and Blue Hour Candle. Connect with him on Instagram.