Step-by-step guide to launching your studio rental business

Written by Kate Yutkina
CEO and Founder, Cue

Published on May 16, 2024
10 min read
The photography rental market has changed — now it is open for everybody, even for you as a newcomer to the creative industry. It offers various rental models, from short-term options for single projects to long-term arrangements for frequent users.

There are so many types of creative spaces: content studios, podcast studios, production studios, photo shoot locations, music studios, casting spaces, etc.
We're witnessing a shift from traditional, home-based studios to more versatile, professional environments. This evolution is crucial as high-quality, engaging content becomes ever more integral to success across various industries.

This guide is designed to help you navigate the exciting yet challenging journey of starting a photography studio rental business, equipping you with the necessary tools and insights for success.

In this article, we'll frequently use the term 'photography studio” but it can be applied broadly to any type of creative space business focused on content production.
Step #1 - Create a studio rental
business plan

Once again, you really need a business plan. That means doing lots of research on your market and competitors and strong financial planning.
Market research and competitor analysis

Here are some categories in rental studio industry to consider:

  • Classic Photography Studios: Typically offer hourly rental options.
  • Production Studios: Designed for extensive shoots, these spaces often require rentals of 8-10 hours minimum and provide equipment rentals, full production cycle services, and professional creative teams.
  • Content Studios: Versatile spaces suited for bloggers, events, and brands looking to enhance their social media visuals.
  • Film Studios: Specialized facilities designed to accommodate a wide range of film production needs. These studios are equipped with various sets and green screens, allowing for the creation of diverse cinematic environments.
  • Event Venue Rentals: Ideal for capturing life’s significant moments like weddings, these can also double as shoot locations.
  • Music Video Studios: Dynamic spaces crafted specifically for the production of music videos.
Don’t try to be a jack of all trades. Commit to one niche and grow steadily.
Each studio type not only targets a particular audience but also demands a unique set of skills and knowledge for success.

However, first things first: start your research with location. Location is crucial. Make a list of areas where you plan to launch your business.

  • Are there any other studios in the neighborhood? Is the demand for rental studios high?
  • How does the rental cost compare to market rates within your niche?
  • Do you need natural lighting?
  • What is the required minimum ceiling height for your chosen niche?
  • Do you have enough space to build a cyclorama (if needed) ?
  • Does the building have elevators and comfortable entrances?
  • Is there any parking space?
  • Who are your nearby competitors? What are their strengths and weaknesses?

These insights can help you spot market gaps and position your business strategically.
Budgeting and financial planning

Remember, your key expenditures are the lease for your space and any necessary renovations. Additionally, if you plan to offer equipment rentals, prepare for substantial outlays for high-quality lighting, soft boxes, stands, and other essential gear. These items can be costly, but their durability and potential for long-term use can turn them into a continuous source of revenue, provided they are well-maintained.

Do not overlook utility costs which, though less glamorous than creative elements, are integral to your operation.

Every space undergoes a life cycle requiring periodic updates. Talking about interior design, avoid overly trendy choices like an ultra-modern yellow couch. Opt instead for classic, versatile designs that can adapt over time and appeal to a broad audience.

Note. Always start from choosing the niche, because your final budget really depends on what you choose.

Fixed Costs

  • Lease Payments: The consistent monthly or annual rent for your studio space.
  • Renovations and Interior Design: Initial costs to tailor the studio to your specific vision and functional requirements(soundproofing, constructing cycloramas, installing trusses, setting up specialized lighting systems, and making aesthetic enhancements, etc).
  • Equipment Purchase: cameras, lighting setups, softboxes, and stands, which have a long depreciation period and require infrequent replacement.
  • Insurance: Essential coverage for property, equipment, and liability, protecting your business against unforeseen events and accidents.
  • Utility Setup Fees: One-time fees to establish services such as electricity, water, heating, and internet.
  • Salaries for Permanent Staff: Regular payments to employees for daily operations, customer service, and, if applicable, managing full production cycles.
  • Routine Maintenance and Cleaning: Daily upkeep expenses to maintain a professional and organized studio environment, including regular cleaning and organization of equipment and spaces.
  • Consumables: items that are used up and need frequent replacement, such as (paper backdrops, certain props, and other materials that contribute to the aesthetic and functionality of various shoots).
  • Marketing and advertising
  • Office equipment: Computers, software, shelving, storage racks, and other essential items to maintain organization and efficiency.
  • Legal and accounting fees: Retaining professional services for legal matters, tax preparation, and financial consulting.

Variable Costs

  • Utility Bills: Monthly expenses for electricity, water, heating, and internet that vary based on usage.
  • Maintenance and Repairs: keeping equipment in optimal condition and updating the interior as needed including regular cleaning and potential minor repairs.
  • Supplies and Consumables: printing paper, props for shoots, and office supplies.
  • Freelance or Part-Time Labor: additional photographers, assistants, or event staff on an as-needed basis.

Keep in mind that these costs can vary greatly based on factors such as location, target market, and the size of the business.

When you are done with budgeting, you have to thoroughly think of your pricing strategy which must be perfectly aligned with your booking system. One outstanding addition to your pricing model is the subscription or membership. This approach is favored not only because it provides predictable income but also because it fosters close, long-lasting customer relationships.

Before launching any marketing, it's essential to set up the core software that will support your operations. This includes a proper platform for managing bookings, which offers online booking and payment capabilities, CRM features, and other functionalities to boost your daily operations and automate routine tasks.
Step #2 - Choose business management and online-booking platform

The right booking system is a super important step in setting up your studio rental business, because it significantly improves customer experience and streamlines your administrative processes.

Here are some key insights to help you choose the most suitable booking system.
From the client's perspective

Your clients always look for convenience, speed, and security in an online booking. They appreciate a straightforward, intuitive interface that allows them to book appointments or rentals with minimal hassle. Features like quick loading times, clear information on availability, and easy navigation are fundamental.

Data from Statista indicates that businesses who use online booking often see a boost in sales, as the ease of making a booking can lead to increased impulse purchases and higher overall spending per customer. Additionally, the ability to book 24/7 means businesses can capture revenue even outside of traditional operating hours. This is an absolute trend in studio rental businesses!
From the business's perspective

Think carefully of your specific operational needs, when you test the platform for the business. The system must be flexible enough to handle the particularities of the studio rental business and offer key functionalities:

  • Online Booking and Payment Options: You clients can book and pay for services anytime, from anywhere.
  • Convenient Booking Management: How bookings are made, modified, and managed.
  • Automated Notifications: Email confirmations, reminders, and cancellations.
  • Customer Management: Insights into customer booking trends and customer behavior.
  • Reporting and Analytics: Data on sales, and other metrics.

However, there are some core nuances of the creative space rental industry that require a platform to accommodate some complexities without any manual hassle: different booking scenarios and pricing structures, based on duration, days of the week or time of the day, activity type or participant numbers, equipment rental options and additional charges.

Always keep in mind fundamental requirements of your niche when you start testing a booking platform.

For instance, if your studio needs to function both as a photography studio and an event venue, you'll require a platform that can seamlessly manage bookings for both uses in a single calendar. This system should display available slots and adjust pricing according to the type of booking—whether for a shoot or an event.

Note. You should consider a system that handles your needs now and remains adequate as your business expands. Think about the variety of services you might offer in the future.

Don’t forget about the budget! Take a look at the long-term costs associated with maintaining the system. You might start with a minimal plan, but it's important to project how much you would spend as your business grows. Think carefully of all potential expenses including subscription upgrades, additional fees, and payment processing rates.

Try out at least 3–5 different booking services. Most of them offer free trial periods and some even provide a free starter plan with basic functionalities.

Let Cue spotlight your passion with tools that empower your talent.

Step #3 - Determine your go-to-market approach

Marketing approaches are very different, when it comes to B2B and B2B audiences. Please, make a decision, which niche you are entering at the very beginning.

  • If your target market includes businesses, such as agencies or corporate clients needing professional studio space, platforms like LinkedIn, industry trade shows, and B2B directories can be highly effective.
  • If you’re targeting individual photographers, videographers, or content creators, social media platforms (such as Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest) and lifestyle magazines are more suitable.

Regardless of the audience, a well-designed website is a must. Remember, it should not only showcase your studio and services but also provide easy navigation and online booking opportunities. Take into consideration SEO strategies, because it helps to increase your visibility in search engine results, drawing more potential customers to your site.

One of the first principles of marketing is transparency: the more a customer can learn about your company, the better. Give your audience an opportunity to explore information about your studio rental business, services, and pricing, read reviews, understand your policies, and importantly, find out where you are located.
Build a loyal customer base

Believe me, customer loyalty is a key to your business success. So, don’t be afraid that significant costs will be involved in attracting and retaining the clients.

An easy thing to do is to provide exceptional service and transparent business practices that bring real value to customers. Again, the booking system plays a vital role in this process, ensuring a smooth and satisfying customer experience.

Additionally, use approaches such as competitive pricing strategies, appealing membership plans, and the organization of special events tailored to the industry. Maintaining a diverse and well-equipped inventory is also very important.

Don’t be afraid to test your business hypothesis within your chosen strategy and be ready to pivot quickly if certain aspects do not perform as expected.
Offer сomplimentary services

Event Space Rentals: If your studio space is versatile, consider marketing it not only for photography and video shoots but also as a venue for events such as workshops, classes, product launches, or small gatherings.

Add-Ons: Photography is fundamentally about creativity and the ability to offer unique shots, so providing a variety of props and add-ons is an effective way to increase revenue. Think of fabric backdrops, moving walls, etc.

Equipment Rentals: Offer a range of photography and videography equipment for rent. This service can cater to professionals who prefer not to invest heavily in gear or who need specialized equipment for specific projects.
Partner with other creatives

Collaborations with Artists and Designers: Partner with local artists, interior designers, or fashion designers to host exhibits or launch new collections in your studio space. This not only diversifies the use of the space but also brings in a new audience who may be interested in renting the studio for similar events.

Workshops and Classes: Host workshops or classes that cater to different aspects of photography, videography, or even makeup and styling.
Expand into related markets

Virtual Studio Tours and Bookings: Implement virtual tours of your studio space to reach a wider market.

Specialized Spaces for Niche Markets: Customize parts of your studio to cater to niche markets such as food photography, product photography, or fashion photography. Each area can be equipped with specialized setups that appeal directly to the needs of these photographers.
Make seasonal and themed rental proposals

Offer your studio with seasonal or thematic decor options for holidays, special occasions, or thematic photo shoots. It can be real flowers, or exclusive set design. Be creative and make experiments!

One important aspect we haven’t discussed in this article is the formation of a business entity. The key steps typically involve incorporating your company, setting up a bank account, and understanding the tax policies applicable to your business. These requirements vary from country to country. Please, research local regulations or consult with a legal expert in your area.

Starting a photography studio rental business is a great way to get on top of a growing trend. The best thing to do is to pick a specific studio rental niche and work to grow connections and your reputation. People want to rent and not own, which offers a big opportunity for new businesses.