Editor’s Note: Fabrizia Costa is a portrait and wedding photographer who also helps photographers raise the level of their work and their business through workshops and personal coaching. Her work is all about deep shifts in perspective, seeing things with new eyes, and thinking outside the box. If you’re a professional wedding or portrait photographer, you can join her free Outside the Box Evolution group on Facebook.
Why the Business of Photography Can Only Go One Way — UP
I hear it all the time. On social media. At meetups, networking events and industry conferences. You name it, where there are photographers around there will be long and tiresome complaints about the latest Uncle Bob disasters, the bridezillas, the helicopter/hovercraft mothers (although some are mere drones), and most of all the unlicensed, unregistered, tax-evading second-jobbers who steal our clients and our jobs and are the ruin of the industry.
Don’t get me wrong, I hear you. Yes, they have made mincemeat of a once thriving industry that was safe in the hands of knowledgeable professionals who knew their stuff (even if they liked to play with chemicals and often kept ungodly hours). The digital revolution has put a camera into the hands of every seven-year-old, and nobody knows what a good photo looks like anymore.
As quality slumps, prices are driven down. And soon it becomes impossible to compete in a market that is open, global, and quite frankly…scary. Everyone has access to everyone. Why should they choose you? Why would anyone pay more for something they can get cheaper by just clicking on another link?
The Shark Pool is Getting Bigger, and the Last Thing You Want to Do is to Try and Survive in There
The shark pool is getting bigger, and the last thing you want to do is to try and survive in there. If you’re in it, get out. If you’re not — stay the hell away. Everybody knows that, but it’s easier said than done, right?
We’re going to embark on a journey here. A series of articles about getting out of the shark pool and as far away as we can from it, with specific strategies to make it happen. A quest to change the way you run your business from the inside and place it on a whole different level. Not because we’re better than anyone else, necessarily, but because we can WORK better than others, and get up and out of that tank where photographers sink to the bottom like so many extras in old James Bond movies.
UP is the only way to go, it should be obvious by now. If DOWN is impossible and SIDEWAYS is not an option, UP is where we need to be heading. But what does it mean, exactly? And how do we pull it off? Are we even good enough?
One solid truth here, that will not come as a surprise: nobody becomes a photographer because they have an entrepreneurial mind. Some have it, but most don’t. If they did, they would have started another business, selling insurance or pizzas or wrecking cars.
We became photographers because we love photography, and one day we dreamt up the notion that we could actually make some money with it, and even make a living out of it. At the start, everything looked so wonderful but after a while, things started to go haywire pretty fast. Too much to do! And 80% of it is NOT photography. How do we get out of this?
We blunder our way into the business by reading online blogs and following conflicting information for a few years, and some things work and some others don’t, but we still don’t have a clear sense of direction. And now that we know we need to go UP, how do we actually do it?
UP Doesn’t Mean Having to Create Award-Winning Images and Working 24/7 to Build a Bigger Business
UP doesn’t mean having to create award-winning images and working 24/7 to build a bigger business. It means offering a higher service, a better experience, a stellar customer care. It means creating a deep connection to our clients, and turning some others away (oh yes, we do). It also means not being afraid to raise our prices, to offer higher value and unique products. For many, it means getting out of our comfort zone, learning new skills and figuring out how to be entrepreneurs.
But here is the good news — it can be done! It does not take a rocket scientist to run a successful photography business. It also doesn’t take award-winning images or a master degree from a fancy university, and your camera bag doesn’t have to smell of rich mahogany.
You do need a consistent system, though, and some investment. Upgrading can cost a lot or a little, and it’s important that you spend your money wisely. There are a ton of things out there clamoring for your cash, so be careful when it comes to investments, whether it’s for the new website, the sample albums or the personal coach.
Everything can be useful, but not everything is essential. For instance, I decided to do away with business cards. I have some but I always forget to bring them with me, so I thought I would try to do without them. I decided to friend people on Facebook right there and then instead or write numbers on random pieces of paper. People remember those more! The napkin with my number doesn’t get confused with all the other cards now. I don’t advocate you do the same thing — we’re all different and this is just one of the things that work for me, as it fits my brand.
What’s that word again? BRAND. That’s where it all starts, you know? So next time, we’ll dig into it. What it is, how it’s done, and how to make sure yours is a good one.
For now, start thinking of ways to go UP. Swim to the ladder and climb out of that pool. There’s a whole ocean of opportunities right in front of you, and yes, a few sharks in there as well…but much more space to spread your gills.
P.S. — If you caught the movie reference in the post, comment here and let’s see who got it first. Hint: it’s not UP!