Part 1 of how to start a full time photography business was pretty intense. We ran a lot of numbers, but they’re really important numbers because they tell you what you need to charge to make this happen … with a profit!
Remember, without a profit this can’t be a successful full time job.
Which brings us to our next part – comparing the ‘where I need to be’ with ‘where I’m at now.’
So….where are you now?
First, sit down and assess how many clients you have per month and per year. How far off is that from where you need to be? Do you have enough clients a month and need to double it, or maybe just need a couple more clients per month to round it off? Or maybe you’re shooting more clients than you need, but not making as much as you need to per session?
Let’s tackle these one at a time.
Getting More Clients
Let’s say you don’t have enough clients. How do you get more?
1. Bridal shows and other trade shows. Are there trade shows in your area where you think there would be a large gathering of your ideal clients? How much is a booth for one of those? The more you can put yourself right in front of a high concentration of your ideal audience, the better.
2. Networking with vendors and venues. Are there local wedding planners or venues in your area that could benefit from having professional images taken of themselves or their space in return for letting you leave an album of your work and business cards at their venue?
Maybe there’s a local kids clothing retailer that would let you hang some of your work in their store (if you shoot kids or families), or a local women’s boutique (if you shoot women’s portraiture), or bridal shop (if you shoot weddings), etc. The bottom line is, are there any places nearby that your potential clients frequent regularly that you can get your work in front of them? Try networking with those locations and vendors.
3. Word of Mouth. Referrals are one of the strongest forms of marketing you have because people are much more likely to believe in you and your services if they hear about how awesome it was from a friend. Do you have a referral program in place? If not, you might want to think about implementing one. The more you can incentivize your past clients for referring you to their friends and family, the better the chance is that they’ll do it.
4. Facebook advertising. If you’ve never dabbled in it, it can seem pretty daunting. And yes, there’s a lot of moving parts to make sure it works right. But once you do get it to work, it can really pay off.
Plus, you can really narrow down who sees your ads (custom audience), so you’re more likely to only put your ad in front of people who would actually hire you. Because it wouldn’t really help to pay for ads for engagement sessions to people who have been married for 50+ years, would it?
Some of the things you can choose are age, interests, if they have visited your site already, location and so much more.
5. A newsletter. If people click on your website, they’re probably interested in your work. If they sign up for your newsletter, there’s an even better chance they’re actually interested in working with you (instead of just looking at all your pretty pictures). If you’re not doing something to collect the email addresses of those people, you’re throwing away a perfect marketing opportunity. Because some of those people may not buy right away, but what if they find out you’re doing a 10% off sale, or maybe a day of mini sessions? In fact, how would they (or your past clients for that matter) even know you were doing one unless they happen to be on your website when you make the announcement?
The chances of that happening are pretty slim. So what you should do instead of leaving it to chance is make sure you have a way of contacting those potential clients in the future. Plus, if you email them on a regular basis, you’re more likely to come to mind first when they actually do want to hire a photographer.
There’s some information here about setting up a newsletter for your photography business, and even a step-by-step guide on how to create a free ebook for your potential clients (along with information about how this could help you grow your newsletter list and why a newsletter list is important).
6. Organic Search. Yes, Google it’s still a huge driving source of traffic to websites if you are properly blogging. This can not be neglected if you wish to go full time. This means your SEO must be on point! If you’re not familiar with what it is, SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization – in other words, how to make sure you get found on the web by your potential clients.
If you are only blogging for previous customers you are missing a huge area of possible traffic and new clients. Once a week you should blog about topics your prospective clients are searching for online. For example, if you are a wedding photographer your brides are searching for how-to articles almost daily such as how to pick colors, locations, honeymoon spots and more. Provide these great details and use that opportunity to showcase your work, but also help her fall in love with you!
Making More Per Session
Ok, so getting more clients is one way you can make more money. Another way is if you charge more per session. This is the direction you need to go if you already have enough clients.
There’s two main trains of thought when it comes to raising your prices. First, you can do it all at once – just like ripping off a bandaid. Some photographers are hesitant to do it this way, afraid it will leave them with no clients.
If you find yourself feeling a little too hesitant to take that route, you could also raise your prices gradually over time in small increments until you get it to where you need it to be. This is more gradual and will take longer to actually make what you need to make per session to meet your goals, but may help you keep your client load while you increase your prices.
We can’t make this decision for you – you have to make it yourself based on what’s right for you and your business. I know photographers who have gone both routes, and some photographers who have even tried both options. Both ways can be successful, you just have to decide which is right for you.
To get a better understanding of what you should charge download the pricing calculator it is designed to take into account all expenses and deliver a session price for profit
Another way to make more money per session is not by raising your prices, but by changing how you sell. Have you ever considered in-person sales? If you have and you’re not doing them, why? Almost every photographer I know that does in-person sales (IPS) grosses way more per session than if they didn’t do them.
Like, a lot more.
With IPS you may even be able to cut your number of sessions you do in half to meet your income goals. (No I’m not filling you full of crap, I’m being serious.) Think of it this way – you could charge $350/session for an average of 8 sessions per month to make your income goals, or you could do 4 sessions per month, charge $350 for the session fee, and make an average of $1000 in product sales and still make your income goals. (Plus you’re doing less work – an in-person session usually only takes 1-2 hours, whereas an entirely new session takes approximately 5 hours according to our example. Though it’s important to note that our time allotment of 5 hours per session took into account a 1-hour viewing and ordering session already!)
Doing less sessions per month and counting on the IPS sales to meet your goal is a bit of a risk, but once you do them for a while you’ll get a really good feel for what your average is per sale. From that, you can calculate how many sessions you need to do per month to make sure you meet it.
We covered a lot of material in this post and gave you a lot of things to research. The third part of this post will discuss a plan of action (including timeline) as well as discuss the elements of this goal that make it likely to succeed.