Want to start a pet photography business? In this article we’ll show you how. We’ll cover everything from choosing your name, to registering your business and LLC, getting insurance, where to setup shop, and how to start marketing.
Note: If you click some of the links in this article we may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you.
Table of Contents
Choosing a Name
First stop you’ll want to brainstorm a name. We covered this in other articles in detail.
For now just know that you’ll need to make sure the following things are covered.
- The name is easy to say and remember (for word of mouth marketing)
- The URL is available to purchase (so you can build a website around your brand)
- No trademarks exist (see the article on how to check the USPTO database)
- The name is available in your state to register
Read our article here to get full details and examples of names for pet waste businesses. The method for any kind of pet business is the same. Just scan through there to get the details of what you have to do.
17 Pet Photography Business Names
Since the above guide on naming that we linked to only covers pet waste examples we used the same methods from that article to give you a quick list of available Pet Photography Business URLs.
These come from the shopify search tool.
Next up we have the decision on whether to build a studio at home or rent commercial space.
Working from a Home Studio
A home studio could save you lots of money or it could cost you lost of lost business.
When deciding to build a studio at home you need to answer the following questions:
- Is your property zoned for home business?
- If not can you get zoning changed easily or get a zoning permit for this?
- Do you have space for a home studio?
- Are you comfortable with people that you don’t know coming to your home?
- Do you have a separate entrance for this studio?
- Is your home convenient for clients to get to?
- Are there any other pet studios nearby?
- Will your HOA, if applicable, allow it? Most HOAs allow home business if it’s simple and indoors. If you have lots of new clients coming over they often don’t allow it.
- Is there parking for clients? Will that parking bother your neighbors?
After answering the questions above and giving it some thought you should have a decent idea if a home studio is right for you. If not you may want to consider leasing commercial space.
Leasing Commercial Space
Commercial space will cost you anywhere from $10 per square foot on the low end up to $25 per square foot and up for better locations and buildings.
These are just rough averages that will vary depending on if you’re deep in a city, in the suburbs, or in a rural location.
Commercial space leasing can easily eat up the majority of your budget if you go solo. For pet photography studios with employees usually commercial space will be on par with employee expenses.
Commercial Real Estate Websites
To find commercial space for lease start by scanning the listings on the following websites for your area:
- Google “commercial space for rent near me”
In addition, get a local commercial space broker. Your broker can help you find local spaces available, get quotes, and negotiate the terms. Brokers charge 7 to 10% of the total lease cost.
That may sound like a lot and it is but it’s insanely important and we’ll cover that next.
Due Diligence on Commercial Space
Do your due diligence! We aren’t CPAs, lawyers, or professional brokers. Get someone on your team to help you check the property.
We have a friend that got a three year lease for a small coffee shop and bakery. She spent a ton of time and money setting it up. Then a few months into the “3 year” lease the owner of the building told all the tenants that they were going to demolish the building and everyone had to leave.
For a small pet photography business you should be able to move your stuff if needed. For a small coffeeshop the equipment was built into the space. It was devastating.
Don’t let that happen to you. Get a broker or attorney on your side to help you negotiate a good deal. It could save you thousands or even tens of thousands in lost revenue later.
To find a broker check Google for brokers in an area or thebrokerlist.com.
Registering Your Business
Next up you’ll need to register your business with your State’s Secretary of State. We went over that a bit in our articles on choosing a name.
In our state of Colorado there’s an easy search tool to see if the name is free plus you can check if the LLC name is free.
Once that’s cleared you should be able to fill out an online form and pay a small fee to register your business in your state.
For just about any state and any business this is mandatory. Check with your lawyer or call your Secretary of State for details.
Forming an LLC for Protection
Next up isn’t needed at first, especially if you are starting small at home with local clients.
At some point though you’ll want to setup an LLC to separate your businesses assets from your personal assets. Anyone can get sued and setting up an LLC can help you with this if you do it right.
Again, we aren’t lawyers. Seek your own legal counsel on this. Either find a local business attorney to help you set this up or go with an online service like legalzoom.com.
Disclaimer, yet again: We aren’t CPAs, Lawyers, Doctors, or any of the above. This information is just for information purposes and includes some aspects of our own experience. Get your own counsel on any questions and to confirm this information will work for you.
LLCs require regular maintenance for them to provide protection and stay functioning. In short the steps are roughly as follows:
Step 1. Register your LLC with your State’s Secretary of State office
This usually means submitting the Articles of Incorporation and paying a small fee.
Step 2. Setup a Registered Agent
Part of this process will involve setting up a Registered Agent. This can be you or a company you hire. The purpose of a registered agent is to serve as your official “mailbox.” All official State mail, any lawsuits or summons, and other official mail will go there.
Step 2. Create an Operating Agreement
This is key! It’ll show all members of the LLC, how much money was added to fund the business (and therefore each members percent ownership), plus it will include meeting minutes for annual or quarterly LLC meetings.
You must have and maintain this document. It’s the heart of your LLC.
Step 3. Open a Business Bank Account and Business Credit Card
This is key to separating your business
Step 4. Hold Regular Meetings and Take Minutes
This is simple but also key especially if you are a single member LLC. You must regularly hold a “State of the LLC” meeting either annually or quarterly. We do ours quarterly. Again, check with your legal counsel (or legalzoom.com) or your Secretary of State Office on what’s required for your state.
Step 5. Learn Your State’s LLC Requirements
This is key! Your lawyer for your State can tell you this. Be sure to do this! We did not long ago when we first setup an LLC. We let our lawyer do all the work then just assumed all was well.
It was not but at that time we didn’t get sued and it didn’t hurt us.
Do your research. Get counsel and read everything from NOLO on LLCs. Do this and be protected. Fail to do it and be exposed to liability.
Speaking of liabilities, LLCs aren’t the only form of protection. You also have insurance.
General Liability Insurance
Get insurance for your business! This gives you more basic protection against lawsuits and other issues that can arise. This will be in addition to any insurance you have on your home or for your commercial space rental.
GLI protects you during lawsuits. It’s not crazy expensive so get some quotes.
Here’s the top sources for Pet Business Insurance that we recommend you check out first:
The 5 Pieces of Basic Equipment You Need for Pet Photography Business
There’s a million things you can buy to get going with a basic pet photography studio.
Just to keep things simple we wanted to list the absolute basics you’ll need, some paid and some free. Some we recommend and some we included just as a visual example.
It’s beyond the scope of this article to highlight the best equipment for your pet photography business.
Item 1. A Good Camera
To take pictures! Likely you already have this if you are interested in pet photography.
Item 2. Basic Lighting Kit
Some backdrops and lighting to help with different shots.
Item 3. Computer
A simple computer to manage your schedule, do your bookkeeping, and create invoices/receipts for clients. Many artists love Macbooks for this paired with Photoshop.
We prefer $500 PCs paired with the free GIMP tool. See the video demo of the GIMP in action below.
Item 4. Printer
Something simple and fast with long lasting toner cartridges that can print receipts and coupons. Receipts are obvious. Coupons are key word of mouth advertising that we’ll discuss more below.
You may want a printer as well for printing photos. Again, we don’t have the space to fully review good photo printers. Do your research here as you’ll make most of your money from the photo sets you sell a la carte.
Item 5. Photo Software
Free Option – Gimp
Gimp is what we mainly use. It pretty much has everything that Photoshop has. Here’s a demo video so you can check it out. It can do way more than just removing red eye.
Paid Option – Photoshop
Types of Services to Offer and Pricing
We cover services more fully in our article on how much you can make as a pet photographer. We surveyed real services and costs from small studios around the country. The results were summarized in a simple table.
Check out those details on what to offer and typical prices at the article above.
Lastly we’ll talk a bit about marketing your business.
Marketing Your Pet Photography Business
Step 1. Setup Google My Business
Do this first in combination with referral marketing. Google my business is a free tool to get your address and business on Google Maps.
This will send you local business for people searching for pet photography near me on Google. Plus it’s free!
Be sure to do the following:
- Start an account on Google here
- Add lots of pictures of your work
- Get past clients to fill out reviews – bribe them for an honest review with coupons for future work
- Ask past clients for referrals from others
No clients to get reviews, no problem! Just ask your friends and family to act as your first unpaid clients then get them to leave reviews on your Google My Business profile.
Step 2. Claim Your Social Media Channels
Setup business sites on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Gmail, and Youtube.
You don’t have to do social media marketing at first. Just sign up so you stake your claim. Others may find that you registered this name then they’ll squat on these channels.
Later when you want to use them they may ask for payment. Skip that by registering them now.
If you want to do very simple marketing here simply post pictures every now and then. Take pictures just to post, not your client’s pics.
Use the same pictures on Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram. You’ll automatically get a Youtube channel when you claim “YourBusinessName@gmail.com.”
Do claim the gmail account! You can use Google Drive as a free 15 GB of cloud hosting to start your business.
Step 3. Build a Website
You can set this up yourself or have someone do it for you. Personally I’d go through the learning curve and do it yourself. That’ll give you more control when you need to update it and it’ll save you money on the front end.
Here’s the simple steps to follow to setup your site.
One – Get the URL and Hosting With Bluehost.com
Two – Setup WordPress to Manage the Website
Three – Install the Astra theme
Four – Look through Astra’s example websites and choose a template
Five – Update the text on the template to match your business
There’s a ton of tutorials on YouTube for this plus Astra’s site has instructions as needed. It will vary depending on what template you use.
Six – Add services, pricing, and contact information
Again, this is going to depend on what template you use from Astra.
Seven – Don’t Give Up!
Yes, WordPress and setting up a website is a learning curve. Doing it will save you thousands of dollars.
Yes, you can have others set your site up. If you want to go that route we recommend you try WordPress pros through Fiverr.com. If you hire people on Fiverr split it up into the following:
- Install wordpress and a theme
- Design a logo
- Create custom graphics for pricing tables and other items
It’ll still be up to you to coordinate these different folks. Fiverr is the way to go to do it cheap and fast.
Step 4. Consider Content Marketing to Drive Google and Pinterest Traffic to Your Blog
This is a series of posts all to itself. Content marketing requires learning the following and more:
- Keyword Research
- Understanding Google Search Intent
- Outlining Articles
- Formatting Articles in WordPress
- Search Engine Optimization
- Hiring Writers and Editors (Optional)
- Getting Photos Licensed for Commercial Use (example – Pixabay.com)
It’s beyond the scope of this article to cover everything in content marketing for your business website.
Step 5. Consider Paid Facebook and Instagram Ads
Advertising, the final frontier. Once you’ve done all of the above AND you are cashflow positive consider running ads to expand your business.
Ads will require one of the following:
- Learning and testing ads. Expect to spend $5,000 to $10,000 in failed ads till you figure it out.
- Hiring a marketing company for $1,000+ per month plus the cost of the ads.
Option 1 is DIY. You’ll need to learn the ad platform, where to drive traffic, how to calculate cost per click plus cost per customer acquisition plus the average lifetime value (LTV) of each customer.
You’ve hit success when your cost per customer is less than the lifetime average value of each customer.
If you hire a good marketing company make sure you get them to walk through all this with you.
As Mr. Wonderful likes to say on Shark Tank – Know Your Numbers!