If you are a pro or going pro, you have probably realized that the business side of photography is just like any other business. It’s hard work. I’ve been at it a while and I’ve compiled this list to help you grow RIGHT NOW.
1. Own Your Own Zip Code
Don’t spend another second worrying about becoming a nationally-known photo rock star. Don’t worry about breaking out onto the national photo speaking circuit. Don’t worry about trying to get on Oprah. Just worry about owning your own zip code. It doesn’t matter where you live, YOU should be the photographer that everyone knows and talks about in your own zip code. It’s feasible, even in large cities, to knock on every single door within one zip code. It’s possible to phone or meet everyone who lives near you. So do it. If you’re like most people, you shop and spend your time and money on basic entertainment and services in your own zip code. Make sure each of the places you patronize knows you’re a professional photographer. Get THAT business first. Then expand to the next zip code and the next and the next. Most famous rock bands didn’t start playing the coliseum. They started playing in the local bar.
2. Show What You Want to Sell
I cannot believe how many times I’ve been called into consult with a studio that wants to expand or solve a cash flow problem or to just generally become more successful, only to see that they aren’t showing the work they want to sell. One photographer came to me with his portfolio full of great looking nature shots. Problem…he ran a wedding studio. It may seem like common sense and you’d think that everyone knows this but they don’t. Show what you want to sell. If you want to sell baby portraits then have lots of baby pictures in your portfolio. But don’t stop there. Make sure that if you prefer a canvas look, only display canvas gallery wraps in your studio. People will buy what you show them. If you’re not selling the products you want, chances are, you’re not showing it to them.
3. Network Like Crazy
Are you a member of your local PRSA (Public Relations Society of America), Lions Club or Rotary Club? How about the Chamber of Commerce? Do you volunteer at the Local YWCA?
Networking is the best way to grow your business. You will meet new people who don’t know you or your work. This gives you the opportunity to show your stuff and clients a chance to see what you’re made of. Volunteering to be the group’s newsletter photographer or website photo editor will give you a chance to really demonstrate what you can do. When people around you find out how great you are, the jobs will follow.
4. Avoid Time Stealers
Wasting time is one of the biggest mistakes emerging pros make. Don’t spend time doing things you don’t do well. If you’re not a trained accountant, don’t do your own accounting. Hire a part-time bookkeeper. It will take them less time than it will take you and they’ll do a better job. You take ALL that time you would have been doing the books, and spend it marketing your services. This applies to everything you do. If you’re not the expert, find the expert and hire him/her. Then spend that time doing the job you WANT to do, which is making photographs. This rule also applies to friends and family. Resist the urge to meet with pals for a coffee every morning. Meet them AFTER work. Spend your work time working and your play time playing. Don’t let anything steal your time. Once it’s gone, it’s gone and you can’t get it back. Think about what could have been accomplished during that half hour if you’d spent it on the phone contacting editors to discuss your latest photo expedition and the images you made.
5. Charge More Money
It’s a simple fact…most photographers undercharge for their services. In a down economy, it’s tempting to think that lowering prices is the way to attract or save new business. It’s not. In fact, it’s the worst thing you can do. In a down economy there are only two groups who survive, and only one of them really thrives. The folks at rock bottom survive. They typically price their work so low that they get lots of jobs, but they work so hard to make the money, you could hardly describe what they do as thriving. On the other end of the scale is the group that not only survives, but thrives. The high-end is where the money is and in any economy, there are always people who want the best. The photographers charging the most money get the best chance for this business.
The real problem is that most people are stuck in the middle. And that’s the worst place to be. Particularly in a down economy, consumers flee the middle.
So be honest with yourself and decide whether you’re really being fairly compensated.
It’s not easy to run a business, let alone a photography business. But you can do it and do it well if it’s your destiny. I hope you’ll give these ideas a try. They worked for me and I think they can work for you.
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