In part three of this series, we will discuss tips 11 through 15. These are steps you can take today to grow your photography business. If you missed the previous articles, you can read part one here, and part two here.
Special thanks to Lancaster, PA headshot photographer Richard Waine for collaborating on this series. I would also like to thank photographers Michael Schacht and Mike Sansone, who run Headshot Hot Sauce, an organization that trains headshot photographers in sales and marketing. Much of what I have learned about growing my headshot business has been through their mentorship.
11. People Are Not Dollar Signs, and They Can Tell if You Care
Money is important. Managing money, and knowing what you are worth as a photographer, is imperative if you want to be successful in photography, or in any business.
But prioritizing profit over people is a surefire road to failure. Business is all about relationships, and treating a client like a money piñata is not only wrong, it’s also bad business. People are not stupid, and they can see right through a person who is money-driven and also can tell if you genuinely care about their needs. As a small business owner, your reputation in the community will precede you, whether it is good or bad.
12. You Are Not Too Good To Clean Your Own Toilet
Many years ago, I had a business partner who wanted all the benefits of being the boss, without having to make any of the sacrifices. This person avoided doing anything that he felt was “beneath him,” which basically included almost everything other than collecting a check. After a few months of running a brick-and-mortar business together, I noticed I was the only one who ever cleaned our studio. Eventually, I realized this person considered tasks like cleaning, moving equipment, running errands, and even dealing with problematic clients as beneath him. He knew I would do them, because it was the right thing to do, so he just didn’t bother and left me to clean up all of the messes, both literally and figuratively.
Years later, I attended a reception at Peter Hurley’s studio in Manhattan. After the event, which included refreshments for the guests, I watched as Peter began cleaning up his studio. There were many people in attendance who were helping to throw away trash and put the studio back in order, but Peter didn’t think it was “beneath him” or “not his job” to clean his own studio, even though he is one of the most renowned photographers in the world.
I learned a valuable lesson from both experiences. A great leader and successful entrepreneur doesn’t consider any task beneath them when it comes to running their own business. They see what needs to be done and do it. My former colleague thought he was too good to clean his own bathroom, which obviously shows major character flaws that spill over into every aspect of a business.
13. Email Marketing
A great way to build your brand and gain clients is by sending out periodic email newsletters. Newsletters can include everything from photography tips to stories about recent client experiences at your studio. The key to effective email marketing, besides consistency, is to create emails that are engaging. As a headshot photographer, one thing I do is send out emails with headshot tips. This not only provides my readers with valuable information, but it also positions me as an expert in my field. Make sure your emails have a clear call to action, like a button that says “Book Now” or “Learn More.” You want to make it easy for clients to book your services if they are ready.
14. Networking Groups and Trade Associations
As I have mentioned in previous articles, you might be the best in your area, but if no one knows who you are, it will not matter. Although you probably will not gain a ton of direct business by joining the local Chamber of Commerce, it will allow you to build strong relationships with other business leaders in your community. As word spreads about your business, and as you become a valuable and trusted member of your community, your business will also grow. Networking groups and associations are part of the long game, so plant those seeds and keep nurturing them!
15. Stop Competing With Other Photographers
A common and often fatal mistake that photographers make is trying to compete with the other photographers in their market. There are many reasons this is foolish, but simply put, the only person you should compete with is yourself. Once you take your eye off the ball and look at what others are doing, you are losing sight of your own business and goals.
The absolute worst way is to compete with others is by starting a pricing war with them, yet I have seen companies implement this strategy to their own demise. Did you ever wonder why Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts can both exist on the same block and both be highly successful? You can be sure that it is not by trying to compete on price or basically anything else. Instead, these companies focus on their own brand and creating a unique experience and value for their clients. And this is what we need to do as photographers.
My studio is located just outside of New York City, in an area where there are literally thousands of great photographers. Instead of wasting my time looking at what others are doing, I spend my time honing my craft and creating a unique user experience and value for my clients. The truth is that there is room for all of us, and working on making my business better by adding value is a much better strategy than attempting to compete with someone else.
Thanks so much for reading part three of this series. Stay tuned for the part four, coming soon.
Lead image and article images by Michelle VanTine, used with permission.
Excellent article as always Peter. I agree with every point. Clients really sense your energy towards them. I often do little things such as sending a bottle of wine with images or surprising them with a GIF on their stills package. When a client feels that you actually care, they will be lifelong customers and pass your name around to everyone. About 2 years ago I read a quote by Andy Warhol that said 'Make art and while everyone is deciding if they like it or not make more art'. That one phrase completely revolutionized my approach to my work. Now I do wild, outside of the box, "are they going to get this?' ideas and it turns out that this sort of work is what has been my selling point. We sell the content in our mind and no one else has OUR mind. Once I shifted my attention off other photographers and onto what was unique to my thinking, it was a game changer. Great piece, I look forward to #4
Awesome, Michelle! And I love that quote too! Thanks so much for reading and also for letting me use your stellar images. I've had a similar experience too -- clients seek me out for my unique portrait work, and not just artists but corporate clients too.