By Jeff Cable
Being good at business is important for anyone who is self-employed, but it is a necessity for photographers. First and foremost, as photographers, we need to be able to capture amazing photos for our clients. After all, this is what we are being hired to do. But, even if you are the best photographer in the world, skill alone will not guarantee success. We also need to be able to market our business, find new customers, and maintain our brand. Let’s take a look at each of these in more detail.
Marketing Your Business
Whether you are just starting your photo business, or you have been in business for a while, you need to market yourself to let people know you are out there. In this digital age, there are countless places for you to market yourself. You can promote yourself for very little money by using social media, such as Instagram and Facebook. Be proud of your work and show it off to the world. You can write a blog to let people know what you are photographing, and promote work this way.
Finding New Customers
You have many options for advertising and have the big challenge of determining the best place to spend your hard-earned money. I find that purchasing Google AdWords is an inexpensive and effective way to drive people to my website. I don’t spend more than $75 a month for Adwords, but I am booked for most of the next three years, so I have throttled that back. I would highly recommend that any photographer starting out use Adwords to reach their potential clients. When I started my photo business many years ago, I relied heavily on this. I found this to be much more effective than advertising in local publications. With the small amount I was spending per month, I figured that getting one client would pay for the ad cost for the next four years. And I knew that acquiring that one new customer could lead to many more, from word of mouth. So effectively, that $75 a month could turn into tens of thousands of dollars of business.
Of course, the best advertising is word-of-mouth, and I believe that this ultimately is what makes or breaks a photography business. If your customers are happy with you and your product, they will tell other people about you. Notice that I said happy with you and your product. You are an essential piece of the equation. Every minute of every day, you are representing your business. Treat your customers like gold all the time, and make sure that they are happy.
You are Your Brand
When you think of brands, you probably think of big company brands like Coca Cola, Apple, and McDonald’s. But as a photographer, you are your own brand, and you need to build and maintain that brand. Determine what your brand is, and how you are going to portray that brand to potential clients.
Ask yourself these questions to see if you are on the right track:
- Does my website reflect who I am and the brand I want to portray?
- What is my style of photography, and how do I portray that to my customers and potential customers?
- Who is my target market, and will my brand match their desires?
- Is everything I am doing aligned to my brand (social media, email and phone communications; logo; blogging style; photo retouching; etc.)?
One of the best ways to show your brand is through your website; this is why I use Zenfolio. Simply put, they make me look good. Zenfolio has many design options, allowing me to pick the one that best fits my brand. And the site looks professional and clean. When people ask me what I consider my most important selling tool, I always refer to my website. For photographers, there is no better way to show off our photos than on our website!
My website reflects my brand. I am an informal person who likes to photograph all types of subjects. My site shows images of mitzvahs, weddings, sports, and so much more. And the text is written in my style: not too corporate, but also not too informal as to appear unprofessional.
Follow the Right Path
It is helpful for both aspiring and pro photographers to have a marketing plan. Zenfolio has a handy Photographer’s Guide to Creating a Marketing Plan to get you on the right path. Even better, the guide is free!
As a seasoned professional photographer, I have seen many people come and go in this business. Some of the people who didn’t make it took outstanding photos, but it was not enough. They failed to think about the other pieces that are so critical. When considering what it takes to thrive as a photographer, remember that the images you are capturing are not the only thing that will make you successful. You also need to make sure that you are doing everything in your power to promote yourself.