I was recently on a forum when a particular question caught my attention, and it was “I am a freelance photographer. How do I sell my photography business?” Working in the world of finance (and corporate finance at that) I do have an interest/experience in buying and selling businesses, so I was keen to subscribe to the thread and see what sort of responses came up. The responses that caught my attention were:-
The above are just three of the responses, and on the face of it appear the most sensible. There were some really stupid responses as well, which I guess is to be expected on a forum.
The response that really made me smile was the “Market your portfolio of photos, including the EXIF data and sell to the highest bidder”. What a dumbass comment – is this not what every professional photographer tries to do in the first instance? Unless the photos are actually requested by specific clients for specific purposes of course. Saying this, the other two responses above aren’t much smarter.
The bottom line is if you are a freelance photographer you, the photographer is the business, and unless you sell yourself, which you are not going to do (are you?), it is impossible to sell your photography business.
Some people are under the impression that when a photographer sells the photography portfolios and the entire back catalogue of images this is selling a photography business, and this isn’t the case. Selling a portfolio is totally different to selling a photography business. Whilst you may sell the physical prints, the JPEGS, the RAW files and the intellectual property rights this does not constitute a photography business at all.
Some people are under the impression that selling a client list, i.e. details of existing clients the photographer regularly shoots for and the right to take over those photos shoots is selling a photography business, which once again is totally not the case. If you have a portfolio of regular clients you could try and sell this, however you do have to ask yourself if the clients would be happy with this.
Photographers build a rapport and relationship with people, and it is usually this relationship keeps the clients coming back for more. A photographer obviously has to be able to take good photos as well as being a “nice guy” but in my experience personality wins jobs more than photography skill/technique does. I know this doesn’t make sense, and it doesn’t seem right – but that’s just the way it is.
Some people are under the impression that when a photographer disposes of all their photography equipment this is selling the photography business, and this is not the case. Okay, a photographer will (obviously) own photography equipment to sell on, and it may consist of the top end professional grade items worth several thousand pounds. The thing is, this equipment is an asset of the business and not the actual photography business. Let’s look at this another way, anyone with a few quid can go and buy expensive cameras, lenses, strobes, a photography studio etc. but this doesn’t mean they can actually take a good photo and earn a living from it. If this were the case then anyone with the flagship cameras would be raking it in, whilst those only able to afford entry level cameras would struggle to sell anything.
When a freelance photographer decides to quit and sell up the photographer is not selling their photography business at all. The photographer is asset stripping the business and selling off the assets that people are willing to buy and then winding up the photography business, i.e. shutting up shop.
So now we have established that a freelance photographer quitting is asset stripping and not selling a photography business the issue is deciphering the best way to sell the business assets and maximize the return on this.
Keen photographer addicted to cameras, lenses and everything photography related. Feel free to follow me in my photography ramblings, and if you have any thoughts, comments, queries or anything else to add I would love to hear from you.