Are you thinking about starting a photography business?
Have you been in the industry for a while?
Regardless of where you are in your photography business journey, there is nothing more important than getting extremely clear on the reason you are in business.
You need a mission statement for your photography business.
Before I became a graphic designer dedicated to helping photographers create a brand they love, I was a child and family portrait photographer. To be honest, when I first started my photography business my two main reasons were to make money and create pretty pictures. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I needed to have a bigger, deeper reason for being in business. I needed a mission statement. I needed a reason beyond making money while taking pretty pictures. And I’m willing to bet that you do too.
In this article I am going to help you figure out what your why is so you can write a photography business mission statement so you can build a successful brand your clients will love.
What is a Photography Business Mission Statement?
In simple terms, a mission statement is a definition of your photography brand’s values and purpose for being in business.
Why you need a mission statement more than you need a logo
Your photography business needs a mission statement to be successful. Did you know that 20% of small businesses fail in their first year, 30% of small businesses fail in their second year, and 50% of small businesses fail after five years in business?
Listen, running a business is hard.It’s exciting and fun one day, boring and monotonous the next. It can be lonely, and it can be extremely fulfilling. It can be a confidence booster and a self-esteem destroyer.
Running a photography business is one of those things where when it’s good – it’s really really good. But when it’s not good, those are the days when you are going to really need to lean into your why. Your why is going to be the one thing that keeps you moving forward and pushing you towards success.
Here's what not to put in a mission statement
When I begin working with a client on building their brand identity, I always ask them, “What’s your mission statement? What’s your reason for building your business?”
For many clients this is the first time they have really thought about their reasons for starting a business. Too many times the answer is either to make money, or to create art.
Those aren’t bad reasons to start a photography business.
They also aren’t the best.
Let’s break both of those answers down to see why they aren’t recommended.
Why just creating amazing pictures isn’t going to cut it in your journey to building a successful photography brand.
1. Two words: creative rut. Every photographer has a creative rut now and then. You’re going to have days when you’d rather Netflix and chill than work on photos. You’re going to have days when you’re waiting for inspiration to strike. But you feel uninspired and frustrated.
Unfortunately, your bills and your clients are still going to expect you to show up anyway. What are you going to lean into when the absolute last thing you want to do is create amazing pictures?
2. There’s a lot more to running a photography business than creating amazing pictures. There’s accounting,emailing, pitching, content creation, marketing, networking, etc.
Eventually, you’ll be able to outsource some of the work you don’t love. But now you have to manage the individuals you outsource that work to. If you are lucky, only about a third of the time you spend working will involve actually creating photos.
Why making money isn’t a good enough reason to be in business.
Real talk here – there a lot of easier ways to make money than running your own photography business. At least until you become an overnight success that wasn’t quite an overnight success. Don’t get me wrong here – making money is always a part of being in business. But it can’t be the driving force behind your motivation.
When I first started my photography business, I worked for free a lot and then for pennies. It took a long time until I had the business chops and photography skills to even be able to pay myself. Almost every dollar I made went right back into my business.
Not only that, but it feels yucky to your clients. You don’t want to come across as a pushy sales person, do you? Because I hate to tell you this, but people can tell when you care about making the sale, vs them.
I’m not saying you can’t make money running a photography business. I am saying you are going to have a lot of days eating top ramen and working for free before the good money shows up. That’s the fact of starting a business.
The key to finding your why is to go deeper than the surface level of taking pretty pictures or making money. Ask yourself the following questions (download the guide to fill in the answers as you go)
1. Why do you love photography?
Is it the power of freezing time?
Helping someone with low self-esteem see their beauty?
Is it capturing the moments you wish someone would have captured for you?
Is it helping entrepreneurs become successful?
2. How does your photography help others?
Tell me if you can relate to this: I will show up for others way more than I will show up more for myself. If I have a deadline for a client, I will do everything in my power to not miss it. If I have a deadline for myself, it can always be adjusted (I’m working on that, I promise).
When we focus outside ourselves, we show up. So how does your photography serve others?
3. What impact do you want your photography business to have on the world?
What will your photography empower others to do? Will it help them to love a little more? Cherish moments? Buy a product that is good for them? Bring a little more joy into the world? Will it brighten homes? Advocate for social change? Empower professionals to show up in their business?
4. What’s going to actually motivate you to show up in your business when the money isn’t coming in?
What will motivate you when you’d rather do anything but sit at your computer and edit for a couple of hours? Only you can answer that. What’s the thing that’s going to make it o.k. that you missed the ballet recital or the football game because you had a photo shoot? What’s the thing that will make it OK that you missed movie night because you had to get that blog post published? What’s going to be the reason that makes all the sacrifices feel less like a sacrifice and worth the effort?
Final question. If you never needed to make money from your photography business, would you still build it? Why?
Now that you’ve answered those questions, write down your why and put it somewhere that you will see it everyday. Put it on your computer and on your mirror. Let it keep you focused on why you need to show up for your business every day, including the days you don’t want to.
So, What’s my Why? You are.
My why is that I come alive when I help others solve problems. I want to empower photographers to achieve their dreams by creating a cohesive and consistent visual identity that will help them get out of their own heads and enable them to show up in their business so they can live the life they want.
You, my friend, are my why. And I'd love to know you're why!
Your potential success excites me, and I want to be in your corner. I want to be rooting you on and helping you create a business you love! Leave me a comment or send me a DM and let me know why you are building your photography business! I'd love to know.
If you’re into having friends like that, I’d love for you to hit me up on Instagram or Facebook and say Hi! Or shoot me an email at Kim@Kim-Miller.com and let me know how I can help you get out of your own way and start showing up in your business.
Need help creating your photography brand?
Download my free branding guide for photographers!