How to Start a Photo Editing Business

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Quick Reference

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 edits photos for individuals, advertising agencies, or businesses by removing blemishes, color correction, retouching, adjusting lighting, or doing more extensive Photoshop editing.  Photos can be of a personal nature, weddings, or photos for publication.

A photo editing business can provide full-time income or be run as a side business after work.

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 doing photo editing is 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.

Costs to Start a Photo Editing Business

Here are the typical costs you will face when you open a photo editing business.

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

Steps to Starting a Photo Editing Business

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.

How to write a business plan
Free sample business plans

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 a 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.

RelatedComparison of Business Entities

Step 4: Select your Location

You can operate your business from home if you choose.

Related: Choosing a business location

Step 5: Apply for Business Licenses and Permits

You may need to obtain certain business licenses and permits. These permits and licenses can vary based on the state and town where the business is located. Check with your state for specific license and permit requirements for your photo editing business.  Some other 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.  In order to get a loan, 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.

Related: Low-cost ideas to market a new business

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.

Insurance policies will vary. 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: Hiring 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 editing business 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 accounting for your business

How Much Can You Potentially Make Owning 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.

Things to Consider Before Starting a Photo Editing Business

Running a photo editing business or any business will have its challenges.  You need to be prepared and make sure that you know what you’re getting into. 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.

Marketing and acquiring customers will be your biggest challenge and an ongoing expense. Your best bet will be to start calling businesses directly.  SEO will also help you to drive business to your website.

You will face competition, so you need to make sure that you are doing quality work.

Talk to other business owners for tips on starting a business and do your homework to determine costs.  Research other photo editing businesses to see what they offer and what prices they charge.

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