Updated: Jul 4, 2019
I feel like this blog post could be something that aspiring new photographers could use in navigating their soon to be business. These are my top five tips, I wish I knew when I was starting out, wouldn't of had to learn the hard way and also waste so much time. Regardless, I learned a lot along the way and found a few awesome things that helped me grow and be able to book my first few clients. If you are in the dark about where to start, definitely read this blog!
As I'm sure you have previously read in my blog titled "THIS IS MY WHY!" I realized I wanted to be a photographer as a child. Yep, I was about 5 years old. Spending one of many weekends with my grandmother. Her stories were absolutely amazing. She followed up with pictures both in color and in black & white. The concept of "going back in time" was magical to me. Knowing that I too could stop time for myself and family has always been a top priority. So, I Truth be told, I often would ask myself how far my business would have gone if I would have listened to my gut the first time it spoke to me ("it's a hobby"..."your not good enough") It's a good thing I didn't listen huh? lol! And you shouldn't either.
I am so proud of myself for this, the journey wasn't easy. Which, might I add, it's still all a journey. When I finally took the plunge to go pro, I knew I had to hustle hard to get my name out in the town I lived in. It was 2011 then, and the market was saturated with photographers. Everyone was and still is a “photographer” these days including their moms, their uncles, and best friends thanks to the "good ole" cellphone lol! It was my job to make my work stand out against the flooded sea of other well named artists and hobbyists. I knew I needed work, in order to build up an amazing portfolio and make money.
I'm here writing this blog to help you gain your footing, where you should focus most of your attention, and to motivate you to go out there and kick some major butt. Below are some tips and advice for most people who are just starting their business. The kicker is? You'll probably think what does this have to do with photography? If you want to start a business...first things first—you need to start acting like its a business and your a business owner.
KNOW "WHY" YOUR CHOOSING A PHOTOGRAPHY BUSINESS
Ask yourself “why” you're choosing to go into business for yourself as a photographer. It could be your need for freedom, you don’t want a boss ever again, or you like being creative. Maybe you want to have a lasting impact on the lives of others. What is your purpose for becoming a wedding photographer, a commercial photographer, a social media guru,a newborn photographer… what is your purpose? Honestly, your why and purpose will probably change within a few years, so just be honest with yourself right now and how you really feel. I started my business because I wanted to capture time for as many people as possible so they to can feel the magic I felt as a child. I started my business because I knew if I was in business for myself, I could make it work somehow, someway and have the ability to share my passion.
Don't go crazy racking your brain with exact answers or put too much pressure on yourself about your answer to this question, your journey why will change. You don’t need a grandiose idea or light bulb moment, you just need to realize what it is and ask yourself why this is important for other. Who are your ideal clients? Are you here to serve 25 year old brides? Are you here to serve 32 year old brides with possible blended families ? Is wedding photography your specialty or is it secondary? Seriously, who are you here to serve and ask yourself WHY you want to serve them. Write out a list of your dream customer and session.
MAKE A WEBSITE WITH A CLEAR PURPOSE
I know this kind of sounds easy, but in all actuality it is not (especially when you are in your head all of the time and everything seems like it's not "good enough"). Remember your "WHY?" Now it’s time to put that on your website. When someone lands on your web home page they know immediately if they want to stay and look around, or leave. Trust me, you want them knowing this. There is no need in keeping someone on your website unless they are actually interested in what YOU are offering whether it be your style of photography or your prices (since most people like to price shop that's more likely).
An example, if you’re "WHY"is to make couples relive their wedding day with a blissful tear jerking reminder—then you need to say it. You need to tell people why they need YOU and your services!! and why they do not want the "hobbyist" down the road who is cheaper and calling herself a pro. If they resonate with it, then those are the people who you want to continue on your website. I would say something like “Our sole purpose is to create jaw absolutely amazing captured moments for couples all across the West Coast /Central region of Florida.” Simple as that, right? Keep it simple and straight to the point. Oh, and make sure you add your service locations, or where you are willing to travel to. Example: “South Florida, Orlando, the Tampa Bay Area.”
You might not understand now, but trust me when I say you will NEED this …you need a clear and accessible place on your website where people can subscribe to your email list.
CHOOSE ONE PLACE TO BE YOUR VOICE
The first couple of years in business are critical. Your first impression is everything. Also, you are going to find yourself fighting the urge to do all of the things or feel guilty if you don't because all your dream mentors seem to have it all figured out. Don't do it yourself. You need ONE (and I mean it) platform to share content WEEKLY. I'll repeat that again... YOU NEED TO POST WEEKLY! Shout who you are and what you do from any "roof top". It could be Facebook,Instagram,Twitter, a podcast, your blog, a Youtube channel, or even a local event…whatever! Choose one, because if you choose to do all of them, you will get burned out super quickly. Also, your fans will not know where to go because you may post something on Facebook, and then later try to write a blog post. Do this every week!Be consistent!
Whatever you choose , it helps to pre-schedule your posts. Have a pen and paper (cellphone notes) by your your bedside for all the random ideas to post or write about. I try to post a blog at least twice a week now. When I first started out, I only posted about 1 post like every 3 months or so...I know right :( That's because I didn't know the importance of it being such a powerful business tool. Blogging = Google Ranking. Sooo now I make the time for it at least twice a week :)
ENGAGE YOUR POTENTIAL CLIENTS
Now this is the fun part. You need a solid place online where you can engage with your clients and potential clients. For me, this is Instagram . I know so many business owners who bow down to the world of Facebook. But for me, my main source of communication with the public is Instagram. Whatever social media platform you choose as your weapon of choice, do it well. And by doing it well, I mean allotting a certain number of minutes per day for you to post something and to comment and message people back. Oh, and you need to post every day. If you are on Instagram, this could mean that you post to your insta-stories, or a photo in your insta grid. Whatever the case, you need to show up at least ONCE a day. Remember, what you are doing is important—remember your WHY? You need to start showing up and letting people know WHY your work is important and casting that net out so that others can become aware of you.
And again, make sure you respond to people. Even if its just an emoji…you need to respond. What is worse than when you comment on a friends post and they just magically don't respond back to you? It kind of hurts your feelings, doesn't it? Take the time to say thanks for the comment. Our world is so “social” so its time to embrace it.
Here’s the thing, you will more than likely not be making a profit your first few years in business. I'm sure you've thought about it already, but think about it again, everything you make goes straight back into your business. Insurance, studio space, camera gear, repairs, computers, CF cards, the list goes on and on. Which is all fine and well, because, you want to put this money back in to your business. Let's face it, at the same time, you also need to pay your bills.
If your not currently working a full time job,.I would figure out a way to make money while you are still figuring things out with your business. What did this mean for me? I did a lot of family sessions, and anythings I could get my hands on. I know it sucks because you clearly started this business because you didn't want a boss... you got to do what you got to do. Don’t lose sight of building your business, just make sure you use your money diligently and for the right things. Prioritize the projects that are going to get you the next phase of your business. If you want to be a lifestyle and brand photographer, I would do sessions in your free time that showcase this. Then I would showcase this on your social media platform of choice, then turn around write that blog about it.
The fact of the matter is, it’s going to be hard the first few several years of business.Unless you have daddy's disposable money to spend or hit the lotto, this is the time for you to hunker down and use whatever money you do have—wisely.There'a a reason the term "Starving Artist "exist lol! Invest in yourself. If you’ve been wanting a mentor—do your research and make sure you use the money you’ve made to invest in that. The one thing that I have clearly learned, its the fact that when I started to prioritize myself, my business started to flourish afterwards.
When you know your why, it makes things a little easier. Things will start to flow more smoothly.
Hopefully this blog post was helpful to you! These are things that I wish people would have told me in advance, and who knows how far I would have been if I knew this at the beginning of this journey. If this helps you, inspires you, or motivates you, write me a comment and let me know.