GETTING STARTED

INTRO
Well, it all has to start somewhere, doesn't it? Getting started doesn't need to be as daunting as it seems, but there are bases to cover to make sure you're working to the best of your ability and working responsibly. The list of what needs doing might seem long (and, in parts, costly), but I've tried to keep things in a rough priority order so you can work through as you go. You may be a student, photography might be your side-hustle for now, you may have taken the leap and made photography your main thing.. hopefully this 'trick' can work as a check list for you and help you go forward in the best and most considered direction. 

Screen Shot 2018-02-08 at 16.12.58.png

WHY TO TAKE THE LEAP AND WORK FOR YOURSELF

You probably know the answer to this better than anyone. Why now? And why photography? Maybe going full time with photography isn't your aim, maybe you want it to be an amazing side-line that you love, and you fancy a little bit of extra excitement and income from a few weekends of the year.

Maybe you need to work flexibly from home, maybe you have a family life or other responsibilities you'd like to be able to work around? Maybe it's just that photography is ever-changing, fantastic, motivating and satisfying and you just can't get enough..

In ' FINDING YOUR STYLE + CURATING YOUR PORTFOLIO ' we'll talk about 'finding your why', but this is a slightly different question.. what is it about working for yourself as a photographer that appeals to you?

Here are mine:
Photography is my biggest interest and passion and I want it in my everyday life
I want to work flexibly and manage my own time
I want to be more available for my daughters and work around my family commitments
I want to set and work to my own goals and aims
I want full control over my career, business and my work
I'm better suited to working alone than as part of a regular team
I enjoy meeting new people and visiting new places
My work and my working set up fulfils me


PROS + CONS

Of course, there are pros and cons to everything you do. Never giving up your day job and keeping photography as a sideline would take the pressure off, but means more juggling and less free time, for example.

PROS
Flexibility
Creative fulfilment
Full creative and professional control
Can create your own goals + targets
Meeting new people + visiting new places
Meeting other like-minded people through work
Often 'work' doesn't feel like 'work'
Working from any location
You build a varied skill set
Creating how your working day + life looks
Huge pride in your own achievements

CONS
Full responsibility + accountability
Need to quickly develop a varied skill set
Always 'on call'
Dealing with difficult situations + making decisions alone
Large workload that you can't outsource in the early days
Self-employment is a learning curve that never really ends
No regular income / seasonal working
Money management incl. savings, taxes and 'cushions'
Must be strict with time-management and self motivation
Isolation / lonliness
Giving up weekend days


AIMS + GOALS

One of the best things about being a self-employed creative is setting your own targets. Your work and your business can be anything you want it to be - there are no rules. It will evolve as you grow, become more inspired, realise gaps in the market or in your own work, and become more confident in what you're doing along the way. There might seem like 'a way of doing things', and some things should be non-negotiable (such as working in a responsible way.. which is a whole other topic), but generally you can make your own rules. You don't need to do X, Y, Z just because everyone else seems to.

Years ago I saw a graph once about ability and self-belief.. I've created my own version to add self-employment below.. for me it was so true, and there is always a high point to reach ahead of you.. 

Screen Shot 2018-03-08 at 16.35.44.png

PLAN OF ACTION / CHECKLISTS

I'm going to assume you're starting from scratch. You are dipping your toes in, thinking you like where this is all going, and want to officially put yourself out there, and try and make it happen. I've broken it down into three checklists.. the first is everything you should look to get ticked off the list first, before you move to the next checklist, and so on. 


CHECKLIST ONE - GETTING STARTED

1. DECIDING UPON A BUSINESS NAME
Most photographers use their names somewhere in their business name, but you don't have to. Things to be aware of when deciding would be: 'is it timeless?', 'can I expand what I do under the same name?', 'is it simple to spell and easy to remember?', 'does anyone else have the same business name?', 'is the web domain taken?'

2. REGISTERING WITH HMRC
At the beginning you'll probably be registering as a sole trader. You can see information through HMRC on what exactly it means to be a sole trader here. In short, you can work in a simpler way of cash in/cash out, any profits the business makes after taxes are yours, you'll need to do a self-assessment tax return each year and, basically, the business is your personal responsibility. To register your business you'll need to register for self-assessment through the link above, you'll be given various log in details, some may come through the post, and you'll need to keep them for when you file your tax return each year. If you're working alone at this stage I wouldn't worry about even considering being a limited company, and advice on whether becoming 'limited' is best for your business and your finances is a discussion to have with an accountant or financial advisor.
I talk more about this in trick 'Basic Accounting + Book-keeping'.

3. INSURANCE
Working responsibly is so, so important - I've created an entire 'trick' to look into it thoroughly because being a responsible worker is as important as being a good photographer. If you're running a business you owe it to yourself and your clients to follow good practices at every stage. The first thing you can do is get insured. You can pay annually or monthly and you need to make sure it covers public liability, your kit, and any other equipment you have (laptop/desktop/hard-drives). Some venues you shoot at will ask for your Public Liability Insurance certificate, and a few will need cover for different amounts (i.e. £1million/£2million). My insurance costs less than £30 per month for my entire kit and equipment and £2m public liability - it sounds daunting but it's an affordable and necessary business cost than really could support and/or save your business at some point in the future.
I talk more about this in trick 'Working Responsibly'.

4. BOOKING PROCESS AND CONTRACT
You need to prepare a booking process and a contract. It doesn't need to be lengthy and it's fine to be a bit rough around the edges at the very beginning, but a contract protects you and your clients; again, it's all about working responsibly. I have a 'trick' looking at contracts in greater detail. Make sure you are aware of what you are promising through your contract and understanding exactly what each clause means for you, your business and your clients.
I talk more about this in trick 'Contracts'.

5. BUY YOUR DOMAIN NAME
You don't need to have your website built or even be in the process of building it to buy your domain name. As soon as you're sure of your brand name, purchase your domain name. It's absolutely fine if you have social media accounts set up and your website is still 'in the works', maybe even create a holding page for now, but I would advise buying your domain name as soon as you can. I bought mine through Squarespace, who I use to create and manage my website (I'd hugely recommend Squarespace.. but more on this in another trick) but you can buy domains from various companies, you just might need to reroute them to your website once it's built.
I talk more about this in trick 'Create a Website'.

6. SOCIAL MEDIA
It's so simple to set up a Facebook Page for business and to create an Instagram profile for your business too. Get them set up, start sharing them and announce that they now exist, show a bit of personality and try not to be 'spammy'.
I talk more about this in trick 'Social Media for Business'.

7. EMAIL
You don't need to pay for an email address initially, but having a separate email account for work will help keep all your correspondence organised. Gmail is a great place to start, and eventually you can reroute an email that connects to your website through to your existing Gmail account for a seamless transition; for example, I used sallytphoto@gmail.com for years and now my hello@sallytphoto.com appears a bit more professional and automatically redirects to the same inbox.
I talk more about this in trick 'Emails + Communication'.

8. LOGO
Get started with a logo, but be aware you may want to change it down the line when you work on branding a little more. It's absolutely fine to change your logo and branding as you go (but try not to do it too often) because your business will be constantly changing and evolving. Having a logo to 'tie in' your social media accounts, website and maybe even email signature can help with continuity and keep your business identifiable.
I talk more about this in trick 'Branding'.


CHECKLIST TWO - GETTING UP AND RUNNING

9. WEBSITE
As I said before, there's nothing wrong with having a holding page for a little while and only working through social media while you work on your website; but your website should be a priority when getting up and running. You could even release a few pages while you work on the rest, e.g. Homepage / Highlights Portfolio / Contact. Further down the line, your website will be one of your business' most valuable tools and you should take as much care as you can afford over it. With changing and evolving social media, your site will be the one constant that is completely within your control.
I talk more about this in trick 'Create a Website'.

10. KIT
I'll assume that you own a camera at this point, but have you considered what you would do on a shoot if it broke? Consider what's in your kit bag carefully, and whether it's really covering you for what you need for a shoot or wedding day. I talk more about kit in tricks 'Responsible Working' and 'Kit + Equipment'.

11. WORKFLOW PLAN
Start to consider what your workflow looks like, from client enquiry to image delivery and afterwards. Try and break it down and see if you can spot anything that could be improved or any gaps where you could be doing better.
I talk more about this in trick 'General Workflow + Time Management'.

12. SUPPORT NETWORK
Even by purchasing 'Box of Tricks', you're starting to create a support network around you. It can be an isolating thing, working for yourself, and sometimes you just need advice or even a little moan here and there. Someone I follow online called Instagram their "Work Kitchen", because it's where she goes to 'hang out' and chat with other freelancers who are also working from their respective homes. It's so important to have a support network around you, and it's well worth creating your own local support network as well as an online network.

13. EDITING + PRACTISE
Keep practising (this one never ends, really..) Hone your editing skills, understand what your editing workflow looks like and try and make your processing as efficient as possible. Your aim should be to work quickly but to a high standard. Basically, the quicker you work the more you make per hour and/or the more time you have to focus on other areas of your business.
I talk more about this in trick 'Processing Workflow'.

14. BOOK-KEEPING
You won't need to do your tax return immediately (your first return and any tax will be due at the latest 31st January the year after the end of your first tax year. For example, I started my business in September 2010, and my first tax year (or half-year in my case) ended in April 2011, so my first tax and self-assessment return was due 31st January 2012. It's never too soon to get into good working practises for book-keeping and watching your accounts. As a starting point, keep every receipt for business-related expenses (including utilities if you work from home), keep track of your mileage and any other travel for work, and also copies of invoices that you send out to clients. 
I talk more about this in trick 'Basic Accounting + Book-keeping'.

15. YOUR IDEAL CLIENT
So much of your business hangs on who your ideal client is - they are your source of income, the reason you brand the way you do, who you direct your website at and the people who will provide you with direction when making business decisions. Do you know who they are? Their age bracket? Their interests? Their personality traits? It's worth getting really specific when considering who you're looking to work with. 
I talk more about this in trick 'Ideal Client'.

Screen Shot 2018-03-08 at 15.57.11.png

CHECKLIST THREE - KEEPING THE BALL ROLLING

17. BRANDING
Once you understand who your ideal client is you can start tailoring everything towards them. Your branding is more than your logo, it's everything. It's your logo, your colours, your voice on social media and in your communication to your clients, your approach, your images themselves, your packaging.. Your branding is the whole thing. It will be something that evolves with you, but every part of your branding matters.
I talk more about this in trick 'Branding'.

18. TIME MANAGEMENT
Start thinking about where you're putting your time and whether you're being as efficient as you can be. Time management is so important and prioritising is one of the most important lessons you can learn when being self employed. Sometimes today's list will seep into tomorrow's list, and sometimes you'll work through quickly and get ahead. Plan your time, make lists and goals for the day and week and also make time for yourself and for breaks too. 
I talk more about this in trick 'General Workflow and Time Management'.

19. COMMUNICATION + CLIENT EXPERIENCE
How you communicate is a huge part of your business. Chances are, you'll be doing most of your weekly communication with clients and other suppliers/professionals online instead of face-to-face - always remember that your tone and how you communicate is part of your branding and your client experience. How are you making your clients feel? Important and valued? Excited to work with you? Do fellow suppliers think you are friendly and professional? Or a bit difficult to deal with? It's fine to be firm and have integrity, but it's not OK to act like a dick.. People are constantly talking to each other - and people remember how it was to work and communicate with you. 
I talk more about this in trick 'Emails and Communication' and also 'Client Experience'.

20. MARKETING + ADVERTISING
Marketing is how you put yourself out there for people to find you. Question how you're doing this so far. Is it mainly social media? Are you doing anything person-to-person? Are you marketing through networking and collaborations? And always ask 'What else could I be doing?' There are different advertising streams to go down, too; and they needn't be costly. If you're smart about aiming at a specific ideal client and can narrow down and target that demographic through things like Facebook advertising, you can make every penny you put into advertising worth it. 
I talk more about this in trick 'Marketing + Promotion'.

21. MARKETING MATERIALS
Once you've worked on your branding and narrowed down who your ideal client is, you can start putting some marketing materials together. This can be simple cards for clients, flyers, business cards, pricing brochures, album flyers.. you can prioritise what immediately need and add to your marketing materials as you go. Also, you can keep some of them online. A lot of photographers send their brochures through email as PDF files, for example. Start to think about what materials would be useful for your business and what information to include.
I talk more about this in trick 'Designing Marketing Materials'.

22. BLOGGING + WRITING FOR SEO
One of the best things you can do for your SEO is to blog and keep your site current. You might be able to blog regularly, you might be working a day job and not have as much new content as you'd like, but blogging and thinking about SEO when you write can start to help you get your website found and help it 'climb' on Google. Word of mouth and recommendations is probably the best way of being referred to new clients, but Google isn't far behind. Like I said before, your website is one of your most valuable tools for your business and writing for SEO can really help your visibility.
I talk more about this in trick 'Writing + Blogging for SEO'.

23. SOCIAL MEDIA STRATEGY
It doesn't need to be strict, and you don't necessarily need to have one at all, but having a social media strategy is something to consider - even if it falls behind sometimes. For some, social media isn't part of their business workflow at all, some people are 'big' on different social media accounts and completely ignore others.. It's whatever fits with you. For me, I blog twice a week, try to share an image on my business Instagram account once a day, and share something on my Facebook business page 3-6 times a week, depending on what's been going on that week. Some things you can schedule and some it's best not to, but regularly posting online can tell clients that you're committed, you exist (I'd be wary of a Facebook page that hasn't been updated in six months.. wouldn't you?) and can be a great way to inject personality into your business and keep the world updated with whatever you're working on.
I talk more about this in trick 'Social Media for Business'.

24. BUSINESS PLAN VS PLAN OF ACTION
Consider your future development. Where would you like your business to be in a year? What about five? Do you want to go full time? Do you want to keep your day job and limit the number of shoots you do each year? Work out what your future goals look like and then you can start looking at and strategising how to get there. You don't necessarily need to put together a business plan, it can help in some ways, but you can carry on without one. There are infinite paths you can go down, and your business and work will change organically through time - you can steer it wherever you want to.
I talk more about this in trick 'Future Development'.

botanical.png

PRINTABLE MATERIALS
Click the link above for some homework - I'd love to hear how you get on!


take away materials - checklist, fill in sections for Q+A to realise AIMS AND GOALS - takeaway materials

TASKS - MAKE A LIST OF WHY YOU WANT TO WORK FORYOURSELF. Aims and goals


RECOMMENDED PRODUCTS + MATERIALS / AFFILIATE LINKS
Below you'll find links to materials, books, products, I found particularly useful over the past few years. Hopefully they'll be as helpful for you as they were for me.



OTHER TRICKS YOU MAY BE INTERESTED IN

SOCIAL MEDIA FOR BUSINESS
WRITING + BLOGGING FOR SEO
MARKETING + PROMOTION
BRANDING
FUTURE DEVELOPMENT
PRICING
PERSONAL PROJECTS
DESIGNING MARKETING MATERIALS
CLIENT EXPERIENCE
BUILDING CONFIDENCE + OVERCOMING FEARS

CONTRACTS
BASIC ACCOUNTING + BOOK-KEEPING
KIT + EQUIPMENT
WORKING RESPONSIBLY
FINDING YOUR STYLE + CURATING YOUR PORTFOLIO
EMAILS + COMMUNICATION
EDITING WORKFLOW
GENERAL WORKFLOW + TIME MANAGEMENT
MANAGING YOUR CLIENTS
CREATING A WEBSITE

moon star small.png