Every year Americans suffer billions of dollars in losses due to theft, fire and natural disaster, yet most people have no record of their possessions. When damages occur from theft or natural disaster and the insurance company asks for descriptions, serial numbers and other details, victims are at yet another loss. But if you have a camera and are willing to travel around town, you can save the day with a photo inventory service. You'll take pictures of clients' possessions and mark them with serial numbers and the purchase price or replacement value so that if a burglary or disaster occurs your clients are prepared. The advantages to this business are that you can start part-time on a shoestring, you meet lots of people, and you provide both a valuable service and peace of mind for your clients. Although you don't have to be an Ansel Adams, you do need to know the basics of good photography. You'll also need to know the sorts of details insurance companies are interested in--when you snap a photo of that computer, for instance, you'll want to make sure the model number is visible.
Your clients will be individuals and businesses of all types. An excellent way to solicit trade is by establishing relationships with insurance agents who can refer you to their customers--be sure to leave plenty of business cards for agents to hand out. Introduce yourself to the detectives in charge of property thefts in your police or sheriff's departments and give them your cards as well. You can also send out brochures in direct-mail campaigns--a good time to do this is when a rash of burglaries makes the morning papers. And don't forget networking and giving talks to professional and civic organizations.
The biggest tool of your trade will be your camera. You can go with whatever model you already have on hand, but you may want to invest in a digital camera, a computer, photo software, and a high-quality color printer. Digital models can store hundreds of pictures at a time, which saves on film costs and time spent changing and labeling rolls--and there's no developing involved. Or you may choose to go with a video camera. You should also have a notebook to record the details to go with your pictures and, of course, a supply of pens and pencils.