As with all other types of businesses, your photography business won’t become successful overnight, no matter how much you want it to. There’s so much to consider when starting it up: marketing costs, an online presence, physical store space, overhead and, of course, consummate skill in shooting and editing your pictures. There is only so much of the marketplace available to you, and this is particularly true if you’re a small business, so you have to fight for every corner of the market.
Photographers have the hardest time learning to adapt their picture-taking mentality into a focus that’s sharp enough to run their own business. Since the industry is extremely competitive these days, it takes a lot more than just being a photography whiz to find success. Even the greatest talent can get buried in the sheer number of professional photographers and freelancers out there.
So what do you do? How do you run a successful photography business? You need to learn and master the prerequisite business skills it takes to both survive and flourish in the industry.
1. Understand Your Market as Well as Channel
Every photographer has to define his target market and how to penetrate it. Many photographers—especially younger ones—fail to understand this concept and are too general in focus. In reality, defining your target market should be where 90% of your effort and time should be spent in the first few years of your business.
After that, reaching this target audience is ultra-important. The best way to reach your market is by way of referrals. Never underestimate the importance of using your past, successful referrals to establish a series of testimonials that acts as a continual marketing machine.
2. Establish a Pricing Strategy
Setting your prices just right can mean the difference between making and breaking your fledgling photography business. Contrary to popular belief among photographers, you shouldn’t overcharge for your work based on the belief that charging too little will make you look like an amateur. After all, if you only work part-time as a freelancer, how can you expect to charge and get what full-time professionals charge?
The key lies in knowing the competitive nature of the industry. Understand the value your photography services are giving based on the competition you face from other photographers to set a reasonable pricing strategy.
3. Create a Photography Website
Everything is online these days, and your photography business should definitely not be the exception to this hard-and-fast rule. Creating your own photography website is a surefire and efficient way to gain additional exposure for your burgeoning business. There are some fine art website templates out there that will help in this endeavor.
Check out this link: http://themes.shopify.com/templates/art-photography
Setting up shop online is a great marketing strategy since it will let you showcase your portfolio to anyone who’s interested. When they’re perusing your site, they’re just one step away from becoming a real conversion.
4. Close the Sales Opportunity
What comes after researching your market, setting your pricing strategy and building your own photography website from art website templates? Why, it’s closing the sales opportunity, silly! Too many photographers lack the salesmanship skills they need to close the sale, even though they have an abundance of talent to attract new clients to them.
The most surefire method to close a sale is to concentrate on the value that you’re providing your client as a photographer. Get your client to focus on your unique value, and you’ll see better results in closing sales.
5. Operate and Execute Well
The next step is to operate and execute everything that you’ve been planning up to now. This is based mainly on resources more than anything else. If you’re just getting your photography business off the ground, then the savvy use of your limited resources is ultra-vital.
In the first couple of years, much of your money will be spent on marketing and getting referrals. By the third year, you’ll have to hire some help to deal with the less important, daily tasks of the business while you focus on the true value of it. It’ll normally take up to five years to get your business to optimal functioning and maturity.
6. Turn It Into a Brand
Nothing will make your business more successful more quickly than building it into a brand—nothing! Nothing will give you a better competitive edge than turning your photography business into a brand. You can achieve this by two methods.
First, you have to cultivate your business relationships with your clients. Second, you have to actually brand your business name. Do both of these tasks exceptionally well, and you establish an identity that none of your competitors can copy.
7. Network Like There’s No Tomorrow
What’s better than networking when you want to attain new business relationships? Ask yourself if you are a member of the Chamber of Commerce. How about your local Rotary Club? Becoming a member at these places and getting to know various contacts there will be critical to expanding your photography business like you wouldn’t believe.
When you network, you meet people who don’t know what you’re about. This gives you the golden opportunity to show them your portfolio and work, thereby potentially snagging new clients who are in need of photography services.
8. Beware of Time Stealers
As a professional photographer, you really can’t sweat the small stuff, which we’ll define as the stuff you’re simply not cut out for. Getting caught up in trying your hand at things you don’t do well is the biggest productivity and efficiency killer ever.
For example, avoid doing your own accounting because you snap pictures for a living, not handle the books! Similarly, don’t try to be a marketing expert; if you’re stuck when it comes to self-promotion, hire a professional agency.
9. Don’t Underestimate Business Cards
In this day and age of Internet-everything, it’s super-tempting to overlook good, old paper tools like the business card. That can be a costly mistake for a growing photography business. You see, handing out business cards is one of the most tried, tested and true approaches to marketing, no matter what day and age we live in.
It’s a huge mistake not to hand out your business cards. It’s an even huger mistake not to have them in the first place!
10. Who’s up for Some Social Media?!
Social media is the hottest tool for self-promotion on the Internet today, and you’d be a fool to miss out on it. Whether it’s LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or the ever-growing Pinterest, you can’t ignore a golden opportunity like social media to tell people about your photography business.
So tweet links to your portfolio; if you have a photography blog on your professional site, tweet links to new blog posts. Share links about photography on your business’ very own Facebook page, just to draw attention to your expertise in this niche. Do whatever it takes to raise social-media awareness.
Running Your Own Business Takes Commitment
Follow these tips, and your photography business will be so much closer to flourishing—guaranteed! There’s a difference between being a photographer and running your own successful business. And, no, the two are not going to happen simultaneously. You’ve got to invest blood, sweat and tears to get your business up and growing.
What do you think of these tips? Do you know of any other methods to help fledgling photography businesses get off the ground? Tell us all about it in the comments section.