My Top Photography Business Mistakes in the First 3 Years

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Hey! I am Neyssa Lee, mother of six, planning & Disney obsessed, and a Seattle area photographer who has been in your shoes trying to grow a business. I now use my super power of time management to help fellow photographers take control of their businesses. Learn more by heading to my ABOUT ME page.

Hi, I'm Neyssa

Photography Business Coach shares mistakes

Starting a photography business is a journey filled with lessons. Reflecting on my early years as a photographer, I chuckle a little bit at the valuable mistakes I made. Today, I’ll share my top photography business mistakes I made early on, so you can learn from my experiences and grow your own venture.

My first (and maybe biggest) photography business mistake was stressing over brand colors and logos instead of building a brand

People do not hire photographers because their logo is pretty. Nor do they pick one because of the colors on their website. Yet, early I made a photography business mistake, I stressed and agonized over the right logo and brand colors. This was a mistake because I should have focused more on my brand at its core.

Building a brand goes beyond aesthetics. I learned to focus on crafting a story, connecting with my audience, and delivering an authentic experience that truly represented my photography style and values.

If you’re just starting out, the brand will develop. You’ll figure out the right colors and the logo that fits. Instead of making the same photography business mistake I made, start by focusing in on the core values of your business.

Another mistake I made was over-researching and procrastinating on decisions

Analysis paralysis hindered my progress big time. I feared making the wrong decision in my business. I worried if I made a mistake, everyone would know my photography business was a failure.

This caused me to over-research, to ask everyone their opinions. Guess what, everyone had opinions and they all contradicted each other. I’m sure you can see where this is going. Overwhelmed with so many “imperfect” options, I would not make a decision.

One example is when I knew it was time to get a CRM (or client management tool like HoneyBook). There were so many options out there, with every photographer and friend saying what they liked and didn’t like. This caused me to put off deciding on a CRM for a few years. It was not until I was on vacation drowning in emailing clients to book them I knew it was time to make a decision.

Photography business coach writing in notebook with laptop nearby

Taking on projects that were not aligned with my passion was another mistake I made.

I believe as a photographer starting out in business, it’s important to give things a try. How will you know if you love weddings if you don’t try them? Maybe events are your jam when you expected to hate them? I talked about how I got this right when starting my photography business. However, I made the mistake of once learning what I didn’t love of waiting to set boundaries.

Learning to say no to projects that didn’t align with my photography style and vision became key to my business growth. Afraid to say no to income, I took on projects I didn’t enjoy for too long. Once I made this shift, it allowed me to focus on work that brought genuine joy and fulfillment.

My next photography business mistake was avoiding spending money on my business

Not wanting to start a business with debt is one thing. But avoiding spending any money in your business can lead to one big photography business mistake.

While I was being scrappy, working as much as possible between raising kids and working at my part time job, I was also driving myself into the ground trying to save money.

My motto was, “I can do that for free.” Except I was telling myself that my time did not matter. I figured that when I made a certain amount, my time would be more valuable and thus I could start spending money.

However, this led to feeling constantly overwhelmed and for me to even want to give up. This photography business mistake is actually one I see regularly when working with photographers.

I get it. You want to save money. You NEED to save money. However, you have to spend some money on your business in order to give yourself the time and freedom needed to grow that business. It will pay off.

Beyond my photography business mistakes, there are a few other common mistakes I see.

Behind the scenes photo of Photographer Neyssa Lee during a branding session

The first photography business mistake is undercharging, or discounting, your services

Understanding your worth and setting appropriate pricing from the start is crucial for building a sustainable photography business.

When you are first starting out, anything for your sessions is exciting. I remember thinking “someone is paying me to take photos! I love this!” However, as your business continues, you begin to worry if the reason you do not have clients is because your prices are too high.

The reason you do not have business is not because you’re priced too high. It is also not because another photographer in your area is cheaper. But that is another topic for another day.

Instead, remember that your time, your talent, your work is important. You deserve to get paid what you’re worth. Even more, you deserve to get paid enough to sustain your business.

In other words, don’t allow yourself to cut prices and offer discounts to get more clients. You are only digging yourself into a hole.

The next BIG photography business mistake is neglecting the business side of photography

Don’t neglect essential business aspects! You can be an amazing photographer, yet without proper business systems in place your business will fail. Across town, a mediocre photographer will be crushing income goals. You are technically a better photographer yet you’re not making anything.

Why? Because that other photographer knows that if no one knows about their business, they won’t have any.

Put in the time to focus on the business side of being a photographer. Marketing, organizational and client systems, are all things that you can put into place (even on zero budget) to help you build that business of your dreams.

In the end, embrace the fact that mistakes in business are inevitable and allow yourself to evolve.

Mistakes are inevitable on any journey, and my early years in photography were no exception. Embracing these mistakes has been pivotal for my growth. Take these lessons to heart, save yourself the heartache and waste of time I faced, and learn from these lessons.

Did you feel called out by one of these mistakes? Don’t let that cause you to give up. Let it encourage you that these are common photography business mistakes. Pivot, change and grow.

Inspired to elevate your photography business? Find more inspiration on my YouTube channel just for Photographers. Then join my newsletter for a weekly dose of actionable tips and inspiration right in your inbox.

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