So you’ve decided that you want to become a photographer, you know all the technical jargon and have yourself a great camera. You may have decided only to be a part time photographer, yet whether full or part time you’re probably thinking ‘How do I become a successful photographer and attract lots of new clients?’
Simply placing an advert in Yellow Pages, on Yell.com or in the local newspaper won’t be enough, especially as your advert will more than likely be dwarfed by much larger and established photographers who can spend more money. Instead you need to think about building your client database without spending a fortune on advertising,
But before doing anything ask yourself the following:
- Who are my prospective clients?
- Where can I find them?
- Where do they go?
- How should I approach them?
- How do I engage with potential new clients, so when they do need a photographer, they’ll instinctively think of me?
Once you’ve decided who you want as clients, read our hints and tips below on finding them. Some of these suggestions may seem a little off the wall, but if you just do what every other photographer does, you’ll find life quite competitive. Our suggestions may just keep you one step ahead of other photographers in your area:
Word of mouth
Everyone will tell you this is the best way and it’s probably true, as word of mouth is very powerful. However, if you’re just starting up, chances are you won’t know that many people. But you should still tell everybody you know that you’re setting up as a freelance photographer. You can also give family and friends free offers, and make sure they spread the word.
Not the obvious choice, but running free seminars could be a real money spinner. A seminar might sound rather fancy but it doesn’t have to be fancy or complicated, and it gives you the opportunity to meet and talk with numerous prospective clients. Essentially, it means finding places where people group together and presenting something interesting to them. Remember, everyone wants to take better photos!
Getting your ‘foot in the door’ can be difficult and being remembered can be even harder, but offering a free service (not free photography services!) gives you a huge helping hand in being remembered, and free seminars can be extremely effective in putting your face in front of new clients.
So what could you talk about in a seminar?
- How to take better holiday photographs
- How to photograph your pets
- How to take better family photographs
- General hints and tips that the pros use
Be friendly and approachable, as the more you help them, the more they will remember you. Here are a few examples of where you could run a free seminar:
It’s become quite common for companies to visit employees in their workplace and present to them. Most people get lunch hours and are happy to sit down to listen to somebody interesting (especially if you come bearing cakes!). Think about it, you would be more inclined to get your car cleaned at work if someone offered this service, than waste your time going to a car wash after work. Try applying the same attitude when it comes to your services as a photographer, be convenient and go to them.
So, how do you get your foot in the door? Target local large companies, call them or even better speak to the receptionist and say you want to run a free seminar in their lunch hour. Most companies are happy for this to take place, providing it doesn’t interfere with people doing their job. But don’t be disheartened should you get a few companies that turn you away.
Next, place a flyer on their bulletin board and in their canteen advertising your free seminar, or maybe even try to ‘sweet talk’ the receptionist into sending a gentle reminder email to staff nearer the time of your seminar!
The important thing is to be completely up front with any company you go to, stating from the beginning that you are not expecting any money from them and you won’t be selling anything. You are only there to present and help people to take better pictures. Say that you’re doing this, so that if in the future anyone needs the services of a photographer, they’ll hopefully remember you and give you a call.
The definition of a social club is ‘a formal association of people with similar interests’. Each week a community of members will meet to train or to talk about the hobby they are passionate in. This means you have a guaranteed number of people in the same place each week, and a great place for possibly some regular visits.
Use the same techniques from the above workplace suggestions and adapt them for social clubs. Approach the club, ask if you can do a free seminar at their next meeting, place your flyer on their notice board and ask the club secretary to send an email to the members. They’ll be more than delighted to help, as they’re always looking to fill time at weekly meetings with interesting presentations.
Great places to start could include local clubs for:
- Scuba Diving
Even the local working men’s club! The list is endless . . .
The benefits of doing such seminars are huge – you help people take better photos and they will remember you when they have their next special event, whether it be a competition, Christmas party, grading session or ever summer BBQ.
Some freelance photographers may think of advertising as a sure fire way to get business. Obviously advertising helps, but it’s expensive, returns are usually low and there is always somebody out there with more money and a bigger advert. If you do intend to place an advert think about the following:
- Who is your target audience?
- What do they read and where are they most likely to look for a photographer?
- Can you reach them in a cost effective way?
- How many new clients would you need to recover the cost of the advert?
- What is the objective of the advert? Is there a call to action? E.g. to get people to call, visit your website, read an article, hire your services as a photographer etc?
- What will your prospects think about you after reading the advert?
- Does the advert represent your industry? Trendy and funky might be good in some instances, but not on all.
For full details on how to advertise effectively visit our finding work page.
Create your own website
Your website should be infused with your personality and your style. Remember though, it’s easy to get caught up in what you think is right for your website based on the style of other photographer’s sites, so go with the style you feel is right for you, not what is right for others. If your site oozes enthusiasm, then the visitor will feel excited by this and hopefully call to talk about your services.
Really push your service on your website and consider adding the following:
• An ‘About’ section – A section dedicated to you and why you got into photography. This is an opportunity to sell yourself so create a friendly and reassuring tone.
• A portfolio of work – You may want to appeal to a variety of potential clients so rather than having one portfolio showcasing all your photos, why not create various portfolios to show different niches of your work? A dedicated section for weddings, portraits, pets, studio photography and so on.
• Special offers – Each month have a new promotion to get people interested in your services at a reduced rate.
You need to remember that once you manage to get a few people to your site, you need to keep in regular contact with them. Social Networking is great for this. Adding the function for visitors to ‘follow you’ via Facebook, Blogs and Twitter gives these ‘followers’ constant updates on what’s happening with you, regular hints and tips on taking better pictures or even offering online special offers. You do of course have to remember to provide these regular updates and not have the most recent one talking about how to take Summer holiday pictures when Christmas is fast approaching!
This will allow you to give followers of your business quick updates, known as ‘tweets’, on what’s new to your website and if an effective way to inform your followers of new pictures uploaded to your site, or special offers. Most phones also allow twitter alerts to be synchronised with that person’s phone so they do not need to be on the computer to get the alert.
A Blog gives you the chance to upload more casual but detailed stories of what is new in your business, and is also a handy time to offer a few helpful tips to readers. This will allow followers to possibly ask you questions or comment on Blog stories also.
This may not be quite so useful at the beginning of your photography career, however once you are more established it may be useful in networking yourself by setting up a business profile page and getting more followers this way.
If you decide to target larger companies it is very unlikely that the CEO is going to attend your free seminar! However, why not offer the MD a free photo shoot? Offering to come to their premises will show that you are flexible, saving their time and effort. This may lead on to bookings for team photos, senior management photo bookings, company awards, BBQs, team building days, sales meetings or conferences.
You may have walked around Debenham’s thinking ‘I could take those photos’. But it’s important to remember is that those posters and banners around the store are all visuals which were probably supplied from head office or from each brand’s marketing department. Why not think of the following instead:
Some retail stores may hire photographers within the area for more local advertising and photo shoots within the store. A good shop to consider is Mothercare as they regularly hold photo shoots within the store for toddlers. Maybe offer to do a free session for a day to get remembered? Keep your ears close to the ground and listen out for any other stores where you can get this type of opportunity.
This is a more seasonal option. Garden centres may only require photographers around Christmas or Halloween time when Santa and Witches arrive to meet the kiddies! Not all stores will think it is essential to have a photographer to take photos with Santa, but with Christmas being the busiest time of year they may consider that some families will like the idea of this and see it as a good customer service option for the store! However they may ask for some commission from your service.
This is an area that all local photographers may consider for work, but it still may be worth trying to push your services. Hen parties are just as important to a bride to be. For example offering a service along the lines of ‘Feel famous for an evening….your own paparazzi!’ You may not like the smell of vodka, but imagine the quantity of photos you’ll take with all her friends, and how much the bride will sing your praise to others!
One final word
One last piece of advice we would like to offer is, do not think expense equals success. Notice that the above suggestions, on the whole, don’t cost very much – but they do get you in front of hundreds of potential customers. Good luck and keep trying new things, even when you have a full appointments diary!