How to Get More Photography Clients
So you're starting out as a professional freelance photographer, are you? First off, I want to congratulate you - you've chosen a tough, but a rewarding career path that will fulfill your creative urges while hopefully earning you a comfortable living.
But if you're here, you've already stumbled across the biggest stumbling block any newborn photography business faces: getting people to pay you to take pictures can be tough.
The secret to building a client base
The secret to getting new clients in any freelance business is that there is no secret. Not in any real sense. There are many paths to success in any field, and bridges between paths along the way. There are, however, things that many paths to success have in common that make it easier to reproduce the success of those who have come before.
Creating a marketing strategy
One common truth is that the quality of your marketing is almost always going to be more important than the quality of your work or your freelance portfolio. The downside of this is that being a stellar photographer won't count for much if you have never attempted to market your photography services before. The upside is that if you decide later on that you'd rather go back to photography being a hobby and do something else for work instead, the time you spend learning to market yourself will translate on an almost one-to-one basis to whatever you try next.
So, you're going to want a strong photography marketing plan. But what does that look like? Well, there are a series of steps to putting it together.
Step #1: Pick a niche
Just like any other field, once you get into it you'll discover that photography is a very broad term. Your potential clients will likely not be interested in hiring a generalist. They will want someone who specializes in delivering quality service of the type that they are looking for.
In order to paint yourself in a light that will get you the best clients, you are going to want to take a realistic account of your skills, interests, and goals to figure out what your target market should be.
Step #2: Define an ideal client
On the surface level, you might figure that your ideal client is simply one that pays a respectable rate, but there are other things to consider. How much time do you want to spend working? How important is it to you to improve your skills to command higher prices? How far are you willing to travel for work?
You will only do your best work under the right conditions, and anything short of that is falling short of your potential. If you figure out what is most important to you, you'll be able to envision the type of client who would accommodate those conditions. Once you can imagine the ideal sort of person you would like to work for, it will be that much easier to find clients that are progressively closer to your ideal.
Step #3: Choose the right marketing channels
Each of us only has twenty-four hours in a day, and no amount of effort can create a single extra second. So if you want to be one of the few photographers that successfully make a business out of your hobby, once you know what you want you will need to decide on steps to take to get it.
Whether it's word-of-mouth networking, social media marketing, cold emailing, or your own photography website, you will need to clearly figure out what is likely to work for you and what is not and refrain from wasting time and effort on things that are less likely to bear fruit than others. Not every idea under the sun is worth trying out.
Putting your strategy into action
In this section, we're going to explore some of the possible marketing channels you might use, under what circumstances they might be useful, at what point they might stop being useful, and so on. Check out some of our recommended freelancer softwares to help you.
While we will be dedicating sections primarily to one type of marketing, it is important to take note of the fact that they can and will overlap to some degree.
By this we are referring to direct connections from one client to the next, starting your own organic referral program to generate leads.
When you're just starting out, this can be a good low-pressure way to get your first few gigs. You can pester your friends and family members to put in a good word for you with anyone they know who might have need of your services. Depending on your target niche, this type of marketing may not get you a particularly large number of leads - but, if you play your cards right, you can live comfortably off a relatively slow stream of gigs.
One example of a niche in which this marketing channel can be very powerful is if you're a wedding photographer. Everyone knows someone who is getting married, and weddings are expensive. Getting half-decent wedding photography can be a very pricey hassle. If you offer superior skill at a respectable price, both you and your new client might be better off for it.
Of course, many people will only have one wedding - or, if they do get married again, it won't be for quite some time. This is where the real marketing comes in. For a start, while you are actually at the wedding you can hand out business cards to all the guests so that they will know who to call if they need your services.
More importantly, if you perform high-quality work your clients will be inclined to recommend you to any of their own friends who are planning weddings. If you're not yet confident that your work will inspire a reaction on its own, you might even offer your first few clients a discount to plug your services when they share the pictures to their own social media accounts.
Social media marketing
Now, this one bears a certain degree of narrowing down in itself. There are many social media platforms, and managing accounts on every last one of them is simply not feasible while also completing any real paid work. Choose the platforms that you are familiar with or that you know you can use to potentially connect with your dream clients. That said, there are a few platforms that you, as a photographer, will almost certainly want to have a presence on.
One of these is Instagram, as it has integration with many other platforms and is designed with people with your type of skills in mind. Although, chances are if you're a photographer you already have an Instagram.
Another you'll want to have is a Facebook page, simply for its popularity. If you've already found some success - or have startup capital from another business - you might also consider taking out some Facebook ads.
Finally, if you have video editing skills you may also want to start a YouTube channel. You can take videos of your photography sessions, and even make tutorial videos for other fledgling photographers to get the most out of their own photo sessions. If your videos are of high quality, your viewers will assume the same of your photography skills and will be inclined to give you opportunities for projects.
One potential downside to social media is that your content will be visible to people from around the world but your services may be limited to your own geographical area. One situation in which this downside may not apply - in which case this marketing channel will be very effective - is if you aim to be a travel photographer.
Clients will pay you highly respectable rates for beautiful pictures of people, places and things from all over the world and - with high enough rates or enough separate jobs in each individual area - you can be paid quite a comfortable living to travel as much as you like.
Inbound website marketing and cold emailing
These two are bundled together because, to put it simply, if you are doing one you are also going to want to be doing the other. You will first want to make sure your website is up to snuff before you dip your toes into cold emailing.
Right upfront, this is likely to be one of the best marketing strategies for an independent model or portrait photographer. If you're lucky enough to already be in contact with some beautiful people, you can give away your services to all your good-looking friends and schedule a series of mini-sessions to get pictures of them for your site.
Once you finish your preliminary photoshoot, you can put up the headshots on your site's main page as shining examples of some of your best work to attract the attention of anyone who happens upon your site.
Of course, in order to get people coming to your site in the first place you may also need some other content. If you've got any interest in writing you can have a go at blogging about your photography experiences. Otherwise, you will at least want to make sure whatever content is on your site has good quality SEO (search engine optimization) so that search engines will know to serve your website up to people looking for the services you provide.
Your website will, of course, want to include a page with contact information for potential clients to get in contact with you. At this point in your website's design, you will have to decide whether or not to include your pricing model upfront. If you decide to do so, you'll want to be sure to include service templates so people can get an idea of what exactly they're paying for.
How to send cold emails
Finally, with your website complete, you may eventually get clients contacting you directly - but if you're in any kind of rush, you'll want to kickstart things with cold emailing. Make a list of all the people or businesses that most closely resemble your dream client that you identified earlier, then from that list create an email list with the email addresses of small business owners or whatever appropriate member of larger companies. Offer your services to enough of the right people, and sooner or later you'll start getting bites.
We've come to the end of the guide on how to get more photography clients. Hopefully, by now you've not only learned how to get more clients - but perhaps you've even been inspired with ideas about how to get better ones.
After all, sooner or later your schedule will be full. The only way to grow from there is to develop stronger relationships with the right people. Lastly, don't forget to handle your 1099 taxes!
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