I had a discussion with Chris Thomas and Herb Dierks yesterday about the pros and cons of being an independent real estate photographer vs having an exclusive association with a company like tourfactory.com, vicaso.com or even a franchise company like open2view.com. I thought this would be a good discussion to bring up because this "independent or not" decision is something that every real estate photographer needs to make sooner or later.
For purposes of disclosure I need to point out that my The Business of Real Estate e-book is a start-up kit for being an independent real estate photographer, so I could be accused of having bias on this subject. On the other hand I've had advertising for both Vicaso and Open2view. I think photographers are going to be attracted to these different business models depending on their personal skills and goals and situation. There isn't one formula that is best for everyone. Here are some things to think about when making the decision of which approach to take with your business:
Independent Real Estate Photographer
- This form of business is going to work good for people that have strong marketing and business skills. Typically it's going to take you a year or so of working those skills to get cash flow going.
- This form works best for part time real estate photographers. You have more control of how much business you do and when you do it. There seem to be a lot of photographers who do multiple types of photography.
- If you have a strong creative personality and want to do a very high level of creative work, always pushing the creative envelope this form of business gives you the freedom to do things like you want. Exclusive relationships may constrain your style.
Exclusive Association With a Real Estate Photography Company
- A company like Open2view.com allows you to invest in and build a franchise business in a particular area that can be sold when you want to move on to something else.
- Companies like Tourfactory.com and Vicasso.com have a business and marketing infrastructure that you take advantage of to have immediate cash flow. Don't underestimate the importance of this business infrastructure, it takes time and money to do this yourself.
- Exclusive companies usually have some key piece of technology that gives you a tried and true formula for success. This key technology can be a huge competitive advantage in areas where there's serious competition.
I know there are many successful real estate photographers out there on both sides of this fence. I'd like to hear some reasons that have guided you to where you are.