Camera equipment is expensive…I mean seriously expensive. I have a $900 lens that I literally only use for taking pictures of tiny things like rings, but for my business, I kind of need it. Did I want to drop mad money on some glass and plastic that gets used maybe an hour at every wedding? Not really, no. Did it help my business grow and my work improve? Hell yes! But that’s not quite the topic of today’s post….we’re talking about starting a photography business without debt.
When I first decided to launch my photography business, the thought of expenses was a little overwhelming. I would lust after stunning images that I just knew my equipment wasn’t capable of. I scrolled down websites that filled my heart with excitement, but when I saw the thousand dollar price tags, I felt a little hopeless. I thought I needed business cards, new equipment, top of the line marketing, every program imaginable, endless education, and maybe even a vacation for a little relief from all of that stress. When looking at the big picture, it’s pretty easy to convince yourself that launching a business is simply too expensive. I’m here to tell you that you can do it, because I did.
In the beginning, I had one camera body and a kit lens that definitely didn’t get me the creamy dreamy backgrounds I was dreaming of. The next lens I wanted was just $350, but for me, that was a lot. There was no way I was going to swipe it onto a credit card and deal with the debt later. I wanted to start this business on the right foot. If you don’t shoot with Canon, you probably aren’t familiar with the L Series. To sum it up, it’s Canon’s line of high-end lenses and they have a red ring printed near the rim. It was easy to feel like I couldn’t be the best photographer without the best equipment, but I reminded myself that my skillset would take me far, and that it’s not just the equipment that makes the photographer, but the actual talent. All I really wanted was a lens that allowed me to shoot at the aperture that’d achieve the look I wanted. I told myself I would hustle to book as many sessions as I could – I would use the profits to save up for new equipment and invest in myself. For a $250 engagement session, I could afford that $350 (not red-ring) lens, and more, after just two sessions! So I made them happen. I consistently set goals and told myself that I would use my business to make the money that I could invest back into it – no debt involved. Let’s go down some steps of how to keep debt out of your business.
1. Develop a budget. As soon as you know you want to start a business – whether it’s wedding photography or handmade bath bombs – determine what you need to start up. Do your research, take every resource into account, and look at that number as your first goal. If you need $1,500 to start your business, how are you going to do it? Figure out a method that works best for you, whether it’s picking up extra hours at work, selling some clothes you no longer wear, taking on a second job, or just cutting back on eating out! Saving up that money isn’t half as hard as it seems!
2. Determine what you really need. Remember that $900 lens I mentioned? While it’s something a high-priced photographer should definitely have, a budget-friendly newbie can get by without it. In every business, there are things we know will take us to the next level, but aren’t necessary for getting where we want to be. Think of it this way – you’re gonna need a lot of gas for a cross-country road trip, but you can only fill your tank once until the next stop. You can start your business without every little thing you have your eye on. As your business and profit grow, you can ‘put more gas in the tank’ along the journey. I didn’t splurge on that lens until it was both financially and professionally the best decision for me. To let you in on a little secret…there is still a lot of equipment I want to purchase – but this girl has a wedding to pay for.
3. Get crafty. I love a gorgeous website, but when I was first starting off, I wasn’t able to justify spending a few thousand dollars on one. Now I’m not a web or graphic designer, but I know I have a good eye. With the right vision, I was able to make due with tools like Wix (though I now recommend Showit). I was constantly complimented on my business’s website…all it took from me was a few days of trial and error! As my business grew, I was able to invest in a professionally designed website. If there are areas you can cut corners or figure something out yourself, do it!
4. Barter with other creatives. Maybe you need a killer logo and have the perfect friend for the job…but not quite the budget to match their rate. It’s worth asking to trade your service for theirs. If you’re a photographer, maybe you can photograph some of their work to spruce up their social media – even offer some headshots for the bio page of their website! If your sessions are worth their services, you can do an even exchange.
5. Start small with subscriptions. When I designed my first website, I had the option to pay a couple hundred dollars annually, or to pay monthly at a smaller amount. Ultimately, you save a little money if you choose to pay annually, but, it can be easier to pay a small amount monthly than it is to dish out one lump some all at once. Whatever resources you can use to make less of a dent with the initial spending to launch, do it!
6. Get thrifty. If you need equipment for your business, see what you can purchase pre-owned. Most of the time, it’ll be good as new for a fraction of the original cost. When I was in high school, I had an Etsy shop selling accessories I made. I sewed little hair bows by using lightly-worn clothes I no longer wore for fabric! Good as new!
7. Make it personal. Our businesses play a huge aspect in our everyday lives. For most of us, they’re our passions! When you turn your hobby into your business, it’s still your hobby too. If your significant other usually gets you expensive jewelry for Valentine’s day, maybe ask for something your business needs instead. If Christmas is coming up, ask for those new business cards instead of a shirt.
So what’re you aiming to launch? What little changes will you make to get your finances where your business needs them to be, to start a business without debt? Let us know in the comments!
Wanna know how we launched a successful business without debt by using Instagram? Click here for the $12 guide!
featured photo of us by Jenna Brianne Photography
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