What skills other than knowing your camera kit and how to take a good photo do you need to make your fledgling photography business work, grow, and be sustainable while still standing out from the crowd? What tools do you need and what websites are good enough to bookmark and check daily? These five tips will help you on your way.
Be Great at Social Media
It goes without saying that we need to be seen if we're to be found. Where are your ideal clients found? Most likely the internet. Social media trends, platforms, and channels are constantly evolving and changing. You only have to follow @mosseri (Head of Instagram) to see that keeping in touch with customers and helping photographers to monetize their content is critical to Instagram's vision for 2023. TikTok (previously the dance-crazed platform) is now reaching out to users with educational and informative content. Staying ahead of the trend curve means a lot of time and effort will have to go into getting your content right and sized correctly on these platforms, so these are the tools and websites I use to make this work for me.
Later: This website (and accompanying app) allows me to schedule my posts, check what's trending, look at the best time to post across multiple platforms, and collect information on where my media is being used across the web and by whom. The free account allows you a certain amount of posts for free every month, but if you're posting to multiple channels, then you're going to want to look at the paid channels.
Best-Hashtags: This is a great website. It's simple and easy to use, and it shows literally the best new and trending hashtags to use in your posts. I always check this site before posting. Putting my subject in here almost always comes up with hashtags I wouldn't necessarily have thought of previously. If more likes, comments, and subsequent engagement is what you are looking for, then check Best Hashtags.
QR Code Monkey: Lots of QR code websites don't allow you to download the QR codes without paying for some kind of service. QR Code monkey is different and free (we like free!). I can create QR codes for my client's galleries and send them straight to the gallery after customizing their look and the feel of it. I know everyone will have their opinion on which one is best, but this, for me, is great.
Managing Your Business Quickly and Efficiently
I am not great at delegating. I know how my business works, and bringing other people into it has yielded different results. I know I have to change. My business is at the point of growth, and I am going to have to get more help this year. Managing it all myself has meant long hours, often away from family and friends. Delegating is key, trusting others not only to carry the burden of the responsibility for your business, but also to improve it. Know what you can do yourself and what you can give to others to do. For example, I hate administrative work. Without a doubt, it is the worst part of being self-employed. This is why we use all these time-saving pieces of software that help us, right? Here are some of the software and websites I use and what they do for me.
Lightblue: is key for people like me: creatives that hate the mundane. This piece of software manages the process of onboarding new customers, helps me keep in touch with them, and reminds me when I need to do things like billing and chasing up overdue invoices as well as sending out text messages to customers on their wedding anniversaries, birthdays, etc. It also allows me to plan their wedding day and send out forms, contracts, and links for everything. Alternatives to this I've tried in the past are 17 Hats and Studio Ninja, but ultimately, I stuck with Light Blue because of the ease of use and customizable tools.
Fiverr: I started using this almost five years ago now. They do my intro channels for my YouTube and my business cards. I've even outsourced removing bots from my Instagram account to improve engagement. There are literally hundreds of skilled workers on there. Learn to outsource and create key content while supporting the individual skilled workers that are experts in their fields.
Calendy: Calendy is great, as it connects to my Google Calendar that my partner and kids have access to. It allows clients to see, book, cancel, and reschedule an appointment. I can also have different appointment types and allocate different colors and time slots to them so that in my one Google Calendar, I can see instantly what I have coming up in the days ahead. Its user-friendly interface and ability to change things quickly have made scheduling clients easy and stress-free.
Knowing the Importance of Personal Projects
Taking time out avoids burnout. It yields ideas for creativity and keeps us fresh. I visited France last year in the summer with my kids ,and my partner had a no large cameras rule but did let me take one of my smaller Canon cameras. I managed to get some great shots in a genre I'm not that familiar with (landscape and documentary) and really liked the process of not having to deliver on time and budget. It was just for me and me alone, and it really de-stressed me. This year, I'm going to do more, including photographing my old motorbike and some friends who have old motorcycles.
Be Prepared to Fail
I've lost count of the number of times I've tried something and it hasn't worked. Reinventing myself as a maternity and baby photographer wasn't a great idea. That didn't last long after baby number three decided to hose down my camera, I can tell you. You have to know when it's okay to fail, fail fast, and accept when things just aren't working. It's not always going to be the things you expect to be great at that will make you money. Try to carve out a niche in your genre. Remember that when you attempt to please everyone, you please no one, least of all yourself. The best advice I ever got was from my late friend and mentor Andrew Appleton, who said: "figure out what you like to shoot and show that. If you try to second-guess what everyone wants, you'll invariably fail and not get it right. Doing what you love means you'll never have to change your style for anyone." I've made mistakes in the past and will definitely make them again. Knowing when to go through the tough times to get to the good times is a skill we learn. Develop it, and listen to your gut.
Track but Don't Necessarily Follow the Trends in Your Area
When working out how to target brides and grooms in my area, my go-to information is Bridebook's Annual wedding report. You can download it here for free. It shows everything from how much brides and grooms spend on specific suppliers through to the most popular days of the week to get married. That's Saturday. What I'm saying is: know your onions. Know your market and clients before you decide to step out of the box and bespoke your business. Being able to take all of this in and put together a guide to where your business fits in and how it's going to be different starts with research.
What I'm suggesting is that there's so much more to becoming a pro photographer than just pressing buttons and creating a killer website. Get to know your skills and outsource what you can't do to those who are great at it. Hit me up with your comments and suggestions. I'm always keen to hear from the community.
These are all good ideas to constantly revisit in making improvements to your business plan. I need to get better at outsourcing some of my mundane tasks to outside companies.
Another great thing to add to the personal projects bullet point is to intentionally create wild and super interesting photoshoots that can gain traction on social and live on your website. It's cool to do personal shoots that involve travel no doubt, but often for me at least, those images just turn out to be "pretty photos" that only mean a lot to me personally and not to new visitors to my website. I'm actually itching to get back to these sort of photoshoots myself.
absolutely and reaching out to wedding venues is a big way to go towards that as they want nice pictures of their venue and we always need somewhere nice to shoot right?
Find rich clients. For me, it's all about quality over quantity. I don't do really any social media, i don't advertise, I don't schmooze and I *never* take a low end gig or sell cheap prints. I tapped into a good network of really wealthy people who know my work and recommend it to others. One job or a couple prints will satisfy my financial needs for at least couple of months-- sometimes several months. I'm not saying it's easy to find these clients in the beginning-- but, once you're established in very wealthy circles, things get much easier.