Building Your Photography Business Part 4: Keep Learning
- What is one thing I did that really impressed you?
- What is one thing you feel I need to work on?
- Which product or service that you purchased did you enjoy the most?
- What products or services would you like to see added in the future?
In this final installment of our series on image copyrights and building your photography business, we focus on one of the most important factors in determining your success - your continued commitment to learning.
No matter how successful you become, it’s necessary to keep striving for bigger and better things, learning about new photography techniques, new ways to process your images, and, of course, learning how to make the business side of things more successful. Here, we offer a few tips to help you do just that.
Know Your Customers and Your Niche
To be a successful businessperson, you have to be able to clearly identify your customer and your niche. If you’re a senior portrait photographer, that’s a pretty easy task. But, if you’re just starting out and you know little else than you want to be a photographer, identifying your target market might be a little more difficult.
Yet, doing so is one of the fundamentally important tasks of building a successful business. Not only do you need to create your business’ identity, but you also need to be able to communicate that identity to the people most likely to solicit your services. With that in mind, developing an understanding of who you are (or who you want to be) as a photographer will also help you identify your niche. Once you do that, you can further develop a picture of who your customer base should be.
In other words, you aren’t just a “photographer.” Identify who or what you want to photograph and zero in on that niche, whether it’s street photography, nature photography, landscapes, or something in between.
Diversify Your Products & Services
As noted above, there is something to be said for finding your niche and sticking with it. Many photographers specialize in something, be that pet portraits or natural light portraiture of kids and families. But if you don’t ever give your clients new products and services to try, your business can quickly go stale.
Think of it this way: fads come and go - and fast. Not that long ago, selective color was a hot trend in photography, and many photography businesses made a lot of money offering selective color images. Yet, like all other fads, selective color burned out.
Imagine if you’d hopped on the selective color train, but never developed other products or services to pick up the slack when the fad went by the wayside. Your business would have suffered, to be sure. Therein lies the reasoning behind constantly learning about new products and services. Not only are you able to keep abreast of hot trends in the industry, but you’re able to offer more to your clients, which increases the perceived value of your services.
With that in mind, go to trade shows, spend some time each month reading photography websites, and ask your colleagues what they’re offering their customers. Constantly learn about new ways you can give your clients what they want, and you’ll have a recipe for long-term success.
Another vital aspect of developing a successful photography business is to get feedback from your clients. This goes well beyond asking for a testimonial or waiting for them to rate you on Facebook. Instead, getting feedback needs to be an active process in which your clients answer specific questions about you, your products, and your services.
For example, include a short survey with your final deliverables, asking the client to quickly rate their experience. Sample questions might be:
Even simple questions like these can prove highly valuable to you as you consider how you can develop a more successful and profitable photography business.
But, to think that you can only solicit feedback at the end of your working relationship is not accurate. Instead, strive to get feedback from clients along the way. During the consultation, simply ask if you’ve answered all your client’s questions or inquire if they feel your photo packages offer enough variety. After a photo session, just casually ask your clients what they most enjoyed, or perhaps which pose they liked the least. The point is that there are points throughout the process of working with a client to learn and grow and apply that learning to building a better business.
Offer Feedback to Others
The beauty of working in an artistic trade is that you’re surrounded by people that love and appreciate art, and many of them are like you, trying to deliver high-quality products and services to satisfied clients.
With that in mind, there is an opportunity for mutual growth by giving your colleagues and companies you work with valuable feedback about how they’re performing. For example, if you’ve partnered with a company like Copypants to keep tabs on your online images, be sure to give them constructive criticism about your experience. You might find that their image searching is convenient and highly accurate, so be sure to tell them that. Maybe they found an image someone stole from you, and you’d like to have more options regarding the recourse available to you. If that’s the case, let them know, being sure to tell Copypants what other options you’d like to have.
By giving and receiving feedback from people other than your clients, you open up the possibility for much greater growth, not just as a photographer, but as a businessperson too. Whether it’s a friend of yours that’s a small business owner down the street or a company like Copypants that’s thousands of miles away, the shared focus of being the very best at what we do means that we can learn a lot from each other’s successes and mistakes.
Get Tools to Help You Engage With Clients
Client engagement is what will keep people coming in the door to hire you (or coming back over and over again after you’ve worked with them). For many photographers, client engagement takes place via social media. Having a Facebook, Flickr, Instagram, Twitter, and the like is an easy and effective way of staying on your clients’ radar throughout the year.
But to think that’s the only way you can communicate with potential clients is a mistake.
For example, by partnering with Copypants, you can expand your reach well beyond traditional areas. After all, Copypants locates your images on the web and notifies you when one is found. By contacting the person that published your image, you’ve opened up an avenue to new potential customers. You might ask that the publisher give you credit for your work, and when that happens, anyone that sees the image will also see that you’re its creator. That could easily help drive your business your way. Or, if you choose, Copypants can ask the publisher to pay a licensing fee. With this more direct approach, you’re able to put money directly into your pocket, all because you’ve got a tool at your disposal that helps you find your images and contact the people using them.
In the end, your success as a photographer will depend on many, many factors. But certainly, committing yourself to continuing education will benefit you over the course of your career. Keep learning. Develop new products and services. Ask for feedback and offer it as well. Get set up with tools that help you reach out to potential customers. These simple steps will help put you on a pathway to success.