Photography Business: ‘Working Your Way Up’ Theory

Grain silo storage.

There's this philosophy entrenched within the photo business world-that you need to “work your way up” the ladder. Where does this come from? Why is this concept so prevalent for a photography career path? You'll mostly hear this concept thrown around on the forums and such when people are discussing how photographers price their work. A lot of traditionalists actually feel that you need to start at the bottom and work your way up to a decent living over the years, enjoying the “starving artist” phase for the appropriate number of years.

This is total BS. I'm not sure why its popular in our industry, but let me be clear-the people promoting these ridiculous ideas…they don't have your back. Photography is a tough industry-if you are in it, hopefully you don't have misconceptions that this is going to be a sure path to riches. But does that mean you need to accept living below the poverty line? It's just that so many photographers struggle and toil for years and years, and at the end of it, they don't have two nickels to rub together. Yes, they got to do what they love, but did they have to give up all financial security in order to do it? Many of the old school photographers will insist that the only path begins at the bottom. And for those that consider themselves “artists” instead of business people, well that might hold up. There are other ways to break into the industry besides starting at the bottom with the lowest rates in town.

There are two sides to a photography business-the photography side and the business side. They do not necessarily go hand in hand, meaning the most sucessful businesses are not always the best photographers. You can be a great photographer, you could be an ok photographer. This has nothing to do with how well you can run a business. Can you charge higher rates than someone who has better work than you? Absolutely. One's got nothing to do with the other. Can you open the doors with mid-level or even high end pricing? Sure you can, if you can pull it off.

We never started with budget pricing. Before we ever printed up a business card, we knew we were going after the high end clientele, and we set our packages accordingly. To back that up, we had a flawless presentation-high end sample albums, gorgeous brochure, established looking business cards. Why work our way up when we could just enter the market sideways? It's just good business sense.

So don't think you have to work for free or practically. You don't need to “work your way up” and that way of thinking is not going to help your business. It's time to start thinking and acting like a business owner, not a starving artist. If you need help with that, you've come to the right place.

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