You love the warm weather and sunny skies of Florida, and you also love taking pictures. Why not put those loves together and become a freelance travel photographer in Florida?
Florida is a pretty big state, with varied landscapes, diverse animal life, and endless lakes and coastlines providing unique photo opportunities.
Not only does Florida provide a multitude of scenic opportunities, but there is also a population of 21.4 million people, which makes becoming a freelance travel photographer in Florida very tempting!
So how do you go about starting a freelance photographer business?
Here are our tips for getting your business as a freelance travel photographer in Florida on the road to success!
Steps on Becoming a Freelance Travel Photographer in Florida
Set Up Your Business Goals
You will need both a set of business goals and a business plan. The goals will tell you what you want, and the plan will tell you what you need to do to get there.
For example, your business goals might be:
- I want to be the best wildlife photographer in Florida.
- I want to shoot weddings on beaches and coasts.
- I want to shoot landscape and scenery for Florida magazines
- I want to be able to travel all over Florida.
- I want to be able to earn a living salary from my work as a professional photographer.
This step is an essential one as it will direct your efforts when you create your business plan.
Create a Business Plan
This is an important first step as it will serve as a guideline for you to refer to as you pursue travel photography.
It is not a static plan, but a fluid one, designed to act as a framework that you reference if you lose direction or focus.
Begin by writing down a description of your business. State your goals and objectives. Include the logistics and the overarching goals that you have.
It is essential to be organized through planning and executing a business strategy. If you are detailed, the easier it will be to visualize your goal and head towards it.
Here are some of the aspects of your freelance work that you should cover in your business plan:
Describe your business
It would be best to start in one direction rather than saying, “I will take pictures of anything.”
What type of business will yours be? Will it be indoor, outdoor photography or both? Will it be animal, vegetable, or mineral? It would help if you narrowed it down; otherwise, you won’t have the focus you need.
What services will you offer? Will it be photos only, or will you also do videos? How many pictures will be in a package, and will you provide albums? The list will go on once you start to make these decisions.
Who will your customer be? Will your freelance work be traveling for the real estate market and taking pictures and videos of million-dollar homes for sale?
Will your market be wedding planners? What is the competition in that particular market like?
Find out what the price range is in the market you intend to compete in. It is also a good idea to find out who you would be competing against.
If you want to gain a market share of your particular niche, what are you going to do to set yourself apart? How will you be able to gain a foothold?
As a business, who is going to run it on a day to day basis? Is it a one-person show?
What roles will be involved? Phone calls, bookings, scheduling, billing, and all those other aspects of running a business need consideration.
What will be your postal address? If you are a traveling freelancer, how will you get business mail?
Do you need capital to get started? If so, how much? Where will you get the money to get started? Will you be earning enough to pay a loan back and still earn enough to live on?
We referenced plans earlier. Don’t forget to refer to these goals often. Track your progress as you move towards your goals.
Choose a Business Structure
The form of business structure you choose will dictate how much paperwork you will do, what type of personal liability ties to the business, and the amount of taxes you will pay.
At this juncture, it would be advisable to consult with a CPA or financial advisor to get advice on what is best for you.
This is probably the type you will set up at the beginning of your freelance photographer business.
Set up as a single ownership, and any profits will be taxed at your tax rate. Easy to set up and run.
This type of business has two or more owners. All profits or losses flow directly to the partners.
There needs to be an agreement that outlines the shares of the company.
Easy to set up and run with pass-thru taxation. Same as the sole proprietor, taxes get filed on an individual’s return.
Not the choice at the beginning of your venture. This is much costlier to set up and hard to maintain.
Limited Liability Company
An LLC can act and operate as a partnership or a corporation. This has more formality fees and expenses than a sole proprietorship.
It offers limited liability, and taxes get handled in the same way as a sole proprietorship or partnership.
Registering with the IRS Businesses and Self-Employed will get you a tax identification number.
You’ll need this once you start doing business.
Set Up A Business Bank Account
You are going to want to keep your business and personal finances separate. It would quickly become a nightmare otherwise.
Set up a business bank account, and get a business debit or credit card. Use that card to pay for any business expenses.
Professional photographers are typically required to have a license.
Check out the Starting a Business in Florida – Division of Library and Information Services website to know the steps required.
This might seem like an unnecessary expense when you are just beginning. It will be tempting to skate through without until you are on more solid ground.
Not having it might put an end to a good beginning. So don’t bank on not needing it.
Contracts and Agreements
This is a must before you begin. While everyone needs to start somewhere, if you don’t have a professional contract for a client to sign, you will not inspire confidence.
A handshake is not going to be enough. Every aspect of your services needs to be in writing and signed by both parties.
Anyone who has watched even one episode of Judge Judy will know that terms of an agreement do not exist if it is not written in the “four walls” of the contract.
If additions or deletions in services happen, it needs to have a signed addendum to the agreement.
This will save you so many, “he said, she said” disagreements and stop misunderstandings in their tracks when you have a valid, signed contract.
Decide On A Business Name
This will be the fun part, but there are still a few guidelines when choosing what to call yourself.
You may already have a few ideas of what you would like. Here are a few things to think of before you print the business cards!
Has That Awesome Freelance Travel Photographer Business Name Been Taken?
Check first to see if anyone else thought of the same awesome name as you.
Do a web search to see if the name is already in use. That could make for a real nightmare if you were operating your business under a name already in use.
Your business could lose out on clients, or worse, be subjected to bad reviews that belonged to someone else.
Choose An Easy To Find, Spell And Pronounce Business Name
Don’t choose a cutsie or hard to spell name. Remember that people will be looking for you online, and you want them to find you easily.
They may find someone else while looking for your hard to spell name. Having an easy to find and spell business name also makes it easier for clients to pass your name along.
Here is an example of some business names of companies in business today. “Empire Today,” “50Floor,” and “Carpet Guys.”
All of them do the same thing; they install carpet.
Only Carpet Guys tell you immediately what service they are providing. Also, they would be easy to look up or for a client to pass the name along.
Use An Expansive Travel Photographer Business Name
Don’t limit your business name. If the business is called “Sand and Surf Snaps,” no one is going to know that you are a freelance wedding photographer who does beach weddings.
If they find your business, they will also think that you won’t shoot engagement photos or graduations.
Something like “Anywhere Weddings and More Photography” would suggest that you do more than one thing.
Check To See The Availability of Your Desired Domain Name
Once you have your name and done due diligence that no one else is using it, get the “.com” domain name.
If at all possible, try not to use “.net,” “.org,” or “.biz” only because you are looking for ease of use.
Most people will use the “.com” when looking up an address.
If the domain you truly want is already in use, but it does not look real active, consider asking to buy the name.
Consult United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) for how to do so.
Is There A Similar Business Name Already In Use?
One other search you should conduct is the Secretary of State’s records. You want to make sure that there is no other business name similar to yours and already registered.
It will save time and confusion to make sure you are not mistaken for someone else’s business.
Another source of information is the U.S. Small Business Administration website. They will guide you through licenses and permits that you might need.
Have The Necessary Photographic Tools
You may want, but not necessarily need, all the equipment and bells and whistles to get going.
Purchase only what is necessary. You can always add to your equipment at a later date when you have better cash flow.
If you need a specific piece, consider renting rather than buying it at the beginning of your business venture.
Remember, too, as a traveling freelancer; you will need to transport your equipment easily.
A good quality camera, a backup camera, lenses, flashes, batteries, and chargers will get you started.
You’ll need a computer for post-production. Editing tools in the form of software, calibrations devices, storage devices, and other programs will be necessary on your computer.
Choosing a photo lab will be another important consideration as you will want the optimal quality for your finished product.
Create a Photography Website
This is the spot where you will showcase your best work. The site should look professional with minimal design.
You don’t want to take away from your photos, but want them to stand out.
Make sure it is mobile-friendly. Over half of the web browsing today is done by mobile phones, and that number will keep rising.
Don’t forget to have your contact info in a prominent place and make it easy for potential clients to contact you through the site itself.
Promptly respond to any queries. There are so many options for people to choose from, so it is important not to lose a client because you did not get back to them promptly.
Explore Travel Freelance Opportunities in Florida
You may have an idea of what you want to do, but do you know what opportunities there are for a traveling freelancer that you might not have thought of?
Just as Florida is a unique state, so are the photo opportunities that uniqueness would provide.
Just a few minutes looking online found:
Universal Event Photography to photograph cheerleading and dance events.
Real Estate Photographer photographing and creating virtual tours of home with a “create your own schedule” opportunity.
Automotive Inventory Photographer that will bring inanimate objects to life using photographic skills.
These next two are examples of the unique needs that are out there.
One is for a community that wants a portfolio of pictures and videos, and the other is a half a day shoot of a senior living community.
Both of them show the opportunity to fill a need with your business and do it in various places in Florida.
Community Photographer (community Photographer)
Photographer/Drone Operator (senior living community)
We found the above listings at Indeed: Job Search.
Your Freelance Travel Photogrpahy Business Could Take You On a Cruise
Remember, too, that there are hundreds of cruises that leave from Florida. It is an eight billion dollar a year industry. Fourteen cruise lines operate about 65 ships out of five ports.
According to ZipRecruiter, cruise line photographers can make about $60,000 a year. You can still be an independent contractor while doing so.
That would give you the chance to visit other places but always return to Florida.
If becoming a freelance travel photographer in Florida is your passion and dream, don’t be overwhelmed or daunted by what seems like a lot to know and do.
Make yourself a “to-do” list and start with first things first. No one on the face of the earth knew all they needed to know before beginning a venture. A lot is “learn as you go.”
Which brings up another thought. Check online for others who are doing what you would like to do.
Find a few whose work you admire. Give them a call and ask if you can schedule a time to pick their brain for 30 minutes or so, even over the phone.
Have your list of essential questions and get their invaluable advice. It always helps to hear from those who have already walked the path you want to navigate.
If possible, ask to shadow them for a few hours at their convenience. You might get a few “No’s” before you get a “Yes” but continue to try.
It may sound sappy, but don’t ever let the fear of failure get in your way of trying something you feel strongly about.
Florida is diverse with people, places, scenery, animals, and waterways. All of them allow you to pursue being a freelance travel photographer and living the life you dream of in the Sunshine state!
Rob Geer, a photographer in the Houston, Texas area, does not use a camera unless it can hold two memory cards.
Files are written simultaneously to both cards. If one card fails, the other card has saved the same photos, so no images are lost.
Submit your work to competitions and get a presence on social media. Attend workshops and do some networking. Knowing others in the business can be invaluable for both contacts and information.
The time of day is critical. The light changes a great deal throughout the day and will also vary depending on the weather.
It is vital to understand the effects of light in travel photography because much of it takes place outdoors. The best times to shoot are around sunset (the blue hour) and sunrise (the golden hour).