Photography is an art and photographers are artists. As such, most photographers are not necessarily business people. Many photographers that start their small business studios have difficulty sustaining profitable studios because they lack business experience and/or financial knowledge.
Professional Photographers of America (PPA) has created the Business Challenge to help photographers learn how to develop their businesses for profitability. “PPA’s business advice is based on years of experience, proven benchmark standards and successful business mentoring,” says Angela Kurkian, PPA’s Education Director.
“The new Business Challenge will help our members be more business-confident. It will help them think strategically and operate as savvy business people.”
Being a professional photographer is not easy. It’s a competitive profession with a lot of photographers out there trying to make a living. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 124,900 people employed as professional photographers in the U.S. in 2014. And this doesn’t include an estimated 140,000 self-employed photographers which would bring the total to nearly 250,000 photographers. That’s a lot of competition! Competing against this many photographers can be challenging in itself, but when it comes to knowing what business and financial decisions to make to be able to sustain a profitable photography business, the task can seem daunting.
PPA’s Business Challenge was born almost two years ago as a case study to see just how much of an impact sound business advice, given over the course of a year, would have on small business owners. “What if,” Kurkian thought, “PPA members could sign up to be guided, step-by-step, through a ‘business makeover’ with the help of other successful studio owners?”
Helping Small Businesses Thrive
Two small business owners and photographers (Krista Newbill and Wes Roberts) were chosen to go through a year-long business boot camp with some of the best studio owners in the industry as their mentors. Throughout the process, Kurkian had the participants keep one question in mind: ‘How does change feel?’ “This is going to be a big change for these artists, and change is difficult,” she said. “But when you decide to create change, change occurs all around you.”
The two participating studios’ definitions of success were taken into account, their strengths and weaknesses were evaluated and their top five goals for the year were contemplated. Throughout 2015, five leading photographers who run successful studios consulted with the participants and coached them on how to implement new steps for their businesses. These steps included setting new sales goals, creating appropriate pricing strategies and outlining a marketing plan.
Both studios achieved their individual goals and found themselves increasing their profits and heading towards a more sustainable business model. “Your business doesn’t have to look exactly one way or like one specific thing,” Kurkian says. “That’s why we chose two very different businesses for the makeover. We wanted to show examples of how these businesses could maintain their unique identity while still implementing changes that would increase their profits and make them sustainable. The program was a success and we decided the next phase for this project would be to expand it to all 29,000 of our members.”
The Business Challenge for Everyone
Based on the positive feedback from these two case studies, PPA decided to expand the program and make it available to all 29,000 PPA members. PPA is currently unveiling the Business Challenge as a new benefit that is free to PPA members. The Challenge is a one-year program that will give members the information and tools they need to develop the foundation for a more profitable business.
Interested members can sign up at PPA.com/Challenge any time. Once signed up, they will be put into a Challenge Group beginning the first day of the following month. Then, for the next 12 months, they’ll work on their personalized success path. Not only will they receive the tools required to make changes to their businesses, but also step-by-step instructions and support to implement these changes. These smaller sized groups will create a community, where participants share with their peers and mentors as the groups go through the same program together.
The Business Challenge is meant to be fun. It’s an interactive way for PPA members to integrate as much business acumen as they can in one year’s time. There is actual work involved, as it is for photographers who are serious about wanting to take their businesses to the next level. Participants will have tasks to complete and will be held accountable by their Challenge Group.
PPA’s Business Challenge is free to join but only available to members of the association. The Challenge includes tools to understand and develop the foundations of a profitable business with:
- A step-by-step learning process
- Answers to the most vital business questions
- Personalized success/business plans
- Lists and guidelines to help prioritize
- Inspiration and help to stay focused
- A framework to avoid getting overwhelmed
- Successful business mentors who freely share their time and experience
- Accountability partners with other photographers who face the same challenges
Professional Photographers of America: Helping Its Members Be More
Professional Photographers of America (PPA) is the largest international nonprofit association created by professional photographers, for professional photographers. It assists more than 29,000 members through protection, education and resources for to foster their continued success. Aside from the new Business Challenge, other popular PPA membership benefits that help photographers run sustainable businesses include:
- Equipment insurance with up to $15,000 of coverage paid for by PPA
- Data loss and negligence protection covering PPA members and helping to settle cases
- Custom-fit learning program with takeaways
- Over 1,100 online videos for business education, photography techniques and inspiration
- Marketing tools to help professional photographers
- Tight networking with peers, one-on-one or through theLoop, PPA’s safe online community for PPA photographers only
- Monthly edition of Professional Photographer, America’s top award-winning photo magazine
- Members-only discounts and perks on product and services for photographers
- Business tools, mentors and surveys to help PPA photographers be more profitable
- Find-a-Photographer, a photographers’ search tool to up your online presence
- PPA’s 1-year business challenge with mentors, a support system and lots of tools to help along the way
If you are a photographer who’s serious about making money in this field, come see what PPA can do for you at PPA.com/Join. Once you join PPA, you can enter the Business Challenge and fast track your business to new heights! Get more information at PPA.com/Challenge.