You see a photographer offering mini-sessions every 5 minutes on social media. It seems that people are flocking to them, but even if they sell out will they be profitable at the end of the day? Maybe you’ve tried to jump on the mini-session bandwagon, but ended the day exhausted and with little extra money in your business account. I often see photographers making critical mistakes in their mini-session offerings, such as showing too many images and spending just as much administration time with each session.
Wouldn’t you rather….
- Create an event that attracts new clients to your business?
- Have more time to ENJOY your life and spend less time staring at a computer screen?
- Partner with a charity and raise money for a mission close to your heart?
- Make $3-5K or much more in a single day?
You can! I held my first Food for Fido event in 2012. It started as a small event in a local park. I had no idea what I was doing or how to run an event that was profitable and protected my time. I made approximately $1,500 for the day but for the number of hours that I put into the event from start to finish I’m not sure if I even made minimum wage.
It was in my third year, in 2014, that I really learned how to run a profitable event. I grossed almost $5,000 in one day. In 2015, I streamlined my workflow to create an event that practically ran itself. I can now spend only minutes on each client’s administrative work! I have learned so many lessons in the four years that I have hosted this event and I can’t wait to share them all with you.
3 Ways to Run Successful Mini-Sessions
There are 3 pillars to running successful mini-sessions; protect your time, pricing for profit, and keeping your session unique.
Protect your Time
This is the one true level playing field. No one, not the president, Oprah, or even the Pope has more the 24 hours in a day or 168 hours in a week. Successful mini-sessions are not possible without being cognizant of your time.
We must create a mini-session event in which the administrative work runs itself. Mini-sessions can’t be successful if you spend 30 hours of your life keeping track of contract signatures and session fee invoices. I know, I used to do that!
Your goal in creating mini-sessions is to limit the amount of time that you spend on the event as much as possible. Once clients decide that they want to participate in your event, make it easy for them! Create a solution that allows them to enter their information, sign the contract, and pay all in one click of their mouse. Utilize websites such as Zapier to automate as much as possible!
The time spent on post-processing and ordering must also be minimized as much as possible. This can be done by shooting in the studio with consistent lighting. If you are holding the event outside, I highly recommend outsourcing your basic editing and color correction.
Mind the Money
There are also 3 money goals that we must always keep in mind; helping our charity partner, providing an outstanding service and product to our client, and making a profit for our business.
I donate the entire session fee to my charitable partner. This can add up quickly for them and keeps them motivated to help spread the word about the event.
When creating special collections for your event it is important to keep a strict eye on your Cost of Goods Sold. PPA recommends that all products remain at 25% COGS or LESS. I highly recommend that your smaller collections and single products for this event have an extremely low COGS, ideally around 15-20% at the most. This allows you to maximize profits on those lower collections, which are often the most popular in these situations.
Selling your work at an event requires careful consideration. If you have access to a studio or sales space, inviting the clients back for a short sales session OR holding a short sales session immediately after the session is ideal. I firmly believe that in-person ordering leads to higher sales….every. single. time.
Don’t worry if you can’t hold in-person sales though as there are a variety of strategies to ensure a more profitable day! One of them is to have samples available during your sessions and create an incentive for the client to pre-purchase a product or collection.
Keep it Unique
Anytime that you offer mini-sessions, it’s important to differentiate them from your regular sessions. After all, if they are the same then why would anyone ever do a full session with you? In order to differentiate these sessions from my regular studio sessions they are for the pet only. I also offer special products that are only available through this event. Before I offered studio sessions regularly, this was the only time that clients could have their dog photographed on seamless paper.
Ideas to differentiate your session
- Specific location
- Specific style – off-camera lighting, seamless paper, unique set, special props or clothing
- Limiting subjects – pets only, pet and people only, etc…
- Offer a special product that is only available through this event
Now that we know the 3 pillars of successful mini-sessions; protect your time, price for profit, and keep it unique, let’s talk marketing!
I feel that many photographers are waiting for one single marketing trick that will magically fill their calendars. They are always asking for more marketing ideas, in the hopes that there will be a magic solution. Marketing is incredibly simple, but rarely carried out. It requires that you get out from behind the computer and make connections in the community. You can do it! Don’t be scared! Simply ask respectfully and don’t be offended if a business or two declines your request. Just keep working. You will be rewarded…but you have to put in the effort!
Marketing ideas for Mini Sessions
- email blast to your list
- dedicated page on your website
- showcase the event on your home page
- send out a press release
- hang posters and distribute post cards throughout the community
- create a blog post about the event
- share regularly on social media
- work with the charity on how they can promote the event
I hope by now you have some ideas on how you can create a profitable mini-session event! Of course you can’t have a profitable event without selling your work! I’ve been getting lots of questions on how in-person selling differs from selling your work online.
If there is ANY possibility of holding in-person sales….do it.
You WILL be rewarded. Do not let your self-doubt stand in the way of a successful sales session. Simply approach the sales session from a place of honest listening and service to your client and you WILL be successful!
If you do not have a place to hold in-person sales for your mini-sessions then there are a few strategies that will make your event a bit more successful.
Have samples available on event day.
Create an incentive to choose a collection on the day of the session. Mine is a complimentary mini-mount desk print. It costs less then $20 and is only available when pre-ordering certain collections.
Ease fear by offering a money-back guarantee of pre-purchased collections if they do not love their images. This is only available until the ordering period ends, as I don’t want a client asking for a refund 3 months later.
Collect payment on the day of the event when possible. Square and Stripe make this easy to do if you do not already have a merchant services account.
Send galleries with slightly obnoxious watermarks. I have the watermark go diagonally across the whole image at approximately 50% opacity. They can still see the details of the image, but it’s less likely that they will screen capture and steal the images.
f. Make it easy for them to order by offering the collections and á la carte images in your gallery. I use Shoot Proof for this. Shoot Proof does offer automatic fulfillment, but since I do all of my final edits after the client orders I do not use this feature.
If the client already ordered a collection I still create a gallery. I then email them the list of products in their collection so that they can select the images for each piece. Of course I mention that they are still able to upgrade their collection if they choose!
There are so many little best practices that when bundled together create a mini-session event that is profitable for your business, helps a charity that is close to your heart, and allows you to have more time to spend living your life instead of being an administrative assistant to your business.
Mini-Sessions in a Snap (affiliate) is your complete guide to planning and profitability!
This 37-page e-book that contains everything you could want to know about hosting photography mini-sessions, from planning to implementation. We cover finding your partners, marketing your event, pricing and sales, creating collections, lighting tips and strategies for working with dogs, a detailed client workflow, and tips for applying these strategies to traditional mini-sessions.