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How to Start a Photo Booth Business
Who doesn’t love photo booths? It’s a chance to have some fun and make memories that could last a lifetime, which is why the US industry is booming – forecast for stunning 16% annual growth the next five years.
There are two different kinds of photo booths – the old-school machines you’ll find in arcades, bars and entertainment centers, and the customizable mobile booths popular at weddings and other major events. This article focuses on the latter, but you could also run an old-fashioned photo booth business.
With enhanced features like video and social media sharing, mobile booths help party-goers turn beautiful moments into shareable memories, and they also generate strong revenue. But before you go all-in, you’ll need to learn what it takes to start and run a business.
Luckily, this step-by-step guide has all the information you’ll need to launch your business – and maybe become a photo booth mogul!
Time to build
Step 1: Decide if the Business Is Right for You
Pros and cons
Before starting a photo booth business, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons.
- Flexibility – Run a mobile business, set your own hours
- Fulfilling Work – Make memories and moments of magic
- Good Money – Charge up to $200 per hour
- Stiff Competition – You’ll need to stand out from established companies
- Ongoing Maintenance – A lot of pricey equipment to maintain
Photo Booth industry trends
Industry size and growth
- Industry size and past growth – The U.S. photo booth industry was worth $400 million in 2020. Post-pandemic, the market is poised for an explosive rebound as weddings and other big events return.https://www.gminsights.com/industry-analysis/photo-booth-market#
- Growth forecast – The global photo booth industry is expected to grow 16% annually through 2027.
- Number of businesses – In 2021, there were 2,995 photo booth businesses in the U.S.https://www.ibisworld.com/united-states/market-research-reports/photo-booth-rental-industry/
Trends and challenges
Trends in the photo booth industry include:
- New technology allows for an expanded photo booth experience. Some platforms even allow guests to create customized animated GIFs!
- DIY photo booths are a cheaper, lower maintenance alternative to full-service photo booths. Customers can rent a booth and take their own photos.
Challenges in the photo booth industry include:
- The photo booth industry is highly competitive. Creativity and a solid marketing plan are required to set yourself apart from other businesses.
- Photo booth equipment is expensive and needs to be maintained for your business to run smoothly. If your equipment is broken, you won’t be able to generate revenue.
What kind of people work in the photo booth industry?
- Gender – 53.8% of photo booth operators are male, while 46.2% are female.https://www.zippia.com/photo-booth-operator-jobs/demographics/
- Average level of education – The average photo booth operator has a bachelor’s degree.
- Average age – Most photo booth operators are 40 years or older.
How much does it cost to start a photo booth business?
Startup costs for a photo booth business are between $5,000 and $11,000. The average cost is around $7,000. Main expenses include purchasing photo backdrops and props, camera, and related equipment.
You’ll need a handful of items to successfully launch your photo booth business, including:
- Photo backdrops
|Start-up Costs||Ballpark Range||Average|
|Licenses and permits||$100-$300||$200|
|Marketing and advertising||$500-$1,000||$750|
|Camera and Equipment||$1,500-$4,000||$2,000|
How much can you earn from a photo booth business?
Photo booth services usually charge by the hour with a set minimum and range from $125 to $200. Your starting profit margin should be around 90%.
In your first year or two, you could run your business from home and charge $125 per hour. If you work two five-hour events per week, you’d bring in $65,000 in annual revenue. This would translate into a profit of $58,000, assuming that 90% margin.
As you build a reputation and book more events, you could double your business and work four events per week. At this point, you’d hire another employee and purchase more equipment, reducing your profit margin to around 65%. With annual revenue of $130,000, you’d still wind up with an impressive profit of $84,000.
What barriers to entry are there?
There are a couple barriers to entry when it comes to a photo booth business. Your biggest challenges will be:
- Ongoing equipment maintenance costs
- Drawing clients away from existing photo booth companies
Step 2: Hone Your Idea
Now that you know what’s involved in starting a photo booth business, it’s a good idea to hone your concept in preparation to enter a competitive market.
Why? Identify an opportunity
Research photo booth companies online and in your area to examine their services, price points, and customer reviews. You’re looking for a market gap to fill. For instance, maybe the local market is missing a photo booth business with unique extra features, like video capabilities or customized animations.
You might consider targeting a niche market by specializing in a certain aspect of your industry, like children’s birthday parties or corporate events. This could jumpstart your word-of-mouth marketing and attract clients right away.
What? Determine your products or services
You’ll be providing photo booth services for customers at special events. You could also offer added services like video, GIFs and social media sharing. Choosing a specific niche or type of event could help narrow down your target market.
How much should you charge for photo booth services?
Many photo booth businesses charge for their services by the hour, from around $125 up to $200, depending on services and features. Check out the local market to make sure your rates are competitive.
Once you know your costs, you can use this Step By Step profit margin calculator to determine your mark-up and final price points. Remember, the prices you use at launch should be subject to change if warranted by the market.
Who? Identify your target market
Your target market will be broad and include people planning parties, events, and weddings. Social media sites like LinkedIn are perfect for networking with corporate event planners who may need your services. You can also advertise your services on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok.
Where? Choose your business premises
Photo booth businesses travel to on-site events and venues and you can run operations mobily. As your business grows, you’ll likely need to hire workers for various roles and may need to rent out an office. You can find commercial space to rent in your area on sites such as Craigslist, Crexi, and Instant Offices.
When choosing a commercial space, you may want to follow these rules of thumb:
- Central location accessible via public transport
- Ventilated and spacious, with good natural light
- Flexible lease that can be extended as your business grows
- Ready-to-use space with no major renovations or repairs needed
Step 3: Brainstorm a Business Name
Your business name is your business identity, so choose one that encapsulates your objectives, services, and mission in just a few words. You probably want a name that’s short and easy to remember, since much of your business, and your initial business in particular, will come from word-of-mouth referrals.
Here are some ideas for brainstorming your business name:
- Short, unique, and catchy names tend to stand out
- Names that are easy to say and spell tend to do better
- Name should be relevant to your product or service offerings
- Ask around — family, friends, colleagues, social media — for suggestions
- Including keywords, such as “photo booth” or “photo booth rental”, boosts SEO
- Name should allow for expansion, for ex: “Jim’s Bakery” over “Jim’s Cookies”
- Avoid location-based names that might hinder future expansion
- Use online tools like the Step by Step Business Name Generator. Just type in a few keywords and hit “generate” and you’ll have dozens of suggestions at your fingertips.
Once you’ve got a list of potential names, visit the website of the US Patent and Trademark Office to make sure they are available for registration and check the availability of related domain names using our Domain Name Search tool. Using “.com” or “.org” sharply increases credibility, so it’s best to focus on these.
Finally, make your choice among the names that pass this screening and go ahead with domain registration and social media account creation. Your business name is one of the key differentiators that sets your business apart. Once you pick your company name, and start with the branding, it is hard to change the business name. Therefore, it’s important to carefully consider your choice before you start a business entity.
Step 4: Create a Business Plan
Every business needs a plan. This will function as a guidebook to take your startup through the launch process and maintain focus on your key goals. A business plan also enables potential partners and investors to better understand your company and its vision:
- Executive Summary: Brief overview of the entire business plan; should be written after the plan is complete.
- Business Overview: Overview of the company, vision, mission, ownership, and corporate goals.
- Product and Services: Describe your offerings in detail.
- Market Analysis: Assess market trends such as variations in demand and prospects for growth, and do a SWOT analysis.
- Competitive Analysis: Analyze main competitors, assessing their strengths and weaknesses, and create a list of the advantages of your services.
- Sales and Marketing: Examine your companies’ unique selling propositions (USPs) and develop sales, marketing, and promotional strategies.
- Management Team: Overview of management team, detailing their roles and professional background, along with a corporate hierarchy.
- Operations Plan: Your company’s operational plan includes procurement, office location, key assets and equipment, and other logistical details.
- Financial Plan: Three years of financial planning, including startup costs, break-even analysis, profit and loss estimates, cash flow, and balance sheet.
- Appendix: Include any additional financial or business-related documents.
If you’ve never created a business plan, it can be an intimidating task. You might consider hiring a business plan specialist at Fiverr to create a top-notch business plan for you.
Step 5: Register Your Business
Registering your business is an absolutely crucial step — it’s the prerequisite to paying taxes, raising capital, opening a bank account, and other guideposts on the road to getting a business up and running.
Plus, registration is exciting because it makes the entire process official. Once it’s complete, you’ll have your own business!
Choose where to register your company
Your business location is important because it can affect taxes, legal requirements, and revenue. Most people will register their business in the state where they live, but if you are planning to expand, you might consider looking elsewhere, as some states could offer real advantages when it comes to photo booth businesses.
If you’re willing to move, you could really maximize your business! Keep in mind, it’s relatively easy to transfer your business to another state.
Choose your business structure
Business entities come in several varieties, each with its pros and cons. The legal structure you choose for your photo booth business will shape your taxes, personal liability, and business registration requirements, so choose wisely.
Here are the main options:
- Sole Proprietorship – The most common structure for small businesses makes no legal distinction between company and owner. All income goes to the owner, who’s also liable for any debts, losses, or liabilities incurred by the business. The owner pays taxes on business income on his or her personal tax return.
- General Partnership – Similar to a sole proprietorship, but for two or more people. Again, owners keep the profits and are liable for losses. The partners pay taxes on their share of business income on their personal tax returns.
- Limited Liability Company (LLC) – Combines the characteristics of corporations with those of sole proprietorships or partnerships. Again, the owners are not personally liable for debts.
- C Corp – Under this structure, the business is a distinct legal entity and the owner or owners are not personally liable for its debts. Owners take profits through shareholder dividends, rather than directly. The corporation pays taxes, and owners pay taxes on their dividends, which is sometimes referred to as double taxation.
- S Corp – An S-Corporation refers to the tax classification of the business but is not a business entity. An S-Corp can be either a corporation or an LLC, which just need to elect to be an S-Corp for tax status. In an S-Corp, income is passed through directly to shareholders, who pay taxes on their share of business income on their personal tax returns.
We recommend that new business owners choose LLC as it offers liability protection and pass-through taxation while being simpler to form than a corporation. You can form an LLC in as little as five minutes using ZenBusiness’s online LLC formation service. They will check that your business name is available before filing, submit your articles of organization, and answer any questions you might have.
Step 6: Register for Taxes
The final step before you’re able to pay taxes is getting an Employer Identification Number, or EIN. You can file for your EIN online or by mail or fax: visit the IRS website to learn more. Keep in mind, if you’ve chosen to be a sole proprietorship you can simply use your social security number as your EIN.
Once you have your EIN, you’ll need to choose your tax year. Financially speaking, your business will operate in a calendar year (January–December) or a fiscal year, a 12-month period that can start in any month. This will determine your tax cycle, while your business structure will determine which taxes you’ll pay.
The IRS website also offers a tax-payers checklist, and taxes can be filed online. It is important to consult an accountant or other professional to help you with your taxes to ensure you are completing them correctly.
Step 7: Fund your Business
Securing financing is your next step and there are plenty of ways to raise capital:
- Bank loans: This is the most common method but getting approved requires a rock-solid business plan and strong credit history.
- SBA-guaranteed loans: The Small Business Administration can act as guarantor, helping gain that elusive bank approval via an SBA-guaranteed loan.
- Government grants: A handful of financial assistance programs help fund entrepreneurs. Visit Grants.gov to learn which might work for you.
- Friends and Family: Reach out to friends and family to provide a business loan or investment in your concept. It’s a good idea to have legal advice when doing so because SEC regulations apply.
- Crowdfunding: Websites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo offer an increasingly popular low-risk option, in which donors fund your vision. Entrepreneurial crowdfunding sites like Fundable and WeFunder enable multiple investors to fund your business.
- Personal: Self-fund your business via your savings or the sale of property or other assets.
Bank and SBA loans are probably the best option, other than friends and family, for funding a photo booth business. You might also try crowdfunding if you have an innovative concept.
Step 8: Apply for Licenses/Permits
Starting a photo booth business requires obtaining a number of licenses and permits from local, state, and federal governments.
Federal regulations, licenses, and permits associated with starting your business include doing business as (DBA), health licenses and permits from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), trademarks, copyrights, patents, and other intellectual properties, as well as industry-specific licenses and permits.
You may also need state-level and local county or city-based licenses and permits. The license requirements and how to obtain them vary, so check the websites of your state, city, and county governments or contact the appropriate person to learn more.
You could also check this SBA guide for your state’s requirements, but we recommend using MyCorporation’s Business License Compliance Package. They will research the exact forms you need for your business and state and provide them to ensure you’re fully compliant.
This is not a step to be taken lightly, as failing to comply with legal requirements can result in hefty penalties. If you feel overwhelmed by this step or don’t know how to begin, it might be a good idea to hire a professional to help you check all the legal boxes.
Step 9: Open a Business Bank Account
Before you start making money, you’ll need a place to keep it, and that requires opening a bank account.
Keeping your business finances separate from your personal account makes it easy to file taxes and track your company’s income, so it’s worth doing even if you’re running your photo booth business as a sole proprietorship. Opening a business bank account is quite simple, and similar to opening a personal one. Most major banks offer accounts tailored for businesses — just inquire at your preferred bank to learn about their rates and features.
Banks vary in terms of offerings, so it’s a good idea to examine your options and select the best plan for you. Once you choose your bank, bring in your EIN (or Social Security Number if you decide on a sole proprietorship), articles of incorporation, and other legal documents and open your new account.
Step 10: Get Business Insurance
Business insurance is an area that often gets overlooked yet it can be vital to your success as an entrepreneur. Insurance protects you from unexpected events that can have a devastating impact on your business.
Here are some types of insurance to consider:
- General liability: The most comprehensive type of insurance, acting as a catch-all for many business elements that require coverage. If you get just one kind of insurance, this is it. It even protects against bodily injury and property damage.
- Business Property: Provides coverage for your equipment and supplies.
- Equipment Breakdown Insurance: Covers the cost of replacing or repairing equipment that has broken due to mechanical issues.
- Worker’s compensation: Provides compensation to employees injured on the job.
- Property: Covers your physical space, whether it is a cart, storefront, or office.
- Commercial auto: Protection for your company-owned vehicle.
- Professional liability: Protects against claims from a client who says they suffered a loss due to an error or omission in your work.
- Business owner’s policy (BOP): This is an insurance plan that acts as an all-in-one insurance policy, a combination of the above insurance types.
Step 11: Prepare to Launch
As opening day nears, prepare for launch by reviewing and improving some key elements of your business.
Essential software and tools
Being an entrepreneur often means wearing many hats, from marketing to sales to accounting, which can be overwhelming. Fortunately, many websites and digital tools are available to help simplify many business tasks.
- Popular web-based accounting programs for smaller businesses include Quickbooks, Freshbooks, and Xero.
- If you’re unfamiliar with basic accounting, you may want to hire a professional, especially as you begin. The consequences for filing incorrect tax documents can be harsh, so accuracy is crucial.
Some of your business will come from word of mouth or online visitors, but you should still invest in digital marketing! Getting the word out is especially important for new businesses, as it’ll boost customer and brand awareness.
Once your website is up and running, link it to your social media accounts and vice versa. Social media is a great tool for promoting your business because you can create engaging posts that advertise your products:
- Facebook: Great platform for paid advertising, allows you to target specific demographics, like men under age 50 in the Cleveland area.
- Instagram: Same benefits as Facebook but with different target audiences.
- Website: SEO will help your website appear closer to the top in relevant search results, a crucial element for increasing sales. Make sure that you optimize calls to action on your website. Experiment with text, color, size, and position of calls to action such as “Book Now”. This can sharply increase purchases.
- Google and Yelp: For businesses that rely on local clientele, getting listed on Yelp and Google My Business can be crucial to generating awareness and customers.
Take advantage of your website, social media presence and real-life activities to increase awareness of your offerings and build your brand. Some suggestions include:
- Competitions and giveaways – Generate interest by offering prizes for customers who complete a certain action, such as resharing one of your posts on social media.
- Flyering – Distribute flyers in your neighborhood and at industry events
- In-Person Sales – Offer your photo booth services at local markets, trade shows
- Sponsor events – You can pay to be a sponsor at events that are relevant to your target market
- Post a video – Post a video about your photo booth business. Use humor and maybe it will go viral!
- Seek out referrals – Offer incentives to generate customer referrals to new clients.
- Paid ads on social media – Choose sites that will reach your target market and do targeted ads.
- Influencer marketing – Pay people with large social media followings to promote your photo booth business. You can find micro-influencers with smaller followings and lower rates.
- Testimonials – Share customer testimonials about how your photo booth business helped them
Develop your website
Website development is crucial because your site is your online presence and needs to convince prospective clients of your expertise and professionalism. They are unlikely to find your website, however, unless you follow Search Engine Optimization (SEO) practices. These are steps that help pages rank higher in the results of top search engines like Google.
You can create your own website using services like WordPress, Wix, or Squarespace. This route is very affordable, but figuring out how to build a website can be time-consuming. If you lack tech-savvy, you can hire a web designer or developer to create a custom website for your business.
Focus on USPs
Unique selling propositions, or USPs, are the characteristics of a product or service that sets it apart from the competition. Customers today are inundated with buying options, so you’ll have a real advantage if they are able to quickly grasp how your photo booth business meets their needs or wishes. It’s wise to do all you can to ensure your USPs stand out on your website and in your marketing and promotional materials, stimulating buyer desire.
Global pizza chain Domino’s is renowned for its USP: “Hot pizza in 30 minutes or less, guaranteed.” Signature USPs for your photo booth business could be:
- Photo booths are great fun for the whole family!
- Curate and capture your corporate event with fantastic photos
- Draw a crowd with shareable, top-quality photos, videos and GIFs!
You may not like to network or use personal connections for business gain. But your personal and professional networks likely offer considerable untapped business potential. Maybe that Facebook friend you met in college is now running a photo booth business, or a LinkedIn contact of yours is connected to dozens of potential clients. Maybe your cousin or neighbor has been working in photography or special events for years and can offer invaluable insight and industry connections.
The possibilities are endless, so it’s a good idea to review your personal and professional networks and reach out to those with possible links to or interest in photo booth services. You’ll probably generate new customers or find companies with which you could establish a partnership.
Step 12: Build Your Team
If you’re starting out small from a home office, you may not need any employees. But as your business grows, you will likely need workers to fill various roles. Potential positions for a photo booth business include:
- Photo Booth Operator – Take photos, troubleshoot equipment issues
- Marketing Lead – Manage social media accounts, generate leads
- General Manager – Book events, order supplies, customer service
At some point, you may need to hire all of these positions or simply a few, depending on the size and needs of your business. You might also hire multiple workers for a single role or a single worker for multiple roles, again depending on need.
Free-of-charge methods to recruit employees include posting ads on popular platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, or Jobs.com. You might also consider a premium recruitment option, such as advertising on Indeed, Glassdoor, or ZipRecruiter. Further, if you have the resources, you could consider hiring a recruitment agency to help you find talent.
Step 13: Start Making Money!
Photo booths make special events all the more special, offering a chance for guests to share and bring home great memories. With your own photo booth business you could help people create moments they’ll cherish forever while making amazing money at the same time!
Now that you know what it takes to succeed, it’s time to start the photo booth business of your dreams.
Photo Booth Business FAQs
You can start a photo booth business for around $7,000. Startup costs include the purchase of a photo booth, camera, and software.
Yes, a photo booth business can be very profitable. You’ll need to keep your equipment in good working condition and spend adequate time marketing your business to book events.
You may be required to obtain business licenses to run your photo booth business. Check with your state and local governments and visit MyCorporation’s Business License Compliance page.
Photo booth businesses charge hourly rates between $125 and $200. Check with other photo booth businesses in your area to make sure your prices are competitive.
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