Running a Business vs Fueling a Hobby

Running a Business vs Fueling a Hobby

I was recently asked the following question(s) and decided to make my answer into a post, to perhaps benefit others with similar questions:

I have done some head shots for people at my school and I was thinking of making it into a little side business, but I am not very savvy about making photography websites and sharing photos with customers once I edit them (i’ve been emailing enormous files, which takes forever). Do you have any tips to getting a website started and for sharing photos with people? Also, do you have any tips about pricing?


Do you have any tips to getting a website started?

My question back would be: How serious are you about making this a business?

Let me answer first, as if you are ready to take the leap into running that business.  Investing into a business means investing money.

1. Buy a Domain Name (godaddy, 1&1, etc) – choose a name that you will not get tired of or want to change in 6 months or so!

2. Create your website.  Many servers have templates or you can create your own.  Personally I use ShowIt, as it allows me quite a bit of freedom in designing my own website and content and I can change it any time I want.  They do also have templates available that are great.  

If you are not ready to take the leap or invest (much) money into a website, I would try a blog.  In most blogs, you can share you images and even create menu options where potential clients can learn about you, your pricing, etc.

I still use a free WordPress Blog template for mine.

WordPress, WiX, and many more you can google, help you create websites with a monthly or yearly plan. You won’t have to buy a domain name for these, but your website url will have the companies name attached to whichever name you choose.

In the end, it is all going to depend on how much you are willing to put into it.


Do you have any tips for sharing photos with people?

Here, again, it will depend on what you need in addition to sharing your images.

I’ve used zenfolio for most of my photo sharing until recently.  Zenfolio is great because it gives you the option of a little “website-like” start page.  You can host your galleries and then you have plenty of options (images for viewing only, or for selling, etc.).  Zenfolio uses MpixPro for their print fulfillment.  There are great options and you set your own prices.  Selling from a print fulfillment-type site is less hassle for you, the photographer.

There are plenty of other image sharing companies out there – again google and see what suits you best.

I am currently switching over to PixieSet.  They work with White House Custom Color for print fulfillment or you can choose your own way/company/etc.  For me it is a choice in the quality of prints. I use WHCC for most of my other print orders as well.  Also, I really like the set-up and customizing options of PixieSet.


Do you have any tips about pricing?

Oh boy.  If there is one thing I have learned over the years that I have run my business and the many workshops I have attended, fellow photographers and mentors I have followed, it is this:

You need to price yourself at what YOU know you are worth.  No less.

For me, this is one of the hardest aspects of running a business.

I look back at the many revisions of my pricing and I sometimes wonder, “what was I thinking”.

Well, I know now the two biggest directions pricing will take you:

A. Are you doing this as a hobby?


B. Are you doing this as a business?


Let’s take Option A: 

You would like to make some money on the side.  You are doing this for enjoyment!

Yes?  Then charge whatever you want to.


Let’s look at Option B:

You want to use income from your business to pay bills, aka this is a real job.  You are also doing this for enjoyment, but you are running a real business!

Yes?  Then you need to factor these expenses into your prices (these are just some on the top of my head):

  • Website costs
  • Equipment (Computer/Laptop, Camera, Flash, Batteries, etc, etc)
  • Equipment Insurance
  • Software
  • Taxes (yes, you should have a Federal Tax ID and know what to do about taxes, etc.)
  • Membership Fees (if you are part of PPA, for example)
  • Babysitting Costs (if you have children and can’t take them with you to work)
  • Mileage (Gas costs)
  • Vehicle expenses
  • Office expenses (rent, utilities, etc)
  • Office supplies
  • Education/Workshops/etc
  • Print Product Expenses
  • TIME, TIME, TIME (I hardly get to pay myself even minimum wage – that is slowly changing)

So, pricing needs to start wherever it is where you will be able to cover all these costs (to come out even) – called CODB: Cost of Doing Business.  So, take that versus how much you want to/need to earn and you will get an idea of where your prices need to start.

There are great resources out there that can help you figure all that out – and as your life situation and your business changes, these numbers will change also.


Hope this helps a little!  Every photographer has different insight.  Go out there and research your options and pick what is best for you!

Blog Signature