Hobby to Hustle – How to Start Your Photography Business

December 5, 2022

If you’re reading this, I know you have been putting the work into this “little photography thing,” but let’s face it, you’re ready to take your photography business to next level, start making the big bucks, and feel more fulfilled with your art. And first I just want to say, YAY! I’m genuinely so excited […]

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I'm Jillian!

I'm a photographer, educator and weekly podcaster. I left teaching in a First Grade classroom to build a thriving photography business, and inspire and teach other like-minded women how to build, scale, and create a photo business. I am so excited to meet you!


Art + Heart Photography Academy

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Enrollment opens in Fall 2022! 
A 6-part, self-guided business course for novice and experienced photographers alike, complete with a step-by-step roadmap to help you identify your photography business plan, create soul-centered & meaningful art, build a sustainable brand, and attract & book your dream clients... consistently.

If you’re reading this, I know you have been putting the work into this “little photography thing,” but let’s face it, you’re ready to take your photography business to next level, start making the big bucks, and feel more fulfilled with your art. And first I just want to say, YAY! I’m genuinely so excited for you to start this journey of taking your hobby and turning it into a photography business. I want to share with you where to start when you decide to take the leap and make the transition.

And second, I need you to know this career is definitely not a get-rich-quick route (though you might have already realized this). But, there are definitely things you can do to set yourself up for success. When I first started, I spent hours and HOURS watching videos, researching, trying and failing, and practicing to get to where I am now. And while you might be in the same boat right now, hopefully, you can learn from my story and mistakes, and find a quicker path to freedom and financial growth!

Hobby to Hustle – How to Start Your Photography Business | Jillian Goulding Photography

Here’s what I want you to remember…

Mindset For Success When You Start Your Photography Business

Running a business is soo much different from having a hobby. Your mindset holds such a different kind of weight when you are the CEO. You’ll learn as you get going that your business is a direct reflection of your inner mindset and thoughts. So, if you’re dealing with a lot of self-doubt surrounding your business, or if chaos is the word that comes to mind when it comes to managing sessions, as much as we try not to, it’s going to manifest into your business. And yes, clients will see it. 

Don’t worry, though, this just means you have a little bit of inner work to do before you jump into running your business head first.

My first suggestion? Spend some time figuring out your why. What is the thing that pushes you to keep going? Why do you want this to work? Don’t be afraid to go deep here. When things get hard (because trust me, they will) we want to look back at this why to remind us to keep going, and why it’s all worth it (and trust me, it is!). 

My Why

My why has always been my family, specifically my kids. I was a kindergarten teacher turned photographer and I’ve been in photography for over a decade now. Coming from a divorced family, I wanted to make other families feel connected and whole through my art, and I wanted my family to feel more secure and loved by pursuing a career I love.

If it wasn’t for my “why” I would have given up a long time ago. I started my business to have the time freedom to be home with my kids and be able to set an example for them to see that you truly can do anything you set your mind to. I was so scared starting out and it was not easy by any means. But this “why” was really the thing that kept me going on those long nights of editing and throughout the busy season when I felt like I was going crazy!

Related: Click here to read the 5 things I wish I knew when starting out that would have made all the difference

Building your brand

Once you’re a legit business, you are, by default, building a brand. It’s important to be aware of the type of brand you’re creating because this is now the face of your business. It’s what brings in clients, it’s what defines the type of client you attract, the caliber of experience you provide, and the general vibe of how you do things. Your brand is more than just the photos you post. While, yes, that might be the main thing that draws people in, it’s your messaging and the experience you provide before, during, and after the photos are taken that keeps them coming back. 

To create your brand, we’re going to take a look at all that mindset work we did. What is your why, what is your goal, how do you want to operate, and who do you want to work with? These answers will help you figure out what kind of messaging to use to attract those things. Don’t worry – this doesn’t mean you have to go out and pay for big, expensive branding. Just figure out how you want to present yourself to the world, and slowly build your brand off of that! 

Want to go deeper? 

In my signature course, the Art & Heart Academy, we go deep into how to find all these things from within yourself and create a brand out of who you are as a person. We want this to be true to you so it’s super genuine and easy to convey this to your audience. Learn more about the program here.

Shooting the session

You probably have mastered your sessions with friends and family. Getting that confidence is so important! Being able to casually move through your session is key to making your clients feel comfortable and be able to pose naturally for your photos. When you start to transition to business mode, we need to add a touch of professionalism into that. I love to run my sessions super laid back and treat most of my clients like they are my own friends. But, you also need to be prepared and able to take control of the session if needed. What does this mean? Here are some ways to level up your client experience during sessions and build that trust with them:

Setting Up The Backend Of Your Photography Business

Now time for the part that you either are dreading or haven’t even thought of… the backend of your business. As creatives, it’s easy for this part to be something we don’t feel super comfortable with. It can feel like a foreign language. But that’s okay! We all start somewhere and you’ll learn as you go! There are a few things to think about setting up to help your business run smoothly.

  1. You’ll need to set up prices and packages for clients to choose from (Check out: How to Actually Calculate Your Rates as a Photographer)
  2. Plan out how you’ll market the business (think:  IG, Pinterest, blogs, etc.)
  3. Will you outsource parts of your business? (This is great to consider if there is something completely out of your zone of genius. I outsource design and copywriting!)
  4. How will you continue your education? Just because this is your own business doesn’t mean that’s it. It’s important to keep learning, and investing in your business so you are always offering the best quality to your clients.
  5. Time management: You’ve probably already seen how busy things can get when you have multiple shoots on top of picking up the kids, running errands, and being a mom in general! Unfortunately, it doesn’t stop when it’s a business. Getting strong at time management is going to become essential. (Listen to the Podcast: Balancing Motherhood and Your Photography Business)

You got this mama

Now, this may seem like a lot and I won’t lie to you, it can definitely be overwhelming, but it’s so rewarding and beyond worth it. And with the right community and resources, you can learn to harness all the tools possible and make this journey fun… as it should be! We go over all of these things and more inside the Art & Heart Photography Academy, and you have a built-in community that goes right along with it.

If you’re ready to turn your hobby into a hustle and start your photography business, click here to learn more about Art & Heart! I can’t wait to see you inside! 

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I’m Jillian Goulding, a photographer and educator raising babies and building my life in Sacramento, CA.

Over the years, I’ve transformed my side hustle into a thriving photography business that has taken me and my camera to the beaches of San Francisco Bay, the pages of People Magazine, and the screens of Extra TV.

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