Starting a photography business can be a great opportunity for those with a keen eye and creative flair. This is a home business that does not require a formal degree or startup costs are not expensive if you already have some basic equipment. But, that doesn’t mean it’s easy.
Many successful photographers don’t know where to start or where to turn for help. Today, I’m sitting down with Christian from Click Cartel. He shares his personal story as a six-figure photographer and some great tips.
Tell us a little about yourself. How long have you been a professional photographer?
I have been a professional photographer in New York City for over 2 decades. I specialize in Bar Mitzvah and Bat Mitzvah photography. Yes, it is a real niche! I work mostly from home and earn six figures from about 20 photo shoots a year.
Over the years, I have worked with some great clients such as Gucci, YSL, Vera Wang and Jean Paul Gaultier, and my images have appeared in Vogue, Vanity Fair, InStyle, New York Magazine, Dwell and WWD. .
Yes, it’s great to have your work associated with big-name clients, but, as I tell my students — you don’t have to work with big names to make six figures!
In fact, the bulk of my income came from work for private clients – mostly families. And although I’ve personally done well in New York, I want people to know that they can make a lot of money from photography no matter where they live, with clients in their area. I know many photographers in smaller markets who make more money than I do. In part, there is less competition, and you get own your market
Please share some of your successes with us. What has a freelance life allowed you to do or achieve?
One success that stands out is when I took a 5-hour job that was originally a freebie for a friend and turned it into $5,000.
I’ve gained access to some pretty incredible events. I once shot a former president giving a $2,000-a-person speech at a private home (you can see some of those shots). here (If you are encouraged). Another fun thing I did was the Tony Party for Hamilton at the Tavern on the Green. It’s incredible the places photography can take you!
These events were fun for me, but photography is actually a work-at-home job, depending on how you set it up. Just can’t decide where You act, but you also choose when You work I can edit, retrieve, and send emails any time of the day or night from my couch or my local coffee shop — wherever I want to work. I have an insane amount of flexibility and I use it to my advantage. I rarely travel during rush hour, and can do my shopping when it’s not crowded.
Life is so much more fun when you’re not spending hours in a line at the grocery store!
Also, my jobs align with the school year, so I take the summer off. This year I decided to take 3 months off to travel in Europe, all the while making six figures!
I still check in my business, but can be done from anywhere.
Due to my free time and flexibility with photography, I have been able to do a lot of volunteer work. I think the most rewarding project is mentoring teenagers from low income families to teach them how to use photography to live their dreams and make a lot of money.
Like most freelancers, your business has evolved over time. Can you tell us a little about how different your photography business is now compared to your early days?
When I started photography, I had no direction on how to set up my career. I went to NYU for photography but they didn’t prepare me to run a business. I learned that a degree is not absolutely necessary if you want to make money.
I graduated shortly after 9-11, when New York was still economically vulnerable. I struggled to make ends meet in the beginning. I was all over the place, doing whatever I could get my hands on. My confidence was really low because I was not prepared for the business side of photography.
Over time, I found my niche and became successful. Now my photography business runs like a well-oiled machine that churns out cash.
What was your biggest struggle as a new photographer? How did you overcome it?
Everyone worries about getting enough clients first, and I was no different. I spent my early years trying to be many things to many people. Out of fear I took what I could to work. Through research, trial and error, and dumb luck, I found a niche that I loved. I also learned how to create an “upsell” so I could make 2-3 times the booking fee from each job.
It took me years of trial and error to learn the lessons and systems where I am today (and I didn’t have to!).
The key to all this was specialization. If you want to make money in photography, but don’t have a lot of technical skills, you can totally do it. The trick is to find a niche you like and then learn a few key setups really well. If you can consistently deliver a great outdoor natural light headshot, it’s time to start charging for it! You don’t need to know everything — just enough to deliver something of value to your client.
What is your biggest piece of advice for aspiring freelance photographers? Any special issues they need to consider?
I don’t think I’m physically capable of just giving one Piece of advice, but I’ll try to keep it under 5!
The first task is Warm up your personal network. I talk to many other successful photographers about how they do business, and they all say the same thing — word of mouth. This all starts with your personal network. I promise, there is Some professional opportunities are hidden! Do this before you touch a camera because it takes time for your network to be ready.
next thing Find a niche you love. You do this by trying different niches of photography until you find one that speaks to you (and it will!) When you find the right one, it’s like finding your soul mate – you just know. Having a niche makes everything easier, from marketing to learning how to run your business. Getting referrals is also much easier when you are an expert. I haven’t specialized in years, but when I did, it was the move that took my business over the six-figure mark. You have an advantage if you niche down at the beginning.
next – Focus on specific setups for your chosen niche. I touched on this in the last answer. People tend to get distracted while learning photography and they spend too much time trying to learn everything. Instead, reverse engineer the process. Learn how to do a few things really well, demonstrate those things, and then sell your photos.
Speaking of selling, you have to Put an “upsell” into your process, which I teach in depth in my courses. Unless you’re working for ad agencies with tight budgets, and I’m guessing you’re not, this is an important part of your business model. This gives the client a chance to get what they want, and you make more money in the process.
Setting up a business takes time, but if you stick with it, you can and do have a successful photography business. And the great part is that you get to decide what that means. If that’s an extra $1000 a month for your family, that’s great. If it’s a six-figure business that pays off the mortgage in 7 years, it’s totally possible!
Photographers have a new course on how to start a successful freelance business. What can enrollees expect to learn?
Students can expect to be taken through the process of starting a profitable photography business very quickly.
I looked back at my 20+ years in photography and asked myself, “If I wanted to start a successful photography business with very little technical information, as quickly as possible, what steps would I take?”
This course is the answer to that question. It is structured into 10 modules, each another step in the process.
They will learn a few things: how to network authentically (remember this is the #1 way photographers get clients), how to find a venue they like, and how to start getting paid. quickly.
I also cover how to double or triple your income from bookings through product sales, and how to build a stream of pre-qualified clients with as little effort as possible.
It’s all about learning how to make money from photography as quickly as possible. And it is is Possible.
What’s one product or service you can’t – or don’t want – to run your business without?
A big part of my business is creating custom photo books for my clients. Most of my clients initially choose a package that includes a 40-page book, which is pretty standard in my niche. But then they often purchase much larger books after the shooting. I charge $60 per extra page, so when a client gets a 140 page book, there are 100 extra pages. That’s an extra $6,000!
This is why I appreciate the value of an upsell. If you can make just $500 extra from one shoot, and you have 20 shoots a year – that’s another $10,000 a year in the bank!
The product I use for this upsell comes from a printer Couture Book. They are handmade books in the USA, and have an insane amount of customization options. They can easily print books up to 300 pages, which is rare. There are only a few printers that can produce an 80 page photo book.
My point is to have a reliable system that allows you to offer a consistent, profitable product to your clients after they are photographed. The reason is simple: When a client first books a shoot, products like prints and books are all abstract. The emotional connection comes from the original images you’ll see after the shoot. It’s hard to turn down extra prints and picture books after they fall in love with the images And it’s a very low pressure sale. I never push my clients into buying products they don’t want.
Do you want to leave something with our readers?
Yes! I want anyone reading this to know that photography is one of the best work-at-home careers out there. It’s perfect for moms because you can set your own schedule and still have time for your family. It gives you a creative outlet that can earn you substantial income.
People often think of photography as a tough field to break into, but with my system, you can have a much faster profitable business than you could ever imagine. It takes dedication and work, but you can do it!