2014 Photographer’s Market Preview: The Business Mind-Set, by Ilise Benun

Starting a Photography Business

starting a photography businessIf this is how you approach starting a photography business, you might need some help getting into the business mind-set! Fortunately for you, consultant and marketing-mentor Ilise Benun has great advice for taking your business seriously and plenty of tips for all aspects of dealing with money, including how to manage it and how to talk about it with clients. You can read an excerpt from Benun’s article “The Business Mind-Set” below. To read the entire article, check out the 2014 Photographer’s Market. You can also find it right here on Artist’s Market Online.

Keep creating and good luck!


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The Business Mind-Set by Ilise Benun

“You get what you demand, not necessarily what you deserve.” — Mikelann Valterra, Certified Financial Recovery Coach and author

Can you make a successful living doing what you love?

Yes, you can—but only if you decide to take it seriously and treat it like a business.


Most people who go into business do so because they want, first and foremost, to be a business owner. That’s not usually the case with creative professionals. You see yourself as a creative first, and you love the creative work. You’re in business, whether as a freelancer or running a larger entity, by accident rather than by design. You may have jumped or perhaps were pushed. If you’re lucky, with a combination of talent and excellent timing, you have ridden a wave of “success.” If you aren’t so lucky, it’s been a struggle, but you’re still here. Either way, there are aspects of the business that are not your favorite, and dealing with money is probably one of them.


See Yourself as a Business

Many creative professionals hang out their shingles or open their doors for business, then proceed to wait and hope: hoping clients will find them, hoping they’ll get enough work, hoping the client will pay the bill, hoping the checks add up at the end of the month so all the bills get paid. If you think about it, it’s a very passive position, taking what comes along instead of deciding what you want and pursuing it.


Understand the Difference Between Spending and Investing

Whether you realize it or not, your personal perspective on money affects your decision-making process in business and, therefore, your ultimate success. In fact, if you have had no training in finances or business, it can be the difference between a prosperous and a struggling business.


Be Objective About Your Work

Taking your business seriously also means being as objective as possible. But as a creative, your work is more than a “job.” You are probably emotionally attached to the work you do. You may even pour your heart and soul into it.


Get Out of the Financial Fog

What? You’re not a “numbers person”? Your head goes fuzzy when someone starts talking numbers? All the intelligence you exhibit in other areas of your life seems to evaporate? Somehow you can no longer do the multiplication you learned at age nine?

One of the reasons this aspect of your business may be confusing is because you have not been trained in the financial aspects of business like a business school graduate has. Which isn’t to say you need a business degree to run a business. But you do need training and guidance from professionals.

Creatives often say, “I’m not good with money.” That, more than anything, is a self-fulfilling prophecy, primarily of a psychological nature, and it’s important to deal with. Suffice it to say, you’re not alone. There is hope, as this fuzziness is not a genetic condition.


Be Confident About Money

Your prospects and clients need you to be confident. They are looking for confidence in their vendors and resources. They want to be persuaded that they will be in good hands if they choose you.

But many creative professionals experience a lack of confidence, which usually has nothing to do with the quality of the work. Instead it seems to stem from comparisons you make between you and your competitors, who are sometimes also your friends and colleagues, which makes it tricky.


Money Is Taboo

Did you learn growing up that it is impolite to talk about money? That may be true in social settings but certainly not in business.

After all, we live in a capitalist culture! As a business owner, if you don’t talk about money, then you can’t ask for a client’s budget or negotiate a contract. You can’t raise your prices or advise a client that it’s going to cost more when their project’s scope starts to creep.


Money Is Emotional

Valterra writes, “Many of us are very conflicted about money in general—about having it, earning it and spending it. And many of us desperately don’t want to think about it. Money should just be there, not interfering with how we live our lives. But we need it. And some of us hate that we need it.”


Emotional pricing is not “wrong,” it’s just not rational. You have much more sophisticated tools at your disposal. Yes, be aware of what your gut says, but don’t go only by your gut. When you make an emotional pricing decision and you realize later a better decision could have been made, take the time to investigate what drove you to make that decision so you can learn from those experiences.

Money Conversations Are Minefields

Many creatives work alone. You may like it that way. You may need solitude or quiet to do your work. But business is social, and if you expect to earn a living then don’t ignore the social aspect or you may find yourself in more solitude than you bargained for.


If you’re going to run a successful business, you have to be a clear communicator, especially when it comes to talking about money. Not only that, you need to be willing to stay in the conversation, through whatever discomfort arises, to keep the conversation going as long as necessary until each detail is resolved.


Ilise Benun, founder of Marketing Mentor and co-producer of the Creative Freelancer Conference (www.creativefreelancerconference.com), works with creative freelancers who are serious about building healthy businesses. Sign up for her Quick Tips at www.marketing-mentortips.com.

Excerpted from The Creative Professional’s Guide to Money © 2011 by Ilise Benun. Used with the kind permission of HOW Books, an imprint of F+W Media Inc. Visit www.mydesignshop.com or call (855)840-5126 to obtain a copy.


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