Do I Need a Business Plan?

Photography

Over breakfast yesterday, I asked JD the following: Did I have a business plan when I started my photography business? He squinted a bit, looked off, and said yes. His certainty surprised me, because I felt, well, unsure. A business plan sounds formal and legit…and when I started my business these were the last things I felt. I asked him because of this email I received:

Dear Jasmine,
I’ve been told that I need a “business plan” so of course I have purchased the enlightening book “Business Plan for Dummies.” 2 chapters in and I am officially over it aaaaand overwhelmed. Before I continue reading this and stressing over needing 15-20 pages to describe my business I wanted to know if you recommend spending time doing this or should I focus my energy else where at this juncture?
Sincerely,
Ain’t No Dummy

To be technical, I did some research on Google and discovered a business plan (as simply defined by Wikipedia) is a formal statement of business goals, the reasons they are attainable, and the plan for reaching those goals. It was then–sitting at my laptop–that I realized I truly had a business plan…but it didn’t come in a formal way you might guess.

I created a business plan for my first year of business and here’s a few things that were in that plan:
    a. Second shoot/assist 5-10 weddings (ended up second shooting more than 30+ weddings)
    b. Book one wedding (ended up booking three)
    c. Attend a photography workshop (ended up attending five)

Here’s why I thought the goals were attainable:
    a. I second shot my first wedding in April 2006 and was an active participant in local photographer communities (in person and online). I figured if I offered my services for free, I could shoot a few more.
    b. I believed I could book one wedding based on the marketing, networking, and–let’s face it–praying I was doing. I booked three weddings in October 2006, which led to booking 38 weddings in 2007.
    c. Saving money from the shoots I was picking up, I attended my first photo workshop…then scored attendance at other workshops by assisting and/or volunteering for instructors.
(To read more about how everything unfolded in the above mentioned stories, you can find the full account in Exposed Magazine)

Here was my plan for reaching those goals:
    a. Participate more within the photo community, make friends, help others, create trust with photographers who might allow me to shoot alongside them.
    b. I planned to take a wedding, any wedding, if it came my way, so I didn’t let price or my expectations get in the way. My goal was to get busy, fast.
    c. I worked part-time and picked up random shoots in order to provide the money I needed to attend a workshop. Yes, I shot a few family sessions (which were a great learning experience, but totally not my cup of tea) to help fund my workshop goal…as soon as I attended my first workshop, I said goodbye to family portraits! 😉

These are just three examples from my first year business plan. No, it wasn’t typed up, nor did it address things formally, but it was a plan of hopes, action, and ways to accomplish things. I hope new photographers/entrepreneurs take the time to create a business plan and if you have questions, feel free to reply and I’ll do my best to answer them.

Shine On,
j*