Last year, I was pregnant, and gave birth to my second son in December. At the start of 2019, I started attending community markets with a stall for my family photography business, The Bubble & Lace Photographic Company. I set up a lead capture form using my CRM, Dubsado, and offered an instant-win competition.

I collected a decent number of leads. But I also gave away a lot of free photoshoots. Although I set up my instant win system with only four shoots to give away, eventually, over the course of the year, they were all won … but none of them had been claimed. I’d also donated two shoots to a competition being run by a local moms and bubs activity provider … and neither of those had been claimed, either.

My stall at the local markets.

An avalanche of work

Somehow, I’d gotten to October 2019 with six unclaimed free photoshoots floating about in the ether. I was seven months pregnant, and had just a few already overbooked weeks until I was about to start my maternity leave. My year had been so busy with my toddler, my photography business and my web design business, that some shoots had been unclaimed for over six months.

I started reaching out to the winners. In the end, I was able to book all but one family in for their shoots. But it turned my last month of working into a frantic race for the finish line … and most of it I wasn’t getting paid for.

What I should have done

In hindsight, I gave my clients too much time in which to redeem their prize. I thought I was doing them (and myself) a favor by allowing redemption within 12 months. If I was to do it again, I’d book them into my calendar as soon as they won the prize, and remove all the chasing up time that I had to go through.

I also never followed up with my leads

I made some bookings directly out of my market experiment, but I never followed up with the leads I collected. I had grand intentions, but I was too busy with other bookings that I missed the follow-through.

In the immediate sense that I had enough work to fill my available time, it’s fine that I didn’t follow up. But with family clients, it’s staying in potential client’s awareness that matters, because even if they’re not ready to book right now, I want to be who they think of in a year or two when they need a family photographer.

It’s Networking 101: always follow up!

Use competitions wisely

Competitions are a useful strategy for building a list of clients interested in your photography, but track how many you are giving away carefully and set limits on when they can be redeemed.

And if you build an email list, use it! Write content for your potential clients that adds value and keeps your brand front of mind, so that when they need a family photographer, you’re the first one they think of.