CHAPTER 15-: This is the fifteenth chapter of “A Beginner’s Guide to Becoming a Professional Photographer.” – Do you want to attract clients to your photo booth/studio? If YES, here are 7 effective ideas and strategies to market yourself as an professional photographer.
Photography is not nearly the same as it once used to be. Back in the old days, any photographer who had an appreciable amount of talent would automatically find his or her way to the land of photographic glory.
People would come into their homes and place them in the upper tiers of the industry based on their merit. They were hardly ever required to beat their own drum in order to channel some attention towards their craft. Much of that had to do with the rarity of the talent.
In the days gone by, you did not have a DSLR in every household, and very few people took interest in photography as a career choice. Even the frontline photographers themselves were amateur or hobbyist photographers who were paid for their exceptional works every now and then.
- The Need to Self Market
Things have changed drastically nowadays, and the photography industry is now more competitive than it ever was. Under the current circumstances, any aspiring photographer has to deal with the bitter truth that talent alone does not suffice when it comes to reaching the pinnacles in the world of photography.
If you want to be recognized by society as a class act, who has the ability to lead the next generation of photographers, then you have to let society know exactly what you are capable. People will no longer shed the spotlight on you and highlight your talent, skills and potential. That is something that you now have to do for yourself. In simple terms, you need to market yourself as a photographer.
Poor Marketing Skills Will Cost You
Lack of marketing skills is where hundreds and thousands of aspiring young photographers go wrong in their careers. We live in the kind of economy where no product or service can be sustained without the assistance of effective and appropriate marketing strategies.
Photography should be seen as more of a service than an art. Although it is still as prestigious as it used to be, you cannot say that it is as precious. Therefore, it would be quite unwise to hope for other people to be highly impressed by your photography skills, unless you market those skills in a particular way that appeals to them.
If you do not market yourself as a photographer, then you face the risk of having a dry and barren photography career. You can be the most talented photographer in the world and go around taking the most brilliant pictures people have ever seen, but no one will pay it its due importance unless you present it to them in a way that grabs their notice and attention. This is what marketing is all about, and if you fail in this particular area of modern day photography, then you might as well give up on your dreams of becoming a successful professional photographer.
Without proper marketing of your photos, you will not have clients knocking at your door with project deals, you will not have exhibitions calling you up and asking your photos to be displayed in their photography festivals, and you will hardly have critics writing reviews about how good or bad your photos are. In other words, you will be deprived of exposure as a professional photographer and that will make way for a financial disaster in your career.
Does Freelance Photography and Marketing Really Blend?
The reason why a lot of the aspiring professional photographers tend to overlook or ignore the significance of marketing is the fact that freelancing and marketing do not seem to go hand in hand traditionally. The word marketing is usually far more associative with major corporations that are trying to come up with jargons and buzzwords to promote and propagate their products and services.
Freelancing on the other hand is the act of providing specialized service to people without being under the label of any business or corporation. Since a good deal of the beginner professional photographers happen to be freelancers, it becomes quite difficult for them to merge marketing with freelancing.
They simply do not feel the need to advertise and promote their skills, and concentrate entirely on honing their craft and sharpening their skills. Making people aware about your skills is as important, if not more than improving those skills and utilizing.
For example, what is the point of being the best wildlife photographer in the country if you cannot get a wildlife magazine to hire your for any of their editions? As good as the recruitment programs of well reputed wildlife magazines maybe, you should be quite sure that they will not come hunting for you unless you go and knock on your doors with the kind of work that they will be highly impressed with.
Since knocking on their door literally is not much of a possibility, you need to engage in marketing to ensure that you create enough buzz about yourself to grab their attention.
- Self Marketing is Not Cheap, it is Indispensable
Another reason why people, especially freelance photographers, refrain from marketing their profession and their skills is because they find it to be extremely tacky, ineffective and cheap. The first rule of being a professional is that you should never be hesitant or ashamed about beating your own drum and engaging in a little bit of self advertisement.
Why should you feel shy of letting others know who you are and what kind of service you are able to provide? Do not let your ego or your arrogance come in the way of your professionalism. Regardless of how talented you may be, you simply do not expect people to identity you as a great photographer unless you put in a genuine effort into letting them know that you are one.
This is exactly what marketing is all about. It is about stirring up a certain degree of hype and buzz about you as a professional, so that people can take time off of their busy schedules and pay you the attention that you need to drive your career forward with some momentum.
Marketing should not be associated with “selling yourself cheaply”. If anything, marketing is an endeavour to facilitate upward mobility in your career. Without upward mobility, you will remain stagnant in one position and soon enough you will become non functional and unemployed. Modern day photography is all about progressing, adapting and evolving to meet the demands of the consumer society.
- Marketing is Anything But Easy
Marketing is not really as easy as it may sound. If marketing is seen as a form of beating your own drum, then there is one more thing that you need to do in addition to making loud noises about your own calibre. That other thing is probably harder than making the noise in the first place, and it is to get people to listen to your tune. If there is no one to hear you beating your drum, then what is the point of creating all that commotion in the first place?
Therefore, the most important step of marketing is to acquire people or a target audience to whom you will specifically market. Any freelance marketing campaign, just like a corporate marketing campaign, has to be well thought out and well planned. You cannot afford to have a random and spontaneous marketing campaign. Some people confuse marketing with social networking. The two are really quite different from one another.
For example, if you meet a person in the bakery store while buying some bread, you can strike up a conversation with the person and introduce your profession to him. This is called developing a social contact. If you had to market to that individual, then you would be required to brief him on all the services that you can provide him and the amount of money that he would have to pay for it. Under that situation, marketing to the individual would be highly inappropriate and it would probably cause the person to not engage in further conversation with you.
- Invest Time, Money and Energy to Earn Success
As you can see from this example, you cannot market to any stranger that you meet on the street. You need to be well aware of the people who you are marketing to and you also need to have an idea of how these people will react to your marketing endeavours. Needless to say, there is a lot of things that you need to take into consideration before you can proceed with your marketing efforts. It not only takes planning to execute a marketing strategy to perfection, but it takes time, money, energy and a host of other resources to make sure that you have marketed yourself successful as a professional.
Two Powerful Photography Marketing Essentials You Must Know
a. Reach Out to a Target Audience
When you are trying to market yourself as a photographer; there are two specific things that you need to aim for. The first is being able to communicate the whole range of your photography services to your target audience. This means that your marketing strategies should not produce any sort of ambiguity that may force people to be confused about what exactly is it that you do or what exactly are the kinds of photography services that you provide.
For example, if you have a Facebook page where you have a detailed description about your career as a professional photographer, you need to make it absolutely clear to the people that you have a particular niche and you are willing to serve only those clients who are seeking for photographers belonging to that niche within a particular budget range.
As demeaning as it may sound, you need to come off as a commodity that has a certain capacity, limitations and a certain price. You may feel quite belittled at the thought of being compared to a commodity, but when you will see the influx of clients pouring into your social media page asking you for your services, you will not feel a modicum of humiliation for selling yourself off as a commodity. Besides, your clients will not treat you like a commodity, but rather as a professional who is deserving of their respect and their reimbursement.
b. Give Them a Genuine Reason to Hire You
The other thing that you need to do while marketing yourself as a freelance photographer is giving people an unquestionable and legitimate reason for differentiating your from the rest of the crowd. In other words, you have to let people know that you are distinctly different and better than all the other freelance professional photographers and that they will benefit from your services far more than they will benefit from those of others. The mark of an intelligent professional photographer who can market himself effectively is individuality.
Without a sense of individuality in your marketing efforts whether it be in the form of taglines or a social media post or a networking interaction or a blog on photography, people will have no incentive to see you any different from the rest of the crowd. In other words, marketing is all about giving people a reason to get behind you and root for you. Do not just look for cheap ways of attracting them temporarily.
Instead, get their attention hooked from the word go and hold on to their attention and turn it into affection. If you can market your services properly, then people will feel satisfied with your services and proud of being your client. When you see your clients coming up to you and telling you that you are number one on their list of photographers, you know that you have done an outstanding job of marketing yourself as a freelance professional.
7 Effective Marketing ideas for Professional Photographers
1) Alluring Business Cards and Brochures
The tips and tricks of marketing yourself as a professional photographer are quite unlike that which deals with professionals from other industries. Photography is a unique profession and it demands a unique sense of marketing. For example, one of the simplest and easiest ways to effectively market yourself as a photographer is by using the printed marketing material of the highest quality.
Whether it be in brochures or in business cards, make no compromise whatsoever on the quality of the material. These are tangible objects that will be noticed by people quite easily. The moment they touch your brochure or your business card, they should know that you have spared no expense in making it as attractive and alluring as possible. That alone lets them know that you are the kind of professional photographer who means business from the get go.
You do not need 1000 brochures or 1000 business cards. Cut down on the quantity to prioritize the quality. It is much better to hand out 200 high quality business cards and acquire 150 clients than to hand out 1000 cheaply made business cards and end up with 50 clients.
Quality always makes a difference. Some of the recommend items that you should look into to upgrade the effectiveness of your marketing scheme include high gloss promotional postcards, business cards of at least 300 gsm and glossy tri-fold brochures.
2) Perfect Placement of Marketing Materials
You can choose the fanciest material for your business cards and brochures but none of that would make any difference unless you place them in locations where they will receive the maximum exposure. In other words, you need your target audience to stumble upon your printed materials as much as they possibly can. This is how you expand the reach of your marketing scheme. For example, if you are a wedding photographer and if you happen to visit a bridal emporium, then do not simply leave your business card there. That will hardly create a positive impact in your business.
3) Personal Engagement with Prospects
What you need to do is engage with your target audience on a personal level. Try to build a rapport with the staff over there and then hand out your business cards to them personally. Make yourself a memorable presence and let them personally know that you are a lot different from the hundreds and thousands of photographers who have walked in there before you.
It may quite difficult for you to digest all of this information, mainly because you are taught in photography schools to only pay attention to your craft and concentrate on taking the perfect snap, but unless you get yourself involved in such cheeky activities, those perfect snaps that you take at the bridal emporium will hardly be of any good to your career.
Once you have developed a good enough connection with the staff, go a step further and offer them an incentive for every client that hires you after receiving your brochure or business card from the staff at the emporium. The incentive can come in various forms, but more often than not, a simple gift certificate will put a smile on their faces. Do not be too lavish with such expenditures.
You need to make your marketing strategy as cost effective as you possibly can. If the money you spend behind getting a client is more than the money you have made from the client, then your marketing strategy is certainly not up to the mark.
4) Keeping it Old School and Simple
Sometimes, you are not required to be too clever with your marketing strategy. Keep it simple and wait for the results to flow in your favour. A simple, yet highly effective marketing strategy would be to advertise in the local yellow pages.
Although the number of people who go through these yellow pages are not nearly the same as they used it be a decade or two ago, this is still a fairly decent way of ensuring that clients keep calling you up and asking for your services. If the right advertisement is placed at the right time, then you may just hit the jackpot. Since advertising in yellow pages barely costs you anything, you are advised to stay engaged in this old school form of promotion.
5) Going Inbound and Relying on Content
If you are not aware of inbound or content marketing, then it is high time that you should be. Marketing does not always need to have an outbound approach. In other words, you do not have to go around boasting about your skills to people. Sometimes, the exhibition of talent and potential can be a little more subtle and can come in the form of high quality content.
For example, you can start writing blogs on photography for the hobbyist and amateur photographers. This will build up you reputation within the photography circles in your locality and region. Next thing you know, your potential clients will acknowledge your blogs as an authoritative source of knowledge on photography. In their eyes, you will be a professional full of expertise and soon enough, the deals will come flowing towards you.