So, you’ve taken up photography and decided to turn it into more than just a hobby. Maybe you’re just starting out, or maybe you’ve been photographing friends and family for years and are ready to make the jump to a paid photographer. One of the key challenges is getting more photography clients. Many people are able to successfully make money with photography, but it takes careful planning and preparation. Starting a business is hard enough, but making it sustainable for the long haul is a challenge many people are unprepared for.
Obviously, one of the primary goals of a business is to generate steady revenue. As a photographer, this requires a steady stream of clients ready to walk in your door and purchase your art. The most beautiful pictures in the world won’t fuel your business unless you have somebody willing to pay for them. So how do you go about establishing a solid client base to help your business flourish?
5 Steps to Get More Photography Clients
The basis of any successful photography business is a solid client base. Developing this fundamental part of your business can seem daunting at first, but it doesn’t have to be. Take these simple steps to get the ball rolling – you’ll be surprised at how easy it is with time and consistent effort!
1. Define a target market
Before you dive in to the nitty gritty of marketing your photography business, sit down and really think about who you want to market to. First off, what will be your “niche?” Do you want to be a wedding photographer or are you more interested in maternity and newborn photography? Maybe you’ll be focusing on pet photography or senior photos. There’s a niche out there for everyone; decide what you’re passionate about and what’s likely to sell in your area.
After you’ve narrowed down a niche, think about the types of people you want to work with. Who is your ideal client? What is it about them specifically that makes them your dream client?
While you’re brainstorming about your ideal clients, consider a few of these as starting points:
2. Income level and profession
5. Marital or family status
Once you’ve got a good grasp on the types of clients you want to reach, it’s time to get started on a plan to get your name in front of them.
2. Build a portfolio
Before anybody will commit to spending their hard-earned cash on your photography, they need to see what you’re capable of. A portfolio will show clients your photographic style, niche and give them an idea of what to expect if they book with you.
Which photos should I include?
Get started by compiling some of your favorite photographs, making sure to select only your best work. The photos you choose should be technically correct and properly edited. If you pride yourself on your creativity and out-of-the-box perspectives, make sure you show that in your portfolio. If brilliant lighting is your strong point, fill your portfolio with shots to show it.
Also make sure your portfolio highlights your niche. Avoid filling up your portfolio with unrelated photographs outside of your area of interest. The more specialized your portfolio, the more you’ll give the impression of being an expert in your field. You don’t want to be considered a “Jack of all trades, master of none.” Show your prospective clients that you’re theauthority in your specific field, whether that be weddings, newborns, families or pets.
If you’re starting out and don’t quite have enough photographs for a complete portfolio, now’s the time to begin portfolio building. Reach out to friends, family and colleagues. Offer a complimentary session in exchange for their cooperation – most people will be thrilled with the opportunity to have quality pictures taken for free. If you’ll be offering prints or products in addition to the shoot, offer discounts to encourage people to buy; just make sure you’re covering your own costs and still making a bit of a profit.
Another great way to build your portfolio is to put out model calls. Just like you’re in need of people to shoot, there are plenty of models out there in need of photographers to shoot them! You can offer free model shoots or charge a small fee, just make sure you’re upfront with your models if there will be any costs.
3. Develop your brand
Think of some of the world’s top brands in any industry. What do they all have in common? The answer: solid branding. Every successful business needs a distinct brand to foster recognition and differentiate themselves from their competitors.
Branding doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Take it one piece at a time and start with defining the “feel” you’re looking for.
- Think about your photographic style. Is your photography whimsical and filled with fantasy elements, or earthy and realistic?
- What is your ultimate goal in creating your pictures?
- What is your brand mission?
- How are you different than XYZ photographers down the street?
Once you’ve come up with an overall “brand flavor,” consider what your design will look like. Do you have a logo, or do you need to make one? What kind of color scheme will you use on your website to tie everything together? What fonts will you be using? There should be cohesion in everything, from your website to your Facebook page to your emails.
If a potential client stumbles upon your website and there’s no sense of cohesion and balance, they’re unlikely to invest in your services. Photography is a visual art; you need to show clients that you have some design savvy, even if that means hiring a graphic designer to help with logo and website development.
4. Invest in marketing
Once you’ve developed a solid portfolio and brand, you need to get it in front of people. It’s time to start marketing yourself and your services. Photography marketing is multi-faceted and requires a lot of time and effort, but it’s an absolute necessity.
To display your portfolio, services, and contact information all in one place, you’ll need to invest in a professional website and purchase a domain name. There are plenty of professional portfolio building websites out there, all of which will allow you to easily construct a portfolio and website without heaps of HTML experience. A few popular ones are:
Each of these will give you the tools you need to display your website, but you’ll also need to choose a domain hosting website. The right web hosting service will ensure that your site loads quickly and consistently. A few popular hosting services are:
Marketing tools like business cards, flyers and brochures allow you to display your work and services in a way that is visually appealing to potential customers. If you’re not a graphic design whiz or can’t afford to hire a graphic designer yet, don’t worry: there are dozens of great tools out there for building marketing sets on a budget. Squijoo offers unlimited Photoshop templates for just $10 a month. They have templates for just about everything: pricing sheets, brochures, business cards and even logo templates.
Photography is a people business, so sometimes it’s necessary to step outside your comfort zone and talk to strangers about your business and how you can help them. How you approach this will all depend on your target market. If you’re a newborn photographer, consider teaming up with the maternity ward at a local hospital to distribute flyers and business cards to expecting parents. Or if you’re a wedding photographer, hit up the local bride shows to mingle with brides-to-be and talk about your wedding packages.
When utilized properly, social media is an extremely powerful tool for marketing yourself and your business. It can be as simple as posting Facebook ads or as complex as running your own high-content blog.
With the enormous amount of people on Facebook today, there should be no shortage of potential clients within your reach – you just have to learn to reach them correctly. To start, create a business Facebook page and use it to post:
- Upcoming events and specials
- Photos from recent shoots
- “Behind the scenes” and sneak peaks into your work
- Contests and giveaways in your area
- Customer incentives (Book today and receive a free 8 x 10″ with your session!)
There’s really no limit to the amount of content you can share. Social media allows you an extra opportunity to infuse a little personality into your business, letting potential customers get to know you before you’ve even met.
Pinterest is another great social media tool for photographers. Because it is heavily image-based, it provides you a simple way to promote your website and your photos to potential customers. Promote your blog posts or photo tips to attract clients and other photographers alike.
Join local photography groups
Besides learning valuable tips and tricks to hone your skills, joining a local photography group will widen your network and expose you to new opportunities. Try Meetup, which allows you to narrow down an interest and location to put you in touch with other like-minded people in your area.
Also check out local Facebook groups for photographers. The more connections you can make in the photography business, the more potential customers you’ll be exposed to. You might meet photographers that have valuable insight for you, or who will refer people to you if they have a client requesting something that you specialize in.
Referral and rewards systems
Once you’ve gotten a few clients in the door, why not use them to further build your client base? If they love your work, they might mention your name to a friend. But if you give them an extra incentive to encourage a friend to book, they’ll definitely put your name out there.
A referral system can be as simple as giving your client an extra 8 x 10″ print or digital image for free when someone they refer books a session with you. Stick with products that don’t cost you much to produce – avoid albums or canvases as these will eat into your own costs – but that provide significant value to your client.
For repeat customers, consider a rewards system that offers a free product or service to a client after they book ‘x’ amount of sessions (“Buy 4 sessions, get the 5th free!”) This is an effective way to give clients an incentive to book repeat sessions.
5. Be responsive
Once you have a steady stream of clients coming in, make sure you carve out some time each day to respond to new inquiries. Having a quick response time lets people know that you take your work seriously and that you’ll be easy to work with. Aim to respond no later than 24-48 hours after an inquiry. People will appreciate the quick reply and will be more likely to recommend you to friends and family.
Although the idea of building a client base can be overwhelming at first, it’s really as simple as developing a plan and sticking to it. Remember: it’s simple, not easy. Be prepared to put in a significant amount of effort when you’re starting out. Once you get the ball rolling and impress your clients with your responsiveness, talent and customer service, the referrals will come quickly and easily. Before you know it, you’ll be on your way to a successful photography business!