In part 1 of this topic, we talked about the process of transitioning from a hobbyist to a professional photographer. We covered the importance of deciding what you want to bring to the world, who your target audience is, and what to charge that audience. If you haven’t read that article yet, I highly recommend you do so.
Today in part of 2, were going to discuss the remaining elements that need to be in place when you build a solid foundation for your new photography business.
Hopefully, by now your photography business is beginning to take shape in your mind.
Making The Transition: Establish Your Firm Foundation Part
1. Write up a contract. Check it twice.
It is crucial that you communicate with your future clients about how you operate in the form of a written contract. Not only will this keep you all on the same page, but it will also help your clients see how serious you take your business. In addition, if you have to take a client to court, you will want some solid documents backing you up. While Ive never been in this situation for photography, I have had to take a client to court for children’s illustration work they would not pay me for. In the end, having a signed contract was a massive aid in me proving what they owed, and so the ruling was in my favor. In short, you need a solid contract!
For photography, some standard items to include in your contract should be (but are not limited to): your pricing, project milestones, when payment is due, penalties if they are late with payment, and what they are allowed to do with your photos.
If you live in the United States, the ASMP is a great resource. They include detailed tutorials, and even a template of terms and conditions. You can check them out here:
And if you have a lawyer, it never, ever hurts to have them take a look at it.
2. Build a focused portfolio.
If you are just beginning to assemble a professional portfolio, make sure it is focused on the area you want to specialize in. If you end up doing some free shoots in the beginning, be sure to include an invoice reflecting the deep discount you are giving your client.
Another option is to consider charity or pro bono work. Although they will be getting your services for free, they will still require high quality, professional photos from you. These images will be great additions to your portfolio, and demonstrate that you are able to work in a professional capacity.
3. Plan Your Marketing Strategy
Your target audience will not magically come to you, so you will absolutely need to have a detailed plan of how you will bring them in. This step takes patience, because it takes time and dedication to develop your ideal customer base. However, it is best to work your marketing strategy into your workflow from the very beginning, so that you eventually learn where to find your target customers, and how to bring them in. An added bonus is that it will (hopefully) become a habit.
So how do you marketing yourself? Here are some suggestions:
- Create an In-Person Networking plan.
After you have nailed down who your target market is, it is important that you get out and interact with them. Having face-to-face interaction is important, especially as you are building your client base.Here are a couple of in-person networking examples:Example 1: If you do head shots for small businesses, then I highly recommend joining your local Chamber of Commerce and starting to attend their networking events. There audience is your audience. These events are great because there is already the expectation that you are going to talk about your business. Its a prime opportunity to get to know what areas they may need help in.
Example 2: If you are a wedding photographer, consider planning on attending some bridal shows in your area. Or get to know the local flower shops and banquet halls in your area, because they provide services to your target audience: couples getting married.
- Create an online schedule of contentPlanning what you are going to post online and where is huge. Ask yourself this: Where does your target audience hang out online? If you are a portrait photographer for high schoolers, many of the students may hang out on Instagram, while more of their parents may be on Facebook. Be aware of this, and be prepared to post on both platforms. Plan a schedule of content that educates and entertains them, as opposed to making a sales pitch every time you are online.
As for what you will post, updates and case studies are great. Especially when you are just starting out, plan to write up a quick case study about you helped your client (with accompanying photos, of course) and post it on your blog, as well as social media. This will demonstrate your experience and expertise as a photographer.
- Create A Follow-Up Plan With Your Past ClientsOnce you begin to get your first clients, it is essential that you keep in touch with them after the shoot. This is a crucial step that is often overlooked, and yet can yield one of the greatest returns. Your past customers have already gotten to know you, and (if you’ve done your job right) they already like you and your work. Its been proven time and time again that past customers are much more likely to buy from you, as opposed to a cold lead.
However, for the love of all that is sane and professional, please don’t harass them. If you ask their permission first and get their consent, then it is okay to send them the occasional email with updates, case studies, or any specials you are running. The goal is not to sell hard in each email, but rather to make sure you don’t fade to the back of their busy minds on a monthly, or even quarterly basis.
Before taking on gigs and charging, make sure youve put some thought into the process first. Doing the footwork will literally pay off in the long run, and will also make your professional journey that much more enjoyable. Isn’t that why we got into it in the first place? Go out there and be awesome.