In part three of this series, we’ll discuss tips 11 to 15. These are steps you can take today to grow your photography business. If you missed the previous articles, you can read part one here and part two here.
Special thanks to Lancaster, PA headshot photographer Richard Waine for his collaboration on this series. I also want to thank photographers Michael Schacht and Mike Sansone, who run Headshot Hot Sauce, an organization that trains portrait photographers in sales and marketing. Much of what I learned about growing my portrait business was through their mentorship.
11. People aren’t dollar signs and they can tell if you care.
Money is important. Managing money and knowing what you are worth as a photographer is imperative if you want to succeed in photography or any business.
But prioritizing profit over people is a surefire path to failure. Business is about relationships, and treating a customer like a silver piñata isn’t just bad, it’s also bad business. People aren’t stupid, and they can see through a person who is motivated by money and can also tell if you really care about their needs. As a small business owner, your reputation in the community will precede you, good or bad.
12. You’re not too good at cleaning your own toilet.
Many years ago I had a business partner who wanted all the benefits of being the boss, without having to make any sacrifices. This person avoided doing anything he deemed “below him”, which basically included almost anything other than collecting a check. After a few months of running a physical business together, I noticed that I was the only one who cleaned up our studio. Eventually, I realized that this person considered tasks like cleaning, moving equipment, running errands, and even dealing with problematic customers to be below him. He knew I would, because it was the right thing to do, so he didn’t bother and let me clean up all the mess, literally and figuratively.
Years later, I attended a reception at Peter Hurley’s studio in Manhattan. After the event, which included refreshments for the guests, I watched Peter begin to clean up his studio. There were plenty of people there helping to throw out the trash and get the studio back in order, but Peter didn’t think it was “below him” or “not his job” to clean up his own studio, even if he didn’t. there is one. of the most renowned photographers in the world.
I learned a valuable lesson from both experiences. A great leader and successful entrepreneur considers no task below them when it comes to running their own business. They see what needs to be done and do it. My former colleague thought he was too good at cleaning his own bathroom, which obviously shows some major character flaws that carry over to every aspect of a business.
13. Email Marketing
A great way to build your brand and gain customers is to send out periodic email newsletters. Newsletters can include everything from photography tips to stories about recent client experiences at your studio. Besides consistency, the key to effective email marketing is creating engaging emails. As a portrait photographer, one thing I do is send emails with portrait tips. This not only provides my readers with valuable information, but it also positions me as an expert in my field. Make sure your emails contain a clear call to action, like a button that says “Book Now” or “Learn More.” You want it to be easy for clients to book your services if they are ready.
14. Networking groups and professional associations
As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, you might be the best in your field, but if no one knows who you are, it won’t matter. While you probably won’t gain a ton of direct business by joining the local chamber of commerce, it will allow you to build strong relationships with other business leaders in your community. As word of your business spreads and you become a valuable and trusted member of your community, your business will also grow. Networking groups and associations are part of the long game, so plant those seeds and keep growing them!
15. Stop competing with other photographers
A common and often fatal mistake photographers make is trying to compete with other photographers in their market. There are many reasons why this is dumb, but simply put, the only person you should be competing with is yourself. Once you take your eyes off the ball and look at what others are doing, you lose sight of your own business and goals.
The absolute worst way to compete with others is to start a price war with them, but I’ve seen companies implement this strategy to their own demise. Have you ever wondered why Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts can both exist in the same neighborhood and both be so successful? You can be sure it’s not trying to compete on price or basically anything else. Instead, these companies focus on their own brand and create a unique experience and value for their customers. And that’s what we have to do as photographers.
My studio is located just outside New York, in an area where there are literally thousands of great photographers. Instead of wasting my time watching what others are doing, I spend my time perfecting my craft and creating unique user experience and value for my clients. The truth is, there’s room for all of us, and working to improve my business by adding value is a much better strategy than trying to compete with someone else.
Thank you very much for reading part three of this series. Stay tuned for part four, coming soon.
Main image and article images by Michelle VanTine, used with permission.