More Money Than Time? Maybe a Photography Franchise Is Your Solution

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Operating a photography business within a franchise isn’t for everyone. For some, the framework and support investment isn’t worth the freedom they give up. For others, it’s just the foundation they need.

You’ve always wanted to start a photography business of your own. By now, you know you’re not alone. Countless businesses start every year. In a few days, or even hours, depending on the state where you live, you could have a legally formed business, tax identification number, and bank account ready to go. You could be in business.

Then the hard part begins. Once you’ve decided the basics of your business – the type of photography, your work style, and overall goals – you need to set that into motion.

Bookkeeping, marketing, contracts, insurance, workflow, and every other part of the process need to be fleshed out and in full swing. This involves time and money, just like almost everything else in life.

It also involves patience. And persistence. You’ll need to commit yourself to the learning curve. Even if you’re experienced in both photography and business, photography business is its own crazy type of animal.

The tried and true models to hard won independence

To their credit, many photographers begin as assistants to established photographers. This journeyman-apprentice relationship has been a part of countless crafts and trades down through the centuries. This is a hands on way to understand how things really work, not just how things work in theory. These assistants may eventually start their own businesses, or become partners or even owners of the place they started.

Other new photography businesses truly begin from the beginning. These one-person operations learn as they go. Their owners are responsible for all the decisions and outcomes. It can be a slow process of trial and error before settling on a recipe that works.

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Both these approaches have their advantages and disadvantages. Both can be time consuming. Assistants have little control over the business, but they also don’t share the risk that business owners do. Assistants need little more than a camera, and maybe not even that if the employer provides the equipment. Business owners need money to start and maintain their business during startup and slow periods, but they can decide how much investment they want to make.

It doesn’t take a tremendous amount of money to start a photography business. You can bootstrap a business over a period of time, spending more on marketing and infrastructure as more money is made. The trade-off is that growth may be related to how much money is spent on these things. The more money spent on marketing, for instance, the more marketing there is to contribute to sales.

The third option: Franchise

For those who want to find the happy medium between, there is a third type of business: the franchise. Like the other two options, there are pros and cons of the franchise model. The biggest advantage is the quick start framework that saves time, trial, and error. The franchisee – the photographer coming into the franchise – doesn’t have to experiment with systems, products, and brand building. They are buying into a proven brand that provides guidance and support for mutual benefit.

Again, there is a trade-off. The franchisor – the owner of the franchise – sets the policies, systems, and processes that all franchisees will use. The limit of control a franchisee has may not be ideal for some people who have a distinct vision of the business they want to create.

The big disadvantage of a franchise, at least for many startup businesses, is the initial cost to join. The initial investment can be substantial, anywhere from $30,000 and upward, with ongoing fees during the life of your relationship. For the photographer who has planned a business and has the money to invest, however, the franchise can be an attractive option to be up and running right away. A reputable brand name is near instant credibility in the right market.

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Knowing what you want

Any of these business paths require effort, and even a franchise is no guarantee of success. Whether the franchise model is right for your business depends on several factors.

  • How much control do you want (or are you allowed to have) over the creative process?
  • Is the company’s customer experience one you believe in?
  • Are you willing to answer to someone else’s operating rules?
  • Can you see yourself producing a prescribed style of photography your entire career?

A franchise relationship is a type of marriage. Consider the corporate culture, brand reputation, and future potential of your intended partner. If you can’t see yourself happy and growing in the coming years with a particular partner, keep searching until you find the right one.

Operating a photography business within a franchise isn’t for everyone. For some, the framework and support investment isn’t worth the freedom they give up. For others, it’s just the foundation they need.