If we’re honest, client education is probably the scariest thing about running a photography business. Always having to justify our value to a bargain-hunting bunch of incredulous consumers just seems cruel. Welcome to the professional world, my friend. Don’t let it get you down. But do get ready to work hard and reshape the way you communicate. As business owners, we wear so many hats, including “director of public relations”—perhaps the most important of all. Convincing the unconvincible is an art and a science. To become anything more than just another starving artist, you need to become an expert at convincing. Here’s how and when to do it.
A year ago, we decided to do something drastic. We stopped marketing for portraits and weddings. The bookings started to slow down and then eventually dried up enough that we took them off our website completely. Scary? Yes. Crazy? Maybe. We have more than replaced that lost income, but we had to overcome some major hurdles. The first was to find the work. Getting that signed contract after an initial inquiry is the biggest hurdle. After a lot of trial and error, we have developed some solid concepts to help portrait photographers bid on and book commercial jobs. If you approach commercial inquiries with the same mindset as weddings, boudoir and babies, you will find yourself getting passed over a lot. If you want that sweet corporate payday, you have to think differently.
Sales can be scary. Sales means different things to different people. For some, sales can feel pushy or slimy. What comes to mind when you think car salesman? This is not the most positive way to look at sales. It can create internal challenges when it is time to sell your own services or products. We reframe selling as sharing, which is a much more positive approach to sales. If you have a good product or service and believe it can help others, why wouldn’t you want to share it? If you hold back on sharing, you might prevent someone from having a good experience. When you look at selling as sharing, it shifts your mindset that selling is a good thing that you need to do in your business, and it doesn’t have to be so daunting. Selling begins with your message and how you share what you have to offer. When the messaging is done correctly, your potential clients will be seeking you out for more information.
In business, the 80/20 rule means that 80 percent of your business comes from 20 percent of your clients, so it makes sense that we should take extra special care of our clients. Look back through all of your clients from 2017. Who were your best clients? They could be the ones who spent the most with you, the ones who worked with you the most frequently or the the ones who spent an okay amount with you but were the exact people or companies you want to work with. These are the ones you want to pay special attention to. Here are some ways to take care of your 20 percent.
Let’s be real: Bad clients do not really exist. If anything, a bad client would be one who never knocks on your door in the first place. The most frequent question I hear is: Fabio, what should I do to get better clients? First, how do we define a good client? Most of us agree that a good client is one who pays more and understands the value of our work, and does not price-shop among our competitors. If you want to know how to get better clients, start by looking at yourself. How are you procuring and then working with your clients? A common mistake is that photographers don’t effectively communicate their “value perception.” That’s how others perceive the value of the work and services we provide.
Sales and marketing are two things that professional photographers struggle with at some point in their career. If the two were easy to master, the percentage of failing small businesses would be a lot lower. When you market your business efficiently, the sales part becomes a lot easier. What is marketing? It’s basically the action or business of promoting and selling products or services. You can’t sell anything until you promote it. Promotion is marketing. How you promote ties directly into sales.
It’s a slow time of year for business for many of us, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be busy. In fact, it’s just the opposite. The first quarter is the perfect time for you to lock in your plans for the year ahead, starting with your blog. Here are some ideas for your next photography blog post.
It is not an easy journey from part-time photographer to full-time photographer with a successful studio. It is incredibly difficult to establish yourself in a new market, and it is even harder to maintain your status. 2017 marked a year where more businesses in the United States closed their doors than ever before. Facing a sea of competition, businesses have to fight for every customer they get, and that will never change. So with all of these challenges facing you, what is the recipe for success? The answer comes in three flavors, and today we are going to tackle them.
I’ve always said the best way to make more money is to work more with the clients you already have—the ones who love your work, trust your judgment and have already given you their business. It’s much less work than finding new clients. Sometimes just by offering more to existing clients, not even doing full-blown sales sessions, you can earn tons. It made me about $20,000 the first year I gave it a try. Here are four ways you can make more money without spending any money at all.
You’re a photographer, not a salesperson. Cut yourself a break. Pour out the chai/coffee/wine/absinth (no judgment) and listen up. You don’t need a master’s in business to become a successful photographer. But if you don’t immediately cut out a few things, you will turn into the cliché of the starving artist that your right-wing Uncle Barnie loves to mock, asking you at family gatherings, “So when are you going to get a real job?” To that I say, “Sit your fat ass down, Uncle Barnie. I’ve got this.” Stop pulling your hair out trying to employ these five marketing strategies everyone tells you to do but that bring in zero ROI.