A photo editing business specializes in editing or retouching existing photos for clients. These services may range from simply cleaning up blemishes or lighting issues all the way to complex Photoshop work. Such a business is a major part of any community because of the constant need to have good-looking photos for publications, seasonal cards, social media profiles, and more.
You may also be interested in additional side hustle ideas.
Learn how to start your own Photo Editing Business and whether it is the right fit for you.
Ready to form your LLC? Check out the Top LLC Formation Services.
Start a Photo Editing Business by following these 10 steps:
- Plan your Photo Editing Business
- Form your Photo Editing Business into a Legal Entity
- Register your Photo Editing Business for Taxes
- Open a Business Bank Account & Credit Card
- Set up Accounting for your Photo Editing Business
- Get the Necessary Permits & Licenses for your Photo Editing Business
- Get Photo Editing Business Insurance
- Define your Photo Editing Business Brand
- Create your Photo Editing Business Website
- Set up your Business Phone System
We have put together this simple guide to starting your Photo Editing Business. These steps will ensure that your new business is well planned out, registered properly and legally compliant.
Exploring your options? Check out other small business ideas.
STEP 1: Plan your business
A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. It will help you map out the specifics of your business and discover some unknowns. A few important topics to consider are:
- What will you name your business?
- What are the startup and ongoing costs?
- Who is your target market?
- How much can you charge customers?
Luckily we have done a lot of this research for you.
What will you name your business?
Choosing the right name is important and challenging. If you don’t already have a name in mind, visit our How to Name a Business guide or get help brainstorming a name with our Photo Editing Business Name Generator
When registering a business name, we recommend researching your business name by checking:
- Your state's business records
- Federal and state trademark records
- Social media platforms
- Web domain availability.
It's very important to secure your domain name before someone else does.
What are the costs involved in opening a Photo Editing Business?
The cost of opening your photo editing business is directly commensurate with its scale and location. The most efficient way to start the business is as a photo editing business that you run from your own home. This drastically reduces overhead and ensures you can open your business for $5,000 or less. Of that money, $2,500 should go towards buying a computer to help edit photos, and $500 should go towards buying any additional photo editing software that you don't already have. The remaining $2,000 should go towards advertising, with $500 going towards a professional-looking website and the rest going towards a mixture of traditional advertising (radio, newspaper, etc.) and social media advertising.
What are the ongoing expenses for a Photo Editing Business?
If you are running your business from home, then your ongoing expenses are truly minimal. You will pay less than $100 a year to maintain your website, and you may pay postage to email CDs or DVDs of photos to customers that prefer using some form of physical media. Likewise, you may periodically pay more to run more advertisements. However, you should not have to pay any additional upkeep for hardware, software, or anything else related to your business.
Who is the target market?
While younger demographers may desire your services for things like social media profiles and yearbook photo edits, your primary demographic remains young families: they are likeliest to have the most professional photos taken and to therefore require editing services most often.
How does a Photo Editing Business make money?
At the most basic level, a photo editing business makes money by selling edited photos. Your business may choose to charge by the photo, by the album, or to offer a mixture of the two.
How much can you charge customers?
How much you charge is usually dependent on your level of experience, how extensive the edit is, your local economy, and whether they are purchasing multiple photos or not. For single-photo edits, you may charge anywhere between five and fifty dollars. One good pricing trick is to offer lower prices for simple edits (such as removing a single blemish) and higher prices for more extensive editing.
How much profit can a Photo Editing Business make?
Gauging how much profit your business will make can be difficult. There are photo editing startups that are worth millions, and there are major corporations offering online editing that dominate much of the industry. However, almost all of the money you make is profit due to the low upkeep, so developing a steady stream of diverse clients can eventually turn this into a high five-figure or low six-figure job.
How can you make your business more profitable?
Make sure you are intimately familiar with any editing software you'll use before you start. Also, try to use software like Skype to personally communicate with clients. This gives the appearance of a personal touch and makes sure that you are both on the same page regarding any edits. Be sure to network with local photography groups in order to pick up business and further build your brand and reputation. Finally, as your business grows, don't be afraid to raise prices and/or expand your service area to attain greater profits!
Want a more guided approach? Access TRUiC's free Small Business Startup Guide - a step-by-step course for turning your business idea into reality. Get started today!
STEP 2: Form a legal entity
Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC or corporation protects you from being held personally liable if your Photo Editing Business is sued.
Form Your LLC
Read our Guide to Form Your Own LLC
Recommended: You will need to elect a registered agent for your LLC. LLC formation packages usually include a free year of registered agent services. You can choose to hire a registered agent or act as your own.
STEP 3: Register for taxes
You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
In order to register for taxes you will need to apply for an EIN. It's really easy and free!
There are specific state taxes that might apply to your business. Learn more about state sales tax and franchise taxes in our state sales tax guides.
STEP 4: Open a business bank account & credit card
Using dedicated business banking and credit accounts is essential for personal asset protection.
When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your business is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.
Open a business bank account
Besides being a requirement when applying for business loans, opening a business bank account:
- Separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
- Makes accounting and tax filing easier.
Recommended: Read our Best Banks for Small Business review to find the best national bank or credit union.
Get a business credit card
Getting a business credit card helps you:
- Separate personal and business expenses by putting your business' expenses all in one place.
- Build your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise money later on.
Recommended: Apply for an easy approval business credit card from BILL and build your business credit quickly.
STEP 5: Set up business accounting
Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.
Make LLC accounting easy with our LLC Expenses Cheat Sheet.
STEP 6: Obtain necessary permits and licenses
Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.
State & Local Business Licensing Requirements
Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate a photo editing business. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.
Most businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide. To learn more about how sales tax will affect your business, read our article, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.
Photo editing businesses should require clients to sign a services agreement before starting a new project. This agreement should clarify client expectations and minimize risk of legal disputes by setting out payment terms and conditions, service level expectations, and intellectual property ownership. Here is an example services agreement.
Recommended: Rocket Lawyer makes it easy to create a professional service agreement for your photo editing business when you sign up for their premium membership. For $39.95 per month, members receive access to hundreds of legal agreements and on call attorneys to get complimentary legal advice.
STEP 7: Get business insurance
Just as with licenses and permits, your business needs insurance in order to operate safely and lawfully. Business Insurance protects your company’s financial wellbeing in the event of a covered loss.
There are several types of insurance policies created for different types of businesses with different risks. If you’re unsure of the types of risks that your business may face, begin with General Liability Insurance. This is the most common coverage that small businesses need, so it’s a great place to start for your business.
Another notable insurance policy that many businesses need is Workers’ Compensation Insurance. If your business will have employees, it’s a good chance that your state will require you to carry Workers' Compensation Coverage.
FInd out what types of insurance your Photo Editing Business needs and how much it will cost you by reading our guide Business Insurance for Photo Editing Business.
STEP 8: Define your brand
Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.
If you aren't feeling confident about designing your small business logo, then check out our Design Guides for Beginners, we'll give you helpful tips and advice for creating the best unique logo for your business.
If you already have a logo, you can also add it to a QR code with our Free QR Code Generator. Choose from 13 QR code types to create a code for your business cards and publications, or to help spread awareness for your new website.
How to promote & market a Photo Editing Business
As mentioned before, you should do some traditional advertising in order to raise awareness of your business within your local community. However, online advertising should ultimately be your primary way of advertising your business. Your website is a truly cost efficient way of providing your contact information and prices, and both social media and your website provide an easy way to use things like “before and after” photos to highlight what a difference your editing can make.
How to keep customers coming back
In addition to the advertising methods above, consider using “free samples.” It's possible to bring a laptop with photo editing software to a local event, coffeeshop, or even local park and have interested parties send you a single photo to edit. This builds great publicity and word of mouth and costs you nothing but time. To retain customers, make sure you offer seasonal specials and capitalize on events where people may want photo edits (yearbook photos, school photos, holiday photos, etc.), so your business appears to have value year-round.
STEP 9: Create your business website
After defining your brand and creating your logo the next step is to create a website for your business.
While creating a website is an essential step, some may fear that it’s out of their reach because they don’t have any website-building experience. While this may have been a reasonable fear back in 2015, web technology has seen huge advancements in the past few years that makes the lives of small business owners much simpler.
Here are the main reasons why you shouldn’t delay building your website:
- All legitimate businesses have websites - full stop. The size or industry of your business does not matter when it comes to getting your business online.
- Social media accounts like Facebook pages or LinkedIn business profiles are not a replacement for a business website that you own.
- Website builder tools like the GoDaddy Website Builder have made creating a basic website extremely simple. You don’t need to hire a web developer or designer to create a website that you can be proud of.
STEP 10: Set up your business phone system
Getting a phone set up for your business is one of the best ways to help keep your personal life and business life separate and private. That’s not the only benefit; it also helps you make your business more automated, gives your business legitimacy, and makes it easier for potential customers to find and contact you.
There are many services available to entrepreneurs who want to set up a business phone system. We’ve reviewed the top companies and rated them based on price, features, and ease of use. Check out our review of the Best Business Phone Systems 2023 to find the best phone service for your small business.
Recommended Business Phone Service: Phone.com
Phone.com is our top choice for small business phone numbers because of all the features it offers for small businesses and it's fair pricing.
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Is this Business Right For You?
This business is good for photographers, as they will already know a lot about improving an image via specific editing. It can also be good for those with extensive skills in editing software such as Photoshop. Finally, it's good for those who use social media extensively, as such a person will be able to offer creative editing services to help customers build their online brand through unique visuals.
Want to know if you are cut out to be an entrepreneur?
Take our Entrepreneurship Quiz to find out!
What happens during a typical day at a Photo Editing Business?
Most of a typical day involves receiving photos from clients, editing them, and then completing the sales transaction. Downtime may be spent advertising the business and networking with relevant local businesses (such as photographers).
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful Photo Editing Business?
Any prior experience working in photography can be helpful for starting this business. Similarly, any experience with photo editing (commercially or personally) may be beneficial. For both photography and editing, any formal education in these matters is an asset. Finally, any existing relationships you have with local photographers and businesses that may require your services can help you jump start your venture.
What is the growth potential for a Photo Editing Business?
The growth potential for such a business is modest: the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the field of photography will grow by three percent between 2014 and 2024, and photo editing business is typically commensurate with the photography industry. However, many communities lack a dedicated photo editing business, so it is possible to carve out a very successful niche business within your area.
Not sure if a Photo Editing Business is right for you? Try our free Business Idea Generator and find your perfect idea.
Take the Next Step
Find a business mentor
One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.
Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.
Learn from other business owners
Want to learn more about starting a business from entrepreneurs themselves? Visit Startup Savant’s startup founder series to gain entrepreneurial insights, lessons, and advice from founders themselves.
Resources to Help Women in Business
There are many resources out there specifically for women entrepreneurs. We’ve gathered necessary and useful information to help you succeed both professionally and personally:
If you’re a woman looking for some guidance in entrepreneurship, check out this great new series Women in Business created by the women of our partner Startup Savant.
What are some insider tips for jump starting a Photo Editing Business?
Try to network with local photographers to help promote each other's businesses. Consider charging lower prices on editing multiple photos as a way of encouraging customers to buy more. Don't be afraid to consider sideline business opportunities such as editing the images for the images local businesses use on their websites.
How and when to build a team
As long as you are working from home, you are likely to work alone in order to maximize profits. If your business becomes successful enough, you may consider opening a physical location, which will necessitate hiring additional staff for different shifts throughout the week.