Copyright Carla Coulson
This post is for all the new photographers that have written to me over the years and continue to write to me asking me how I managed to get started as a photographer and how you can too..
Getting started is definately the most challenging part but if you have clear ideas about what photos you want to take, where you want to go and who is your future client the path will become clearer. Nothing worse than wading through chest deep mud not knowing where you are going!
My advice is to write yourself a business plan. Now for a creative that word business can grate on ones nerves a little but I think of it as a ‘get where you want to go plan’!! This is the most basic of all but it got me started.
I thought it might help by using myself when I was starting out as an example.
Here’s what I knew at the time way back in 2001:
I loved taking travel photos.
I wanted to work with magazines (and as I had already spent a patrimony on magazines all my life I knew exactly the ones I liked).
I wanted to live in Italy.
I had created my first travel story on Naples.
I knew how much it cost to survive on a shoestring in Italy.
I knew my strengths (living in Italy and having access to incredible material) and weaknesses (not having clients in Italy)..
Here’s how my plan looked:
Definition of my work:
Travel/Lifestyle photographer working with travel magazines in Australia and Internationally. To evenutally work with publishers of travel books about places I love.
Exhibit my photos in group and solo exhibitions.
Partake in a photo library and find a syndication agency for my eventual travel stories.
The list was long but included Vogue E + T, Gourmet Traveller, Marie Claire Australia, Harpers Bazaar. Also included all the Australian newspaper magazines, travel supplements. English magazines .. I remember in the space of an afternoon I had 40 prospective clients on my list.
I also wrote on my list the names of reputable photo libraries and sydnication agencies and the top Australian advertising agencies that I thought would be interested in lifestyle shots of Italyfor advertising brands.
Design and print Business cards
Design and print comp cards
Start blog in the future
Use published work to create a name and presence through ‘by line’.
Tell everyone I know that I am now a photographer and find out if any one has any contacts in the industry
Create targeted list of clients and contact them personally for portfolio/body of work presentations. The telephone has always been the most powerful marketing tool I know!
Budget and Equipment Needed.
I made a list of what I would need equipment wise and by the time I had finished photography school I had enough equipment to get me started.
I made a budget for the next couple of years based on my expenditure of rent, electricity, travel costs, office and the simplest lifestyle possible (lots of bread and water that year but hey I wasn’t going home)! This allowed me to understand how much I needed to earn to break even or make a profit.
I didn’t break even in the first year but I had some money aside to give me time to create work. It’s tough to make any business work in one year. In the second year I had almost 8 different stories published (that I had created and pitched to magazines) and fell across the break even line. In the third year everything became easier I received magazine commissions and in my fourth year was lucky enough to get a book deal..Who would have ever imagined???
A real business plan is far more indepth than my example above but it’s nothing to fear. It will give you an idea how you can focus your energies to move forward in the right direction. My plan has changed over the years as life and my mood has changed but I have always re-adjusted my business plan to suit.
I hope this helps..