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5 Reasons Photography Businesses Fail

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why do photography businesses fail?

[this article was written in 2020, right as Covid was affecting all of our businesses, but I believe it stands the test of time!]

Let’s start with some stats from an article by Laura Cowan in her article in Forbes Magazine from Oct, 2019:

Studies have shown a full 20% of small businesses fail in their first year, 30% in their second year, and 50% by year five. A full 70% of small businesses don’t make it past their tenth birthday.

In our 25+ years as a small business owner, we have certainly seen our fair share of creative businesses similar to ours fail. But why?

The main reason businesses close their doors is that they simply run out of money. That is kind of like saying everyone dies because their heart stops. While it is certainly true, there is much more to the story.

1. Not understanding who your ideal client is. You can’t be all things to all people because you can not please everyone. Take a few moments to think of who your absolute favorite client has been. Why did you love working with them so much? Trying to understand who this client is and what their qualities are will help you attract more like them. You need to understand what their pain points are, what they need, why what you do resonates with them. If you know who your ICA is, they will seek you out. K&M Example: Our ideal client is someone that is a professional, 30-35, shops at Anthropologie, loves to travel, is independent, charts her own course and really doesn’t care what other people think about her choices.

2. Trying to be the same as everyone else. Stop worrying about what everyone else is doing and do what you do. What makes you unique and different from your competition? Do not get caught up in comparison. What value proposition do you offer? Why will working with you and only you solve the problem your ICA has. The world needs to know your secret sauce. K&M Example: Our ideal client is someone getting married that does not want cookie cutter photos, they want photography that is candid + timeless. They want wedding photography that is different than all their friends.

3. This is about them, not you. The way your branding and website communicate will determine whether you attract the right client. If you are clear, concise and compelling, speaking their language, you will connect. If you understand your ICA then you will understand what speaks to them, what they respond to. K&M Example:  Most photographers have beautiful images but why do our clients hire us? This client doesn’t care if we have won awards or love our kids, they want to be assured that they will not have to invest one minute of time wondering if we are going to deliver wedding photos that retell their wedding story, including tears and emotional moments, maintaining a sophistication and timelessness that they will forever reflect back on.

4. You did not build a solid foundation. In order to grow and sustain your business, it must be built on proven business practices. You love the idea of being a creative but the hustle, the daily grind of running a small business gets ignored. To sustain and grow you have to master this or hire someone.  Setting goals for you and your business that also includes personal + professional development.

5. Your photography offerings needs to be priced so that you make money. Having profitable revenue streams is vital to your business succeeding. Do you understand your market? Do you know your worth and what you should be charging? Have you priced yourself so that you can earn enough to live on? To reinvest in the business? To save? Are you versatile so that you can pivot if a revenue stream dries up? Diversify and become a specialist at many things. 

Whether you are a photographer or another type of small business owner these principles apply.

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