Have you ever had to rebuild your business from scratch in a new area? I’ll put my hand up here, I have! Was is overwhelming? Absolutely! Maybe you’re just starting out! (that’s overwhelming too), been there!
I started my entrepreneur photography journey 10 years ago, it was tough! When I started I had no idea what I was doing, to top that I was in an oversaturated market filled with photographers, yikes!
I learned a ton from all of my mistakes, (a few wins too) heck I could write a whole entire blog post on “what not to do” and how it sent me broke and did not contribute to profitability in any way shape or form! Then just 4 years ago I moved interstate where I had no connections and I had to start that business all over again! I know you can just feel my overwhelm set in at its absolute best!
In a nutshell, I was more than ever determined to make a good go of it and avoid those same mistakes I had previously made, I was determined to grow a profitable photography business in a short period of time (which I did).
Before and After for my Photography Studio
Needless to say, these strategies that I will go through with you in this post are tried, tested and proven! I hope these strategies help you go from struggling or from start-up to profitable as they did for me! I built my 6 figure portrait business on these strategies from the ground up within 18 months. Let’s help you get there too!
Deciding on a Business Model
Deciding on a business model and how you want your business to ultimately run and profit is extremely important, so you can reach those goals. Without a plan or direction, your business kind of just floats and will fizzle out. Every sustainable business needs a direction and route to follow, (Just like an airplane if they were all just flying around in the sky with no route or destination there would be fatal crashes and no one would ever get to their destination). After being in business 5 years previously I knew I needed to shake things up and it’s the reason why I turned my business model around completely and I am so thankful I did.
Keeping It Small & Specific
If I was asked if I had any advice for those starting out it would be to avoid these couple of mistakes at all costs.
When you are starting out in your photography business I get it you want to be seen as an expert so you take any job and all jobs that come your way just to prove (to who I don’t know – maybe ourselves) that you can photograph and everything. Noooo don’t do this – it was a huge mistake that I did in my business in the early days. Don’t try and do everything & please above all things that are good, do NOT do the things you don’t like/love.
For me, it was mini sessions and the every month sessions for babies! Why you ask…
You are thinking if I do everything I’ll look like an expert where in fact you DON’T look like an expert at all. Would you go to a doctor to get a filling in your teeth? No – you go to the expert right? It wasn’t until this hit me that I niched that I started getting a huge increase in my bookings! Small & specific = authority and increased bookings for what you specialize in. The thing I loved about the change as well is, I got rid of the things I was never thrilled about photographing – WIN!
Do not book and photograph the things you don’t love – the money isn’t worth it, here’s why! Because when you are not passionate about the things you are photographing you just don’t do the job justice, no matter your skill set level!
Wedding photographers that specialize in weddings excel at them then if they try their hand a pet photography and just don’t enjoy it the photos are ok (because at the end of the day they can still take photos) but the photos are far from amazing! It affects your word of mouth – it affects your sale – it affects how you feel about the photos you produced it’s just not worth the money or the headaches from unhappy clients!
Brand – Aesthetic
Consistency is so important… Be predictable! I see photographers go through stages from one shoot to the next – I get it they are growing as an artist but to have a profitable business you need to be – consistent, consistent, consistent.
This includes things like:
• The feel and look of your brand
• Website appearance
• Fonts you use
• How you edit your photos. Develop your own, instantly recognizable, look. Be consistent so your clients are confident they will get that look with you.
• Messaging and how you communicate with clients
• Social media accounts
When it comes to your brand and what people see the aesthetic of your brand is super important! I get it, in the beginning, start up costs are painful but if there was anything you should invest in I’d strongly suggest that it be your brand and your visual appearance.
Invest in your brand and your visual appearance.
Your website in your shop front most of the time, when it’s not word of mouth or referrals. Choose a great website theme and invest in a designer to make the design look polished and professional.
The Million Dollar Mindset:
Now, this my friend is the holy grail in building a profitable business. If you don’t think you can’t simply put you won’t! If you don’t think people will buy that or it’s not worth that much then they won’t!
This was a steep learning curve for me and a huge personal development stage I had to go through. I went into a shoot excited for them connecting with them talking about their world and what was happening for them. I did this regardless if I was desperate for clients – (no bookings) or if my world was falling apart.
Then when they came back to choose their images, I recounted on what was happening at the time of the capture (I connected with them) and I added value to the products I sold by asking them if in the future they would rather sit together as a family and remember these amazing memories together on the couch and remember shelly so little in dad’s hands or would they prefer to look at this moment on their wall in their hallway and remember that one moment every single day.
This is when I could proudly say and hold my head high that I had given them such a valuable experience and captured memories for them that were worth even more than any price tag I was confident to let them know the total value of what they chose. Once I learned this skill and how vitally important it was – I sold my clients things they loved and craved EFFORTLESSLY (no sales speech here folks) This put me into the 6 figures within 18 months of moving states).
I’m talking about actual coffee dates and introductions…
I’m not talking social media here guys! Get out, introduce your awesomeness to the world don’t hide away behind your keyboard! People need to know who you are so they can refer to you, so be brave and get out of your comfort zone!
Don’t stay small because you are new, you need to get out and meet people who would align with you well (I’m not talking conflict of interest – but rather other industries that align well with yours).
Example: if you are a baby photographer; a baby shop, a midwife, an obstetrician a lactation consultant these are all industries that align with yours and you all have the same clientele mums/families and their newborns!
Another example: if you are a wedding photographer these aligning industries could be – jewelers, wedding venues, celebrants etc.
You get the picture, spread your gold dust everywhere! Give people you are networking with a reason to rave about you and what you do – give them gift vouchers for your services to give to their VIP clients. That way it’s enticing their clients to use them and to top it off they can get an awesome service with you and it makes them look good and put an additional value to their service – win win.
For more examples, read our ultimate guide to photography networking.
A one up on the networking ideas above is to gift these people you are networking with, a session with you to experience your service for themselves first hand – WOW magnet gold dust right here, let me tell you…
When you do your job well and let these people experience your service and products how your clients do, they will not stop talking about your name! (literally, these are now VIP clients of yours and will be your walking marketing machines on autopilot)
You will want these people to have the best experience with you and your brand and the result of providing this service to them will come back to you over and over again!
Be Yourself ALWAYS:
Be real – don’t try to be perfect, be you!
Turns out people want to know who you are and want to be your new BFF… Let me introduce to you the new best thing you could ever do since sliced bread to build a strong profitable business brand…. Drumroll, please….
The Know, Like, Trust strategy
The Know, Like & Trust strategy, will take a prospective client from – who is this/service to I want coffee with them when I bump into them in town – I want to hang out with her… Your new BFFIt’s seriously like a magnet – by having your prospective clients ‘know” you, they will then go on to like/love & trust you, this, in turn, will cause you to be the authoritative go to figure within your area and industry/niche…
It’s seriously like a magnet – by having your prospective clients ‘know” you, they will then go on to like/love & trust you, this, in turn, will cause you to be the authoritative go to figure within your area and industry/niche.
Some things you can do to create the Know, Like, Trust for your brand:
Being entertaining, educational and shining your personality throughout your emails, blog posts and social media content (let your personality shine through in everything – just like I have in this post! Reading my experiences you are more likely to understand and trust that what I am saying is worth listening to by the experiences I have shared with you that helped me to create a profitable business.
You might even feel like you know me a little because I’m writing this as if I was talking to you one on one, over my favorite caramel cappuccino, rather than a 5 step strategy point form post right?
Other things that help with this are LIVE social media videos. Seriously how much more personal can you get?
Engaging with your audience live and in the moment allows them to speak to your personally. They can ask you anything in the comments (these questions are gold – a great way to find out how you can help your audience).
Other things that create Know, Like, Trust with your clients are Instagram stories/snap chat etc.
Behind the scenes is always super magnetic. Show what you are up to in your day to day running of the business, put a bit of personal stuff in there too – coffee, your cute little pup or kitty, anything that isn’t work that you would love to share with the world this will help your audience to feel like they are in your world and you are sharing your world with them!
Messaging that creates value
Model calls/offers were a huge part in my early days when re-building my photography business in a new area, we will talk about those next but first of all, I want to talk about languaging! This is something that changed the direction of my business when I understood the importance that the language I used had if I wanted to build a profitable photography business.
I had to do a complete 360-degree mindset on this, gosh there is so much to learn before we even get the camera out isn’t there? This is definitely one area I’m passionate in sharing how effective this will be for you and your brand when you understand it too!
Mindset is EVERYTHING! Do you actually believe you are worth it? Or are you charging a random figure you’ve pulled out of a hat because that’s what everyone else is charging?
The words you use will be a huge factor in how prospective clients will perceive your services and who you want to attract. Certain words will add value to your offers/services/products and there are other words that tend to detract from the value of your services and we don’t want that!
Complimentary, Gifted, Exclusive, Special Offer, Bonus, valued at, Fine art, wall art, Pictures, Images, Moments, Connection, Investment all make you feel like you are getting something extra or make you feel something which adds value to what you are offering (even at the very beginning of your business journey)
On the flip-side words like…
Free, Everything Included, Pics, Snaps, Buy, Cost are words that tend to cheapen a service/offer/product! Seriously, ain’t no one got time for that!
A Word on Messaging when Advertising your Offer/Service/Products
This amazing collection is Valued at $
This package would usually cost you $
Can you see how the first adds value and makes me feel like I’m getting all this for an amazing opportunity and If I liked everything I would be likely to purchase/invest in more? The second makes me feel like I would usually be handing that money over and doesn’t give me the same feeling of value?
renaming the “MODEL CALL” – effective messaging for “free offers”
This is another thing that DRASTICALLY changed the perception on my “model call offer” by changing the name “model call” to something like “Exclusive offer”, (see how exclusive offer sounds so flipping exciting and I’m going to miss out if I don’t take you up on it. I would also put a valued at $… ( a little bit of scarcity like any offer that’s ending) It added so much more value right there by doing that! Just with a few simple words that scream value. I no longer had clients that wanted everything for nothing
When putting an offer out there be sure to add the dollar amount of what the offer is worth so it adds value to what you are putting out there. eg:
Model Call – Looking for a newborn under 2 weeks old to use some of our beautiful new wraps in the studio… Must be willing to sign a model release so we can use the images taken for advertising!
For your valuable time, you will receive 2 matted prints and a professional newborn photo shoot. Then add the “valued at” amount which would be (the session fee + the 2 matted prints) ie: this collection is valued at $420 for example.
This will set your special offer /model calls with clear and specific guidelines that run with your business model so there will be no confusion as to what the client will receive – this will stop questions like – “oh I thought we would be receiving all of the photos on a USB stick” *Awkward! (been there)
(hallelujah for that)
An Official Word on Model Calls
Ok, now that we’ve covered a little on messaging and how important this is to your offers to attract clients that value your work lets chat about the offer it’s self.
When I moved interstate it meant that I had no “word of mouth” marketing yet to spread the word/love around about my services and what I had to offer. I decided I needed to get a little more proactive and show the people in my new area that I was worth every penny and show them by my work that they would regret not coming my way!
I created a blog post on how I was new to the area a little about who I was where I came from and my expertise which I got ranking on google quite quickly.
From there I attended a baby market that was held monthly in my area. I created raffle tickets with an offer attached which I offered for everyone to fill in at no charge to enter if they showed interest in my work with my displays. They would fill in to win a “complimentary” (notice I didn’t say FREE) session with 2 beautiful fine art matted A4 prints ready to frame! Valued at $… I had so many people fill these in month after month and I was consistently at these markets. I attended without fail each month for 14 months. After about 6 months I was noticing when people would fill in the “where did you hear about me” on my website contact form that the name of the market was coming up quite regularly so I knew this was definitely working.
I drew a WINNER each week/month I would get them to come back and choose their 2 images and 80% of the time the clients wanted more, they were going to get newborn photos anyway regardless of them winning and they were grateful to win such an amazing prize and they valued it.
By doing my model calls this way it attracted clients that valued what I offered. It created buzz about my business and word started spreading quite quickly about what I was offering. They could only enter at the markets so started some buzz for the markets too. Then people started to enquire for regular sessions quite quickly the word of mouth started taking off.
The remaining entries I would post them a letter to their mailbox (everyone loves a personal note and voucher right?) I offered them 50% credit towards the session fee (notice I said CREDIT I didn’t say 50% OFF or DISCOUNT) and I would get about 25-50% of these offers book in their session – this is valuable to me because they are investing and committing to a session and they feel valued and appreciated with an extra BONUS :)
For the first 6-12 months, this is how I SOLELY ran my business and got known in the new area quite quickly! Then after doing this and throwing my talent around like hot cakes, bonuses and special offers like my raffles at markets WORD of mouth advertising began and ran around like hot cakes – My town got a taste of my service/offer/product I had so many sessions to blog and rank on google and prospective clients were excited to book with me.
Customer Service PLUS
If you want to up your word of mouth in your business here is a tip, go the extra mile and set expectations then EXCEED them! Offer exceptional customer service.
When I photographed a wedding the contract stated the photos would be ready in six weeks! I would have them ready in TWO weeks and have a little extra something with the package they ordered. Depending on what their order was.
It could have been a bonus few prints for mum and dad, or it could have been a canvas wall art for my couple as a surprise of their favourite moment from their day – going the extra mile is one of the best things you can do as a service and move forward with building a profitable business. The word of mouth from doing this will absolutely explode and your inquiries will triple from doing this alone.
Old school marketing and it works and best of all you feel amazing in giving back! You can only do this though when charging correctly another perk when running your business to thrive not just survive! If you are just scraping by there is no way you would be able to afford to do this.
Blogging Exploded my Inquiries, Bookings & Profitability
When I moved interstate and had absolutely no bookings, word of mouth referrals and nobody knew me I knew I needed to somehow get in front of people looking for newborn & baby photos. I had worked out the recipe that converts and decided to quickly put it into place in my new town. I did as many photo shoots as possible, started blogging like crazy and I started ranking on page ONE of GOOGLE on multiple search terms. It wasn’t long after this that my inquiries started pouring in!
Ultimately it grew my business because I was getting in front of the people that needed and was actively looking for a service like mine. It created brand awareness and authority because I was everywhere. People were keen to book in and secure their spot with me because of how often I was blogging I looked extremely busy and they didn’t want to miss out! By seeing me on Google, across my social media platforms and my blog it created the like, know trust they now knew who I was and my inquiries skyrocketed which meant bookings = profitability for my business.
By seeing me on Google, across my social media platforms and my blog it created the like, know trust they now knew who I was and my inquiries skyrocketed which meant bookings = profitability for my business. Read more about SEO and optimizing your website for search engines.
So many photographers don’t blog consistently because usually, they don’t know what or how to blog.. I’m so excited to share with you the formula that helped me to convert so many of my inquiries! Here’s an example of a blog post I did specifically on this topic.
So many photographers struggle with what to say on their blogs and how to be seen as the expert(connecting with their audience with know, like & trust content) – not anymore – can’t wait to see you in their my students are loving the content and supportive community!
Looking to convert your inquiries into clients? I have put together a FREE e-course on creating blog content that converts.
Heart & Hustle