Becoming a photographer and starting a photography business is not as easy as it seems. You could be the best photographer in the world, but if you don’t know how much to charge for photography services, how to get new photography clients, or aren't familiar with the best photography marketing tips, your business can fail. I put together five main reasons why I believe photography businesses fail.
Having a blog helps bring visitors to your website without paid advertising. A recent study showed that Google drives 8 times more traffic than all social media networks combined. But blogging takes time and it's often difficult to find photography blog content and topics to write about. There are so many other things demanding your time and attention in your photography business, let alone your personal life. If you're looking for a solution or just want to jump start your blogging efforts I put together the Photographers Pre-Written Blog Post Monthly Subscription Program. I've done all the hard work for you and put together monthly blog posts that you can take and post on your blog. You can edit them as you'd like or post as is. This will save you a ton of time and help you build momentum in your blogging efforts.
I understand that when you're first starting a photography business you may not know exactly what type of photography suits you the best. So in the beginning it's okay to test out different photography niches. (Hint: one of the hottest photography niches right now is Personal Brand Photography) Once you find a genre you like, make that you main focus. It's much easier to perfect a certain style of photography and market to one particular group of people than to try to appeal to everyone at once. For example, wedding photography requires a whole different skill set than high school senior photography and of course the clientele is different too. Plus, wouldn’t you rather be “great” at one type of photography than “mediocre” at two? Not to mention, the way you speak to your potential clients in your photography marketing materials and on your blog will be entirely different from one niche to the next. Focus on one niche, specialize in it, master it and then add other areas as you are able.
This is a mistake I made and one that I see a lot of photographers make. They don’t realize that it’s very difficult to have a steady stream of clients throughout the year, especially when you are in a niche such as wedding photography. Then when the slow seasons come, they aren't able to pay their bills and are forced to look for a 9-5 job. For some photographers the summers are slow because of the climate (that's how it is here in Phoenix. It can get as hot as 119 degrees or higher during the summer months) and for others it’s the winter months that slow them down. You need to be prepared for that ahead of time. It might mean budgeting your money better throughout the year or putting some into savings for the slow months. Or it might mean finding additional ways to bring in income with your photography business, such as teaching photography to kids or adults. This is what I did in order to pay my bills one month. And I made over $1200 the very first month of teaching basic photography classes. I've outlined all the steps I took in this FREE guide.
I totally get it, there are so many different social media platforms and marketing strategies, it's difficult to know which to choose. I'm going to briefly outline my top three recommendations.
The first one I recommend is with is e-mail marketing. When I started my photography business I didn't have facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. I used e-mail marketing to book an entire year of wedding photography clients. You will need to start collecting e-mail addresses. Make sure you have a way to collect e-mails on your website. Don’t just say “sign up for my newsletter”. Offer something in exchange for the e-mail address. It could be something as simple as your price list or a welcome guide. Build your e-mail list and then send out e-mails on a consistent basis.
Next is social media: It’s one of the easiest ways to get free publicity; all it takes is a small amount of time to initially set up your facebook page, and then a small amount of time each week to keep it updated regularly and interact with your clients and fans. You can use social media to update your followers and clients on new projects you’ve been working on or offer special promotions services and also as a way to collect e-mails so you can market to them with email. Check out our photographer email templates which are a great time saver. As I mentioned start with one platform, whether it is Instagram or facebook and really get to know how to use the platform and master it and then move on to the next one. (Join my Facebook group by clicking here - it's totally FREE!)
The third is network marketing. Build relationships with other vendors and businesses in your area. Make sure they cater to the same ideal client that you are trying to reach. What I did was reach out to local wedding venues that were new in the area and offered to take photos of their venue for free. I created a stack of flyers with the images, the venue name and my logo and website. It turned out that the venue needed something to hand out at one of the big bridal shows and asked if I would product more flyers for them for the event. I was able to get my photos in front of thousands of brides just for the cost of a few thousand flyers. Plus, I formed a relationship with the venue manager and my photography business was top of mind when they needed to refer a photographer for their couples. You can do something similar with florists. If you have shot several weddings with the same floral designer create a sample album and give it to them as something to show their potential couples. Don’t skimp on the album. Make sure it is beautiful, even add upgrades so they will be thrilled to show it. Don’t ask for anything in return. When you focus on helping others succeed rather than helping yourself, that is where the benefits are almost always returned.
Aside from marketing, pricing is one of the next big things I see photographers struggle with often. With photography being such a saturated industry it's easy to feel like you have to lower your prices just to book photography clients. Lowering your pricing won't keep you in business. And there are other ways to book more clients without lowering your prices. For example you need to find ways to stand out from your competition and doing things that they aren't doing. It might mean blogging, educating your clients with welcome guides that you can email or give them when you meet with them.
Consider other successful photographers in your area or other "famous" photographers you know in other parts of the country that have been in business for a long time. Do they lower their prices? I'm not saying you should never lower your prices or negotiate your packages, you just want to be sure that you are charging enough for your time and services. Remember, a professional DSLR camera and lenses can be costly. You won’t make any money if you keep gifting free sessions to family and friends. Determine how much you need to charge and make enough to cover your own expenses and pay yourself for the job, then price your photography services accordingly.
Finally, don’t get discouraged! Just remember: it’s not as easy as simply being talented behind the lens. You’ll need to wear many different hats, but in the end it will all be worth it.
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