This article appears as part of Photographer's Month.

So you've decided to take the plunge and take your passion for photography to the next level (i.e. make money!). Using your passion as a foundation for a business is definitely a great start, since you are doing what you love. But running a photography business is not just about taking pictures, and there are a number of things you need to think about to ensure your passion doesn't turn into a chore.

These tips should help with the transition from hobby to pro, making sure your love for photography is not overshadowed by the nitty gritty details of running a business.

1. Define your core

You likely already know what you’re good at but when you are trying to make money, every opportunity looks like a good one. You need to realistically ask yourself, “What can I offer that people will pay me for?” Once you know what that is, be the best at it you can be. Don’t try to become a jack-of-all-trades type of photographer. Specializing is key here. Focus on your strengths and it will be reflected in your quality and earnings.

2. Determine your pricing

In a service business, what to charge is one of the most difficult things to figure out. Check out this post about how to set prices for a photography business. One tip to remember: friends and family may become some of your best customers, so determine if you want a friends and family rate and then stick to it. This can save you a pile of headaches down the road.

3. Get customers

This is another difficult thing for service businesses to get started on, but there’s good news! All the help you need is literally at your fingertips. For example, you can look for successful photographers with a style similar to yours, and see what they’re doing in promoting their business. If they focus on social media to build a following, find out what they use and how they use it. If they use an agency, give that agency a call. If they are in stock, find out where they have their images and start researching. There is no need to reinvent the wheel, so start slowly experimenting and adjust to what works for you. Be sure to follow trends in the industry and try new things to reach as many potential customers as possible.

4. Stay out of trouble with the government

Nothing derails a successful business as much as the government coming after you because you didn’t dot your i's and cross your t's. Since every jurisdiction has its own twists and turns, you should talk to an accountant who is familiar with the rules that apply to your photography business. Make sure you are getting good information about sales taxes, payroll and regulatory filings, and follow the advice properly. You will eliminate an avoidable risk in your business, and undoubtedly sleep better at night because of it.

5. Act like a business

Finally, you are ready to focus on shooting photos but there’s one last thing – don't forget to keep track of your books. Accounting is a task that is almost the polar opposite of photography, so it’s likely something that you want to do quickly and easily. The free accounting program from Wave makes accounting for photographers less of a burden. Be sure to keep your accounting up to date and don't leave it all until year end when it can be overwhelming (yikes!). Wave will help you save time and keep your books up to date so you can focus on what you love to do—taking awesome photos!


Wave is 100% free accounting software for photographers, freelancers and other small businesses.