So you’ve figured out there is a market for serving your local area with a photo booth. However, before you buy a photo booth, there are some realities that you should know about the unique industry you’re about to get into. In this article we’ll provide some comments from the Four Hard Truths article by Rick Brewer. It’s On Point!
Here are my thoughts on these 4 points:
1. Never Before, Rarely Again Clientele. Most photo booth gigs, whether a wedding or birthday party, are one and done, never to be hired by the customer again. However, this is also the exact reason that people rent anything and that this business exists. People rent things that they rarely use or only need once and it doesn’t make financial sense to purchase. Even at our most expensive rental, $1500, the cost is considerably less than the customer purchasing one of their own. The other benefit to not having reoccurring customers is that they are willing to pay a premium. Engaged couples especially, are often of the mindset that “we are only getting married once, let’s spare no expense and splurge.” The average wedding cost is about $30,000 and I’m fine with taking a small piece of that pie. The photo booth has become a “must have” for Weddings, Proms and Sweet 16s, at least in my market.
The photo booth business is a bit unique in that you can have repeat customers, it is not impossible. Several of our customers are schools and every year we are hired for their prom, graduation or formal dance. We also have a local college that hires us 3-4 times a year for various student events. There are non-profit organizations that hire us every year for their fundraiser dinners. There are businesses that hire us every year for a holiday party or employee appreciation night. There are customers who hire us for their annual Halloween, Christmas or New Year’s party. I’m waiting for a customer who hires us for their Sweet 16, engagement party, wedding and then children’s birthday, I’m sure it’s inevitable.
2. Low Value / No Value Competitors. Brewer is correct here, the bar to getting into the wedding business has never been lower. Fortunately for us in the photo booth business there is somewhat of a barrier to entry (although the bar continues to get lower), especially now with iPad Booth’s on the rise. If you are going to get into this business, you need to treat it like one, and not like a hobby. That doesn’t mean you need to quit your day job, but it’s about your mindset. Run your business with professionalism and excellence, like you don’t have a day job and this is your livelihood. We regularly get calls from people who want to haggle on price because they found a 4 hour rental for $300 on Groupon. These companies would be lucky to break even at those kind of prices, and likely aren’t paying taxes or insurance. Don’t participate in the race to the bottom on pricing.
3. Many Moving Parts. There are indeed many moving parts to this business. Each customer is different, they are hiring you for various types of events and the events are at different venues. There is a process to the sale, from taking an initial deposit, to keeping in communication about photo strip design, backdrops, scrapbooks, etc. You’ll be dealing with customers, event planners, and venue managers. This is not a business where you can just deal with a single customer. Furthermore you’ve got to make sure you always have enough supplies on hand (paper/ink, USB drives, scrapbooks, backups, props).
4. High Maintenance Business. There are some high maintenance customers in every type of business. We have found that the customers we acquire at a higher price point are much easier to handle. When you start competing in that lower price range the customers can be much more high maintenance. Again, we’ll cover pricing strategy soon!
I’m a proponent of test-driving an idea before I make an investment of time or money. Before I started a career in law enforcement I interned a few summers at a police station and even did a ride-along with the NYPD. I wanted to be sure that a career in law enforcement was what I thought it would be. I would encourage you before buying a photo booth to ask a rental company outside of your market (that you won’t be in competition with) if you could help assist them at a gig or two. First, figure out if the event or photo booth industry fits you and your personality.
Lastly, are you prepared to be away from home on many weekends, getting home in the early hours of the morning? Is your spouse or significant other alright with this type of business? Are you prepared to schlep a photo booth and all the equipment in and out of your car many times over? Are you ready to deal with that one kid who wants to take 500 photos by themselves and mom and dad are using your photo booth as a babysitter? How about everyone who treats your prop table like it was their dresser at home.
Perhaps you are thinking, I’ll just hire someone to work the events. Absolutely hire someone, but for the first 6 months, I would recommend working the events yourself. This way you get to know your photo booth setup and work out all the kinks. Plus you’ll find out the way your local venues want you to enter their building and all of this information can then be passed on to a future employee.
If you’re ready to buy a photo booth and get started on your journey check out The Ultimate Guide: How To Start A Photo Booth Business.