When you’re starting a business or in your early years, it’s easy to come to a point where you honestly don’t know what to do to grow your business the way you want. I know I’ve definitely been there. You have all these ideas for the future, but it’s hard to connect the dots one way or another.
Today I hope to connect at least a few dots for you. I’ve started several real estate photography businesses in different cities over the years, had photographers, worked with other businesses, and it all gave me great insight into how to run a real estate photography business.
We’ll break down 10 easy ways to grow and stand out from your competition into two groups: Business operations and customer relations
When you first dive into entrepreneurship, it’s incredibly overwhelming. Honestly, you really have to sit there for a while before you even realize what you might need to compete in your market. Our workflow and the way we operate our business may be the missing piece. I have personally noticed once implementing what I have listed below that it frees up my time to focus on other things OR allows me to improve the quality of my work.
Content management system
For years I’ve used Dropbox to deliver my final images to clients and distribute them among team members. It worked very well. Until I discovered Aryeo in the Real Estate Photography Facebook group.
I decided to give it a shot and was amazed at how it was practically created for me, the real estate photographer. It is constantly improving, has fantastic features and most importantly makes me look even more professional to my clients.
I also heard of the HDphotohub, but never used it.
I can go deeper into Aryeo another day, but my advice is not to underestimate a content management system or a platform created for people like you. Yes, it costs money, but it saves you time while increasing your productivity.
Take payment before shooting
Making sure I get paid has been a stressful part of the business for me. I never got paid, but for a very long time I had so many different rules for different people. This person does not pay for a few days, no worries. This person that. This person. It sucked.
I started to care less and less when I established the “rule” that I get paid on the day of or before the day of shoots. And I certainly don’t send photos until the bills are paid. It saves so many headaches.
Are there exceptions? Sure. For example, I had an assistant working for a large company call me recently to request a last minute photo shoot. I was skeptical, but he insisted that I be paid directly after delivery. Her boss just wouldn’t pay until the photos were received. If I was busy that day I might not have played this game, but that day I did. And it worked.
In every city I’ve lived in and the businesses I’ve started, I’ve struggled to get into real estate photography or keep it broad. I think that kept me in the world of real estate photography.
Of course, you don’t have to be the company or the person providing all the services it needs, but it can have a huge impact on your revenue. It doesn’t take much of a learning curve to expand your services from simple photos to video, floor plans, tours, and drone. And that literally bumps your average price per shoot from a few hundred dollars to a thousand or more. Think about it.
Learn to edit often / Hire editors
I’ve had people on my team editing, and I’ve done it myself. I’ve even been part of companies that have their own editors/publishers overseas. As your business grows, you’ll either need to find strategies to speed up your workflow, raise your prices to have fewer shoots, or hire an editor. I think each has its pros and cons depending on your personal goals.
Right now, in my newest company, I’m enjoying learning how to be a better and faster editor. We’ll see if time makes me resort to hiring. Either way, prepare for growth so you’ll be ready when it does.
Join a networking group / Chamber
When I was developing my first real estate photography business in Columbia, SC, I joined a few networking groups and it was a game changer for me. Because business is so much about relationships and referrals, it only makes sense that when you invest in others and step out of your comfort zone, you will be rewarded.
Depending on what you join, they can take a long time. Personally, I found that after being in the band for a few months, I felt like I had built the relationships I needed. My business has grown. The key is to invest in the relationships within your community. It helps your community and your business.
Before entering into customer relations, be sure to log in to my course, Real Estate Photography 101, you can grab it for free on Skillshare here. I have over 175 students so far, and I’m working on a second course for people beyond the beginner level!
If you are not ready for the course, you can tune in to the free masterclass which also gives a lot of information here.
Okay, so for me, customer relationships are the little things you can do that have a direct impact on your customers – helping them look good or potentially helping them market themselves better. Ultimately, these things help you stand out the most in my opinion because you are an extension of them. So when you look good, they look good.
I’m not even the best in those areas either, but I’m constantly striving to be better in every area.
Yes, I mean booties. Of course, not every house needs booties or taking your shoes off, BUT having them on hand is a good idea. Especially if you are shooting luxury homes. Many people don’t like wearing shoes around the house anyway, so it’s more respectful to ask and be prepared to impress your client AND your client’s client.
Guides for your customers
Creating “guides” for your clients can not only teach them, but also turn them into your ideal client. What I mean is, we all want easy customers, right?
My best example is creating a How to prepare for a shoot guide like this here. I made it editable so you can add your own logo etc. I’ve found this to be a great tool to make sure houses are ready when I arrive because when they aren’t, man oh man, it makes my job so much harder! !
You can even send guides like this to potential clients to bring to you. Take it as far as you want! You can create guides for your process, interior design, AirBnBs, etc. Get creative!
I was doing a video for a house the other day, and they had hired a separate photographer. He introduced himself and I thought he was the lawn guy because he was blowing leaves in the front yard!! Talk about above and beyond. Selfishly, I know it also makes our work easier and the photos look better. But I was super inspired by this guy who took the time to do it right. This is something I intend to incorporate into my business as soon as possible.
SendOutCards / Birthday
I’m sure there are different websites and companies that do this, but I’m familiar with SendOut Cards.
The concept is simple. They define themselves as— Your personal assistant for creating human connections. We’re here to meet your demands and help you make the difference that only you can make. By sending cards and gifts.
It’s just a thoughtful thing to do for your current customers. You can be sure to grab their birthdays – send them brownies, balloons, and/or a card on their special day. You periodically send them congratulations for the great things they have accomplished. Yes, it’s above and beyond, but believe me, it takes you beyond just a random real estate photographer. It cements your relationships with your customers.
Be a resource and a supporter (connect with others (directing, etc.)
I am currently reading this book, called The Go-Giver. Its main theme so far is to focus on giving, and you shall receive. This same principle applies to the last two ways to take your business to the next level, and once you’re able to pay your bills, you can focus on that.
What does that mean?
I mean two things. First, just support your customer. The easiest way to do this is on social media. How do you feel when someone likes and comments on your post? Especially your business messages? Hmm, amazing!! So do it to your potential customers/clients too. As you scroll, throw them bones! When something big happens, text them. A Congratulations. It’s so easy but it makes all the difference.
It’s the one that can really take you beyond your competitors. Why? Well, it takes a lot of time, but in my opinion, apart from direct referrals, it’s the best way to grow your business.
Creating videos, vlogs, blogs, and emails aimed at your ideal customer attracts them AND ideally provides them with extreme value. I love to teach so I will send content that will help them with creative marketing, photo, video, design etc. I provide this value for free and do my best to show them what I can do for them. Even if they never work with me, I hope I can help them in some way.
That’s it, friends. If you are not in the real estate photography group on Facebook. Join him here. At least it’s nice to connect with other real estate photographers.
As usual, let me know if you have any questions or comments or anything, and tune in to the masterclass above for more information.
If you enjoy reading stories like these and want to support me as a writer and creator, consider signing up to become a Medium member. It’s $5 a month, giving you unlimited access to stories on Medium. If you sign up using this link I will earn a small but IMPRESSIVE commission.