Friday, 4 November 2011

Starting your own photography business by creating a BRAND around your name

I was talking to one photographer that other day that basically said that starting a photography business was as easy as buying a camera, renting studio space and then taking bookings from the lines of people hoping that you’ll take their photograph. I asked him how his customers are going to find him and his response was, “I know I am a good photographer and I will just buy keywords on Google.”

Another landscape photographer went into this long dissertation that he was going to apply to be sponsored by a manufacturer, travel the world taking images and sell them to companies in the tourism industry. When I asked this person how he was going to be sponsored, his response, “I know a guy at Nikon and he said he will make an introduction. “

While both goals are admirable, it really is not that easy, never has been, and definitely never will be. As I am sure some of you who are reading this know by now.

So, what is the secret sauce in building a photography business? For me it’s about “branding you, the person” properly. Of course there is the creation of the marketing plans, price sheets, a portfolio, website, joining associations and also networking. Those are the must have’s… you can learn about how to do those on any number of sites. What I want to discuss here is separating your “BRAND” from the hoards of competition out there.

There have been a lot of very talented photographers that have failed in this business; conversely, there are some successful photography businesses that succeeded even though they were not top notch photographers. The difference is that the successful photography business was run by a much more efficient marketer and business person.

Don’t get me wrong, you still need talent, you need to be schooled and you need to invest heavily in this passion. Someone once told me that you need to take more than 25,000 photos before you have learned the basics, another 25,000 to get proficient at taking a quality photo, and another 25,000 to get to the level where you can call yourself an accomplished photographer. I laughed when I heard it, 75,000 photos… “Come On”… but I counted the images on my external hard drives the other day. It was cause for another laugh… “that ole fella knew what he was talking about”, I thought.

I have taken more than 80,000 images and you can see the progression as the years have gone buy. It’s not the number of photographs; it’s the practice and repetition that crafted my skills.

OK, back to the separation of photography skills and business skills. My advice… put your ego and photography aptitude on the shelf for a minute… Let’s discuss business building skills and how to separate the business you from the photographer in you. How we are going to accomplish this is by creating an approachable brand around your name.

The more you give, the more you will receive
Ohhhhhh how I firmly believe this is pinnacle to your long term success. This theme is in almost all my points here. I am a firm believer in giving of your time and products to create long term sustainable relationships that will help you in the long run. A little goodwill now will pay off in the long run.

Be the recognized expert
Be the person that people know they can come to for answers or ideas. If people start associating you with a genre of photography you will create that top of mind awareness you need… then when they think of a photographer when they want to spend money, you will come to mind first. This isn’t about always being selling… this is about always being helpful, a long term business strategy

Learn from the best
Look at a couple successful photographers. Find out how they got to where they are today… don’t be afraid to ask them. They will give you at least some guidance.

Emulate success; don’t try to reinvent the wheel here… this has been attempted many, MANY times before you, if there was a better way, it would have been tried already… so emulate the people who carved out the path.

Press the flesh
Get out there and meet people, and when you do, give them your business card. When you put a face to a company name it will go a long way and making people remember you.

Let them see you everywhere
Here are some ideas to help you get your work out there… (1) go to local coffee shops and find out the process to hang your images in their coffee shops, (2) go see local banks and offer to hang images of the local area in the local branches, (3) investigate local art tours where people go and visit homes or galleries to see local artists, (4) give away images to friends and family to hang in their homes.

To get yourself out there, (1) you can join local photo clubs to network with other local photographers and find out other ways to help you grow your business, (2) get involved with charities and offer to take portraits for the less fortunate before X-Mas, (3) offer your services to the local government or heritage committees for free.

Social marketing is all about relationships built on trust
Facebook, Google+, Twitter, each are online social marketing tools. But they are not a place for hard selling of your product or services. They are a social community where people go to have fun and they do not want to be sold when they are there. These places are an avenue for you to just put your services and products out there for people to see. If people have all the information of your services and products, see that you are personable and available, and your products and services are what they want, they will come to you.

To sell your products and services online use keyword buys on the search engines to target potential customers searching for your products or services. Your website is for this as well. The website is your number one tool, IMO, to attract the maximum amount of clients. It is your online business card. The more people you drive to it, the more successful you will be. It’s a numbers game.

Social networking sites also offer excellent search engine optimization advancements for your website… something you should become intimate with. (Lots to discuss in this area but its a blog entry into itself)

Persistence Wears Resistance
Never give up. You will put in a lot of work, give away a lot of free photos and offer a lot of advice before this pays off… but it will. One day the flood gates will open up and you will look back and be thankful all this hard work was done.

This is where people fall down. They don’t see the immediate payoff. So just be patient.

I am not saying that this is all you have to do… far from it. What I am talking about is the icing on the cake. You still need a traditional and online marketing plan, a sales plan, talk to the banks, create a business identity, create the right website, price your images and services properly… and, of course, always be growing as a great photographer.

What I covered here are just the extra things that will separate you from the others that think that this is easy. Remember what the guy said in the first paragraph? He said, “I know I am a good photographer and I will just buy keywords on Google.”

I know if you follow my advice you will be one of those photographers that this guy looks at while he scratches his head wondering where he went wrong.

Good luck,