The Power of a Solid Business Alliance with Nino Batista
Strategic alliances in business can make major differences in the success of all parties involved if done correctly. This is true for just about any industry, but is often overlooked in the arts. It should never be about competition as much as it should be about synergy (a business buzzword that usually makes my stomach turn, but stay with me here).
Aligning your photography business with someone else’s can be the injection of energy you were always looking for if you’re open to it and go about it the right way.
Like any other industry, there are plenty of fringe industries that photography benefits from and impacts. They include:
- Photography studios
- Photography equipment stores
- Wedding venues, coordinators, caterers, etc.
- Talent agencies
- Hair salons
- Makeup artists
- Wardrobe designers
- Boutique clothing stores
And the list goes on. You probably have already worked with a few awesome folks in these industries. This happens by default after you’ve worked in the scene long enough, as the synergy (groan) between these industries and your photography business becomes more and more apparent as you become busier and busier.
Wedding photographers encounter many other industries. Did it ever occur to you to reach out to a wedding caterer? Perhaps you’re just starting out and you get to know a busy wedding caterer—can you see how knowing them could lead to cross-referrals on the regular?
Obviously a personal connection needs to happen first, and you cannot predict how these interactions will go at first. I don’t recommend aggressively targeting every caterer you encounter, but do keep them in mind as you work. They could end up being your best friend, personally and professionally, before you know it.
If your work is good and you develop a personal bond with this magical and successful wedding caterer, you can all but count on referrals happening. Their business stays busy and is likely chock-full of referrals, and if they like your photography, professionalism and personality, they are likely to mention you to any wedding catering clients of theirs who ask for photographer referrals. (Keep it reciprocal as long as the relationship remains fruitful for you.)
This goes for just about any wedding photography fringe industry, not just caterers.
Sometimes industries are so synergistic that they cannot survive without one another. If you shoot fashion, editorial or glamour photography, you encounter an endless stream of models. The dynamic between the modeling industry and the photography industry is very clear, and one cannot exist without the other. Can you think of some creative ways to benefit from these connections?
The creative arts industries thrive off the backbone of referrals. If you are well referred by your peers or fringe industry associates, you can stay busy, full time, on word of mouth alone. Obviously building relationships like this isn’t always easy, especially when you are relatively new. But do not discount their importance—they can give you the opportunities you always needed.
The internet affords us every form of communication and information at our fingertips. Want to learn how to bake an apple pie? YouTube has 2,720,000 videos for that, instantly. Curious how to file taxes as a sole proprietor? Google is your friend, and will come back at you with a few million sites of information on the subject if you take the five seconds to search.
But with trillions of sources of information on the web, suddenly another problem emerges: validity. Or lack thereof. There is simply no way every one of the 2.7 million “how to bake apple pie” videos on YouTube will be worth a damn, or accurate, or even about apple pie at all. We are in an age of too much information, and not enough actual knowledge or reliable resources.
And this is why, even in 2018, the personal referral is actually more powerful for business than it used to be before the internet casually took over the world. Your trusted friend telling you that someone they know is worth hiring is infinitely more valuable than millions of Google search results. Sure, we all have to search the internet for stuff, and we do it every single day. But that is precisely why we know that reliable, proven knowledge from a reputable resource beats out 2.7 million baking results. Accuracy is always better than quantity.
Being self-employed, an entrepreneur and a motivated artist who is determined to make a living off your work means you have to think outside the box at all times. Every successful artist entrepreneur’s path is slightly different, filled with 80-hour work weeks, crazy ideas, little sleep, repeated failures, compromises and ultimately success—usually on a road you never fully intended to walk down when you started.
This is why when I met my girlfriend, Josie Fox—a full-time model and actress based in the Midwest—it didn’t take us long to see how we could use the synergy between our roles in the industry to benefit both of us. We somewhat quickly stumbled onto the idea of doing a national workshop tour together.
We offer both of our skills sets and experience in our instructional content for workshop attendees, with a curriculum from both sides of the lens, as it were. This expands the instructional scope of my own workshops (which I have done since 2012 across the country), thus injecting some new energy into that aspect of my business. As much as I can show attendees about all things photography and retouching, providing them with firsthand knowledge from a veteran model’s perspective is something I simply cannot do. With Josie onboard, my workshops now offer expanded knowledge and fresh validity for both our businesses.
While Jodie is a full-time model, spokesmodel and actress, she too has expanded her service offerings to the industry with this initiative. This increases her visibility in new areas and affords her a new credibility as an educator, as she has essentially joined the teaching circuit of the portrait photography world by offering a model’s perspective. Josie also happens to be a photographer, which amps up that synergy even more.
In working together on this, the halo effect immediately comes into play. Her audience is now aware of my brand, and vice versa. New leads, referrals and work has already emerged from our cross-branding, benefiting both parties a month or so into this venture.
When you have that entrepreneurial spirit, a drive to succeed and the creative vision to capitalize on new opportunities others may overlook, that is when you know you are meant to be a self-employed artist. Cultivating personal relationships with industry peers can make or break your business and career. One of the key aspects is working to make sure everything remains reciprocal—never forget that. You cannot expect that wedding caterer to send you referral after referral every week if you never refer any business to them.
Think of new and dynamic ways to leverage all the synergies that you can with your industry and fringe industries, and don’t be afraid to take risks. Running your own art-based business is about risk, basically at all times. Thrive off of it. Use it to energize your efforts. Become a hub and a leader in your corner of the biz. It’ll all be worth it in the end.