Three Business Skills Every Photojournalist Should Have
June 6, 2013
•General, Visual Journalism
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Whether you hope to be a staff reporter or a freelancer, having the right business skills is essential in photojournalism. Review these three important skills to familiarize yourself with the business side of Visual Journalism:
Create a Budget
Photojournalist Stanley Leary notes that one of the most important things photojournalists can do is create a home budget and a business budget. This is especially true if you intend to freelance, but is also useful for any professional.
- Home Budget: Outline your living expenses, including housing, food, healthcare, car payments and entertainment. If there are other things you spend money on monthly, include those expenses as well. Leary recommends, “if you have Microsoft® Excel…, use their home budget to help you get a solid number of what you need to live. Break this down from yearly to monthly amounts.”
- Business Budget: The National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) notes charging appropriately is a best practice. The organization notes that costs “include both assignment expenses and your underlying cost of doing business.” You must have a clear understanding of these numbers as you’ll want to be able to write them off your taxes as business expenses. Leary recommends including costs for websites, advertising, Internet connection and even your phone.
Having hard numbers allows you to plan. How much of your income will be spent on living? On working? If you are freelancing, knowing these numbers is essential to determining how much work you may have to do over the course of a year.
As a student, get in the practice of budgeting. Estimate your living expenses as well as your coursework expenses. Developing this habit now may impact your financial future.
Know Your Craft
An essential aspect of being able to budget is being knowledgeable – and honest – about your craft. The NPPA stipulates that you must have the right tools, including “cameras, maps, communication tools, transportation, consumables, protective clothing, emergency supplies and backups.”
You must also be knowledgeable about your subject, its location and its significance. Only then can you assess your project, understand it and properly prepare your supplies, materials and finances.
Being prepared and organized is an essential business trait in any industry. Utilize organization skills in budgeting, managing your supplies and managing your work. File invoices promptly and make sure your images and media files are stored in safe places. Remember to abide by copyright laws by filing images accurately and legally to make them available for reuse and licensing to others.
Knowing your craft intimately allows you to represent yourself professionally. Visual journalism is defined by its strict ethics and professionalism; be perceived this way by your employers, peers and customers.
Design a Business Plan
A business plan is required by the bank if you are a freelancer starting your own business. However, regardless of your post-graduation plans, you should outline a business plan. As Leary points out, “it will help guide you and make decisions that you need to make every day. This will be your compass.”
A business plan outlines the strategies and objectives of a business. Incorporate photojournalistic ethics into your plan by outlining your short-term and long-term goals as well as how you plan to achieve these goals. This document may act as a reminder of why you chose photojournalism as a student and what you hope to achieve as a professional.
If you decide not to write out a business plan, Leary offers another option: find a business mentor. Your mentor does not need to be a photographer; it can be any successful businessperson. Ask them for advice and model your business practices after theirs. Use your mentor to run through financial ideas and other business decisions.
Their guidance, and these other business skills, may prove beneficial as you decide what you want to do with your Visual Journalism degree.