When I first started my photography business, one of the biggest things I struggled with was figuring out how I would stand out within my community. It’s no secret that photographers seem to be a dime a dozen (sorry), meaning we tend to lurk around practically every corner. Do a quick Google search in your area, and I’m fairly certain you will find quite a few photographers within just a few miles of you.
However, the good news is that there are practical ways you can begin to stand out. You don’t have to automatically price yourself as the cheapest photographer in order to get new clients. I’m not saying it’s easy, but with a bit of strategic planning and good old-fashioned effort, you can still make a name for yourself with your local area.
Ways to Generate Buzz
Networking Events: Half the Battle Is Just Showing Up
Before you roll your eyes and tell me that networking events are so cliche, consider this fact: often there are very few photographers attending networking events these days. I can’t tell you how many Chamber of Commerce business networking events I’ve attended and been the only photographer in attendance despite the fact that there were multiple photographers that actually belong to the Chamber. When you’re the only photographer present and make an effort at being friendly, you quickly begin to make a name for yourself as that friendly photographer. In time, when your new acquaintances realize that they need family photos, they’ll think of you first. Or if they need professional headshots, you will come to mind because they just saw you last week at a coffee networking event. See how it works? Half the battle is simply showing up.
Throw a Strategic Event
Another option is to plan a strategic event, such as a portrait party. In an earlier post, I talked about how a well-planned portrait party can help you get immediate and future clients. When done well, strategic portrait party is a great way to generate positive buzz in your community.
Of course, there’s a caveat: you have to throw your party differently, in such a way that it moves out of the common “Tupperware party” status (no offense, Tupperware) and into a class of its own. In an age where it seems like everyone and their aunt Sally is throwing some kind of home jewelry, fashion, or thingamajig party, you have to take special care and make sure yours stands out.
How do you make your event stand out? Make it classy. Try to have it in a commercial space if you can, such as at a professional studio, a hotel conference room, an event space, or even a co-working space. I have found that having my party at a location other than my home helps people take me more seriously (remember, Tupperware). Make it fun with some light music playing in the background, and even light refreshments.
Also, let people attend even if they don’t necessarily want a portrait done. It’s a simple fact that some folks may not initially trust you enough to fork over their hard-earned cash. Sometimes they need to see you in action first, so having them attend your party and seeing you pleasantly interact with other people in a professional manner will work in your favor. With my first portrait party, I advertised it, in part, as a networking event, and made it known that anyone could come as long as they signed in. The result? A good chunk of the free folks that attended ended up asking for full, private session later.
Document Your Event
And finally, make sure you document your event. Have a friend or assistant simply walk around and get still and video footage of people having a good time. After your event, create a simple minute long video with background music showing how professional and awesome you are. This video can go along way towards building your credibility.
Show Your Community You Care
Finally, find ways to get involved in your community in such a way that they know that you care. Of course, every photography business needs to have enough income to survive, but if people think that all you want is to get into their wallets, they will be turned off very, very quickly. Instead, consider teaming up with a local organization or charity you care about and co-planning a special event (a portrait party works well for this), in which they get a portion of the proceeds. Or you could create a charity-themed calendar that helps raise money for an organization of your choosing. In addition to giving back to your community, you will often find that your marketing power gets quite the boost when an organization is spreading the word to their followers too.
As intimidating as it may seem to try to stand out in the vast sea of photographers that exist today, it’s not impossible. In fact, it can be downright fun! Just remember to be strategic and genuine about it.