Trying to build a photography business can be like being lost in the woods. You stumble around not really knowing what to do or what direction to go. Hopefully you eventually come to a clearing and can see what’s working and what you need to do next. But even if you do, you’re still not out of the woods without a ton of hard work and trudging through rough terrain.
Many blog posts about finding work as a photographer are not all that helpful. Usually they consist of a laundry list of marketing activities that are designed to get you “exposure” without having to actually talk to anyone. Posting on social media is not a marketing strategy anymore, although it can be part of one.
Hopefully this post will be different.
I’m going to share the formula that has worked for me. It’s not a magic formula. Heck, it’s not even an original formula… But I believe that anyone who works hard to follow this formula will find success over the long term.
Before I get to the formula, let me spell it out. If you want to find more work as a photographer you’ll need to practice salesmanship.
I hate selling. I think most photographers feel the same way. There is a reason most of us prefer to be behind the camera. Not only do we dislike being the center of attention, we despise the idea of asking someone for money in exchange for our creative services.
If you want to earn money as a photographer, you’ll just have to get over it. Sales is the key to success in any business.
The job of salesman becomes easier and more fun if you put a process in place and understand that rejection is just part of the process.
Here is the formula for finding work as a photographer:
1. Figure out what kind of photography you are good at and enjoy doing.
2. Work hard to create a fantastic series of images based on that type of photography. Get creative and shoot personal projects designed to result in images that showcase your ability in this area of photography.
3. Make personal connections with people who you know need that kind of photography. Show them images from your portfolio that are applicable to what you can offer them and “pitch” them a personalized sales pitch.
I’ll elaborate on each step.
Step one can be the hardest step. You might not even know what kind of photography you want to do. You may find that getting paid to do certain types of photography for a client takes all of the joy out of it for you. The key is to explore the various types of photography and try to get a taste of as many different genres as possible. If you think you are good in a certain area, focus in and become the best! Push yourself to improve your craft. You don’t have to be the best photographer in the world, you just have to be the best at what you do. Nobody can duplicate that.
Step two is a continuation of step one. Focus in and become professional at your chosen photography niche. What does it mean to be professional? It means you are capable and confident in producing consistent work in your niche. It means you’ve done it enough that you’ve made major mistakes and had colossal failures. It means you can tell when things are not working and you know what you need to do to fix it. Work hard to get to this point but realize that there is really never and end to learning and you can always get better at what you do.
Step three may actually be the easiest step if you have done a good job with steps one and two. This step is all about identifying the people who would find value in your work and figuring out how to network with them. You need to get to know them. Ask questions and get an understanding of what they need and what photography problems you can solve. If they’ve had a bad experience in the past with a photographer, ask about that and offer to deliver a better service. From there, it becomes a natural discussion where you “pitch” a prospect by showing them the work that you’ve done that you’re passionate about and that they would benefit from. If you’ve made the right contact they’ll see the value in what you do and the discussion can move to the negotiation stage. Remember that you’re not trying to sell to everyone and anyone, just the people who find value in what you do. A ‘no’ is great because you can check that person off your list and move on to more promising prospects.
A note about this formula. You’ll notice that it starts with you developing yourself and your niche as a photographer before even beginning to look for clients. I think too many aspiring photographers first try to take any job they can find someone to pay them to do. I believe this is a mistake. You may find yourself doing work that you hate doing. You’ll build a portfolio of work that you’re not passionate about and it will be reflected in the quality of what you do.
And finally, here is a networking tip. Find the the people who already work with your ideal clients and get acquainted. For example, say you would like to shoot corporate head shots. Successful web development companies will have a client roster full of businesses that need corporate head shots for their website. Networking with a web development company has the potential to get you access to all of those potential clients much faster and easier that cold calling them on your own. Want to shoot weddings? Make friends with the local flower shop owner. You get the idea.
What do you thing? Any tips for getting photography work that you’d like to share? Leave them in the comments.