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5 Steps to Starting a Photography Business From Scratch

Like most aspiring photographers, you’ve probably been sitting on the idea of starting your photography business for forever…and you’re probably still not quite sure where to start.

And that’s totally okay because we totally know how overwhelming it can feel!

Now, you’ve finally decided that you’re going to commit to it 100% and show that inner mean voice in your head who is boss! ; ) And first of all – we’re so dang proud of you!! You’re about to do one of the most wonderful and challenging things you’ve ever done and we can’t wait to cheer you on the whole way!

If there’s anything we want more in the world it’s to see you succeed so we want to share 5 steps to get you on your way to starting a photography business from scratch.

Read on, friend!


5 Steps to Starting A Photography Business From Scratch


1. Practice. Practice. Practice. and build that portfolio

When you’re first starting out, you want to shoot anything and everything. Always carry your camera with you, friends! We’re firm believers that you only get better if you practice. The more you practice, the more you learn, and the more confident you’ll be around clients!

We totally get that manual mode and lighting can be intimidating but practicing will help you get more comfortable with it. Shooting all the things will also help you figure out what you truly enjoy shooting. Is it squishy babies? Awesome products? Interior design? Sweet weddings & events?

Most importantly, remember that no one is an overnight success, now matter how it looks on Instagram. You have to put in the work to reap the benefits!


2. Make it legal!

We definitely want you to have all your legal ducks in a row before you start offering your services so you’re fully protected. So come up with a business name that makes your heart sing (this might be as simple as your name) and get to legalizing!

Not only does it make your new venture legit, but it also serves as an extra layer of accountability for you. Now it’s an investment that you have to make work and you’ll be more motivated than ever to make it happen!

Here are some resources to help you get started:


3. Invest in your education

Free information is amazing but your time is so valuable, friend! Investing in something will propel you in the direction that you want to go to ten times faster!

So find a mentor, sign up for a workshop, buy that course, or join a membership. Your journey will be so much easier when you have someone holding your hand through the process instead of trying to do it all yourself.

No more freaking out about what gear you need, figuring out your style, or what to say to that upset client because you’ll have someone that knows more than you guiding you the whole way! We all need mentors!

P.S. If you didn’t know, we offer coaching and we’d love to help!! Reach out to us here!


4. Set up your marketing

Don’t overwhelm yourself by trying to be everywhere all at once. But you definitely want to at least have the basics!

Start with a website and a couple of your favorite social media platforms. Think about where your ideal client is. Is it a mom on Facebook? Or a bride on Instagram?

Not only will your website and social media channels serve as your portfolio & your voice, but it also makes it easy for people to look you up at networking events and to refer you to clients!


5.  Tell everyone you meet that you’re a photographer…confidently

We know it’s nerve-racking to announce to the world that you’re pursuing a new venture, but as a photographer word-of-mouth marketing is EVERYTHING! We can’t tell you how many times a friend of a friend has referred us to new sweet clients that have now been clients for years.

And wanna know a little secret? If you follow #3 and carry your camera everywhere, the conversation will most likely come up naturally anyway when you’re out and about!! People will start asking, “Oh, you’re a photographer?!” and bam, you’re already marketing yourself to others without much effort. ; )

Read this next: 3 Ways To Find Your Community

BONUS TIP: Simplify, systemize & automate!

We’re big believers in simplifying & systemizing as much as you can from the start! My life 10 years ago would’ve been SO much easier if I would’ve just created a system for everything that I needed to do in order to grow my business. From client management to your weekly marketing tasks, start mapping out every single task that you do & create step-by-step workflows!

This way you have a process for everything which will not only make your life easier, but it will make your client experience more high-end & professional! And if you’re not sure where to start, we’re sharing our life-changing, done-for-you workflows with you!! Grab them below👇🏼

We hope that helps! And remember, we’re always here to help so don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions you have about starting a photography business!

On your side cheering for you,

Michelle & the whole Cotton team




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  1. […] your wedding photography business might actually be one of the hardest parts of starting your business. And I get totally it! It feels so personal when it comes to your wedding photography business, […]

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Cocktails, baby giggles, best friends
& one big family hug!

in love & engaged, let's elope (!)
from the ring to the first kiss

wedding photography

Lifestyle Photography

secrets to sun-soaked portraits, happy clients & a heart-centered business

Cotton coaching

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