3 Things to Do in Your First Year as a Freelance Photographer
September 26, 2020
5 min read
- Set Your Yearly Revenue Goal
- Find Your Ideal Client
- Set Your Prices to Meet Your Goal
Business 101 (Skip this if necessary)
I’ve been running into a bit of confusion on business terms, so this section is dedicated to Business 101 terms. If you’ve got a handle on business terms then continue onto the next section.
Revenue vs. Profit (What You Make vs. What You Keep)
Revenue is the money you make from your clients and projects. It’s the big number - the dollar amount your clients agreed to pay you. When you’re sending out an invoice that total number is going to be your revenue.
Profit is the money your business keeps after the dust has cleared.
After you’ve paid for your 2nd shooter, rentals, gas, cost of printer ink, etc. Profit can be seen from a broad zoomed-out yearly or quarterly perspective.
You can also look at profit per project. If a project earned $1,000 of revenue, and you spent $500 on your 2nd shooter, then your profit for that project would be $500.
Profit vs. What You Pay Yourself
This is the tricky part and frankly it confuses me sometimes. Depending on how the project goes, and overall how your business’ balance sheet looks, you can pay yourself for your work. Since you’re the owner, you can take your profits and that’s it.
Or you can factor in your salary into each project and have your Business pay You the employee. It gets weird and sounds like split personality.
But remember even working solo there is Your Business, You the Owner, AND You the Employee.
Setting a Yearly Revenue Goal
Look to the Past
As much as some of us want to forget our silly mistakes from last year, we can’t ignore them entirely. Last year’s performance in your business is a good (not great) indicator or this year’s prospects.
But you have to look at everything in context. If you only made $5,000 last year from photography, but you weren’t full time, and you barely tried to get clients, then it might not have much weight for this year. If you’ve been seeing a steady ramp-up of work and revenue then let’s set the bar a little this year now that you’re a full-time photographer.
It’s Technically a Random Number
Setting your yearly goal is technically a random number, but make it a number you’d be proud to achieve. A million dollars sounds nice, but make it realistic or at least follow a trend from last year.
How are you going to live?
If you can’t make rent or your missing credit card payments, then you’re not bringing in enough revenue. You know what number you need to hit each month. You don’t need a budget spreadsheet or read I Will Teach You to Be Rich (although I highly recommend it).
But you do need to set your goal based on what you need in your household to replace your current income. Maybe you’re in salaried position making $50K. Can you make enough profit to pay yourself $50K through your photography business.
*Remember revenue is the big dollar number that comes in; profit is (or can be) what you pay yourself at the end of the day.
So earning $50K in your photography might mean earning $70-80K in revenue. You follow so far?
Let’s figure who’s going to pay you that much money!
Defining Your Ideal Client
If you’re listening to the podcast, skip to 16:07
In our coaching session, I asked Courtney who she sees as her ideal client. I can’t blame her for giving this answer, but she went on to describe photography styles that she likes and wants her clients to like. It’s completely understandable to start with this when shaping your client’s persona, but we need to back up a bit further.
Demographics vs. Psychographics
Demographics describe someone’s physical life while psychographics describe somones’s mental world.
A recently-engaged female living the Charlottesville area with a Bachelor’s degree in English who earns $40K teaching first-graders - that’s a demographic. Think like IRS, Census description. It’s not “who we are” but it’s a great fist indicator on determining our ideal client.
A recently-engaged female who loves Boho chic, Persian rugs, and follows wedding accounts from Joshua Tree on Instagram - this is a psychographic. This analyzes their taste and inclinations.
The problem with starting with a psychographic like Boho or “light and airy photography” is that we can’t determine if clients can afford our photography services. I personally love furniture from Wentz Design - it doesn’t mean I can afford their $2,500 table lamp.
So break them down by age, location, education, and income. This is a great start. THEN start to fill in their details about styles and proclivities.
It’s Not All About the Money (but it kinda is)
Qualifying your clients as soon as possible is going to save you so much time in the sales process. If a client can’t afford your photography, then you need to find a way to end the conversation as politely and quickly as possible (in that order). I’m sure they’re nice people but if they don’t have the budget then you could be wasting hours each week talking to unqualified prospects.
Let’s put it all together in our last section!
Setting Your Prices
If you’re listening to the podcast, skip to 25:30
Ok so understand your yearly revenue goal, and you have a clearer picture on your ideal client. Now let’s work backwards to figure out your average price for a wedding project.
What Can You Do In A Year’s Time?
If you’re like Courtney and you’ve set yearly goal of $30K.
How many projects do you think you can do in a year?
10 weddings? 20 weddings?
No need to guess - just get your calculator out!
$30,000 ÷ 10 Weddings = $3,000 per wedding project
$30,000 ÷ 20 Weddings = $1,500 per wedding project
What do you think you can sell each wedding project for? (*Remember, look to the past)
I won’t claim to know what you can do or what you’re comfortable doing, but many photographers seem to max out at 25-27 per year. And these are usually done within a 6-8 month period.
25 weddings in 25 weeks sounds like burnout to me.
This is why setting your prices high enough matters so much.
Busy isn’t Profitable
If you’re able to set your prices high enough so that you are spending less than 30% of your time on projects, then you will have achieved something truly wonderful. More profit in your business means more free time to create and expand your business beyond just you clicking the shutter button.
Being busy or wanting to fill every weekend this year with photography gigs will lead from Year One being Year One and Done. No Year Two for you.
These three aspects are going to give some clarity on what Year One of your business should look like. It’s not a promise that you’ll hit these goals, but without a goal you have no way to measure your success.
Two things I want you to do:
- Go show Courtney some love and encouragement for her Year One Journey!
- If you loved reading this, then why not sign up for my daily email for photographers? Great tips and strategies right to your inbox!