Salespeople are really good at what they do. Seems obvious right? Otherwise, they wouldn’t have a job. Advertising folks are just as good. Whenever there is a new camera, lens, gadget, device, plug-in, or widget, people jump all over them. It’s one of the many ways that photographers wind up wasting money.
If you’re starting out in photography and want to earn a living with your craft, you have to save every penny you can. If you haven’t noticed, jobs aren’t pouring in for you like they are for the seasoned pros. At least not the big jobs anyway.
So today I’m going to touch quickly on 5 simple things that you can do as a photographer to save yourself some money. For some of you, these will be common sense and others will struggle greatly with a few, if not all of these. Shall we?
- Buy Only What You Need – Photographers I have known seem to struggle between wants and needs. Do you really want that new $5000.00 camera body because it’s the ‘latest and greatest’ or do you NEED it to perform a job for a client. Sure, we can all come up with a ’round about way of justifying that new purchase. But what we have to do is remove emotion from the decision and scrutinize what gear we spend our money on.
- Rent Whenever Possible – Ok, I’m talking about gear here. Say you always shoot in the studio with lots of high powered strobes – portrait work. A client hires you to shoot a dance performance at a theatre because they really like your work and think you will do a stellar job. You know you need fast glass – we’re talkin’ f/2.8 here. You also know that you’re never going to use that 200mm f/2 lens you’re about to buy for a long time. Here’s where renting comes to the rescue. You can rent this lens (or other lenses, bodies, flashes, strobes, etc.) for a small sum of money for a week and now you’re not stuck with a piece of gear you’ll rarely use.
- Buy Used Office Equipment – Most photographers that I know work from home when they first get started, especially if they are only starting out part-time. While I agree that you need some basic office equipment like a fax machine, scanner, and a decent printer, these things don’t have to cost you a fortune. Check Craigslist, eBay, or your local paper for some good deals. You never know what you’ll find. I recently picked up (3) all-in-one laser multi-function machines for $30.00 on Craigslist! So why did you just drop $400.00 on that brand new fancy all-in-one? This also applies to desks, chairs, etc. Shop around for a deal and your bank account will thank you.
- Need Space to Shoot: Rent It! – I know I already mentioned renting, but this is big. If I need studio space, I will rent it. Why? Because the overhead is REALLY low. There’s a new studio here in San Diego that rents for $25.00/hour and includes lighting and a whole host of other gear. Granted, the place isn’t gigantic but it works well. Oh, and did I mention that it’s $25.00/hour? Don’t think you have to rush out and dive head-first into a commercial lease for your business. That’s a lot of overhead and this whole approach is to do this all without going into debt. Personally, I wouldn’t run out and lease commercial space until I was consistently bringing in four times the amount of what my monthly lease cost me. And no, two months in a row doesn’t constitute ‘consistency’ in my book. We’re talking six months or more here.
- Be Efficient and Charge What You’re Worth – What exactly do I mean by ‘efficient’? Let me explain. Say you’re charging a client $100.00 for a one-hour shoot. If you go beyond that, then you’re cutting into your profit unless your client has agreed to pay you on an hourly basis. You can be more efficient by preparing for your shoot, knowing your equipment, and getting right to work. Maximize your time. I’m not saying to all but ignore your client, but remember that you’re there to do a job and provide a service for them.
What are you worth? That can be a tough question, but you’re essentially worth what someone is willing to pay you for your services. Don’t sell yourself short here. We work hard at our craft and we invest time and money in what we do. Do it well and charge accordingly.
I’ve had the ideas above running around in my head for quite awhile now and it was time I got them up on the blog. You may agree or disagree, it’s up to you. These are things that I practice as I continue to grow my own photography business and I hope that you find at least one of them (if not all) helpful. Have a great day!