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How To Photography: 19 Big Ideas to Boost Your Photography Business Today

We know…you’d rather spend your time photographing client projects than running a business, but you are a business, so you must allocate time—and a large portion of it—for sales and marketing. Thinking of these necessary business tasks may ruin your day and cause you to turn up your nose and say “Ugh;” but the following 19 big ideas should help make the job easier, more positive and build your photography business to where you always dreamed it could be, for years to come.

  1. Buying new equipment.

Another thing we know about photographers is that most of you are gear heads…you can barely restrain yourself from buying equipment. From a business perspective, however, there may better alternatives. First, make sure you actually need a new piece of equipment. Is it needed for just one shoot? When is the next time you’re likely to use it? How many times during the next 12 months will you use it again? If you can’t truly justify the new gear because you would only use it once or twice a year, then rent it instead. The entire cost is a business expense, which becomes a tax deduction. Buying new equipment, especially expensive equipment, provides a much better tax advantage when your business revenues and income have pushed you into a higher tax bracket.

Nikon D600 | Nikon D7100 Nikon D800 | Canon 5D Mark III | Nikon D5200 | Canon 1D X

  1. The better learning tool.

Sometimes, it’s easy to think that buying a new piece of equipment will also improve your skills. That’s true, but “only” your photography skills; and they will be limited to just those that relate to the added equipment. It could be a steep investment to learn a small number of new techniques. Rent the gear, as suggested in #1 above, and invest some of the money you were prepared to spend on new equipment to advance your business education. Yes, you would rather be reading photography books than business books, but the more you know about how to operate a business, the more advantage you’ll have over your competition. You and your competitors can deliver approximately the same quality of photographic product, so it’s the “business” end of your business that offers you the best opportunity to grab a larger share of your market. In the long run, a business education will have more impact on the success of your business than learning more photography techniques. These remain important, but investing in business knowledge almost always delivers a great payoff.

  1. Add video to your repertoire.

The growing demand for video services from still photographers is a business opportunity for you. You’re already a bit behind the curve because a significant number of them, including your competitors, already offer video. Your first step is education, since you plan to ask customers to pay money for your video work. You may shoot it with the same camera, but video has its own set of techniques that you must know as well as you know still techniques. At a minimum, an online course is a must; classroom, hands-on instruction is even better. You’ll also have to learn the editing process for video as well as how to price a video shoot, which, again, is not exactly like a stills shoot. Since this education is in support of your business, the cost is a business tax deduction.

  1. Clearly define your prime audience.

You can’t be all things to all people, even though your bank account would like you to be. This is a fundamental business truism. You can’t market and sell your products and services to everyone, although this is often the mistaken perception of many small business owners, including photographers. The better strategy is to determine exactly what kind of photography services you offer and who is mostly like to buy them. This is your core or target audience…and your business is more likely to succeed if you concentrate most of your sales and marketing efforts on prospective clients in that audience. Once you define this group, you can then communicate specifically with them. This is a constant and long-term process, as you must reinforce your “brand” with your target audience, regularly.

  1. Target your past clients.

Your past clients ARE your target audience. They’ve already bought from you. You’ve invested time and money to acquire their business. Many of them will spend money with you again…IF you would only ask them! You don’t have to communicate with them often, but a half-dozen time a year or once a month will remind them of you. Make sure your reminders are relevant, and not just fluff. Remember, your past clients are also your “silent” sales team in your community. They are your word-of-mouth-referral system; so don’t hesitate to ask them for referrals.

  1. Focus your Web marketing.

It’s a given that every professional photographer, especially full-time pros, must have a dynamic Web site and be active across the Internet. Knowing your target audience, however, allows you to concentrate your Web marketing dollars on where you are more likely to make connections with prospects. Remove the landscape images from your Website if your target audience needs wedding photography. Use the social media that your target audience does and develop a dialogue there. Direct them to your Website and your blog that, again, contain content of specific interest to your target audience.

  1. Simplify your Website.

Your Website can still be graphically dynamic and pleasing on the eyes, but a well-organized presentation without an excessive amount of distractions is more likely to attract and hold visitors. If you like to use flash and music on a Website, then create a separate one to indulge your creativity. On the Website you are trying to sell your services, they are just barriers to making a quick and strong connection with prospects. When you create your portfolio, take a moment to study it carefully to make sure its organized in a manner that is as logical to others as it is to you. Test it on a few friends or photo buddies. Nothing is worse than a confusing portfolio arrangement and is more likely to cut a Website visit short.

  1. Clean and clear Website navigation.

It may seem like a minor point, but you’d be surprised how high on the list editors and others buying photography put “poor Website navigation” as the reason they didn’t hire a particular photographer. Even if your Website visitors tend to be brides-to-be and not photo editors, they are also busy people. The easier and quicker your Website visitors can navigate your site and understand the titles of pages, the happier they’ll be that they are visiting your site.

  1. Include an “About” page.

Another common mistake of photographers’ Websites is the lack of an “About” page. It may only contain contact information for you and your business, but it’s a crucial tool to making navigation easy for visitors.

  1. A Website that sells.

Take full advantage of the e-commerce environment and make sure your Website has a selling component: a specified page in the navigation where customers can buy prints and use a shopping cart system to order and pay for them. Use your blog to tell your target audience about the quality elements of a photo print and explain framing options…and then direct them to your “store” page.

  1. A stale Website doesn’t sell.

Your Website must be dynamic…ever changing, but still deliver the right information and content to attract prospective clients. Again, the best idea is to schedule some regular time to update the content, including your latest photos. Your Website is also an excellent testing ground for your marketing. Try different headlines and copy and special offers to determine which work best. Save them to use again, as your visitors will change during time.

  1. Schedule social media time.

Social media works best when there is a regular schedule of new postings. New content is what influences others to respond with likes, shares and comments. You want to be the driver of that conversation and offer new information and ideas that are meaningful to your target audience.

  1. Tweet the relevant hashtags.

Twitter continues to grow in prominence as both social media and a serious marketing channel. You can use your Twitter time efficiently if you first determine the most relevant and active hashtag conversations that relate to your business and your target audience. You can simply join these conversations to make yourself known or create unique hashtags to initiate the dialogue.

  1. Quantify your Web marketing.

If you plan to use the Internet successfully to grow your photography business, then you must know something about Web analytics. Data about the pull of your Website content as well as your social media and emails will tell you what works and with which visitors and social media contacts. Google Analytics is free and probably the easiest to learn and use. You’ll have to invest some time, but if you follow through, then the payoff could be significant.

  1. Always be ready to promote.

Sure, you always have business cards on you, but be even more proactive when it comes to promoting your business whenever you’re at an event or any large gathering of people. Load your smartphone with a mini-portfolio of images. It’s a subtle way to show someone what you do for a living while you’re presenting your “wares.” Offer the people you meet to add their names to your free newsletter. It’s a great tactic to gather names and email addresses.

  1. Be a business bulldog.

Another fundamental business truism is that you must communicate with your target audience again and again. All studies show that consumers must read, view and/or listen to numerous messages from an advertiser before they make a connection and become prospective customers. Consistent and persistent must be your marketing watchwords. Don’t hesitate to use the exact same message in two or more marketing channels—an email, social media and your blog—to reinforce your name and services with your target audience.

  1. Meeting preparation is critical.

As a professional photographer, it’s not just your images that are on display whenever you meet a client, but you too! What is likely to impress them the most is how well prepared you are. Learn as much as you can about the prospect you’re meeting. Try to understand exactly what he or she wants and customize your entire presentation, including your portfolio, to show him or her you can deliver it. If you’re pitching an editor, for example, then do what you can to learn which other photographers the editor has hired previously. That should give you some clues as to what kind of images the editor wants. With that information, you may be able to offer the editor an alternative he or she hadn’t considered, and be the hero!

  1. Workflow is the key to excellent customer service.

Although your profession is photography, you are still operating an “assembly line” much the same as in a car factory in Detroit. In many cases, the work only starts once you’ve shot the original images. A long process of editing, preparation, storage and delivery is just as critical to making customers happy as the final images they receive. That’s why you must have a very well developed and smoothly operating workflow, so you can always deliver what, where and when you’ve promised your customers…and those are customers that buy again!

  1. Participate in the fraternity.

Attending professional photography events is an important component of growing your business. You may not find clients there (but then again you might), but you’ll be able to update yourself about the industry at one time, in one place. Plus, networking is a positive force in business growth, especially in these days of so much connectivity. Introduce yourself, develop contacts, share contact information and learn what you can from other photographers about how they operate their businesses for success. Maintain regular contact with the people you’ve met at events, so you’re always creating a buzz on your network.

Also Read: 23 things you must know to be successful in photography

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