Solve a problem, then start the business

“Don’t start a business. Find a problem, Solve a problem, The business comes second.” 

– Robert Herjavec, Shark Tank


Too many photographers are trying to start a photography business and fail because they are not solving any problems.

If you are thinking of starting a photography business or you have started one and are struggling then I want to encourage you to stop and spend some time answering these questions. 

Establish the need for your solution

What is the basic need? You focus on the need that’s at the heart of the problem instead of jumping to a solution. 
Example: Businesses and individuals have a very difficult time telling their stories [elevator pitches]. It is so difficult for many businesses to explain what they do without using pictures to help tell their story.
What is the desired outcome? Here don’t focus on a solution but on solving the problem. 
Example: Improve the engagement/communication of businesses with clients.
Who stands to benefit and why? It is critical for you to understand why the industry hasn’t already addressed this. 

Justify the need

Does this fit with your own strategy? Your solution should generate economic development and opportunities for local businesses. It needed to involve something that people would buy, because it is fulfilling a need.
What are the benefits and how will you quantify your success? Maybe shooting stories for nonprofits will help them raise more funds to accomplish their goals. So you are able to find out how much money they raised before you helped them and then afterwards. This will also help you later sell your success to other businesses.
How will you be sure your solution is carried out? You need to take ownership for the success of the project. That means you need to be sure the client understands everything that needs to take place for your solution to be a success. I have gone so far as to do the social media publishing and putting packages up on YouTube and Vimeo and even written blogs for clients. You must be sure the plan is executed or it will look like not just a failure for the company, but you as well.

Explore the problem

What has been done before by your clients or potential customers? You need to understand why other solutions have not worked well.
What solutions have others with your skills offered? Important to know how to differentiate what you are offering compared to other companies.
What is stopping them from acting? Many times there are restraints that your clients are dealing with making it very difficult for them to act. Do they have the funds to even afford this solution? Sometimes there are outside factors that keep them from using your services. For example how do you tell a story which if the people were identified could put their lives in danger?

Write your problem statement and solution

A clear description of the problem helps people grasp the issue. You need to address why other solutions that have been done to address the issue are failures. 
You will need to outline the necessary steps/elements necessary for the success of the solution you are proposing. This will include your action plan to not only produce your product but who needs to be involved and when in the process.


The notion that you just get your portfolio in front of people and they will hire you will have little success today. You are just a commodity and this makes it quite difficult to compete in today’s market place.

Knowing how to ask clients a question that makes them think is key. When they realize they don’t have an answer is when you have an opportunity to provide one for them. You must establish the need for your services. This means they are not getting those needs met somewhere else.

Remember you need to be helping others by solving their problems or your services are not needed.