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Photography has always been a passion of mine. So one day when glancing over the business section of Craigslist for my city, I saw “photo booth business for sale,” which intrigued me enough to click the ad. It said something like:
“Zulabooth Photo Booths, Makes over $30k per year, seller moving and must sell, easy business, only $15k for the whole thing!”
After reading lines like that I thought it was a bit too good to be true, but still emailed the owner for more information.
After stopping by to see the booth, how it worked, and ironing out a few more details, I felt comfortable this was a legitimate business. Not only did the owner have payment records for the year (in which he made $37,000 gross in 2011), he also seemed motivated to get rid of it since he was moving out of state and I was the only interested party.
After negotiating back and forth I finally purchased the booth for $6,600, but ended up then also working 10 scheduled events without payment to finalize the contract. (Editor’s note: that’s a hustler right there! Getting creative and doing whatever it takes to get a good deal.)
Running a booth is a piece of cake once you get the basics down, but the hardest part of the business is getting noticed. So if you’re good at marketing you’ll do well.
Does it Require Technical Expertise?
A little bit of familiarity with camera settings such as ISO, shutter speed and aperture definitely help, but once you know the basic settings you’ll use at events it really doesn’t change much. You can practice these settings in your living room to get comfortable before working your first event. I practiced on friends and myself for hours to get comfortable.
You’ll also have to learn a software program and know how to hook everything up, but after a few hours it’s pretty easy to master. Once you’ve got that down you literally just stand at the event, talk to people, babysit the booth to make sure it doesn’t run out of paper, make sure the guests are behaving, and overall ensure everyone is having a good time.
The Benefits of Running a Photo Booth Business
Freedom to decide when you want to work is a big one. In the winters I often turn down events simply because I don’t want to work them, or if I have plans for a certain date I simply email the person back thanking them, but saying we’re booked.Then of course the biggest benefit is the money. I typically make $100 an hour gross profit before taxes are accounted for.
If I work two events in a weekend it’s quite easy to make $1,000. This is all received before I even show up to the event as I require a deposit to hold the date, and then payment in full before the day of the event. I used to bartend and work the same hours, and would be happy if I made $200 a night. The photo booth allows me to make upwards of three times that much and do a lot less physical work. I also created a Solo 401k so that I can funnel a lot of my side business income tax free for retirement.
The Downfalls of Running One
The vast majority of events I work are Friday and Saturday nights in the summer ,which means it definitely digs into your social life. Booths at weddings are huge, so you also have to deal with some drunken idiots at times, especially the guys who like to occasionally take off their pants and snap a picture of their you know what. (Editor’s note: My friends are these people he’s talking about, haha… Personally, I prefer to go the photobomb route ;)).
It seems that the biggest hassle is playing the role of bouncer and reminding people to behave. During the events since there are often a lot of drunk people I also have to constantly be watching the booth to make sure nobody is tipping it over or doing anything that could damage it.
Another downfall is that you’re at the mercy of obtaining leads, which for me are mostly based on my photo booth rental website. If you don’t know how to market the business online, you’re probably not going to do well. But since I know a fair amount about building websites and getting a decent ranking, it has helped my business a lot. SEO is probably the most important marketing activity you can do. If you don’t know SEO, hire someone or use Google Adwords to pay for clicks. But all that will cut into your profit margin.
Advice For Those Starting Out
If you’re at an event with a photo booth, start talking to the person there and ask them if they can show you how it works and give you any pointers. Other than that, I would call photo booths in your local market to get a general idea of how booked up they are, and the average price they’re charging so that you can create a basic business plan to see if you’ll be able to turn a profit. Likewise if you’re building a booth from scratch, search Craigslist to find anyone getting out of the business , or to find your equipment such as your printer, camera, or laptop used for a cheaper rate.
If you’re willing to sacrifice your weekend nights in the wedding season, aren’t afraid of peer pressure from drunk people, and have a few thousand to invest in to get it up and running, a photo booth is a great way to make some decent money and pay off chunks of your bills each month.