Today we are going to discuss about how to find customers for photography. Back in 2006 I left my sales manager position with an Indian IT company and decided to float my own venture. I had this strange confidence. I thought my fervor and my experience would simply decimate the mandatory waiting period for getting business by a new enterprise. After the first seven days I was beginning to worry a bit. Though I did get business within the second week, those few days of worry had me thinking.
What does it take to have customers queuing up outside the door? Or in my case why don’t they simply call me or send me an email asking for a quotation? This is probably the only question that you need an answer to once you have decided to go pro. The thing is, it is a rarity. You will have to work your marketing skills and get the business. That’s always a hard thing to do; a reason why great sales managers are an asset to any company. It is also a continuous process which every sales guy must keep doing throughout the year.
Use the 80-20 rule
In photography, just as in any other business, being a good photographer doesn’t always guarantee that you will find customers for photography straight away. As a matter of fact more than 75% of your energy needs to be focused towards the business side of things including getting new business. That includes, meeting prospective customers, going to events, doing paperwork, keeping records, filing returns, maintenance of equipment and so on. Only 20-25% of your energy should be diverted towards the actual process of image making.
1 – Know the people in your city / town
In the simplest of words, it is not about what you know but who you know that is likely going to get you the business. That adage brought us to our first point of discussion. Meeting people, getting to know them and making acquaintances is the first logical step to find customers for photography. Unless you spread the word around that you are a photographer how will others know? To start off, people who know you in person but were not aware that you are doing professional photography would be pleasantly surprised. Some of them, like your friends and your extended family, would be willing to spread the word around themselves. Others might be interested to look at your portfolio.
In the worst case scenario, you might see nothing’s happening even after the first few weeks. Don’t lose hope if his happens to you. This is the moment when you have to keep working on your groundwork. Keep making more and more acquaintances and attend more events and gatherings. Remember winners don’t quit and quitters don’t win.
2 – Attend events, parties
Attend as many social events as you possibly can. Look at every social gathering of people as a marketing opportunity for you, a place where you are likely to find customers for photography. It could be a local event, a sports event at your daughter’s school, a school play, Saturday market, even a family meet up. This depends to some extent on the genre of photography you are doing. Let’s say that you are a family photographer. In that case it is a much better proposition to visit a school event or any children’s events and introduce yourself as a photographer.
Find out the local business owners associations and join a few of them. It will get an entry into the events that the local business association conducts from time to time. Plus, you will also get a lot of references internally. Remember to carry a handful of business cards wherever you go. Also carry a printed portfolio of your work and pass it around when you meet people.
3 – Socialize and network offline
Even though the world has moved to an electronic ‘always on’ mode, networking in the true sense of the word and with ‘offline’ flavor still works. It is a much more personal way of networking than one would have on social media platforms. I have always found that social media networking works best when you have more contacts in the form of people you know personally. For a start this gets you a solid first level contact lists which you can bank on when you expand your horizon to find customers for photography. Then slowly as you get to know more people you will add to this list and also be in a position to be referred to the first level contacts of your contacts.
4 – Get in touch with hair stylists, make-up artists, venue managers
The local hairstylists, make-up artists are a good point of contact for the purpose of getting new business. This is specifically if you are looking to get jobs in the wedding photography industry. The wedding venues are one of the best options. If a wedding venue is well established they will probably already have a few references of wedding photographers that they provide on request. It might be difficult to get work if they do have some ‘empaneled’ photographers. But you can always try.
5 – Take your business online
That is, without doubt, the most important move. These days if you are not online you will lose business, literally. To take your business online you have to take several steps really. First, you need a domain. Second, you need a proper online portfolio / website. An online portfolio should ideally consist of your best work. But having said that these should be updated with your best work as you keep doing better and better work.
The next thing that your website must have is a way to contact you. If customers love your work, they would want to contact you. In any case, you can’t leave that choice to your customers. You have to be proactive and ask their contact information. So, slide-in form that takes only 10 seconds to fill in is the best solution. In any case leave your skype, WhatsApp, mobile and email details on your website so that they have a way to contact you.
Another feature I would have is a way to make a payment. Now this would of course depend on how you do your business. Some photographers prefer to take a check as advance. Others won’t mind the electronic payment mode once the deal is confirmed offline. A payment mode embedded on the website is an easy way to seal the deal after the client and the photographer comes to an agreement. This works best for customized packages where the client’s needs cannot be catered to using ready packages.
On other instances a client is happy with a package that is listed on the website and would want to book a photographer right away. The online payment is extremely useful in these circumstances as it allows the photographer to book clients straightaway.
Along with payment options an availability option is also a good idea. This is basically a calendar tool that lists the dates of the photographer’s availability. This will prevent double booking on the same day or overbooking. Let’s say that you have a booking on the 15th of June for a destination wedding out of town. You have kept your schedule free for 15th and 16th for this purpose.
Now let’s say that someone needs you for a shoot on the 16th evening. You know you will be back by the evening but you are not sure if you are going to be delayed. So, you mark the whole day as unavailable. A calendar tool that lists your availability makes ample sense in these circumstances. That way any prospective client will be able to known in advance the days you are available. S/he will reconsider hiring you on a different date or contact you in person for alternative arrangements.
6 – The power of social media to find customers for photography
I know I said 5 simple tips. Consider the following as bonus.
Thank goodness for social media. It is a whole lot easier to find customers for photography, and for any business really. Businesses with little or no means of marketing and advertising have truly been able to reach out to a larger audience by harnessing the power of social media. This is something they could never have done with traditional advertising avenues where a lot of financial power is necessary. Social media helps in keeping your business in front of your customers.
Facebook ads would be the next logical step. There are many different avenues within the gambit of social media which you can try. One of them is Facebook ads. However, there is a catch. Facebook ads can quickly become a sink hole with thousands of dollars of advertising money wasted on campaigns that will bring no returns.
There have been claims of Facebook ads being targeted to non-paying and generic user base, therefore exhausting your budget quicker. If you plan to do Facebook ads, try a very selective user base to maximize your returns. In other words, check as many boxes as you can to narrow down your target audience (people who can see and click your ads).
7 – Join Forums
One of the most effective ways to find customers for photography is market yourself on to some forums. These forums should be about how to find a good wedding photographer, how to find a family photographer, about posing and preparing for a photo shoot and so on. The idea is to join a forum that deals with the whole nitty gritty of hiring a photographer and working with one. These should be the ideal platform for you to make yourself known as a photographer and to offer advice to prospective clients on a number of issues and in doing so establish your reputation as an expert in this area. However, forums have strict rules against bombarding other members with marketing messages. You will have to adopt the technique of non-intrusive form of marketing.
8 – Start a YouTube video blog
Video blogs are a great way to generate interest and to find customers for photography. If you are good with what you do why not share insights into how you do it for your clients? I know a lot of photographers are scared to death at the prospect of having to face the camera. For them being on the other side of the camera is a lot easier. But the results can be surprisingly good, once you muster the courage. A lot of times these videos give invaluable insight to your prospects as to what to expect on the day of the shoot and your approach to a photo assignment.
Let’s say you are a wedding photographer and have uploaded several videos on how you approach the work on the big day. Your prospective clients would no doubt benefit immensely once they get to see you in action.
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