Relocated a wedding photography business to a new state is a daunting task, but not impossible! I recently moved my photography business from California, to the state of Colorado. I get asked often, “how did you do it?” Hopefully I can answer questions many photographers (or other small businesses!) may have about the jump. Luckily for me, I knew about 6 months before the move that I’d be relocating. Since already being established in California for a few years, I had knowledge of running a business and experience under my belt. What I didn’t have though, was Colorado specific content, as well as networking connections in my new city of Denver. Here is an outline of what I’ll be going over in this blog post!;
Steps for relocating your photography business to a new state;
- Network and reach out to local wedding vendors.
Set up coffee dates with established vendors such as wedding coordinators to introduce yourself. I did this about 6 months before I officially moved to my new state
- Start advertising in new state about 6 months prior to your move.
Especially for weddings, most couples need to start looking months in advance of their wedding date for their vendors. Might as well start advertising before you get there!
Along with early advertising, start marketing your SEO (search engine optimization) and keywords towards your new location.
- Find a local accountant and lawyer.
Find someone who knows the legal steps that need to be taken to move to a new city and where you need to register your business.
- Location Scout and get familiar with new city.
Couples will be more likely to hire you if you already have a great knowledge of the area and where the best spots to take photos are!
- Blog content from new location.
Couples want to see the work you’ve done in your new city. As soon as you start getting new content, immediately start sharing it with the world!
Why did I move my wedding photography business to Colorado?
There are many reasons why I decided to up and move my already successful business to Colorado. San Diego is such an amazing place to be a wedding photographer, and I was doing well for myself. Yet here I am, starting over in a new location! The answer is a personal one for me; my boyfriend at the time (now fiancé!!), was living in Denver. We were debating for awhile who would move where, and to be honest, I’m more of a mountain girl than a beach girl! I love to go hiking and camping on my days off, and the overall cost of living in Colorado is cheaper. So in the end, I decided to relocate my wedding photography business to a new state. We are getting married now, so I guess it was a good move!
How to network in a new city;
About 5 months before I made the move, I got online and started looking up Denver local wedding coordinators and venues. My thought process on this is that when a couple is planning a wedding, statistically they find a venue first, and then second may be either a photographer or a coordinator. We are usually ‘top of the chain’ when it comes to the order of booking vendors for a wedding. This means that if a coordinator is booked first, they could refer their couple to me before they did their own internet research. The goal here is to get in good with local coordinators!
I set up a LOT of coffee dates and phone calls with local wedding coordinators. I checked to see who had great reviews, and who also may have a photographer referral list on their website. Getting to meet these professionals in person really helps them get to see who I am, my personality, and hopefully get a sense of my passion for my couples and the wedding industry. Most of the people’s reactions when I told them I was excited to move to Denver was, “just be careful, it is a saturated market here!”. Luckily from me, I was already coming from an insanely saturated market, so moving to Denver was actually LESS saturated than what I was used to! After a few meet ups with other established wedding vendors in Denver, I made some GREAT connections! A few put me on their preferred vendor lists before I had even worked with them! The lesson here is; networking works!
Join Facebook Groups
Another way I found to network within my new community was joining as many Denver and Colorado specific wedding photography facebook groups I could find. The largest group I found was the Denver Photo Betties (a facebook group of female photographers in Colorado), but there were a few other small ones too. I love facebook groups because they are extremely helpful with connecting with other real people in your city. I was so happy to see other ladies helping out photographers that needed assistance with location ideas, weather reports on the mountain roads, or any new permits that needed to be obtained for certain counties.
Fun fact; Colorado (and most states) are getting very strict with photo permits for specific location, parks, and counties. I found this site VERY helpful to let me know which areas needed permits, and also how to get them! This was helpful to know before I started shooting photography session in Colorado.
How to redirect advertising when relocating your photography business ;
Switch advertising location listings
Still at the 6 month point prior to moving to Denver, I also switched my listing on The Knot to “Colorado”. Fun fact: while most Knot listing are more city specific (i.e. “San Diego”), the Colorado listing is actually the entire state! The monthly cost of advertising did go up, but I also see it as a win since I would be see for multiple cities within the state.
Switch search engine location and social media listings
Along with changing my Knot listing, I also changed my city in as many locations online as I could such as Yelp and all of my social media. I also started tagging #coloradoweddingphotographer along with other Colorado cities in my instagram posts. I wanted to be as visible as possible online in those areas.
SEO and optimizing for your new location;
I had started my photography business in California before Instagram and search engine algorithms were really a ‘thing’. In the past, all you had to do was pay for good advertising and that would usually get the job done. I’ve since established my business in my old city, and didn’t have to try too hard to get business to come my way. Moving to a new state has become a whole new ballgame! For the first time in my career, SEO really mattered! I needed to be seen!
I started researching SEO (which stands for search engine optimization) and how to gear towards my target audience of newly engaged Colorado couples. I found a few courses that were very helpful, but I would highly recommend Fuel Your Photos to start! (It is a very meaty course, but that’s what makes it helpful!)
How do you legally move your photography business to a new state?
Register in new state
This was the daunting task for me. I had never relocated a wedding photography business before. I find that as creatives, we definitely enjoy the ‘creative’ part of our job, but all the other stuff is a learning curve. The legal aspect I really had to reach out to local professionals for. I had to register my business with the Colorado Secretary of State, which was the first thing I did once I was in my new location.
Hire a local accountant
I also had to find a new accountant. While I loved my California accountant, I would HIGHLY recommend that you find a knowledgable professional in your new city and state to keep you up to date with any tax filings that may be specific to your state. My new accountant informed that I needed to get licenses and applications for the following;
- Colorado Department of Revenue – Sales Tax and Wage Withholding
- Colorado Department of Labor and Employment – Colorado Unemployment Account
- City and County of Denver – Sales Tax and Occupational Privilege Tax
Did you know there is a tax to have the privilege of being a business in Denver!? I didn’t! These are all things that I had to ask others about. Hence why it is important to find professionals in your new city to explain these things to you. I’d also recommend hiring a lawyer to go over anything in your contracts that may be specific to Colorado and to just give you more legal knowledge about your new state.
Once I was ‘legally’ set, I now had to get Colorado specific content on my site and for social media posts. Luckily, because of the efforts I made BEFORE I moved, I was already getting inquires for engagement sessions and weddings. I set up a few engagement sessions in locations I had heard about from the facebook groups I had mentioned before that I joined.
How to location scout new spots in Colorado;
There are many ways to find epic location spots in a new city. It is also VERY important to do research on these locations and what is and is not allowed for your photography session. I can not stress this enough! As mentioned before, the majority of outdoor locations such as parks, trails, and forests require a photography permit in Colorado. Theses permits are set in place for a reason. Social media is largely to blame, especially with geo-tagging. Since everyone wants an instagram worthy photo backdrop, some of the most pristine National Parks have been littered and trampled on by tourists. When obtaining a photography permit, many parks or counties require you to read the rules of photographing in the park. These rules follow the LNT (leave no trace) ideology. Basically, leave it the same, if not better, as you found it. (See below for more information about LNT!) Here were the top ways I found engagement locations in my new area;
Word of Mouth
Word of mouth was a great and easy way to start my list of places I wanted to check out for location scouting in Colorado. I used the Facebook groups I had mentioned about to my advantage. I’d use the search posts tool to see if other people had already asked a location specific question in the group previously. I’d occasionally ask some questions myself, and many people were thankfully more than happy to chat with me about places they loved to shoot at.
Google is such a great tool. I would also google search “engagement session in certain city” to see what would pull up. I found a LOT of engagement sessions at Red Rocks Amphitheater and Chautauqua Park in Boulder, Colorado. One of the first photo sessions I did in Colorado was an engagement session at Chautauqua with the flatirons in the distance! An even MORE helpful Google tool is Google Earth! You can place the little human figure on the road and basically virtually drive down any random dirt road you can find! This was a great way to location scout from 1,000 miles away!
Instagram hashtags and ‘places’ was also very helpful. I know that geo-tagging has done more damage than good when it comes to finding great locations that everyone loves, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still use it wisely.
Probably my most favorite location finding tool today, especially for a state like Colorado, would be AllTrails. Now that I’m getting more familiar with the different cities within the state and their geographies, I can narrow down searches in AllTrails! Most of my couples love adventure sessions in the mountains. They are willing to hike a few miles for a fantastic view! Some of the best hidden engagement session locations of mine have been found by using AllTrails. You can filter out the searches to be specific to what your client is looking for. Do they want a waterfall? An easy hike? How many miles are they willing to do? Alltrails will filter out these for you and then you can use Google Earth to see that location! (Of course, it doesn’t hurt for you to go see it yourself…).
Lastly, once I finally got to Denver, any free time that I had I would get in the car just drive! Using the above ways to help me find locations, I’d make a list and tackle them one at a time. Sometimes I’d just put on a podcast and get lost in the mountains. I’d go to the trails that I found on AllTrails and go hiking with my dog and see if it was a great option for a photo shoot.
What is Leave No Trace?
Colorado is known for its beautiful landscapes, such as snowcap mountains, great plain plateaus, sand dunes, raging rivers, glaciers, and alpine tundra. It is comprised of 34.42% forest. Did you know that there are also a total of 58 mountains in Colorado that are above 14,000 feet of elevation!? With a state as beautiful as this, why have to actively keep it that way. That means, leaving it as beautiful as you found it, and packing what you bring in to the mountains back out. The LNT policy helps damaged trails and natural areas, as well as with wildfires and polluted water. Here is a great resource to learn more about LNT!
What to do once you have relocated to your new city;
Keep up with blogging
Honestly, the work never stops! If you are going to relocate a wedding photography business, then it is also important to keep blogging consistently once you are settled in to your new city. Here was my first Colorado blog I put out, a winter wedding at Mt. Vernon Country Club! Consistent blogging is great for search engines to know that you are established in your area, but also for inquiring couples to visually see what creative work you’ve done in your new city. It is also important to keep up those connections with all of the vendors you’ve already met, and to continue meeting more! Every coffee shop you go to and every wedding you work at are all opportunities to network and get to know your new community!
I hope you find this information helpful on relocating your wedding photography business and I’m always available to reach out to if you have any questions about tips or tricks to relocate your business!