Conducting your own SWOT analysis — Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities & Threats — in a manner that is objective and uncompromisingly honest will give you a good perspective on where you should focus your talents and resources.
Yeah, I know…you’re an artist and want to follow your heart. Sorry to say though, if you want to remove the “starving” portion of the “starving artist” cliché, using your brain in order to ultimately follow your heart is a better idea.
All in all, it’s advisable to assess the internal and external conditions that could threaten the success and sustainability of your photo business venture.
Some things to think about include general economic conditions (local, regional & global), potential barriers to company formation (legal or administrative), shifts in photo buyer habits and/or budgets, personal stability (living conditions/finances) and other issues.
This isn’t necessarily something you should include in your photography business plan but it’s definitely a part of the business formation process that shouldn’t be overlooked.
As a start, consider your equipment limitations. If you intend to shoot real estate photography but don’t own a wide-angle lens, then you’ll likely be at a disadvantage compared to a photographer with a 12-24 Sigma or similar piece of glass in their photo backpack. However, you’re 70-200mm f/2.8 IS USM telephoto lens makes a perfect tool-kit option for capturing the high-speed, action packed sporting events you love to cover.
Next, literally take a look right outside your front door. What I mean is evaluate the market conditions for viable specializations in your base area of operations.
Someone trying to establish themselves as a wedding photographer in a community dominated by married couples with 2.5 kids probably won’t have much luck. But this same photographer could potentially grab market share of family portraiture photography, as well as break into the T & I portrait market (Teams & Individuals) with the abundance of youth sport programs and schools in the area.
Also of importance is to get acquainted with the competition. This doesn’t actually mean that you need to physically meet them and share a laugh over coffee. Rather, be sure to have a general idea as to the saturation of your intended market segment(s).
Two things as to this previous point about knowing your competition:
1. It isn’t necessarily a bad idea to make contact with other photographers in your area, i.e. attempt to make a personal connection, but be careful as to how you approach them.
There is the chance of building a positive relationship with another professional photographer that could lead to referrals via word-of-mouth recommendations to ‘overflow’ clients they can’t provide services for (whether too busy or un-equipped to handle the particular job). Likewise, it’s always nice to have the perspective, and if you’re fortunate, the mentorship of another experienced pro willing to offer you guidance.
BUT, and this is a big BUT (made me laugh too), there is a distinct possibility that the other professional will remain tight-lipped and avoid you like the plague. Afterall, you’re potentially stealing their percentage of market share and at the very least, infringing on a professional market that is far too accustomed to interference from semi-pros or hobbyists who take contracts for pennies, ultimately de-valuing professional photography.
2. You’ll likely notice that there is a lot of competition out there at first glance. Don’t let this deter you from following through on your plans to start a photography business! Most photography insiders will agree that nearly every viable and lucrative market is overcrowded.
The key is how you differentiate yourself within your researched market segments of entry. Sure, it doesn’t hurt to put out a great product (uh…no shit Sherlock!) but there are many ways successful photographer’s capture the attention of their market aside from obvious reputability and quality (SEE photo business promotional strategies).
To sum up this post, maybe think of applying your SWOT analysis into your photography business operations in this way:
*Build on your Strengths
*Recognize your Weaknesses and find ways to turn your Weaknesses (and Strengths) into Opportunities
*Research and gain an understanding of market conditions that could lead to Opportunities
*Learn to see Opportunities from multiple angles (remember, just because one editor doesn’t like your stuff doesn’t mean there aren’t nearly limitless other distribution avenues for your work)
*Honestly assess the internal & external Threats to your photography business’ sustainability
*Full-circle back to your Strengths! Positivity, brutal self-assessment and rejection-proof thick-skin will define your ability to weather the periodic storms ahead.