Are you ready to charge? 8 Things you need to have in place.

Q. “How do I know when I’m ready to start charging for my services?”

A. Aaaah yes the all time biggest question for up and coming photographers! I think that most JSO (just starting out) photographers spend way too long in the portfolio building stage of their business and it can be hard to get out of the rut of charging nothing for your sessions. So to answer your question simply: If people are asking you how much you charge or if you can take photos for them, you’re ready to charge. You may not be what you consider pro material (cuz we’re our own worst critics) but the general public obviously already thinks you’re good enough!

So now that you know you’re ready to charge, here are 8 things you need to have in place to start charging for your sessions.

  1. Portfolio :: You need to build yourself a portfolio of images to use in your marketing and online.
  2. Consistency :: You need to be able to consistently produce the same quality images session after session. Luck won’t cut it when you’re charging!
  3. Branding :: Brand brand BRAND! Build a visual brand for your business. And spend some money on it! Doesn’t have to be thousands. You can get ready-made logos for as little as $99 which you can build your brand around. Spending money on your visual brand tells your clients that you take yourself seriously and that you’re a real business.
  4. Legalities :: You need to get yourself registered as self employed and know what the tax man will require from you at the end of the year.
  5. Insurance :: Don’t take that camera out of the box until it’s insured! When I get a new piece of equipment, I don’t even open the box until I’ve added it to my policy. You will also need liability insurance to cover in the instance that you get sued if someone trips over your lighting cord or camera bag. And for events like weddings, you can purchase indemnity insurance to cover your back in the event that your memory card falls into a glass of champagne and you lose the entire wedding footage.
  6. Pricing :: Don’t know what to charge? Don’t worry. Neither did everyone else when they started! I was in the dark for the first couple years. Check out the whole pricing category here.
  7. Online presence :: Your presence online is very important to your business. Back in the days of web masters and paid-for website building, this was a super costly venture. These days, you only need to be mildly tech savvy to set up a blogsite or even a flash site. Also, social networking can be your greatest ally if you use it correctly! Set up a Twitter and Facebook fanpage and keep them updated. Post links to your newest sessions, post your session previews and interact with your clients.
  8. Forms :: You need to set up your invoices, contracts, releases, info packs, etc. You can do these as you go – make them as you need them and then they’re there for the next time. Forms can be downloaded as packs from photographers who sell them or if you’re a member of a photography forum, lots of those lovely ladies & gentlemen are willing to share!

I know that the things I’ve just mentioned seem daunting and you don’t know where to begin. Just take one thing per week and in only two months, you could be all ready to rawk-n-roll!

further reading //

Photographers: the one thing you need before opening for business

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  • Another great post. I just love your blog, and am really excited to check out the forum you talk about below. Thanks again for great information:)

  • Great post, keep them coming!

  • Thanks a lot Elizabeth! Great and very useful post as usual :D you rock!

  • Great post, Elizabeth! Thanks for posting!

  • thanks for sharing!!! this is what exactly what i need right now…it’s not a definite or concrete plan but it’s still a plan…i’m writing it down for my reference..thanks to you!

  • Woah, you just freaked me out!  Thought I was a long way off from charging, but according to your handy dandy checklist, not so much.  Thanks for the encouragement!  Your site is terrifically helpful!

  • Bre

    Great article! I am trying to work on forms, know any great photographers that sell them. I looked in your store and didn’t see any…maybe I missed them. I have made up a few of my own but would like some others that I really don’t know how to create them best. Thanks!

  • Anonymous

    Hello! What are you looking for? Email me and I’ll send you mine:

  • Erica_burleson21

    Love the post as usual… I’m starting out and feel like I’m ready to make the leap, but the legalities is the part I get lost at. Any advice where to start in that department?

  • Erica_burleson21

    Sorry it wouldn’t let me finish the post… I’ve been searching the Internet and emailed my state dept of revenue (Mississippi ) but I just can’t find much reliable info. Maybe I’m looking in the wrong places though.

  • Anonymous

    It’s been so long since I lived in America, I’m afraid I can’t remember. Are you a member of any forums where you can start that up as a discussion? That’s the sort of thing photography forums are good for! If not, I’ll send some readers over here to see if they can help you.

  • Erica_burleson21

    Im not a member… I’ve been looking for forums particularly in my area but I’d love any advice anyone has on where to look. Thank you!

  • TheStudioTrainer

    There are a ton of great groups on Facebook for new photographers, especially those considering getting into the business!  They can help you get some answers to some of the legal questions, too :)

  • BethBergerPhotography

    ASMP is a great place to start for help with the legalities. They have sample contracts and so much more. Also Best Business Practices for Photographers by John Harrington is a book all photographers should own.

  • Shutterdlight

    This is a great post. It has served as confirmation for what I have been doing so far. Keep it coming Elizabeth…Thank you!

  • Sandy Young

    For the legalities of starting up a business (not specifically photography, but any business), an invaluable resource is the Small Business Administration website:  It’s got a list of 7 steps that you must do, in the order you must do them, to start up a business. 

  • KristinaM

    What are you looking for? Legal forms to use or information on taxes?

  • Lori Reeder, MyPhotoMentor

    Under legalities you left out making your business totally legal by making sure you have all permits your city, county and state may require. You have to get your sales tax number. It’s not just about reporting your income, but collecting and paying sales tax, too.

  • Thanks for this post – very insightful and love the part right at the beginning about the portfolio rut! This is me right at the moment, and i have people asking how much I charge… feel like i am doing the right thing starting to ask people for payment now! :)

  • Connie

    Great post :) 
    Sadly the link to the Easy as Pie Pricing Guide isn’t working =o  

  • Connie

     LoL  nevermind, I see it now!    sorry!

  • Gracie

    I think you left out having actual talent. Buying a camera doesn’t make you a photographer.

  • elizabethhalford

    Clearly :)

  • Excellent post !!! I loved this very much for its information.