How to Start a Photo Editing Business

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How to Start a Photo Editing Business

Are you an amateur photographer with knowledge of photo editing?  Photo editing is a service that is always in demand.  You could start your own photo editing business and make a living doing what you know and love.

Business Overview

A photo editing business providing editing services for individuals, advertising agencies, or businesses by removing blemishes, color correction, photo retouching, adjusting lighting, or doing more extensive using the editing tools in Adobe Photoshop.  Photos can be of a personal nature, wedding photography, or photos for publication.

A photo editing service can provide full-time income or be run as a side business after work. Remember though, having great photo editing skills is a great start, but not the only needed for a successful business. In addition to a good product, strong marketing, bookkeeping, and customer service skills are a must.

Industry Summary

The photo editing services industry itself is difficult to measure because the companies are small.  However, according to Market Watch, the global photo editing software market size was $888.4 million in 2020 and is projected to reach $1241.8 million by 2027.

Industry Trends

Photo editing technologies are advancing, allowing more and more modifications to be made to photos digitally.  Demand is high, with businesses editing photos for publication being the largest segment of the market.

Target Market

Your target market will be individuals, professional photographers, or small business owners with photo editing needs, such as cleaning up product photos.

Skills, Experience, and Education Useful in Running a Photo Editing Business

There are several specific skills that you will need to open a photo editing business.

  • Experience.  Experience as a photo editor valuable.
  • Education.  You will need to educate yourself about the software and processes involved.
  • Business knowledge and experience.  You will need to have at least some basic knowledge of marketing, finance/accounting, and human resources.
  • People skills. You’ll need to build rapport with your customers so that you retain them as customers and keep them coming back.

Checklist for Starting a Photo Editing Business

Starting a photo editing business can be an exciting and profitable endeavor. However, there are several things you need to do in order to legally get your business up and running – and this checklist will help you get started.

Step 1: Write your Business Plan

After coming up with the idea, the next step in starting your photo editing business should be to write a business plan.  The business plan will make you focus on some important aspects of the business, such as who your customers are, how you plan to reach them, projecting sales and expenses, your value proposition to use for marketing, and more. You’ll also need to do some research to calculate exactly what your startup expenses will be and what your ongoing expenses will be.

Not only will a bank require you to have a business plan if you need financing, but multiple studies have shown that having a good business plan increases the odds of starting a successful business. Writing the plan helps you think through all the aspects of the business and then serves as a guide as you begin.

Related: How to write a business plan

Step 2: Name the Business

Finding the perfect photo editing business name can be challenging. Not only does the name have to reflect what you do and be appealing to customers, but it also has to be available to use. You can check your state’s website to see if the name is available and register your name.  Your name should make you stand out, reflect your brand, and tell potential customers exactly what you do.

Step 3: Form a Business Entity

A business entity refers to how a business is legally organized to operate. There are four primary business entities to choose from, which include the sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, and Limited Liability Company (LLC). Each type of entity has its own pros and cons, such as liability exposure, costs, and administrative requirements.

When deciding on which business entity is best for a photo editing business, it normally comes down to the sole proprietorship and Limited Liability Company.

A partnership opens the owners up to unnecessary personal liability because if a partner does something to get the business sued, or runs off with cash from the business, the other partners are personally liable to repay. The corporation can be a good choice because it separates the business assets from the owner’s assets. If the corporation is sued or certain business debts can’t be paid back, the owners aren’t personally responsible to repay them. The downside to the corporation is that it is more complicated than all the other entities and requires more administration than the LLC. If you plan on raising a lot of investment though, the corporation is usually the better choice.

That leaves the sole proprietorship and LLC.

The sole proprietorship is the least expensive and easiest entity to start which is appealing. The downside is the owner is personally liable should anything happen to the business, which is an important consideration. The LLC offers the ability to operate as a sole proprietorship with the liability protection of a corporation. Depending on the state, the cost to form an LLC runs from $40 – $500, which is pretty inexpensive for protecting the owners from business-related lawsuits and certain debts.

Related: 3 steps to forming your LLC
 

Forming an LLC sounds complicated and expensive, but using an entity formation service guides you through the process so you know it was done right.


Some popular LLC formation services include:


IncFile - $0 plus state fees & free registered agent for 1 year!

IncAuthority - $0 plus state fees & free registered agent the first year!

ZenBusiness - $49 plus state fees & free registered agent for 1 year!

Step 4: Select your Location

A few photo editing businesses operate out of a storefront, but a majority operate their business from home.

Related: Choosing a business location

Step 5: Apply for Business Licenses and Permits

Check with your state for specific license and permit requirements for your photo business.  Some common local, state and federal registrations a photo editing business may need include a sales tax permit and an Employer Identification Number.

Related: What licenses does a photo editing business need?

Step 6: Find Financing

Coming up with a good business idea and having the skills to run it are one thing but getting the funding to start a photo editing business is another.  

Fortunately, the cost to start a photo editing business is low and you may already have the equipment and software you need to get started.

If a loan is needed, the borrower(s) will need to have good credit and be able to invest 15-25% of their money towards the total start-up costs.

Related: Finding the money to start a business

Step 7: Open a Business Bank Account

Keeping your business and personal finances in separate business bank and credit card accounts makes it easier to track the income and expenses of the business.

Step 8: Get your Marketing Plan in Place

One of the first tasks a photo editing business will want is to build a portfolio as potential clients will want to see samples and evaluate your work.  A website will be needed and posting before and after photos on social media platforms such as Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram.

Networking with professional photographers, wedding photographers, real estate agents, and small business owners who need product photography are all ideal clients for a photo editing business.

Related: Low-cost ideas to market a new business

One important task while working on the marketing is developing an online presence. A website developer may be out of the budget, but Wix makes it easy for non-technical people to get a website running quickly and affordably.

Step 9: Get Business Insurance

A photo editing business needs several types of insurance for full coverage:

General liability insurance can help protect you from third-party claims of bodily injury and property damage.
Professional liability insurance protects you from claims of professional errors or negligence that result in a financial loss.
Worker’s compensation insurance covers expenses like medical bills and legal fees that a business might face if an employee were ever hurt while working.

The cost of insurance for a photo editing business will vary depending on a number of factors. To get the most accurate idea of what to budget for insurance, request quotes from multiple providers. When comparing the quotes, consider not only the premiums but also how the plan exclusions, coverage limitations, and deductibles compare.

Related: Common types of insurance a business may need

Step 10: Hire Employees

You may need employees to help you run your photo editing business.  Make sure that you select people with appropriate experience and training.

In addition to salary costs, your budget will also need to include other employee-related expenses. Workman’s comp insurance, unemployment insurance, and paid time off are common expenses that a business will need to cover when hiring staff.

Related: Hiring your first employee

Step 11: Set up an Accounting System

Setting up an accounting system for your photo image editing service is critical to the long-term success of your business.

Staying on top of bookkeeping and taxes not only keeps the business out of trouble with the government but the numbers can be used to track and monitor trends and cash flow in the business and maximize profits.

Related: Setting up the accounting for your business

The thought of accounting can be intimidating for a lot of new entrepreneurs. There are a number of ways of handling bookkeeping, from DIY to hiring a bookkeeper. These include:

- Pen and paper - Low expense, but difficult to track.
- Spreadsheet - Low expense, but easy to make errors.
- Accounting software - Medium expense, but owner typically inputs expenses. Some great accounting software programs include Freshbooks or Wave Accounting.
- Hire a bookkeeper - Higher expense, though very affordable at $100-$200 per month in most cases. A dedicated bookkeeper will probably save money because, in addition to handling all of the bookkeeping (so you can focus on the business), they also provide personalized tax advice and ensure the business is in compliance.

Find bookkeepers in your local area or use a service like 800Accountant.

How much does it cost to start a photo editing business?

Some of the typical costs you will face when you open a photo editing business include:

– Computer $1,500 -$2,500
– Photo editing software $500 – $1,000

How profitable is a photo editing business?

The prices you charge will vary depending on the complexity of the edits you are doing.  If you charge an average of $20 per photo, and you can get enough business to edit 50 photos per week, you would make $52,000 per year.

Are there grants to start a photo editing business?

It’s extremely rare to find a grant to start a photo editing business. If you search for business grants, you will come across a lot of scams and misinformation. Occasionally an organization will offer grants to start a business, however, be skeptical and don’t provide any sensitive personal information or pay money to get more information.

Legitimate federal grants can be found at Grants.gov and you can check on your state’s economic development office to see if they have any grants available.

What is the NAICS code for a photo editing business?

The NAICS code for a photo editing business is 541922 under the Commercial Photography category. Other activities under this NAICS code include medical photography services, aerial photography, videotaping services for legal depositions, and more.

The NAICS code (North American Industry Classification System) is a federal system to classify different types of businesses for the collection and reporting of statistical data.

Related: What is a NAICS code and how to find yours

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