How to Start a Photo Booth Business
Starting a business is one of life’s great adventures and for many is the start of their American dream. In many ways, starting a photo booth business is much like starting any new business. The better prepared and knowledgeable you are, the better chance you will have for success. This page was created to be a resource for new business owners looking to enter the photo booth rental market. Topics for starting a photo booth business include:
- Start-up Costs
- Equipment Selection
- Market Research
- Marketing and Advertising
- Overview of a Typical Event
Photo Booth Business Start-up Costs
Starting a photo booth business requires relatively low capital investment when compared to other types of businesses. Many photo booth business owners work out of their homes (or existing business locations), which is a huge advantage – not having to look for and lease a commercial property. The single largest start-up costs of a photo booth business is the equipment – and well deserved as the equipment is the life-blood of the business. Although a vehicle is required to run a rental business, it is assumed that a prospective new photo booth business owner will already own the appropriate vehicle. Here is listed the typical start-up costs associated with starting a photo booth business, along with average cost ranges.
- Photo Booth Equipment – $7,000 to $12,000 60%
- Website (including gallery hosting) – $1,200 to $4,000 15%
- Misc. Supplies and Equipment – $300 to $1,000 4%
- Graphic Design (logo, biz cards, etc) – $200 to $500 2%
- Print Media (biz cards, brochures, etc.) – $200 to $400 2%
- Props – $100 to $300 2%
- Uniforms / Name Tags – $100 to $300 2%
- Photo Paper – $80 to $120 1%
- New Customer Lists (for marketing) – $150 to $400 2%
- Business Registration, Etc. – $100 to $1,000 2%
- Insurance (General Liability) – $100 to $250 / month 1%
Photo Booth Equipment Selection
Choosing the right photo booth for a new photo booth business can be overwhelming. Doing a Google search of the term, “Photo Booth for Sale” reveals page after page of options. So which one is the best? First – it’s important to define what, “Best” means to you? Is it the appearance of the booth? The portability? The functionality? The durability? The cost? The style (open air vs. closed)? Every photo booth business is different, so there really isn’t one answer. DJ’s adding a photo booth to their business may have different requirements than wedding planners. Where a company that only does photo booth rentals will want something universally functional.
Quality, Cost and Time
When purchasing any big ticket item there are three main factors to balance – Product Quality, Overall Cost and Lead Time. In most cases, if either of the three factors is out of balance, the other two will change to compensate. If low cost is the driver, quality will likely suffer. If superior quality is the driver, cost will increase and so may lead time. And if rush delivery is the driver it is likely cost will increase. It is important to understand what to expect if one driving factor becomes too out of balance.
Want to See Our Booths?
Do you love the look of the photo booth you’re about to purchase? Chances are your customers will view your equipment the same way you do, so hopefully you love it! There are a number of ways to attract customers (including low prices and great service) and beautiful equipment it certainly one.
A photo booth is the lifeblood of your business and should be built with quality components with a heavy focus on durability. Purchasing a “budget” photo booth can seem like a good idea in the short run, however often times a low price point can be a direct reflection of product quality. Before purchasing, make sure you know what you are buying, specifically the computer, camera and flash. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
Not all photo booths are created equal. Very often the price of a photo booth is a direct reflection of the quality of the product. Purchasing a budget booth will get your business up and running, but you have to ask yourself – what are you risking when buying a budget booth? Quality? Durability? Performance? It is highly recommended to make purchase decisions based on the big picture, not the short term. Be prepared for success.
Market Research – What Should You Know?
It is important to know the going rate for a photo booth rental in your local market. Knowing an average rate for an event will help you make realistic profit projections and allow you to more easily attract customers. Google is a great tool for doing research – simply type in “Photo Booth rental” and your local city and see what pops up.
Knowing your competition is important. What services do they offer? What prices do they charge? What are customers saying about them? Learning from your competition allows you to pick up good habits and industry standards while correcting aspects of business that may not be desirable. Knowledge is power and again Google is a good resource for this type of research.
The photo booth rental is only part of what your customers will ask for. Do you offer double prints? Do you offer social media (and how does it work)? Do you have an attendant on site? Are there any special rates available? Do you offer large format photos? How much does an extra hour cost and can we decide the day of the event? Again – Google is a good tool to research what your competition is offering and then build off of that.
Who are your prospective customers? This is the single most important question you can ask. Without customers you have no business. Knowing as early as possible who the customers are and how to reach them is critical. A few categories of customers include wedding planners, DJs and event venues. Starting with a category and reaching out early and often will allow you to build your customer base and eventually generate return clients.
Marketing and Advertising
The first step is purchasing the equipment – check. Now you must get the customers. Many photo booth business owners underestimate the up front effort required to establish a good customer base. A good, marketing and advertising strategy is central to establishing a solid customer base and reputation. The most important part of a marketing strategy is consistency, which is always the hardest part. it is just as important to continue your marketing during good times as it is when business is slow. There are many options available for marketing and advertising a business including online marketing (Google Ad Words, etc.), email marketing, phone marketing and in person marketing. Each strategy has it’s own balance of cost, effectiveness and time requirements.
Consistency is Key
Many photo booth businesses tend to approach marketing in waves. Either spending money on advertising when times are good (stopping when business is down) or marketing when times are slow (neglecting advertising when business is booming). Both of these situations leave gaps in the marketing cycle, eventually causing business to also take on a wavy nature. Establishing a marketing strategy based around consistency is one of the most important things a business can do.
Advertising online is the easiest way to reach a wide audience in your local market. Google Ad words is a good place to start, however be prepared to pay a relatively high price per click due to the volume of rental companies using this resource.
Sending email blasts is a cost effective way to stay connected with potential customers. In order to stay organized and minimize labor requirements, it is recommended to use a service such as Mail Chimp or Constant Contact.
Cold calling is something many people dread. It is however a very useful marketing tool in times of slow business. Reaching out to wedding planners and event coordinators gives you an opportunity to establish a relationship with people that eventually can drive business to you.
In Person Marketing
One of the most labor intensive ways to spread the word about your business is driving somewhere and dropping off fliers or business cards. Although this method takes more time than any other, there is something about a person to person connection that tends to get remembered.
Overview of a Typical Event
The operational side of running a photo booth business is all about preparation and knowing what you are in store for. In the events world thing change, so arriving well ahead of time and being prepared is the best thing you can do in order to assure a successful event. Below is the outline of what a typical even looks like, from start to finish.
- 1 Hour (Day Before the Event) – preparing and testing the photo booth
- 20 Minutes – Loading the booth into transportation vehicle
- 30 Minutes – Drive time to event
- 1.5 Hours – Unloading, setup and testing of photo booth
- 3 Hours – Event run time
- 30 Minutes – Break down photo booth and load into vehicle
- 30 Minutes – Drive time back
- 20 Minutes – Unloading, cleaning and putting away photo booth
- 7 Hours, 40 Minutes = Average Work Time for 3 Hour Event