How to gain more business

happysmileyladyhappysmileylady Major grinsRegistered Users Posts: 195 Major grins
edited December 12, 2009 in Mind Your Own Business
I have had little luck gaining more business so I thought I would ask a bunch of folks who do this for a living.

I am not the best photographer, but far from the worst. My area is completely saturated with photographers, which is of course an issue, but is also common I think.

Things I have tried include flyers in neighborhoods, ads on craigslist, contests, giving away free sessions, and my sister owns a cake shop so I have a display up there and she often refers folks to me. On the year I have shot two weddings, 5 portrait sessions, a corporate session and various little odds and ends, usually freebies for family or to try to gain some word of mouth business.

My goal is to shoot 3 or 4 portrait sessions a month, plus 3 to 6 weddings a year. I am meeting with a web person, exchanging Christmas portraits for web design help, this weekend. I am sure my website is not helping so hopefully redesigning will help. I am considering lowering my prices as well, but really, I don't think I am overpriced and I don't want to go too low in regards to the sorts of customers that brings in. I have several friends with kids, they were who my other portrait sessions were for. They have passed out cards with the prints they get and trying to help me get the word out.

So I now ask you....what do YOU do that brings in business?

Comments

  • Cygnus StudiosCygnus Studios Commercial Photographer San Francisco's North BayRegistered Users Posts: 2,294 Major grins
    edited December 1, 2009

    My goal is to shoot 3 or 4 portrait sessions a month, plus 3 to 6 weddings a year.

    Make friends with all of the florists, bakers, wedding halls, wedding locations, wineries, and anyone else associated with the weddings taking place within a reasonable distance of your location. Offer kickbacks. You are only paying for paid gigs.

    The same principle applies to the potential clients for your portrait work. Determine who your clients are, and promote your business within that group. Start by getting your work and cards in the local hair salons, the clothing outlets and such. Again, offer kickbacks to those businesses who are getting you paid work.

    If you spend some time determining who your potential clients are, then spend the time marketing within the areas that your clients run in, the process becomes pretty easy, pretty fast.

    Stop wasting time and energy on generic ads in generic places. You have to know who your client is. You have to know where your client hangs out. You have to know what your clients want. Don't make this harder than it has to be.
    Steve

    Website
  • happysmileyladyhappysmileylady Major grins Registered Users Posts: 195 Major grins
    edited December 1, 2009
    Make friends with all of the florists, bakers, wedding halls, wedding locations, wineries, and anyone else associated with the weddings taking place within a reasonable distance of your location. Offer kickbacks. You are only paying for paid gigs.

    The same principle applies to the potential clients for your portrait work. Determine who your clients are, and promote your business within that group. Start by getting your work and cards in the local hair salons, the clothing outlets and such. Again, offer kickbacks to those businesses who are getting you paid work.

    If you spend some time determining who your potential clients are, then spend the time marketing within the areas that your clients run in, the process becomes pretty easy, pretty fast.

    Stop wasting time and energy on generic ads in generic places. You have to know who your client is. You have to know where your client hangs out. You have to know what your clients want. Don't make this harder than it has to be.
    This is probably my biggest problem, I am totally making it harder than it has to be.
  • tpodonnetpodonne www.aspenroadimages.com Registered Users Posts: 52 Big grins
    edited December 2, 2009
    Glort wrote:
    There is one thing I go by these days that I have learned over 20 + Years

    BE DIFFERENT.

    If there are 50 shooters in your area, you have to do what No one else does so it is just you or any of them, a 1 in 2 choice rather than a 1 in 50.
    And different isn't all together doing anything different, it's Appearing to be different.

    All the time people come to me and say " We want something Different for our wedding shots" and then proceed to describe in detail the standard old boring shots they want that their mum and dad probably have in their album.

    I learned years ago that being the best shooter in the world is basically irrelevant. You can be the best but if no one knows of you, you'll starve.
    If your an average shooter and as soon as anyone thinks of a photographer, your the first name that pops into their head, your living on easy street.
    You want to be the best or you want to earn a comfortable living?

    A very highly regarded shooter once told me " You only need one Killer shot to book people" and years later, I have found that to be entirely true.
    I have had people tell me they booked me because they love a particular shot and then tell me they want nothing like it for their own pics.

    Go create a " signature" shot that is different to everyone else and has killer WOW factor and start showing that pic around. Go see all the wedding vendors in your area and make yourself known.
    I just ask if I can leave some cards with them. Many will say they already recommend a photographer and I say that's fine, people are not going to go with the first guy they see, they will look at a variety of people so no problem.

    I'm also going to start giving kickbacks next year. I'll have a card printed that identify s where it came from and tell the people if they couple book me after they have referred them, I'll give them the portion of my advertising budget I would have otherwise spent on a magazine ad to get them in. I'll sell it as I prefer to give another small business the money than some huge media organization.

    I look at it this way, If I have 10 places referring me and each one only sends me one referral a month, I know with my conversion rate I am going to be laughing all the way to the bank.

    Be careful with advertising. The only thing that is guaranteed with it is you will have to pay out your money. What you get from that the people you advertise with don't give a damn.

    I was paying thousands a year for yellow pages and when I finally woke up to monitoring all my leads, I found I was getting less than one call a week from it and most of them were tyre kickers anyway.
    When the snake in the grass sales rep cam back next year wanting to sign me up for a bigger and more expensive ad and laying all his BS sales crap on my, I got my log book of leads and unloaded so bad on the guy he first sat there looking scared then literally got up and ran out the door.

    Find where your potential clients go and make alliances with those people. Don't be put off if they say they refer someone, go back a month later to say hi and see how things are going. by month 3 they will ask you a question about what you do and once that happens, your in.
    Just as you don't ask or expect a pretty girl you met for the first time to marry you, be prepared to " court" potential referees and don't be put off if they don't go into raptures the first time they see you or your work.

    They will have seen and heard it all before but usually its the same thing and people don't come back the 2nd, 3rd and 5 time to show they are serious and committed.

    And one last thing, don't cut your own legs off by having cheap prices. Few people book on price and the ones that do are always never satisfied, nightmare clients that you don't want nor their friends in the first place. Been there, done that, still have the migraine headaches from learning that lesson.

    I ask people what their budget is and when they tell me I ALWAYS quote a higher price. Always.
    I have yet to loose a client over this yet ( they will low ball you anyway) but once they come to your price instead of you going to them, it puts a whole different power base on the game and you in control where you need to be. If you are the one pandering to them, you'll loose every time. It's a fine line between confidence, professionalism and being an arrogant Jerk but it is one you have to recognize and put into place.

    Be different, be persistent, sell yourself on your abilities and NOT price.

    Thank you for the advice! That's in words what I've been mumbling in my brain. It's nice to here/read it - good solid free advice! I'm just starting to pursue some business for the first time. It all started with an ad on craigslist. although many will beat me up for doing it for free, I'm happy with myself and it created some off-shoot business (first time seller - yahoo!). A start-up bike mag had an ad that I answered and I told them that I would contribute some photo's of a custom bicycle show. I'll have a full page spread of some of the bikes plus a few arty shots. They've agreed to give me some ad space and I'm willing to pay for the next month. I'm cyclist and I like being involved in the community as much as a stay-at-home Dad can. Anyway one of the framebuilders from the show bought an image from me to use on his website. This has stoked the fire in me to shoot & sell. Here's the ad that I came up with using PS.
    717718944_p2xvG-M-1.jpg
    Now I just need to print some business cards/postcards, oh and maybe a sweet long sleeve T!! -It's a black and white mag so that's why it's stripped of all it's color. More at my site: www.aspenroadimages.com
    Find your crowed and I think everyone will be happy.
  • Art ScottArt Scott Have PASSPORT will TRAVEL WICHITA, KS USARegistered Users Posts: 8,959 Major grins
    edited December 2, 2009
    The above pic is good for product or cycling shots........but you need a card with a killer portrait and if it is from a wedding that actually kills 2 birds with one card.........went to your wedding gallery:D ..... that is a good shot......needs more......need a portrait gallery........or a PORTFOLIO Gallery that has 5-10 shots of each area you want to cover...portraits, wedding (special events), product (commerical)................not hundreds of each....leave that for the stock photo gallerymwink.gifwink...........
    "Genuine Fractals was, is and will always be the best solution for enlarging digital photos." ....Vincent Versace ... ... COPYRIGHT YOUR WORK ONLINE ... ... My Website

  • tpodonnetpodonne www.aspenroadimages.com Registered Users Posts: 52 Big grins
    edited December 3, 2009
    Art Scott wrote:
    The above pic is good for product or cycling shots........but you need a card with a killer portrait and if it is from a wedding that actually kills 2 birds with one card.........went to your wedding gallery:D ..... that is a good shot......needs more......need a portrait gallery........or a PORTFOLIO Gallery that has 5-10 shots of each area you want to cover...portraits, wedding (special events), product (commerical)................not hundreds of each....leave that for the stock photo gallerymwink.gifwink...........

    I agree with you 110%. That is for the edgier young urban bike culture scene.

    I had a panic the other morning searching for some older pics of my daughter who is now 3. I wanted to add those to my site and couldn't find them. I had forgotten about another photo hosting site we had used previous to the smug site. I ordered backups of all those photos and will post the ones that might boost interest in portrait/family.

    I'm going to rework another business card design to include one of those portraits. Now it has more of a fine art or commercial feel. see below:350848337_KruPV-M-1.jpg

    bottom line: target advertising to demographics that match.
  • ColoradoSkierColoradoSkier Major grins Registered Users Posts: 267 Major grins
    edited December 3, 2009
    tpodonne wrote:
    717718944_p2xvG-M-1.jpg
    Now I just need to print some business cards/postcards, oh and maybe a sweet long sleeve T!! -It's a black and white mag so that's why it's stripped of all it's color. More at my site: www.aspenroadimages.com
    Find your crowed and I think everyone will be happy.

    One thing that jumped out at me was your phone number. 719 is Colorado Springs, Colorado. Your website, your image above, neither mention a locale. No way on earth I would know you are in Texas. Must be a cell number, but still, if you don't have a phone number with the dominant local area code, you might want to think about identifying where you do business. Just a thought. Other option would be to get a Google Voice number with a local area code and have all calls forwarded from there to your cell.
    Chester Bullock
    Lakewood, Colorado, USA
    My Pictures | My blog
    Facebook | Twitter
  • tpodonnetpodonne www.aspenroadimages.com Registered Users Posts: 52 Big grins
    edited December 3, 2009
    One thing that jumped out at me was your phone number. 719 is Colorado Springs, Colorado. Your website, your image above, neither mention a locale. No way on earth I would know you are in Texas. Must be a cell number, but still, if you don't have a phone number with the dominant local area code, you might want to think about identifying where you do business. Just a thought. Other option would be to get a Google Voice number with a local area code and have all calls forwarded from there to your cell.

    That's a great point! Perhaps I'll note my number as being a cell #, and underneath put Austin, TX., etc... Thanks to everyone for the input.
  • BizShotzBizShotz Big grins Registered Users Posts: 20 Big grins
    edited December 4, 2009
    Glort wrote:
    There is one thing I go by these days that I have learned over 20 + Years

    BE DIFFERENT.

    If there are 50 shooters in your area, you have to do what No one else does so it is just you or any of them, a 1 in 2 choice rather than a 1 in 50.
    And different isn't all together doing anything different, it's Appearing to be different.

    All the time people come to me and say " We want something Different for our wedding shots" and then proceed to describe in detail the standard old boring shots they want that their mum and dad probably have in their album.

    I learned years ago that being the best shooter in the world is basically irrelevant. You can be the best but if no one knows of you, you'll starve.
    If your an average shooter and as soon as anyone thinks of a photographer, your the first name that pops into their head, your living on easy street.
    You want to be the best or you want to earn a comfortable living?

    A very highly regarded shooter once told me " You only need one Killer shot to book people" and years later, I have found that to be entirely true.
    I have had people tell me they booked me because they love a particular shot and then tell me they want nothing like it for their own pics.

    Go create a " signature" shot that is different to everyone else and has killer WOW factor and start showing that pic around. Go see all the wedding vendors in your area and make yourself known.
    I just ask if I can leave some cards with them. Many will say they already recommend a photographer and I say that's fine, people are not going to go with the first guy they see, they will look at a variety of people so no problem.

    I'm also going to start giving kickbacks next year. I'll have a card printed that identify s where it came from and tell the people if they couple book me after they have referred them, I'll give them the portion of my advertising budget I would have otherwise spent on a magazine ad to get them in. I'll sell it as I prefer to give another small business the money than some huge media organization.

    I look at it this way, If I have 10 places referring me and each one only sends me one referral a month, I know with my conversion rate I am going to be laughing all the way to the bank.

    Be careful with advertising. The only thing that is guaranteed with it is you will have to pay out your money. What you get from that the people you advertise with don't give a damn.

    I was paying thousands a year for yellow pages and when I finally woke up to monitoring all my leads, I found I was getting less than one call a week from it and most of them were tyre kickers anyway.
    When the snake in the grass sales rep cam back next year wanting to sign me up for a bigger and more expensive ad and laying all his BS sales crap on my, I got my log book of leads and unloaded so bad on the guy he first sat there looking scared then literally got up and ran out the door.

    Find where your potential clients go and make alliances with those people. Don't be put off if they say they refer someone, go back a month later to say hi and see how things are going. by month 3 they will ask you a question about what you do and once that happens, your in.
    Just as you don't ask or expect a pretty girl you met for the first time to marry you, be prepared to " court" potential referees and don't be put off if they don't go into raptures the first time they see you or your work.

    They will have seen and heard it all before but usually its the same thing and people don't come back the 2nd, 3rd and 5 time to show they are serious and committed.

    And one last thing, don't cut your own legs off by having cheap prices. Few people book on price and the ones that do are always never satisfied, nightmare clients that you don't want nor their friends in the first place. Been there, done that, still have the migraine headaches from learning that lesson.

    I ask people what their budget is and when they tell me I ALWAYS quote a higher price. Always.
    I have yet to loose a client over this yet ( they will low ball you anyway) but once they come to your price instead of you going to them, it puts a whole different power base on the game and you in control where you need to be. If you are the one pandering to them, you'll loose every time. It's a fine line between confidence, professionalism and being an arrogant Jerk but it is one you have to recognize and put into place.

    Be different, be persistent, sell yourself on your abilities and NOT price.


    You don't know me ( obviously) but I want you to know that what you wrote above has changed my whole outlook on MAKING business happen. Thank you for taking the time to write it. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
  • ColoradoSkierColoradoSkier Major grins Registered Users Posts: 267 Major grins
    edited December 7, 2009
    Glort wrote:
    OK, Heres a new one on me to get more Business.....

    Timing is everything - well done.
    Chester Bullock
    Lakewood, Colorado, USA
    My Pictures | My blog
    Facebook | Twitter
  • adamcoupeadamcoupe Beginner grinner Registered Users Posts: 6 Beginner grinner
    edited December 8, 2009
    I have had little luck gaining more business so I thought I would ask a bunch of folks who do this for a living.

    I am not the best photographer, but far from the worst. My area is completely saturated with photographers, which is of course an issue, but is also common I think.

    Things I have tried include flyers in neighborhoods, ads on craigslist, contests, giving away free sessions, and my sister owns a cake shop so I have a display up there and she often refers folks to me. On the year I have shot two weddings, 5 portrait sessions, a corporate session and various little odds and ends, usually freebies for family or to try to gain some word of mouth business.

    My goal is to shoot 3 or 4 portrait sessions a month, plus 3 to 6 weddings a year. I am meeting with a web person, exchanging Christmas portraits for web design help, this weekend. I am sure my website is not helping so hopefully redesigning will help. I am considering lowering my prices as well, but really, I don't think I am overpriced and I don't want to go too low in regards to the sorts of customers that brings in. I have several friends with kids, they were who my other portrait sessions were for. They have passed out cards with the prints they get and trying to help me get the word out.

    So I now ask you....what do YOU do that brings in business?

    Hi

    You've had some major contributions to your request for advice - especially Glort - a very considered and obviously experienced photographer. I would recommend developing your website and learning the black art of SEO. It's really easy to blow profit on marketing activity and online activity is one area that costs nothing and can bring in some major enquiries. Developing our online presence is a gift to photographers - what more could we ask for to illustrate our imagery? To get you started on your SEO quest I would have two tips - focus on making your site keyword rich and develop backlinks from other related sites.

    Good luck

    Adam
    www.adamcoupe.com/portfolio
  • happysmileyladyhappysmileylady Major grins Registered Users Posts: 195 Major grins
    edited December 9, 2009
    I want to thank everyone for their responses. I am reading them, taking them in, planning, and working! Everything posted has been a big help and I truely appreciate everyone's input.
  • emeraldroseemeraldrose Major grins Registered Users Posts: 324 Major grins
    edited December 11, 2009
    wow this is amazing guys. I really need to start doing some of this. unfortunately all the people I talk to end up with some version of this message I got today...
    "Hey sorry - Finances aren't too great so we decided to let a friend do just the baby's pictures.. couldn't really afford family portraits & prints this yr.. thank you & sorry I did not get back to you."

    I looked at those pictures and I of course didn't say it to her, but dear lord, nothing was even exposed correctly!

    I seem to have this problem a lot and don't know how to handle it without being pushy. I have tons of people tell me they DEF want me to do their pics, but they have to talk to their hubbies (I respect that and think that's the right thing to do unless it's already been talked about of course). then I pretty much never hear from them again, or it's too expensive (I charge 100 for an hour, 75 for military and teachers, and one week I only charged 50!) I know my work is better than most at that price range around me and def. better than the lower prices, but I just can't find the right clients.

    any advice?

    sorry for the thread jacking, but felt it was better to keep it going in the same direction than start anew lol
  • MoxMox Major grins Registered Users Posts: 313 Major grins
    edited December 12, 2009
    Glort,
    Thank you for taking the time to write these posts!
  • SnowgirlSnowgirl Major grins Registered Users Posts: 2,155 Major grins
    edited December 12, 2009
    Glort - you are so right
    Your comments on marketing and self-promotion are bang on! Thanks for taking the time to offer such detailed remarks. I'm sure everyone is benefiting from them.thumb.gif
    Creating visual and verbal images that resonate with you.
    http://www.imagesbyceci.com
    http://www.facebook.com/ImagesByCeci
    Picadilly, NB, Canada
  • Cygnus StudiosCygnus Studios Commercial Photographer San Francisco's North BayRegistered Users Posts: 2,294 Major grins
    edited December 12, 2009
    Glort wrote:
    I learned that an averge shooter can be a good marketer and make a LOT of money. A truly great and talented photographer can easily starve.

    If people are taking family friends pics over yours, one of 2 things ( maybe both is happening.
    Your not presenting your work in a manner that is wowing and impressing them enough so they have to have your work and can clearly see the difference over the DIY'ers OR,
    Your talking to the wrong people whom are not the right market for you.

    Totally agree. The best marketing plans include knowing who your potential clients are. General marketing to a general public is the worst thing that you can do. Once you have narrowed down your market, you can determine the best price structure for those clients. You will have eliminated most of the price shoppers. If you have marketed properly, the client will already know the price range before coming to you.

    Keep in mind that your market is NOT limited to your immediate area. So many photographers get caught up in that trap. Also keep in mind that average people choose an image based on feelings, not technical quality. Capturing uncle Joe with his smile is far more important to the client than the background being blown out or the perfect composition.

    Once you learn your clients needs, you will be able to show them the portfolio that matches their wants. Potential clients should always be spoken to prior to pushing images at them. Whether you use the standard portfolio or the virtual one, the same principles apply. You are in control of dictating the images, use this to your advantage.

    Set up your business like a grocery store. Specific items in specific places. Control the flow your clients to specific areas. This will eliminate so many of your headaches.
    Steve

    Website
Sign In or Register to comment.