I believe word-of-mouth is the most powerful and elegant way to market great products and businesses.
When my foodie friends tell me about a great restaurant in town, I make a reservation.
When my book-nerd friends tell me about a great book they've read, I add it to my “to read” list.
I rely heavily on recommendations given to me by people I trust.
And I love telling my friends and family about the fantastic products and companies that have made my work and life better.
Below is my curated list of tools and resources I believe will help you start and grow your photography business as well as a few non-photography, non-business ones too!
Investing in the right tools will make your photography and business take off.
Disclosure: Please note that some of the links below are affiliate links and at no additional cost to you, I will make a commission if you click through and make a purchase. These are all products that I have experience with that I am recommending because they are helpful and are companies that I trust.
First, Build Your Blog / Website
Whether you're ready to start a business right now or sometime in the future – you should go grab “yourname.com” domain name today! For example, I own ryanoakley.net and ryanoakleyphotography.ca. In fact, I wish I had registered “myname” domain names sooner so I didn't have to choose a .net instead of the more coveted .com. Oh well. Anyways, SiteGround is a fantastic hosting service that I use for this blog – which is built on WordPress. You can also link your domain names to another web provider service like SmugMug.
SmugMug (don't be fooled by the silly name) is my photo sharing website of choice. I've been a customer of theirs since 2005!! I love that SmugMug has different pricing tiers depending on your needs. The enthusiast can use SmugMug to have an “online” home for all their photos and share them with loved ones. The pro can use SmugMug to both showcase their portfolio, attract new clients, and allow customers to purchase prints directly from their site – for a profit! SmugMug knocks it out of the park with their exceptional customer support.
My SmugMug site – www.ryanoakleyphotography.ca
My audience (that's you!) will get a 20% discount by signing up through my special SmugMug link.
Elegant Themes is the maker of Divi – the ultimate WordPress Theme and Visual Page builder (says so right on their website!). Seriously though, this is THE most popular WordPress theme on the internet. It powers over half a million websites! Including this site – photographyontheside.com. It's fast, it's drag-and-drop, it's secure, it's supported. It's worth it.
Marketing Tools to Build and Grow Your Business
Animoto (#1 Video Creator)
ConvertKit (#1 Email Marketing Tool)
Many businesses do well to keep and grow an email list. ConvertKit is the best in the business – with it's easy to use email autoresponder sequences, the ability to segment different emails (ex. clients vs leads). I've used other services like MailChimp, but find nothing is as easy and as powerful as ConvertKit.
Blurb (#1 Book Creator)
I actually use Blurb to create and sell books for my wedding and portrait clients. But I've included it in the marketing section because I've landed new clients when people show off their photo books to their family and friends. Blurb is easy to use, reasonably priced and has a tonne of printing options. I highly recommend trying them out. A great idea would be to create a portfolio book of your best prints to show prospective clients!
Manage Your Business
FreshBooks (#1 Invoicing and Accounting Software)
Don't mess around with spreadsheets and paper. FreshBooks makes your invoicing look clean and professional, and your accounting as easy as it can be. Especially if this is your first business, there will be a bit of a learning curve in learning how to keep your books in order. Not only will you get professional grade software with FreshBooks, but you'll also get customer support to help answer all your money questions. Read my money tips for the self-employed side hustlers.
LastPass (#1 Password Management Software)
This one falls in the “how did I ever live without this” category. LastPass allows me to create super strong and super safe passwords (like 0U&8t8dum@4k). And LastPass allows me to easily access those passwords on whatever browser or device I'm using. You should NEVER use simple passwords, and you should NEVER use the same password twice. And with
Canva (#1 Graphic Design Tool)
Need a banner for your YouTube channel? Design it in Canva. Need to create a meme for Instagram? Design it in Canva. Graphics are totally necessary for today's digital marketing. But even if you're not a designer, you can use Canva to DIY your graphic materials. I highly recommend Canva.
Fiverr (Get anything done for $5)
Fiverr is ridiculous. For $5 I can get a logo for my new website. For $5 I can get someone to proof-read a blog post. For $5 I can get a guy to record a video message using puppets. I've done all of those things with Fiverr. It's fun. It's quick. It's inexpensive. It's a great resource when you need help, fast and affordable.
Invest in Your Craft & Learn Something New
I love online courses and eBooks.
Learning something new has never been so easy and accessible. Forget diplomas and certificates. You can start learning new skills TODAY!
Digital Photography School – One of the most popular photography blogs out there.
Trey Ratcliff eBooks and Courses – HDR and stunning compositions are his specialties.
Udemy – A learning platform on any subject under the sun.
Other Cool Stuff
Clear Habit Journal – Nothing beats pen and paper to get organized and stay productive. The Clear Habit Journal by Biron Fig and James Clear is the best journal out there. Use my link to save $10 on your purchase!
TechSmith – Best screen-capture software (SnagIt & Camtasia) – which I use for this blog and my tutorials.
Google Docs – My brainstorming tool of choice. I use it for business ideas, blogging ideas, life ideas.
Microsoft Surface – I loved my MacBook. I love my Surface even more. Seriously.
You Need A Budget (YNAB) – This app rocks. It completely changed the way I think about money, the way I spend money, and for the first time in—ever?—I'm not stressed about money. I have a plan. You will thank me later—don't pass Go, don't collect $200, just sign-up for YNAB!
Finally, Learn About Passive Income and Affiliate Marketing TODAY
Affiliate marketing is how I make money with this blog. It is the reason why I can create great tutorials that are FREE for you to use and enjoy. And it's how some of my favourite photographers and bloggers supplement their business/hobby income.
Wealthy Affiliate – Learn tow you can make passive income online by teaching and recommending products you use and love! Just like I did here (and I do in my tutorials!) Read my post about Passive Income for Photographers to learn more.
My Other Passion – GOLF!
Remember, my photography is “On The Side”…because I love more than just photography. Golf is something I also love to do and here are some of my favorite golf products:
Nikon Coolshot 20i Rangefinder – I went from a low 90's golfer to a high 70's golfer in 2 seasons by paying attention to my shot distances. Before you buy new clubs, buy a rangefinder!
Game Golf – This is a really cool system that tracks all your shots as you play. I LOVE data (nerd alert) and replay my good rounds.