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When most photographers turn pro, they spend more time worrying about photography than business. And that’s a mistake. You have to think business first or you may be locked out of your photography studio.

To get it right – it starts like most things – by understanding your audience. Who do you want to reach? What kind of person is your target? What are their hobbies, habits and expectations? Most importantly, what do they expect from you?

Once you have identified your audience, understand what you want to accomplish. Know your strengths and weaknesses as well as what excites you. Build upon your own desires, not those of others. Show what you want to sell – not what you think you can sell. The secret is in providing products you want to sell to the people who want to buy them. This requires faith and patience. Faith that you will find an audience who appreciates what you do and patience as you mine and refine that audience for the sales you need to survive.

This is where strategy plays an important part in your career. If you haven’t properly identified WHO you want to reach, there’s no need to worry about the HOW.

Step one is deciding who you want to sell to. Step two is deciding what you want to sell. Step three is figuring out what your prospects want and look for a match.

When you figure out what you do best, and who wants that product, you have to develop a message that pushes your prospects to the products you want to create and sell. Messaging is part of the education process. The better you are at messaging, the less you’ll have to worry about your competition.

Study marketing and sales every day. This should be one of the first things you do regardless of your schedule.

Re-evaluate each and every step of your business. Ask yourself why you do what you do and whether or not that’s the best way to work. Decide if there’s anything at all you can do to improve. Be willing to do away with convention. And be absolutely sure to remove any challenge that stands between you and meeting your clients’ needs.

Focus on the client’s needs and NOT your own. If you can’t do this, you will fail. It’s just a matter of time.

Another hard core reality of the photo business is that you need to always be selling. Always. Even if it’s something as simple as including additional order forms or fliers with every order you deliver. Putting your message out there each time you deal with a customer increases the chance your pictures or services will sell to that client again someday.

Track your marketing efforts. Find out where your prospects are coming from. Find out how they found out about you. Make sure your message and branding are properly aligned and constantly re-evaluate who and where your audience is. This is such a critical step that it can be the difference between wild success and abject failure.

Remind your current customers of your unique selling points. Offer them discounts and specials to thank them for being a client.

Spend time talking to photography vendors each week to take the pulse of the industry. Find out from your printer which studios are doing well and ask what they are selling. Check with the local wedding coordinator to see who’s getting the most wedding bookings. Then analyze what that photographer is doing. Spending time every week at this will increase sales.

If you want to make a living as a professional photographer, understanding your potential customers and designing your business around their needs, wants and desires is 10 times more important than being a good photographer and 20 times more important than having the best camera.
This post sponsored by the Digital SLR Store