Making Money in Your Pajamas with Audrey Woulard
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.
I often see photographers work on their pricing before they put together a solid marketing campaign. I’ve been a full-time professional photographer for 16 years. One thing I’ve learned is that when I know who my ideal client is, it makes it easier to determine what they will pay. I also learn how to present my product efficiently to maximize sales.
When I began, digital images weren’t all the rage. I had to learn how to sell prints. I also didn’t have a studio. My guiding principle early on was very simple: I would not leave my family at home to pursue something I wasn’t being paid well for. I love photography, but not enough to be a starving artist.
Identify your ideal client. What are her attributes? Your ideal client isn’t just someone who will spend money. I care most about my perfect client’s personality. That’s a major attribute that’s often overlooked. Photographers who want to market to families often describe their ideal client as a mom in her early 30s with one or two small kids who all live in a big house.
But this is such a small piece of the puzzle. Their personality determines how they eat, dress, talk, interact socially and how they shop and spend their money. Because I am my brand, I find clients who will pay my price point but who will allow me to run my business the way I want to. I knew that I could sell precisely how I wanted to and make the same amount or more as everyone else.
Since marketing influences all aspects of business, I wanted to market to a high-end client who would allow me to sell to them in my pajamas. This means that after the shoot, I wanted to go home. When it was time to present and sell my images, I still wanted to be at home. Although I have a gorgeous studio in downtown Chicago, I had little desire to sit in my studio projecting pictures on a screen showing clients different crops while they sipped on a glass of wine. I use my studio to shoot in, and that is it.
We always hear colleagues say you have to do in-person sales (IPS) to sell the wall portraits. That may be true for many photographers. Why is it that many photographers find success with IPS and not with online sales? It’s because one has to learn how people think when they are shopping online.
There is an art to selling online, and it requires marrying the experience to the personality of the client. A client’s personality is an indicator of how they shop and spend their money. Once you have this figured out, how you present your product will have little effect on how much they are willing to pay. If Louis Vuitton can sell a $3,000 purse that you can’t touch and feel online, then you can sell a wall portrait online as well. It’s all about learning who your client is and how to present your product to maximize your sales.
I admit I am a big-time shopper and lover of fashion to the point that I am a VIP at a few luxury fashion houses. (We all have our vices!) This has given me some insights that I’ve applied to my business. I know firsthand how people think and act when they are deciding to make a purchase, regardless of the cost. There is a process everyone goes through the minute they identify something they want.
In my business, I sell prints and albums. I have clients who have huge 30×40-inch and larger images on their walls. I have clients who have 5×6-foot prints leaning on the walls of their foyer. I was able to sell all of these products online. There is a method to the madness. You can’t just plop the images online next to your online cart and hope for the best.
I am excited to share my sales insights at this year’s ShutterFest Extreme. I’m often asked about my sales methods, and I usually shy away from the topic because there are no quick answers. And then there are the photographers who think you’re crazy for not doing IPS. When photographers learn that I sell online and then hear my averages, they are often confused. Most think I merely plop my images online and hope for the best.
At ShutterFest Extreme, I will break down my entire process. I will map out how I decoded how my market shops, and how I applied that thinking to achieve online portrait sales for a $2,800 per-client average. Even if you never sell a portrait online, the class will show you how shoppers think, and there will be plenty of tips for in-person sales too.
Who wants to sit in their studio watching their client drink wine while looking at your images? I prefer sitting at home drinking wine in my pajamas watching Netflix.