How to market your photography business for free.May 13th, 2022
It’s easy to forget that your photography business needs a marketing strategy when you’re busy creating great work. Most of us can’t afford to wait for clients. You have to put yourself out there and grab their attention.
These days, if you want to make a living as a photographer, you need to know a lot more than how to take a good photo. In order to get your work out there and attract paying customers, you also need to master marketing and promoting your photography business. If that seems overwhelming, don’t worry! It’s completely possible to build your brand and boost your popularity (and income) without spending a bunch of money on marketing. We’ve gathered up all of the information you need in order to market your photography for free.
Build your online portfolio website in minutes.
How to advertise your business.
When you’re focused on creating great photography work, it can be easy to forget that your photography business needs a marketing strategy if you’re going to sell photos and get hired. You can’t just sit back and expect clients to come to you. While it would be nice if it were that simple, the reality is that a passive approach to finding customers isn’t the ideal approach if you really want to grow a successful photography business. You have to put yourself and your work out there and do what you can to make a lasting impression.
Marketing yourself may not come naturally to you, and that’s okay. Your photography business is a reflection of your personality and your marketing strategy should be similar, so do what feels most authentic for you. At the same time, you’re going to have to learn to speak about your work with confidence and perfect your elevator pitch so that every introduction can be an opportunity for marketing your business. Before you start marketing, you should already have a solid understanding of who your ideal customer is, where they spend time both online and in person, and what problem you can solve for them. It’s all about defining what makes your business unique and why potential clients should choose you instead of the competition.
“The average company uses 12 different marketing tactics.”
The 2016 B2C Content Marketing Report revealed that the average company uses twelve different marketing tactics, from social media (90%) to webinars (40%). If twelve marketing techniques sound like too much, don’t worry. It’s always better to start off slow with two or three tactics that you can devote your full attention to. Then once you start seeing results there, you can begin to expand your marketing techniques.
When you’re deciding how to advertise your business for free, the first thing you need to do is create a custom marketing plan based on your goals for your business and the strategies that appeal to you most. You should also be thinking about who your dream photography client is so that you can market your products and services directly to them. The best way to advertise your business for free is to find strategies that provide you with an opportunity to create genuine connections with clients, customers, and peers.
Free ways to advertise online.
Luckily, it’s easier than ever to market your photography business for free online. It may sound too good to be true, but you can actually reach thousands of potential clients online without spending a single cent. It’s a good idea to keep to a consistent marketing schedule for at least thirty days, after which you’ll have a better sense of what’s working and what isn’t. Before you start worrying about having to invest in a bunch of expensive promotions or marketing for your business, try these free ways to market your business and get more clients.
Build your online photography portfolio.
If you don’t already have one set up, the very first thing you should do is create your own portfolio website online. This will be the place where potential clients can find you, browse your work, learn about you as a photographer, buy prints or digital products, schedule your services, and get in touch.
It used to be that if you wanted a professional website for your business, you needed to pay someone to create it from scratch. What this meant is that any time you wanted to make a small tweak or add a new product, you’d need to pay an expert to do that for you.
Luckily that’s no longer the case. These days, website builders like Zenfolio let you take complete control of creating your online portfolio, with no coding experience required. Choose a website builder with customizable templates, an online store, and built-in SEO to help you get even more eyes on your photography business.
Develop your social media presence.
Social media is easily the fastest and cheapest way to share your work with an audience of millions of people worldwide. Creative businesses especially can benefit from having a developed and consistent social media presence when it comes to creating a community of interested buyers for your business.
You can’t realistically balance having a social media account on every platform, so start by choosing one to three platforms where your ideal clients are most likely to hang out online. As a photographer, you’re working in a visual medium, so you may want to choose social media platforms that are image-focused, like Instagram and Pinterest. You can use the captions to add context to your images by sharing things like the concept behind the photo or what techniques you used to create it.
Remember: when posting on social media, the most important thing is choosing images that stand out and catch your viewers’ eyes while they’re scrolling. You should also try to have a consistent aesthetic, mood, and color palette across your entire social media feed. This will help your followers start to recognize your work because they associate you and your brand with a certain vibe.
Since it’s important to create a personal connection with your followers so they can get to know and trust the person behind the camera, make sure that you’re responding to comments and engaging with other accounts in your niche market. You should also make sure to link to your online portfolio website in your social media profiles and vice versa.
Tip: Make sure your social media accounts are available on your portfolio’s homepage.
It may seem like an outdated form of marketing, but networking can provide a ton of opportunities to connect with other people in your industry and potential customers. You just never know when an opportunity could arise as a result of a seemingly meaningless connection you made. For example, even if you aren’t talking to someone who needs your services, they could know someone who is looking for a photographer or who wants to buy some new photography prints.
Have you heard the expression, “people do business with people?” What that means is that you are more important than the skills you have and the services you offer. Your clients want to work with you, not a photo-taking robot with no personality. That’s why it’s so important to put the effort into creating personal connections with the people you meet, even if you don’t immediately see how they could help your business down the road.
Imagine you’re completely booked up with photoshoots when another client wants to book you for a job. The best response would be to refer the client to another photographer who you trust to do a good job. Chances are, you’ll feel more confident referring your client to someone who you’ve made a personal connection with.
Depending on what photography niche you work in, there are plenty of different types of networking events that you could attend. For example, if you specialize in wedding photography, you may want to set up a booth at a wedding show where you can hand out business cards to people who you know are in the market for what you’re selling. Make sure that your business card is up to date with your online portfolio URL and email address.
Update your email signature.
If you don’t have an email signature set up, you’re missing out on an additional opportunity to advertise your business every single time you send an email. This is probably the easiest free marketing strategy on this list, and it’s something that you can do in a matter of minutes.
Simply go into your email settings and update your email signature to include the link to your online photography portfolio website as well as links to all of your social media profiles. Click save, and every time you send an email going forward, you’ll be subtly marketing your photography business to anyone you communicate with.
It can be tempting to add design features to your email signature, but you’re better off keeping it simple. Big images or fonts can result in slower load times, so just use normal text to include your most important information.
Start writing a blog.
A blog is a great way to connect with your audience in a friendly, conversational way. When writing your blog post, it doesn’t have to be anything lengthy or complicated. Instead, make your voice professional but casual, and explain your topic in a way that is easy for your readers to digest.
You’ll want to create your blog posts with your ideal client in mind. This means figuring out what kind of questions they might have for you, or how you can educate them about your products and services in a way that is engaging. In addition to creating educational content, you could offer your website visitors a behind the scenes look at your photography business by providing insight into your creative process.
You could also use your blog as a place to share works in progress or images that didn’t quite make it into your portfolio. For example, you could demonstrate the importance of image editing in post-production by showing your potential clients the difference between an unedited photo and what it looks like after you’ve had a chance to make adjustments. This will give you an opportunity to showcase your expertise and demonstrate why your services are worth paying for.
It’s always a good idea to repurpose your content in whatever way you can, so turn each blog post into a social media post as well. Share a photo as well as just enough text from your blog to draw them in, and tell them to click the link in your profile to read the full post.
Make use of online listings.
There are lots of places online where you can create free online business listings or apply for listings created by other people. If you’re making a listing for your business, make sure to include reference images as well as important information like your pricing structure and what is included in your photography packages. Look up local listings websites and start browsing and posting about your services. Google My Business is a great free option to consider.
Run a contest or promotion.
If you want to get more people looking at your work, a contest or promotion is a great way to go. You could run a giveaway on social media where people have to follow your account and share your post in order to be entered to win a prize. You could also require them to tag a friend on or re-post one of your photos with a caption that includes your name in order to be entered in the contest.
Make sure to come up with a prize that is enticing enough to encourage people to enter the contest but isn’t a high enough value that you end up losing valuable time or money. Rather than offering a free photoshoot, which could require hours of preparation, shooting time, and post-production editing, you could offer a less time-consuming mini session or free print as your prize. It is good to be conscious of the value of a prize you’re giving away for free.
One of the best ways to gain credibility as a photography business is by receiving recognition or getting published by a reputable publication. This will let people know that your photography work is getting noticed, making them more likely to reach out to inquire about your services.
Make a list of your target online publications and start a spreadsheet to keep track of who you reach out to and their response. Keep your pitch email short and to the point. Include three to four samples of your very best work, along with a link to your online photography portfolio where they can see more of what you do.
Even if you don’t hear back about an application or you get a negative response, don’t get discouraged. Editors have to be very specific about the kind of work they include in their publications since they’ll be sticking to a predetermined aesthetic and theme. Before you apply to a publication, you should always make sure that you have a thorough understanding of the type of images they publish, so you don’t end up wasting your time and theirs.
Tip: You might not hear back for months but don’t get discouraged. Editors are extremely busy and they might not respond right away. When you do hear back, make sure you promptly send them anything they need. If you keep them waiting, you might miss the boat!
Incentivize client referrals.
It’s all well and good for you to talk confidently about your photography business, but a positive review or referral from a past client can make all the difference. In order to encourage your existing clients to recommend you to their friends or to leave a review on your website, you could offer them a future discount for every referral they make that results in a sale.
While this technique isn’t completely free, you’re not paying for advertising. Instead, you’re providing a slight discount in order to gain a brand new client. This can be an extremely effective way to organically grow your business without taking risks investing your money into advertising to people who might not be interested in what you have to offer.
Look for opportunities for cross-promotion.
No matter what business someone is in, chances are they’re looking to improve their marketing. Why not team up with another business owner and combine your forces? Find a local store owner and offer to shoot an event in their store. You’ll gain valuable experience, and you’ll both end up with a bunch of amazing photos to share on social media. Don’t forget to tag each other in your posts so that your audience can check them out and vice versa.
Alternatively, a local restaurant might need new images for their social media and website, and you could offer to shoot them for free, with the condition that you’re tagged and credited for every photo. While you won’t make any money from offering to shoot photos for free, you could potentially gain new customers through cross-promotion.
Plus, just because a business can’t afford to pay for your photography services now doesn’t mean they won’t turn into a paying client further down the line. You just never know when a connection could turn into a new source of income.