Barbara Nicholas joins us for a special guest post as she shares some tips to consider before going pro. Enjoy!
The dream of leaving my 9-5 was in my head from the day I accepted the position. Yet I stayed for 5 years doing the exact opposite of what could be considered creative. I was calculating numbers and following guidelines. I thought this is what I needed to do to make it. What I always wanted was to meld my creative side with the reality of needing to carve out a decent living wage, to support myself and contribute to my family’s income through photography.Easy peasy, right? “I’ll take photos and people will pay me.” Becoming a “real” photographer where people write checks with your name on them is the opposite of “easy peasy”.
The first year was free session after free session after half price session after another free session. The second year I felt like I was gaining ground, although I was getting paid (mostly) not quite the amount I wanted. But there were checks with my name on them and I was proud. Then our family made a move to another state and in an instant I felt like I was starting from square one. I was down about it in a bad way.
In the end losing my entire client base and “starting over” has turned out to be the best thing for my business and for myself creatively. It has given me the chance to re-structure my pricing, re-brand my image and focus on what type of photography truly interests and inspires me.
To show a little love to my fellow budding photographers, sitting in their cubicle counting the minutes, I have listed my top 3 tips to build your business and gain clients.
1. Be Yourself.
Simply be yourself. I don’t mean stick to being the special snowflake that you are personally but be yourself as photographer. When I started out I wanted nothing more than to get in on the whole newborn photography thing. It seemed lucrative and special. I attempted and failed miserably to capture images similar to the top pros out there that are insanely good at posing and prop use. It’s just not my bag. Yes, I have gotten better at it and feel confident I could do it now but what I bring to the table when it comes to babies is different. I capture moments not sets or scenes.
2. Invest in Yourself.
Not everyone can attend a 4 year school for a photography degree. I didn’t. Would I have loved to have done that straight out of high school? Of course! But apparently Back To The Future was fiction and I cannot hold them liable for dashing my time travel dreams.
I have invested in workshops to learn new skills, which has been invaluable. Your local arts centers are a fantastic starting point. The biggest investment should be your time. They say it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert in your field. I know I am nowhere near that but, every time I take a photo, I am getting closer.
3. Find Your Ideal Client.
Don’t do market research and just do what is popular or pay Facebook to advertise for you. Sit down and think about what type of photographer you have always dreamt of being. What kind of photos do you love to take? For me, this was the single most powerful realization and it has greatly helped my business. I am not a traditional family photographer. I came out of the gates ready to find all the people that needed family photos. Well, there are tons, but ultimately they are not always looking for my brand of photography. I lean heavily towards a photo journalistic style and when I do otherwise it comes off looking forced. I am also drawn to boudoir photography as light and lines are such an emphasis there.
Once I knew what I had to offer clients, I was able to figure out who those clients were and target them specifically. Why waste your time trying to sell to everyone when you can slow down and truly offer a service that someone will love?My favorite way of doing this is by putting together gift bags that contain 3 important things. What my business is with examples of my work usually on a post card, a price list so they know if I fit their budget, and a $100 print credit to entice them to book while not underpricing my services if they refer other clients to me. Then I knock on doors of non-competing businesses that also service my ideal client and ask if they would like to have these awesome gift bags as a gift to their clients. Sure, sometimes the answer is no. But when the answer is yes, bookings happen and I get more of those fancy checks with my name on it.
Peace, Love and Smiles,