So, let’s get right into the matter: it’s no secret that starting an online business or something that does not require a physical office is possible to do from home. But what about photo product business? Can you really start a photo product business from home? The answer is simple and straightforward: yes, you can!
In the age of the Internet, a photo product business is nine times out of ten an online business too.
Everything around us keeps moving to the Internet and photo product business is not an exception. Starting a photo products business today is easier than ever. However, it’s still a business which means you need to do your research and homework first if you really want to make it a success.
Step One: Research Mission
Operating a photo product business from home should require modest startup costs. You probably already have the cameras and equipment you need to produce creative, professional photographs. However, even if you don’t, a camera is not a prerequisite to starting a photo product business anymore, you can start it with just a laptop.
So, don’t worry too much about this part and start researching the photo product market, both locally and online. What kind of photo products or services do you want to offer? Will you sell prints and products directly from your website? What are competitors doing and how much do they charge?
Picture Perfect Plan
All these factors will help you develop a viable business plan for your photo product business.
Your plan should include among other important things:
- your business type (corporation, LLC, sole proprietor, etc.), structure and format
- your marketing strategy
- your branding strategy
- your pricing structure and strategy
- software, hardware, and equipment you will need
- your potential vendors and suppliers
Importantly, you need to address the following matters at the planning stage to make your life easier when you launch your business:
- How and where you are going to sell your photo products? Is this going to be a website? If not, then how and where this all will be happening?
- If you are going to sell online, what software you are going to use for setting up your selling process?
- How you are going to print and deliver the final products?
On top of that, at this stage, you already need to know what your numbers should be. If you want to make $50K a year, how many products/services must you sell to reach that number? Do you need a loan or other startup funds? (Might be time to hit up your rich uncle!)
Working from Home Is Great, but You Need to Stay Pragmatic
There are some really beautiful things about starting (and running) business from home that working from the office lacks:
- You can work from the comfort of your home
- You do not pay for the office
- You can claim your home office cost as an expense when filing taxes (available in most jurisdictions, but please double-check yours to confirm)
So, working from home obviously has its own financial benefits and competitive advantages. But you still need to be as pragmatic with your business plan as possible.
For example, you probably know that for a photo product business there is generally no need to invest in expensive software or commercial printers… even a small photo product business can create and sell products on a global scale. So, this might be the reason to cut even more (after you’ve done this with the office) of unnecessary costs right at the planning stage.
The less cash you spend the longer you can stay afloat without making sales (please be prepared as this might take time and sometimes even more than you expect). More available cash means higher chances for making your business a success.
So, treat your cash as a fuel, try to maximize the distance you cover with it. Realistic and well-researched business plan can help a lot with this task, so make sure you give it the time and effort it requires.
Step Two: Start Your Business
Once you are done with your research and planning and if everything looks promising, it’s usually a time to start your business.
You can now make your photo product business a reality!
Pick a business name (hopefully something clever) if you have not done so yet and make it official.
The next things you will need to do (in the most standard scenario) are the following:
- Create your selling platform (e.g. your website);
- Setup software that will allow your customers to create or choose the photo products they want and order them;
- Connect your selling platform and photo product software to a printer which will print the final product for your customers.
Remember you were supposed to sort these things out at the planning stage? So, by now you should have some ideas on how to arrange the things.
Generally, there are three different options for getting all the things mentioned above done:
Option 1: Doing everything on your own (the hardest option);
Option 2: Outsourcing part of the job and taking care of the rest on your own;
Option 3: Using third-party solutions and outsourcing everything possible to speed up the process and take advantage of available technology (the easiest and probably the most effective option).
If your circumstances are not different from those of a standard scenario then taking the easiest way is probably the smartest thing to do.
So, simply set up everything with Printbox and Peecho and you should be ready to start selling.
Please keep in mind that you may need to get business licenses or permits according to your state or local regulations. Contact your state tax office to see if you need to charge a sales tax. They will walk you through the process.
Where to Find Clients
Next, it’s time to start actively marketing your new business (remember, you were supposed to cover this part too in your business plan?).
What you can do to make your first sales?
Well, this predominantly depends on your specific circumstances and therefore needs tailored research.
But generally testing all available marketing channels for as little money as possible and sticking to what works is a smart thing to do. Consider mixing traditional marketing measures — like business cards and brochures with relatively newer channels like digital marketing (SMM, SEM, SEO) to spread the word about your photo products and if possible to get the targeted sales.
Step Three: Your First Sales
In addition to finding new clients, new clients must be able to find you! It’s no secret that today a website is essential for any business and it gets even more important with every coming day (380 new websites are created every single minute!).
Even if your site is not equipped for e-commerce, it’s still value for customer communication.
A website gives photo products businesses the opportunity to display their products, even if you don’t sell them directly through the site. Additionally, you can spread your mission statement and general business information through your website, as well as book client appointments. And what is also important with a website you can easily leverage the Printbox and Peecho partnership to power up your photo product business.
Are you ready to grow into a storefront, or shared retail space? Often the most effective sales channels combine solid online marketing with a brick-and-mortar retail location.
Start Local, Think Global
We have previously shared that according to ecommerce club’s survey over 60% of females chose customized gifts compared to 43% of males and that the most active segment are 35-44 years old women. So, if you are an entrepreneur starting a business with personalized photo products then this will be your main target audience.
However, this does not mean that your main target audience should be the only one. There can be additional target audiences that may turn out quite profitable too. So, try to discover them as well.
For example, local businesses need pictures of their products. Realtors need photos of their real estate listings. (And headshots! Realtors love taking smiling headshots!) Weddings industry is the whole vibrant market on itself (wedding photographers always have a built-in market).
Also, consider finding clients and useful contacts at trade shows and conferences. If you sell custom coffee mugs featuring old cars, go to a classic car show. If you want to make cat calendars, attend a pet expo.
The Power of Print
A great way to expand sales of traditional photo product offerings is by partnering with a print-on-demand service. Imagine being able to offer beautiful print products to your clients — photobooks, dibonds, posters, wall art, etc. — wherever they’re located. Even in today’s digital world, print is still a powerful medium:
Partnering with a professional print-on-demand service can transform your humble home business into an international powerhouse.
Forming strong symbiotic business relationships can be key to success. New technology and resources have transformed the way traditional photography studios operate and the products they offer. A service like Printbox, for example, allows you to offer customers custom photo products on demand, from photobooks and albums to cards, calendars, and wall art … even stationary!
Step Four: Keep It Going … And Growing!
It’s also a good idea to consider building reviews. If you’re just getting started, you may want to consider offering to do a few small jobs or giveaways for free in exchange for honest reviews.
Yelp can hurt more than it helps, but there’s no denying the power of good online customer reviews. So, you can look for better alternatives and try to build better trust signals with online reviews to keep your sales levels growing.
Building a mailing list is “old school” but effective way to reach and retain customers. So, you can keep doing it too.
In general, whatever you do the key for sustainable business success is consistency.
You need to make sure that you stay consistent with three important things:
- your day-to-day business tasks;
- strategic planning; and
- reacting to ever-changing market conditions in a timely manner.
You’re the Boss!
Everybody wants to work from home (or at least be location-independent and work from wherever they want) and be their own boss, but the reality of running your own photo products business is often much more challenging than most imagine. Turning creative skills into a profitable business will be hard without first acquiring some basic, non-creative skills in accounting, management, and marketing.
Small business owners need to handle a number of different chores and owning a photo products business is no different. Besides the creative side of your business, you’re responsible for customer service, finance, marketing, bookkeeping and more. This includes being the “IT Guy” and the office manager. Sometimes you even may have to roll up your sleeves and clean your home-office printer (which is not the easiest task by the way).
It’s all in a day’s work … a day that never seems to end. One potential pitfall: You don’t punch a timeclock when you work from home, so it’s hard to know when to quit, especially when you’re trying to get a new business up and running. Don’t forget to make time for yourself!
About the Author:
Amy Miller is a freelance writer who writes everything business. When she is not writing about business, she is reading, watching or listening to something about business or probably just travels/hikes somewhere.