The photography world has changed a lot since Niépce took the first ever photograph in 1826, with tens of thousands of professional photographers now working in the UK alone and a lot of photographic agents representing them.

As accountants for photographers, we know how busy photographers are. First, they have to balance all the photoshoots they have scheduled. Then, there’s the marketing work they need to do to secure future projects, as well their financial and accounting responsibilities.

By taking on some of their accounting, we’ve found a profitable way to help photographers pursue their career.

If you’re thinking about setting up a photographic agency, you’ll be in a similar position as us – while we act as a bridge between a photographer and their finances, photographic agents are the bridge between a photographer and their client. An agent’s core function is to market and sell the services of the photographers they represent, for a fee.

Agents get to meet and work with a huge variety of different people within a range of sectors who need photographic work, building connections along the way.

Many are also self-employed, with hiring vacancies for staff agents not being that common. Therefore, if you think working as a photographic agent sounds like something for you, you’ll need to know how to set up your own photographic agency.

1. Consider if you’re ready

While we’re sure you’re capable of managing the needs and wants of the clients you’ll represent, negotiate the best deals for them and nurture your own growth, consider first if you have the experience and connections to work as an agent.

Photographic agency isn’t a job that you can study for. It’s also not the sort of job you’ll be able to do without the experience and understanding of the sector you’re going into, on top of a healthy list of contacts to get you going.

In other words, unless you’ve worked in the photography industry before, it’s hard to flourish as a photographic agent.

2. Create a plan

If you press ahead, you’ll first need a business plan. Without one, you’ll be operating blind. Getting your ideas on paper also allows you to clarify your ideas, spot potential problems, set your goals and measure your progress more easily.

Key to your plan will be deciding what exactly you’ll be doing. Will you market your clients’ work to businesses looking for their skills? Will you instead be on the negotiating table, trying to get the best work arrangements for your clients? Or, will you be doing a combination of both?

You also need to think about exactly who your clients will be. For instance, are you going to work with photographers with certain specialisations, such as photojournalism, sports, weddings or property photography?

Alternatively, you could focus your business on photographers with a certain experience or demand from businesses, whichever way you prefer.

You’ll also need to properly cost your business activities. This is an area an accountant will be especially helpful. For instance, as accountants for photographic agents, not only will we ensure your finances are in good order, but that you’re benefiting from all the tax relief and deductions you can to save money.

You’ll need to decide on your business structure, too. Most newly self-employed individuals operate as sole traders for simplicity’s sake, but if you operate as a limited company, you may receive a less harsh tax treatment from HMRC at the cost of extra administrative work.

Make sure to read our previous blog post covering the advantages and disadvantages of operating as a limited company.

3. Price your services

Next, you need to know what you’re going to charge clients. Ideally, you’ll strike a balance between turning a profit and keeping potential clients on your side.

Some of the work you did in your business planning will crop up here. For instance, if you chose to represent higher-end photographers in higher-stake deals, your prices should reflect that with a markup.

Don’t pluck a number out of thin air, though. Look at your competitors to see what sort of prices will be acceptable for the type of clients you’re trying to attract.

If you can afford to offer even more competitive prices and still turn a profit, great. If you need to go higher to reach your profit goals, then you’re going to need to show potential clients why you’re worth the extra price.

4. Think about your brand and marketing

To show potential clients you’re the real deal, you’ll need to have a strong brand and marketing plan in place to showcase your expertise.

Branding is all about communicating who you are and why you’re right for your ideal client. Everything on your website (yes, you need your own website nowadays) should ooze with your business’s personality, from its content, to the imagery.

We recommend you start a blogging section on your website and create industry-specific content to demonstrate your expertise to anyone visiting your website.

Blogging can also benefit your marketing efforts, which is all about putting yourself onto a potential client’s radar.

That can be done by using keywords that your ideal client might be searching for on Google, such as ‘photography agent for photojournalists’, in your website copy and blogs.

Known as search engine optimisation (SEO), Google uses this process to organically rank which web pages rank at the top of certain searches. So, better SEO practices, the higher up your website should appear on search engine result pages.

There are many more marketing techniques for you to use outside the scope of this blog, so make sure to research this in detail.

5. Think about your accounting

As accountants with a busy day-to-day schedule, an effective way we plan our time is to assume everything will take a little bit longer than we anticipate. That way, when something inevitably does take longer than we had first thought, our timetable isn’t entirely ruined.

Business owners would benefit from a similar way of working, especially when it comes to their financial and accounting affairs.

Self-assessment tax returns, corporation tax returns for limited companies, annual accounts, bookkeeping and payroll are just some of the time-consuming tasks that could be on your plate.

Frankly, you need your attention to be fixed on your business. You should be looking for clients, researching new trends in the photography world and fine tuning your business practices, so don’t put off getting a creative accountant like Alchemy to manage your financial affairs – it can save you money in the long run, too.

As accountants for photographic agents, we’re perfectly able to help get your business off the ground. Contact us for more information.