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HOW TO WRITE THE ULTIMATE PHOTOGRAPHY BUSINESS PLAN

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Did you know a great business plan for your photography business can help you to grow 30% faster?

But not if you engage in planning for planning’s sake. Procrastiplanning is a waste of time and energy. You need a powerful plan to improve, not only your profits, but your clarity of direction.

Wouldn’t it be great to always know where you’re going, what you need to do and in what order?

In this article, I’m going to give you a detailed walk-through of the nine steps you need to complete in order to create an actionable photography business plan for your portrait or wedding photography business.

Three pieces of advice before you start though...

1. Overthinking (the enemy of every creative business owner) is banned here. You’re not married to your business plan! It will evolve with you. If you find yourself stuck - go with your gut and remember it can change later!

2. You don't need to write an essay for each section. Keep it short and simple or you'll become overwhelmed and the plan might end up half-finished. You'll see that I've included very succinct examples for each section in case you're in need of some inspiration. 

3. Set aside no longer than a day to do this and block that day out in your schedule now because, the sooner you finish planning, the sooner you can take action. Growth happens with action and action happens with a plan

To help you further, I've created a free photography business plan template to use with this guide. You can download and complete it digitally or print it and put pen to paper - whichever is your preference.  Get your hands on it below!

1. Summarise Your Services and Products

Photography business plan template for services and products section

What is your main photography service?

Simply describe the main photography service you provide. To prevent overwhelm, I strongly urge you to choose a service to focus on first when you’re planning strategically. Preferably one that's very profitable and enjoyable for you. 

You don’t need to go into detail here because the sections that follow will expand on it. Keep it short and sweet. 

E.g. Documentary family photography

List any other photography services your offer

If you work within different genres, list them below your main service. However, be aware that if your services are very different, some sections of your business plan will need to be completed for each of them. 

You can go back and plan for your other services later. Zone in for now - you’ll be glad you did!

How do your photography services complement each other?

You can skip this section if you only do one thing.

A great business is structured in such a way that the same person can buy from that business over and over again. The same person. This is strategic business planning.

It costs five times more to acquire a new client than it does to retain an existing one so if you’re not making sure your services are closely aligned, you’re missing out on a huge amount of profit.

If you photograph families, kids, newborns, cake smashes, maternity - great. It’s obvious that these are complementary services. Your dream client for each of these should be the same person - just at different stages of family life.

However, the same can apply if you shoot weddings, families, boudoir and headshots! Your client may come into your world as a bride but there should be a high likelihood of her booking you for one or more of your other services over a period of time if you’re purposefully aiming them all at a similar type of person.

So, briefly describe how your services align. How are you maximising the opportunity to work with one client multiple times and in multiple ways?

E.g. I photograph weddings, families, boudoir and personal brands and my ideal client for each of these services is a working mum who is passionate about her family, her home and her career. She is highly likely to hire me for more than one of my services.

Describe the products you provide to clients

Now describe the product(s) your clients get at the end of their experience.

Are you keeping it simple and delivering downloadable digital images or do you have tangible products? Again, a simple description of each is all that’s needed here.

E.g. Full-res digital images
Prints up to 12x8
Framed prints
Grouped wall galleries
Fine art albums

2. Describe Your Target Market

This is the most important part of your business plan. The success of your business depends on how well you know and understand your ideal client. However, overthinking this is pointless and will cause you mental torture (trust me, I’ve been there). Accept that your ideal client will evolve with your business. Sometimes you just need to make a start and tweak as you go!

The following subheadings will help you get some clarity.
Photography business plan template - target market section

Sum up your ideal client in one sentence

You’re going to very briefly describe your ideal client. Include 2-3 adjectives, the noun that sums them up and the age range they typically fall within. 

E.g. Ambitious, creative, female entrepreneurs aged between 30 and 45.
Outdoorsy, laid-back couples between 30 and 40.
Stylish, working mum of kids under 12 who's between 25 and 40 years old.

Introverted, female owners of large, active dogs. Aged between 30 and 45.

What are the top 3 desires you can help with?

When you know the things your ideal client wants that you can give then you know what you should be talking about and writing about in your marketing. You need this person to feel like you truly understand them.

These desires have to matter to the person you’re writing for on a deep level. They can’t be wishy-washy.

So, what are the top 3 desires you ideal client has that you can help with? Please don't make the mistake of thinking they simply desire 'photography'. They can get that from any photographer! These desires should be much more meaningful and specific than that if you want to connect with clients who value what you do. 

When a great client chooses a photographer, it's almost always an emotional decision rather than a rational one. Make sure you're tapping into the right emotions and desires. 

E.g. Wedding images full of laughter, joy and nonsense
A vibrant personal brand that aligns completely with who they are
A stylish family home that truly reflects the people who live there
For everyone to see the incredible bond between them and their dog

What are the top 3 pain points you can help with?

Us humans are often motivated by pain much more than desire, so understanding your ideal client’s problems is super-important. We'll go to extreme lengths to solve a problem or avoid something that causes us pain.

What’s causing your ideal client problems? What negative things might they experience (or continue to experience) if they don’t book you? Again, these pain points need to matter enough to this person or they won’t take action.

So, what are the top 3 pain points your ideal client has that you can help with?

E.g. They really don't want overly posed, cheesy wedding portraits - they cringe at these
They're worried about their brand appearing unprofessional online
They're too busy to ever get round to creating that coveted family wall gallery
They're concerned their dog isn’t well enough behaved for a photo shoot

What will connect you and your ideal client?

With so much choice, your ideal client needs to feel a connection to you. Especially if there are lots of cheaper or similarly priced alternatives in your area.

Connection is everything for humans. It’s one of our most basic needs.

It’s vital that you humanise your brand. You must show that there’s a real person behind the marketing and let your ideal client know what makes you tick. When a potential client finds you online and realises you have lots in common, over time, you're going to become the only choice for them. 

Don’t overthink this. If you’re a family photographer and you’re also a parent then of course you should be connecting with your ideal client over parenting topics that you both feel something about whether that’s trying to force feed vegetables into your kids or agonising over homework in the evenings. Yes, it has nothing to do with photography but it has everything to do with being a human being. It also makes marketing much more fun for you to do!

However, don’t overthink this. If you’re a family photographer but you’re not a parent, that does’t mean you can’t connect with your ideal client! What else do you have in common? Home decor? Striving to become zero waste? Being out in nature? A dry sense of humour?

There are endless connection opportunities you can take advantage of in order to really stand out as a photographer.

Bullet-point the things that connect you with your ideal client. These are the things you want to be communicating about alongside your photography.

E.g. Daft sense of humour
Love of travel
Self-improvement
Supporting local businesses
Health and fitness
Dog training tips
Zero waste
Raising teens
Baking

3. ANALYSE YOUR COMPETITORS

Ignore your competitors at your peril!

I know it’s easy to go down that comparison rabbit-hole when you start scoping out your competitors but that’s no excuse to keep yourself in the dark.

If you don’t do research into your competition, you can’t position yourself effectively in the marketplace.

So, get your helmet on!
Photography business plan template - competitor analysis section

List 2 or 3 of your closest competitors

When you think about your ideal client, who else might they be realistically checking out? It’s likely they’re the ones you stalk sometimes on social media!

These are your competitors. Decide on 2 or 3 to analyse and list them here.

Describe their services and products

How would you describe their service(s) and product(s)? A very simple description is more than enough here.

E.g. Quirky wedding photography delivering downloadable digital images with optional album upgrades

Who are they appealing to?

Briefly describe their typical client. Who are they appealing to with their service and marketing? It's ok if you can't work this out - that means their ideal client is probably missing it too (good news for you!).

E.g. Female owners of pampered small dogs
Anyone and everyone 

What is their price point and position?

What's the minimum a client can spend with each of your competitors? What do you think the average spend might be? Is there a ceiling on what a client might spend?

Where are they in the market place in terms of price? Cheapest, cheap, cheaper than the average, average, more expensive than the average, expensive, very expensive, most expensive?

Write a sentence or two on this.

E.g. The minimum a wedding client can spend is £1200 but I think they sell more middle packages at £1800. The most a client can spend is £2400. This competitor is slightly more expensive than the average for the area.

What are they doing well?

What are your competitors’ strengths? What are you a bit jealous of? List anything you consider a strength when it comes to serving your ideal client.

E.g. Superb engagement on Instagram
Appear first for popular keywords in search results
A very specific, desirable style
Collaborating with other businesses with a similar audience
Blogging like a rock star
Loads of Google reviews


Don’t dwell on these and feel bad - you’re going to be thinking about your strengths soon!

What could they be doing better?

We can’t all be great at everything! List anything you consider a weakness when it comes to your competitors serving your ideal client.

E.g. Website is hard to navigate and slow
Price list is super-complicated
Customer experience is very basic
Very bland on social media
Selling low quality products
Pricing is unprofitable
Failing to capture leads on their website

Write 3-5 adjective to describe their brand

Quickly jot down the first adjectives that come to mind when looking at each of your competitors’ brands. 3-5 is more than enough.

E.g. bold, quirky, sophisticated, intelligent, boring, glamorous, playful, corporate, exciting, luxury, confusing, generic etc.

4. CONDUCT A SWOT ANALYSIS

SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. This is a widely recommended business planning exercise, and for good reason. It’s powerful and not to be skipped!
Photography business plan - SWOT analysis section

Make a list of your strengths

It’s vital that you play to your strengths! Not only does it help you to grow quicker, it makes running your business a lot more fun!

Ask yourself, what does your business do really well? What does your business have that others might not? What are you naturally great at?

E.g. My photography style is unique in this area and my ideal client loves it
I help my personal branding clients use their images effectively
I’m the only pet photographer in the area selling beautiful wall art
I have a strong connection with alternative couples
I truly understand the luxury market
I have a huge collection of stunning outfits and props
I’m a confident salesperson
I’m an engaging writer and I enjoy it
I’m a LinkedIn ninja
I have a unique natural light studio
I have a slick and organised workflow so my time is optimised

Acknowledge your weaknesses

Of course there are things you could be doing better - let’s just get them out there! However, you need to do this in a practical way, you know, without falling into a pit of depression about your shortcomings!

Ask yourself, what do you need to improve on? What do you not have that others might have?

E.g. My website isn’t performing well in search results
I get no engagement on social media
I have very limited time compared to other photographers in my area
My workflow is inconsistent and disorganised
I’m not building an email list
I struggle to write in an engaging way
I’m very uncomfortable with in-person sales


Now, before you move on, ask yourself - which of these weaknesses can you disregard? Is it ok to have a certain weakness if you’re smashing it elsewhere? For example, is it ok that you struggle to write in an engaging way because you love creating videos instead and you know they can work well for you? Is it ok that you hate selling in-person because you know you can be profitable using online galleries? Decide which of your weaknesses don’t matter and put a line right through them!

You’re going to use your list of strengths and weaknesses in the following section. They should inform your marketing strategy and operations plan.

Where are the opportunities?

Ask yourself, how can you turn your strengths into opportunities? Are you making the most of them? 

And since you’ve just analysed your competitors' weaknesses, are there any obvious gaps you and your business can fill?

E.g. Other personal branding photographers in the area finish with delivery of images - I can capitalise on the fact that I help my clients decide how to use their images brilliantly
None of my competitors are doing much on LinkedIn - I could dominate there and land lots of personal branding clients
I can use my love of writing to create compelling blog posts and optimise them for search results
No one else has a natural light studio and amazing outfit collection - I should be making more of this
There are no photographers in the area marketing to the luxury market - this is where I should be directing my efforts
All of the pet photographers in the area work outdoors - I have access to a studio

Are there any potential threats?

Ask yourself, how are your weaknesses threatening your success? Are your competitors doing anything that threatens your success? Are there any outside factors that could pose a threat?

E.g. My direct competitor has just launched a pet photography service similar to mine
I rely heavily on Facebook which changes all the time and does not belong to me
My competitors are appearing above me for popular search terms
My disorganised workflow is costing me time and profit
My business is seasonal so cashflow can be a problem

5. OUTLINE YOUR MARKETING PLAN

In this section you’ll put together the brass tacks of a marketing plan for your photography business. It’s going to provide you with a focus and put an end to the overwhelm and indecision that comes from having no strategy to follow. You’ve done a lot of the work already in the previous sections so refer to it throughout.

If you want to delve even deeper into this - You should definitely check out my Marketing Systems Workshop!
Photography business plan template - marketing plan section

What makes your business stand out?

How and why is your business the best choice for your ideal client?

If you don’t know the answer to this question then how can you plan to win this person over in a vast sea of competition?

You might also hear this called your ‘Positioning Statement’ or 'Point of Differentiation'. It’s important that you position your photography business in the marketplace as being the best at something your ideal client cares about.

If you have a very unique style of photography in your area and it’s desirable for enough people then you have your main point of differentiation all sewn up. Lucky you! 

However, not many photographers can say that these days. Let’s face it, there are lots of photographers shooting in a similar style and there’s nothing wrong with that. It just means you need to find something else to use as a differentiator and it has to matter to your ideal client. What can that be?

Here, you’re going to decide on the most important way in which you and your business are different from your main competitors. Something that will matter to the person you want to work with.

Don’t overthink it! Remember everything about this plan can change any time you want it to. Just go with your gut and get something down for now.

So what makes your photography business the best choice for this person? You’ve already done the work! Your point of differentiation should relate directly to your ideal client’s pain points and desires and also to the strengths and opportunities you described in the previous section. So check those out and go from there.

E.g. I’m the best choice for my ideal client because I combine premium personal branding photography with training on how to use it effectively.

Write your Elevator Pitch

You’re now going to craft your elevator pitch. You might sometimes hear this referred to as your 'value proposition’ or 'brand message'.

Now, it's unlikely you’re going to love your first attempt so don’t even worry about it. It will evolve and you will get to something eventually that makes your heart sing.

To make this super easy, here’s an elevator pitch formula you can use. All the work is already done in the previous sections so just fill in the gaps! This is not prescriptive - feel free to play around with it and change the order. 

I help/work with (specific, complimentary description of your dream client) who (insert the most powerful desire or pain point they have) without (insert the main concern they have about working with a photographer). I (insert your point of differentiation) so they can (insert the most powerful benefit your ideal client enjoys because of your point of differentiation).

E.g. I work with ambitious creative entrepreneurs who want modern images that reflect their unique brand without any awkward posing. I combine this with step-by-step training on how they can effectively use their brand photography to grow their business.

Write your big, bold statement (tagline)

This is going to come from condensing down your elevator pitch and it’s likely to be the headline text on your website homepage and across your online and printed media. You might want to call it your tagline or strapline. I like ‘big, bold statement’.

Let’s keep this under 12 words. Punchy is the order of the day. I know it’s difficult to master brevity when there’s so much you want to convey but when it comes to this, you really need to decide - what’s the most important thing you want your ideal client to know? Bear in mind that subheadings can expand on your big, bold statement so don’t worry about what you’re not able to include!

Your big, bold statement will typically encapsulate your point of differentiation, your ideal client or the benefit your service brings. Sometimes 1 of these, sometimes 2 and sometimes all 3. It’s totally up to you and I’d strongly urge you to write down as many different ideals as you possibly can using those 3 elements.

Here are five types of big, bold statements you can play around with:

What you do and who you do it for
E.g. Documentary family photography for perfectly imperfect families

What you do and what they get
E.g. Crazy good brand photography that grows your business

What they get
E.g. Get ready to be happy in your own skin

What they get and what they don’t get
E.g. Heart-bursting wedding photography without leaving the party

What they don't get
E.g. Say goodbye to boring stock images forever

Need some inspiration from well-known brands?

Babbel - The shortest path to real-life conversations in a new language

Loom - Video recording, simplified

Bear - Mattresses designed to improve your sleep

ConvertKit - Audience building for creators

17Hats - Leave the chaos behind

Dropbox - Focus on the work that matters

Quickbooks - Smart, simple accounting software - with no commitment

Evernote - Your notes. Organised. Effortless.

Uber - Get there. Your day belongs to you.

Define your brand personality and tone of voice

You already outlined things that you and your ideal client have in common that can connect you to each other and establish that relatability and likability. That’s huge, but let’s build on it here and humanise your brand even further.

Your brand needs a personality and, within that, its own tone of voice. This is central to your ideal client feeling a strong connection and a huge sense of trust towards you. 

Think about your favourite brands - do they have a consistent brand personality and tone of voice? That's going to be a huge part of why you love them so much.

If you are the person behind the business then your brand personality should be closely linked to your personality. And your brand tone of voice should be close to the way you communicate as a person. Simple.

If you try to give your brand a wacky, extroverted personality and tone of voice when you are actually very sincere and introverted then running your business is going to feel all kinds of wrong. Not to mention, when clients meet you in person they’re going to wonder what the hell’s going on. Authenticity is so important.

Luckily, someone has done some great work to help us out here. Jennifer Aeker is a psychologist who came up with five brand personality categories. All you need to do is decide where your business falls.

SOPHISTICATED - charming, refined, high-class, elegant, beautiful, feminine, glamorous, exclusive, polished, romantic,

EXCITING - intriguing, imaginative, modern, trendy, spirited, push limits, playful, create hype, fun, enthusiastic, edgy, sarcastic, provocative, passionate, upbeat, casual, quirky, witty, funny

SINCERE - genuine, warm, caring, down-to-earth, wholesome, honest, authentic, emotional, feel-good, trustworthy, friendly, nostalgic, respectful, cheerful, kind, soulful

RUGGED - bold, strong, adventurous, masculine, outdoorsy, powerful, free, fierce, cool, unapologetic, energetic, matter-of-fact, dry, frank

COMPETENT - professional, reliable, successful, intelligent, hard-working, secure, logical, conservative, serious, informative, formal, smart, authoritative, respectful,

Without overthinking it, is there a brand personality category (or two if you really can’t decide) that you immediately know your business should fall into? Go with your gut and make a decision.

Decide on the best adjectives from above that perfectly describe the brand personality and tone of voice your business has (or should have) and note them down. Your marketing should always be drenched in a good dose of these adjectives!

E.g. I have a sincere brand. It’s trustworthy and friendly and communicates in a genuine and soulful way, often full of emotion.

What content are you going to create?

Content marketing helps you to build trust and likability and answer your ideal client’s questions. If it’s researched and optimised for search results (SEO), it also helps you to reach fresh people who might be interested in your photography business.

Today’s clients expect high-quality, consistent content from your brand, especially if you want them to value what you do and invest.

So, what type of content does your ideal client like to consume most? And, crucially, what do you enjoy creating? This is how you decide on the right medium for you. Please don’t think that you have to be doing live-streams, recording videos and writing blog posts - choose ONE of these content opportunities and give it your all.

Now decide how often you’re going to create a piece of content for your audience. Every week, every two weeks, every month? I’d say every month is the absolute minimum and if that’s all you can commit to, don’t worry at all. 12 great pieces of content each year is more powerful than 52 mediocre pieces. If you have to choose - choose quality over quantity and don't make the mistake of thinking every piece of content you create has to be about photography!

This content should be published to your website, sent to your email list (no matter how small) and used to create several different social media posts. Repurpose it to get maximum value for minimum effort - here's how to do that (and a free planning template!)

E.g. One video recorded every two weeks - optimised and embedded on my website, sent to my email list and used as inspiration for five Instagram posts

Which social media platform will you use and how?

Which social media platform is most suited to your ideal client and your brand? Where is this person hanging out online?

Also ask yourself, which platform will complement your content marketing most? A clever marketer will use one piece of ‘core’ content to create lots of different and engaging social media posts. 

Don't make the mistake of thinking you need to be on every single one - choose ONE platform to be amazing on. Either forget the others or just maintain a presence on them with the minimum of effort. Again, quality over quantity. That way you can learn how to use the platform effectively and build an engaged audience there so you can generate leads.

So, what's your social media platform of choice? How often will you post? What will you post? How will you engage with others? What is your main objective?

And will you 'maintain a presence' on any others?

E.g. My main social media platform is INSTAGRAM
I’ll post once a day to my grid and at least three times a day to stories
I will alternate sharing my work with personal photos, testimonials, behind the scenes videos, text-based tips, inspirational quotes and reposts
I’ll engage with other IG users for at least 15 minutes every day
My main IG objective is to drive people to my website
I’ll maintain a presence on Facebook using similar content


Will you do any face-to-face marketing?

Photographers who enjoy face-to-face interactions and use them consistently and authentically to market their services can often be booked solid from word-of-mouth alone! However, in-person marketing doesn’t suit some personalities at all, and it’s by no means essential, so feel free to miss this out.

Is it something you would excel at? If so, describe what it should look like.

E.g. Regularly attend local networking groups
Speak/teach at events
Nurture in-person relationships with wedding vendors
Take stands at fairs or exhibitions
Arrange in-person collaborations


Will you seek publicity for your business?

Leveraging someone else’s audience to get eyes on your photography business can be a very wise move if your ideal client is among that audience. This might mean featuring on someone's podcast, YouTube channel or livestream, guest blogging, writing press releases, submitting wedding images to magazines/blogs etc. 

Here, you’ll decide whether or not you’re going to seek media attention as part of your marketing strategy. Do you have the capacity for this and does it make sense for you and your ideal client? If not, skip this section.

E.g. Offer myself as a guest on dog-related podcasts/radio shows/tv shows
Get a wedding featured in ‘Bespoke Brides'
Do a free shoot for an Instagram Influencer in return for specific exposure


NB. You'll find that, if you nail the loyalty and referrals part (coming up soon), publicity happens by default without you having to put in any extra effort. 😉

How will you generate and nurture leads?

The marketing you’ve outlined so far is all to help your ideal client to become aware of you. That’s all. Awareness marketing is crucial, but it’s just the beginning of your ideal client’s journey with you.

In order to have a successful photography business, you need to take those ideal clients from awareness - to the next stage. And that next stage is not getting in touch with you to enquire about your photography services (that’s like getting married after one date!).

Did you know that the average conversion rate for a service-based business website like yours is 3%? That means that 97 our of 100 visitors leave without getting in touch!

Sobering, right?

This is because your ideal photography client will need around 11 touch points with you and your business before they’re ready to make an enquiry. Eleven.

It’s up to you to make sure those 11 touch points happen and you do that by capturing your lead as early as possible and nurturing them with your amazingly helpful content and engaging brand personality until they’re falling over themselves to work with you.

You’re now going to decide how you plan to generate leads for your photography business and how you plan to make the right ones fall in love with your brand.

The most popular way to do this is to get your ideal client to exchange their email address for something they want or need. You might call this an opt-in or a lead magnet. I have some here on this very page.

Once you have their email address, you add them to an email sequence (using an email marketing system like Mailerlite, ConvertKit or Mailchimp) which serves them up with the very best of your content. Content that answers their questions, addresses their desires and concerns, tells them stories and captures their heart. Content that sells.

So, describe how you will generate leads for your photography business so you can then nurture the right people with your email nurture sequence.

E.g. A free 'Brand Planning Checklist for Creative Entrepreneurs’ opt-in
Lead capture forms at exhibitions and fairs
Waiting list opt-in for headshot days
‘Full pricing’ opt in (only ’starting from’ prices on website)
‘Dog Friendly Pubs, Cafes and Restaurants Map’ opt-in

How will you create loyalty and encourage referrals?

In the services section you looked at how you can align your services so that the same person can hire you over and over again. Remember it costs five times more to win a new client than to retain an existing one!

However, there’s much more to creating fierce loyalty in your clients than that. It’s important that you run your business in way that not only makes clients want to work with you again and again, but they send their friends and family to you too.

And this doesn't just apply to past clients! You should be nurturing relationships with other business owners, influencers and anyone else you'd love to include in your network. How will you nurture loyalty to you and your brand and how will you encourage referrals?

Most loyalty and referrals come simply from how genuine, consistent and personal you are when you keep in touch with your network list. Relationships and connection are everything when it comes to word-of-mouth and longevity of business. The sooner you make this a priority every day, the better. 

I simply can't recommend Matthew Kimberley's '5 Things' guide if you really want to knock this out of the park. 

Describe the ways in which you will keep in touch with your past clients and others on your network list.

E.g. Engaging in an authentic way with them on social media
Personal emails 

Connecting them to others in your network
Sending Christmas/anniversary/birthday cards
Inviting them to events
Sending them ‘past client only’ vouchers or offers


All of the above will increase your referrals too but you can actively encourage this too. Outline the ways in which you will motivate your people to refer you.

E.g. Giving them a set of refer-a-friend vouchers to hand out
Adding a referral code to their online gallery
Featuring them (with permission) in your marketing content and encouraging them to share
Thanking them personally every time they refer someone to you
Gifting them credit every time they refer someone to you 
 

6. OUTLINE YOUR OPERATIONS PLAN

Whether you’re a solopreneur or you have a team, an operations plan is essential for success and sanity. This is all about streamlining your processes, automating certain tasks and creating a consistent and excellent experience for every client you work with. This is where loyalty and referrals are born. 

You'll use the work in this section to create your systems later - it's your systems that allow your business to grow whilst you stay sane!

Whilst working through the following questions, it’s vital that you keep in mind who your ideal client is and who you are as a brand. Everything that follows should be aligned with the work you’ve done so far.
Photography business plan template - operations plan section

Describe the enquiry and conversion process

This is where you should be enjoying the fruits of your marketing strategy. The better your marketing, the more enquiries should be coming your way. However, it’s how you handle those enquiries that determines whether the right people will book or not. Their experience starts here - before they’ve paid you any money. For example, some savvy photographers now use video messages to respond quickly and uniquely to a potential client. 

Briefly describe how you will respond to enquiries and how you plan to convert the right people into paying clients. You should be aiming to do this better than any of your direct competitors.

Describe the booking and onboarding process

Once someone decides to work with you, they should be reassured immediately that they’ve made the right decision. Start as you mean to go on by giving them everything they need to get the very best out of this experience with you.

Describe the booking process and how you will deal with payment, invoicing and contracts. Will this be automated with a CRM system?

Then, go on to describe how you will manage expectations, answer questions and prepare your clients for their experience. Will you send a client guide with full pricing and, if so, digital or tangible? Will there be a pre-shoot/wedding consultation? Will there be an email sequence to help them prepare? Maybe you’ll even send a small gift?

A brief outline is all that's required.

Describe the shoot or wedding process

The experience you deliver during the job itself should make your clients feel like they’re in the hands of a professional. It should also make them feel comfortable and special.

However, this is just as much about you. The more organised and consistent you are when you do your job, the more confident, calm and professional you'll be. 

Briefly describe how you'll check in before the job, how you'll prepare, how you'll welcome clients and how you'll make sure they feel special, comfortable and in the hands of an expert. Also mention how you'll leave them and how you'll ensure they know what happens next in the process.

Describe the post-shoot/wedding process

How do you plan to keep your clients informed afterwards so they always know what’s happening? If they chase you up - you haven’t done this well! Describe the process. 

Also outline the tasks that you do between the job and the images being ready. Include whether you'll share preview images with clients and how quickly you’ll aim to have their images ready. 

Describe the product sales process

It’s time to outline your sales process. If your clients pay in full before the job and there’s no upselling, this section won’t apply to you. You can skip it.

Describe how clients purchase prints/products from you and how you ensure they know exactly what to expect. If this happens in-person, make some notes about where it takes place, refreshments and timings. If this happens online, make some notes about how you make sure this is a smooth and confusion-free experience for the client and a profitable one for you.

Mention your role in the sales process - how you plan to help your clients with their decisions and whether you assist with any album or wall gallery design if applicable.

Lastly, describe the payment process. How and when to clients pay and are payment plans an option for bigger purchases?

A bullet-point list is all you need here.

Describe the order fulfilment process

It’s so important that your clients feel cared for and served beyond the shoot/wedding itself. They’re waiting eagerly to see their images and forgetting that can ruin all the hard work you’ve put in up to now.

Briefly describe how you'll keep your clients informed about their images/products, how quickly you aim to deliver them and how you'll package them up.

Outline how you follow up with clients about their experience and their images/products and how you get feedback/testimonials/reviews.

Describe the process beyond order fulfilment

You have already addressed this when you outlined your loyalty and referral marketing strategies. Remember, the experience and processes should extend beyond the delivery of the client’s photographs if you want fiercely loyal customers who hire you and refer you over and over again.

Simply use that work to map out the process. What will you do and when?

7. WORK OUT THE FINANCES

Getting up close and personal with your numbers is the best way to make sure the cash keeps flowing in your business. This knowledge is power! Photographers who avoid this simply don't manage to stay in business. Don't let that be you. 
Photography business plan template - finance plan section

Summarise your CODB and salary aims

It’s time to get very familiar with your numbers. After you complete this task, you’re going to know exactly how much money you need your clients to be paying you. This knowledge transforms your business.

I have a free calculator for you - all you need to do is input some numbers and it will give you the answers you need.

You’ll work out exactly how many hours you have each month for client work, what it really costs you to run your business (most photographers are shocked when they see this number!) and how much you need be earning per hour of client work to give you the salary you need from your business.

This information will allow you to work out the minimum you need to earn from different jobs. In fact, once you do this work, you can use the calculator to price any job quickly and easily! 

So, once you’ve gone through the costs and salary exercise - simply write your figures in.

E.g. I can work 136 hours per month
106 of those hours can be devoted to client work
My monthly cost of doing business is £853.38
My desired monthly salary (inc. tax) is £4000
This equates to £26.58 per hour
To achieve my desired salary, my business will need to generate £4833 per month
This equates to £45.63 per hour of client work
I spend a total of 10 hours on a typical personal branding client
This means I need to earn a minimum of £456.30 for a personal branding shoot

Where are you positioned in terms of price?

Based on this ideal client of yours, your main point of differentiation, the customer experience you deliver and, of course, your minimum client spend, where are you positioning your business in the pricing range in your area?

There is some strategy to this and you should consider it carefully.

Are you differentiating yourself by being the cheapest? Well, in that case, you need to be the cheapest. Does your client minimum spend that you worked out in the section above allow you to do that or is a re-think required? 

Perhaps you want to deliver a more basic service than most (a simple and slick workflow so you can serve lots of clients). If so, your pricing strategy might be to be a little cheaper than the average in your area. If you’re strict with your time spent, your cost of goods and cost of doing business, you could make this profitable. Make sure your minimum client spend aligns with that positioning.

It’s more likely however, that after working through your business plan, you’ve differentiated yourself by being the best in the area at something your ideal client really cares about. If that’s the case, it makes sense that you should be more expensive than the average.

If you have (or want) a luxury brand, providing a super high-touch experience, then it makes sense that you place yourself at the top end of the marketplace. These clients will expect you to be the most expensive in the area.

A warning. Pricing yourself in line with the average price for your area can mean that you end up in a massively crowded 'middle market’ where the competition is fierce. You’ll need to differentiate yourself incredibly well in order to compete there.

Of course there are lots of in-betweens and you can get stuck in overthinking hell here. Just remember your pricing strategy can change and grow with you. Also remember, it’s ok if you’re not ready for high pricing, as long as you create a profitable workflow and price list.

So, decide on your price position in your marketplace and explain why (your differentiation) in no more than two sentences.

E.g. I’m at least 20% more expensive than any other personal branding photographer in the area because I use my expertise to teach my clients how to effectively use their images to grow their business.

Which pricing model is right for you?

Now that you know the minimum amount of money you need to be earning from your clients, you’re very well placed to create profitable and strategic pricing.

But which pricing model is best suited to you and your business? Consider who your ideal client is, the sales process you’ve decided on and what you want to sell. If you’d like to understand the pros and cons of different pricing models, check out my Instagram carousel on this topic.

All-Inclusive Package Model - The client chooses upfront from a selection of packages which will include the session/wedding and images/products. They either pay upfront or in instalments ahead of the job. If they want to purchase anything extra afterwards, they can.

A La Carte Model - The client pays upfront for the session/wedding then they purchase whatever they want from your price list once the images are ready to view (either in person or via an online gallery).

For weddings and corporate gigs, the fee for coverage will usually (but not always) include digital images so your processing time should be included.

For portraits, the session fee doesn’t typically include digitals. It’s to pay for your time and secure the date.

Hybrid Model - The client pays upfront for the session/wedding, just like the A La Carte model, except afterwards they can choose to purchase a package, buy items a la carte or even mix the two.

Flat Hourly Rate Model (with/without optional add-ons) - The photographer simply sets a rate which includes image delivery. They set this in line with their CODB and salary exercise and choose a price that they’re happy with, even if the client purchases nothing more.

For wedding/corporate photographers this might be an hourly coverage rate (stating a minimum number of hours), a half-day rate or full-day rate.

For portrait photographers this might simply be a flat rate for shoots.

The rate includes processing/admin time. If clients want to purchase anything extra afterwards, they can, but this pricing model is not focused on upselling. It’s created for simplicity.

So, which pricing model is right for your business and your ideal client? Check out the pros and cons of each here.

E.g. Clients pay for a photo shoot for their dog at the time of booking. Afterwards they choose a package or buy items a la carte during a viewing and ordering session with me.

8. Set Goals and Create SYSTEMS

Of course every business plan needs a goal or two. Setting goals for your photography business gives you focus and allows you to prioritise your tasks and minimise overwhelm.

However, whilst goal setting for your photography business is important, success really lies in setting up systems that will help you to achieve those goals. That's what you'll do here.
Photography business plan template - goal setting and action plan section

Decide on your financial goal

First, set a financial goal for your business. Because of the work you did in section 8, you now have a handle on your numbers so you’re well placed to do this. You can choose to focus on gross revenue (all money generated by your business) or net profit (money left after all expenses).

Be specific and make sure your goal has a time frame and can be measured. Don’t stay within your comfort zone but don’t stray light years away from it either. Your financial goal should feel a little scary.

E.g. The business will generate £75,000 gross revenue by the end of 2021

You might want to add a customer experience/operations goal if there’s something specific you want to improve on, however, often improving your customer experience results in higher revenue so you can include this in your action plan.

Map out your systems

"A goal without a plan is just a wish." Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

To give yourself the best possible chance of achieving your financial goal, you need an action plan

I like to think of this as building systems. When you have systems in place for the things that happen regularly in your photography business, everything is so much less overwhelming and you always know exactly what needs to be done. No more staring anxiously at your computer trying to decide which of your gazillion tasks you should try to tackle first!

You simply create a system for each aspect of your business which consists of an ordered list of very small tasks. The smaller the tasks, the less overwhelm you’ll feel.

You’ll be glad to know you’ve already done a lot of the work towards setting up your action plan and systems! Simply refer back to your marketing strategy and your operations plan. They are your systems! All you need to do now is break everything down into small tasks.

It’s worth repeating that the more effort you put into trying to make sure your tasks are tiny - the more success you’ll experience. Adding a task like ‘Write blog post’ is too big! You’re going to procrastinate over that for sure. Break it down as far as you possibly can.

E.g. Keyword research
Plan structure
Write title and meta-description
List external and internal links to include
Source images
Write introduction . . .


Content Marketing System
Make a list of the bite-sized tasks that need to be completed each time you create a new piece of content (whether that’s weekly, monthly or bimonthly).

Social Media Marketing System
Make a list of all of the small, manageable tasks that need to be completed each week on social media. Every detail, including engagement with others.

Do the same for your face-to-face marketing and publicity strategy if you have one.

Now break down all the tasks that need to be completed per client so that everyone has the same wonderful experience with your business. Make sure every little thing is documented. Use your operations plan to complete this and create a detailed system for each of the following stages:

Enquiry and Conversion System
Booking and Onboarding System
Shoot/Wedding System
Post Shoot/Wedding System
Sales System
Order Fulfilment System
Loyalty and Referral System


Once you have your systems outlined, you should look for any tasks that can be automated or outsourced/delegated. Anything that gives you more time to spend on generating revenue and growing your business is an investment so look specifically for the tasks that you really don’t need to do yourself, don’t like to do yourself and/or don’t grow your business.

Once you’ve systemised your business for growth, running it every day is a matter of checking off tiny tasks on an organised list. If you have a team (or you want one in the future), systems are going to be your best friend.

What needs to happen for your systems to work?

Of course, not everything you do in business is part of a system. There are other tasks that might have to be completed in order for your systems to be successful.

At this point, you’re going to scan through your entire business plan looking for things that need actioned and are separate to your systems.

E.g. Revamp website to reflect newly defined brand
Create a lead magnet
Write an email nurture sequence
Source and set up a client management system
Buy and complete an online SEO course
Research and apply for wedding fairs and exhibitions . . .


Now number them in priority order and assign a date to them. This is your deadline. Be kind to yourself, you can’t do everything at once!

Again, these tasks are far too big and overwhelming so you now need to take the thing you’ve decided needs done first and break it up into tiny, manageable tasks so it seems much more achievable. 

Don’t worry about the others for now. You can break them up when you get to them.

Finally, look for anything you can outsource or delegate and do it. Will it free you up to generate income? If so, don’t even hesitate!

9. CREATE AN EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Photography business plan template - executive summary section
If you’re writing your business plan in order to secure some funding, you’ll need to include an Executive Summary at the very beginning so the reader can get a brief overview of your plan. Often, this is the only part of your business plan they’ll actually read, so it’s pretty important!

However, if you’re writing your business plan for you, don’t bother with this section. Why give yourself unnecessary work, right?

If you do need an Executive Summary, even though it should be the first section of your photography business plan, think of it as your abbreviated plan and write it last. Simply use the same headings to structure it.

If you’re still reading this, you’re a hero (you're also a perfect fit for my membership)! This is the work that takes you closer to the vision you have for your photography business and for yourself. Overwhelm, resistance and procrastination are simply the symptoms of having no plan.

Spend the time, give it the effort and enjoy the clarity this work is going to bring! 
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