I’m often asked, how did you grow your photography business into a thriving enterprise? I admit, this is an interesting time to consider launching a career in photography. Even today, I get requests for quotes and people get upset with me because my rates are too high. Then they’ll say things like, “why would I pay you when my friend will take my photo for free?”

In this kind of environment, where smartphones are so prevalent, it can be tough to get the sale. There is a perception problem in our industry. Because everyone has a camera, the business of professional photography has been devalued.

Business networking will help you overcome many of these challenges. Allow me to explain how; here are four reasons to consider business networking.

1. Business networks are frequently attended by many “players” in your local market

It’s true! In my networks there’s always a Realtor, attorney, insurance company, plastic surgeon, plumber, A/C company, etc.

What they all have in common, like you, is they are small business owners and entrepreneurs. Most importantly, they all will need professional photography at some point in time, moreover, they know lots of other people who do too!

If your experiences are anything like mine, you’ll also be surprised to find out, most of them are in need of photography, but had no idea how to go about it. Just like that, you’ve opened the door to lots of potential clients!

2. You’ll have an amazing opportunity to showcase your work in front of a lot of influential people

The smartphone era has taught me that even though those cameras are very capable, all the phone companies have done is put a very capable tool into the hands of millions without any idea on how to take a picture.

One of the great things about most networks is your opportunity to present your best work to a room full of potential clients and lead sources. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you’ll convert people who don’t know much about photography.

I often say smartphones were the greatest gift I’ve even been given as a professional photographer. Everyday we’re inundated on social media with below average to awful photography. It’s so bad, that even mediocre professional photography looks great by comparison.

The great news is, most business networks give their members the opportunity to present in front of their group. The one thing I always do is a full blown presentation of my best work. It’s almost like an in-person sales session, except most of the people in this crowd can afford your work!

It doesn’t take long to demonstrate that it isn’t the camera — it’s the photographer. The same way it isn’t the pots and pans — it’s the chef!

Ask all those folks with a “nice camera” to take that with their cell phone.

3. Business networking is all about connections

Most business networks will get you in front of who’s who in your local community.

You know the old expression, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know? In a lot of these networks you’ll often be exposed to the who’s who in your community. They will help you make the connections you need in order to get your business rolling.

You’ll gain access to people in your community you’d otherwise have a very difficult time ever getting a hold of. I’m speaking from a position of experience. I’ve been introduced and done business with people I never thought I’d be exposed to, business networking helped me in this regard tremendously.

4. There is no more qualified lead than the one you get from business networking

The leads are almost always of very high quality that ultimately lead to business — 85–90% of the time — sometimes it’s a lot of business. I’ve been rewarded with repeat clients over and over again thanks to my business networks.

Which network should you join?

It’s an obvious question. This is a tough one for me. I generally prefer working with local business networks. I shy away from the national ones.

Some of the national business networking firms push giving leads a bit too hard in my opinion. I understand the need to hold members accountable, but I prefer to work with smaller more local networks. I like networks that are locally based and more in line and in touch with the local community.

So my advice would be to try and find a thriving local network with strong leadership. After networking for over 10 years in this business, strong leadership can make or break a business network.

That said, here’s where I would look:

  1. Find a local business network with at least 20-25 active members. When the numbers are too small, the dynamics simply do not work. Just Google it and investigate. You’ll be able to tell right away what kind of group it is.
  2. If you want to go national, the biggest and best known is BNI — short for Business Networks International. With over 283,000 members, BNI can get you referrals from all over.
  3. Master Networks — also national, but not nearly on the same scale as BNI.
  4. There are other groups you can join; a good example is The Rotary Club. Keep in mind these groups are focused on serving the local community first. However, business networking is almost always born out of these organizations. Just know when you go there, networking is a byproduct, not the purpose.

It was more than just networking that made my business successful

Business networking absolutely helped launch my new career. It was like a kick-start for my business. So if you’re struggling to grow your business, consider the power of business networking. Sound off in the comments below to convey your experiences.