Before I started my own photography business, I had been a newspaper staffer for more than 20 years. I didn’t know how to market myself, and I decided to hire a consultant to help me.
Among other things, the consultant I chose redesigned my Web site and helped me to create my portfolio, logo, and stationery system. I’m not going to kid you; it wasn’t cheap. But it’s turned out to be worth every penny.
My photographer friends, complaining about their inability to score clients through word-of-mouth, tell me that they can’t afford to do what I did. “It’s too expensive!” they say.
You know what? For whatever reason, word-of-mouth doesn’t carry as far during slow times. You just don’t have as many people flapping their gums about you. So you better start to rely on yourself to bring in the work.
And that means spending the money it takes to market your business.
If You Were a Restaurant
Think about your favorite restaurant. You love their food. But what if you went there and discovered there weren’t any tables or chairs? Would you still go there? Would you sit on the floor?
My guess is that you would drive to your next-favorite restaurant, and the next time you wanted to go out, the next favorite will have become your favorite.
Now think about your photography business. Your cameras are the equivalent of the restaurant’s stoves. Your lights are the deep fryers and the computer is the freezer. The images are your entrees.
What about your tables and chairs? Your plates, flatware, glasses and napkins?
In many ways, these are the equivalent of your logo, Web site, portfolio, business cards, postcards and other marketing tools. They make your prospective clients comfortable, and give them confidence that you can deliver a visual meal they will love.
The Right Clientele
Now, there are paper-napkin burger joints and fancy restaurants with cloth napkins. You need to figure out which you want to be.
Just because you can print your own business cards on paper stock that you bought at the office-supply store, that doesn’t mean you should.
After my business cards had been designed, I found places on the Web that would print them for $40. Instead, I chose a local printer that charged nearly $1,200.
Why did I choose the more expensive option? Simply put, it’s because I want prospective clients to associate the quality of my card with the quality of my work. You don’t have to spend what I spent on printing, but I will tell you that every time I hand someone a card, the same thing happens.
They whisper or say, “Nice card.”
I spent as much as I did because I am a cloth-napkin photographer — and I want my clients to know that. If you believe your work is of filet-mignon quality, don’t let prospective clients mistake you for a burger joint.