Author pictured above.
This is the year that your photography business is really going to take off. How do I know? Because if you follow many of the tips I’m going to offer below, you’ll be well on your way to a successful 2017.
Do you want to make more money this year? I’m going to guess the answer is “heck, yes!”
Where do you even start? Raising your prices? Starting a referral program? Offering freebies? (wait, that sounds wrong… but it actually works!)
Read on to learn some solid strategies to attract more clients, increase your visibility and grow your brand, and at the end of the day — and year — pad your profits.
1. Offer a Freebie
Offering your services for free may seem counter-intuitive. After all, you’re trying to make more money, not less. Still, if you’re relatively new to the photography biz, one of your most important assets is word-of-mouth advertising. So get out there and work it! You want to generate buzz, and get as many people familiar with your brand as possible. Say you give out freebies to 10 people, and “only” two of these clients decide to purchase a larger package. That’s a 20 percent “conversion rate,” which is actually a fantastic return on investment — and you now have two customers you didn’t have before.
Whatever you offer, whether it’s free canvas prints, free headshots, or free retouching, just make sure to offer something that is valuable since everything you produce (even for free) is reflective of your brand’s quality. Still, make sure those nifty free goodies are quick to produce and not too expensive — no sense going into debt for freebies.
2. Book Mini Sessions
Mini sessions are an excellent way to entice commitment-phobic clients. For example, a $50 session might only take you 15 minutes and your client walks away with five finished images. That’s a very satisfied client who’s likely to rave about you to other prospects.
Keep in mind that mini sessions are not a full session at a discount. Gently remind clients that they are scoring a deal, so make sure to streamline these sessions to make it worth your time. One location, 15-20 minutes tops. Don’t offer these quick jobs expecting an immediate payday. Just like freebies, mini sessions are an investment in networking and converting clients into loyal customers.
3. Streamline Your Editing
Using your time efficiently is one way to generate more income. Time saved is money earned. This was actually my first mistake while starting out: I spent way, way too much time in post-production. I would devote three extra hours a day trying to get my color balance and white highlights just right. Avoid my mistake by using Lightroom presets and Photoshop actions. You can automate these programs to overlay filters and customizable edits onto your imports, create your own presets and actions, or (in the true spirit of time saving) you can just purchase preset packages (No shame, here. I’ve always opted for pre-made filters. Hey, it works for those influencers on Instagram!).
4. Partner with an Influencer
Speaking of… social media influencers attract a massive following because they have captured some sort of zeitgeist. There are many reasons to work with influencers: They will help you tailor your message with their insider experience.They are typically cheaper than a proper advertising campaign. And they’ve already established trust with their cult fans. With their quasi-celebrity stamp of approval, they help make your brand more effective and trustworthy. If all goes well, their fans will be tempted, and artfully encouraged to become your fans.
5. Offer Word-of-Mouth Incentives
In the world of creative services like photography and graphic design, referrals are king. They provide “social proof,” or evidence of your value based on someone else’s opinion. Some people who totally ignored my business suddenly came calling after their cousin, or teacher, or sorority sister put their stamp of approval on my work. So don’t be shy, and openly encourage your clients to vouch for your business. But remember to reward them accordingly with a discount or free prints. Even if you can’t offer an incentive, give them a shout out on good ol’ social media. Public flattery is always a good idea; it’s free, and takes just a few hot seconds.
6. Update Your Website
For the majority of customers, your website is their first impression of your business. It is the online equivalent of a storefront and customers will decide your value and trustworthiness within seconds. Your website needs to communicate your capabilities, your personality, your brand, availability, and some ballpark of your fees. Always make sure it is painfully easy to locate that golden “book me” button. Also, invite friends and clients alike to test the usability on your website, whether they get lost navigating around your portfolio, or whether certain wording is a major turnoff. Then make the appropriate alterations. If you aren’t a software developer in your free time (I am most definitely not; numbers and HTML scare me), then it would be best to start with a WordPress or Squarespace template. You can put up a professional-looking site in mere hours with these services; no coding required. If you can afford one, it’s worth hiring a website designer to customize your online portfolio.
7. Improve Your Marketing Automation
Automation tools are gifts from the tech gods. With of these tools, you won’t waste your time sending emails and texts with every new submission or booking. Establish automated responses and then fill in the gaps with personalized content when necessary. Schedule your blog posts, newsletters, social media updates to go out when your audience is online. For instance, if each task takes just one minute, at my current rate of over 7,000 tasks per year, that’s about 14 working days back in my pocket for more shooting, post-production, Netflix binges, whatever!
8. Spread Your Content
Having multiple points of contact with your brand is vital. It increases brand awareness and adds another layer of trust to your product. It is the Web equivalent of leaving breadcrumbs for customers to follow back to your booking site. You need to scatter your work across all platforms—Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, Google+ (if only to improve your SEO), magazines, and blogs like this one! (There are some tips to get published in your dream magazines.) You don’t just want views, you want attention from people who are interested in your service. Compose a content calendar to help yourself brainstorm what promotions, content and platforms you are posting on for a given day or week. Also, remember to set up specific, measurable goals to help yourself determine if your efforts are successful or need adjustment in the future.
9. List on Deal Sites
Sometimes folks aren’t brand-loyal, they are deal-loyal. Thus, coupons are a way to introduce them to your business. Listing photo discounts on sites like Groupon is a simple way to expand your clientele and dip into that frenzied coupon crazed market. Fair warning though: Set up an enticing deal, but not one that’s so cheap it devalues your brand or isn’t worth your time.
10. Advertise on Social Media
When it comes to advertising, it’s a given that you’ll turn to social media platforms like Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook. Why? Because their image-driven formats are perfect vehicles to showcase photography businesses, and because your target audience is already on these networks, waiting to be wowed. And because it’s almost impossible these days to stand out with “organic” traffic alone. You need to boost your presence with paid advertising. Make sure to target your ads to specific audience groups so your photos are landing in front of qualified leads, so you don’t waste money marketing to people who have no business learning about your business.
If you’re new to Facebook advertising, our Facebook Ads Academy for Photographers is the guide you need to transform your business!
11. Bundle Together Package Deals
Rather than book one shoot – book two, three, five! Aim high, because the worst someone can say is “Eh, no.” Use a discount to peak their interest. For example, you could offer a newborn shoot that is paired with a photoshoot for the child’s first birthday, or you could book engagement snaps along with wedding photos. In the end, bundling several shoots into one package is really just a photographer’s version of a short-term subscription service. Less courting and more commitment and money from your clients. Sounds dreamy, right? Also, your clients will love the simplicity and discount you’ll give them for upgrading to a package.
12. Shoot for a Cause
Shooting for a charity or nonprofit is a brilliant way to increase exposure while messaging to clients that your brand has heart. Back when I was starting out, I routinely offered free photography and videography to a nonprofit that helps the homeless population in downtown San Francisco. Why? Because it was a cause I cared about and I had a valuable skill that could contribute to their marketing. In turn, I was able to count the organization as a bona fide client and showcase my work.
Most people get stuck on trying to drum up fast money-making schemes. The secret is that your greatest chance for success is routinely implementing a series of small changes, like these strategies, over a long period. So test, try and explore. Have any of these tips worked for you? Did I leave out any illuminating advice? Let me know in the comments below!