Practical Hustle: How one photographer built her client base and actually grew her business during the slow season.
Every professional photographer goes through the peaks and valleys of the seasons. Especially wedding photographers- it’s easy to go from “balling” to “broke” in a matter of days.
So how do you even out those highs and lows? How do you grow your photography business and make it profitable in the slow season?
Recently I opened up our blog to anyone who wants to write- about anything.
Julie answered the call and I thought her fresh perspective on this very topic is really inspiring. I hope you find some inspiration in reading her story, one that is still in progress!
The following is a guest post by Julie Templin.
Julie is a sentimental photographer for warmhearted and spunky families in the Seattle-Tacoma area.
She is in her third year of business and loves the challenge of balancing work and motherhood. She enjoys cooking, gardening, reading with her three kids and outdoor family activities.
My journey as a full time family portrait photographer began in 2013 and I quickly realized: there are many days where I am working hard but not making money. Sound familiar?
Over the cold and rainy months it is so tempting to for me to isolate, clean my office or buy a few new CreativeLive classes…
Being visible and giving back
As 2016 began, I chose to get out of my comfort zone. What I want to tell you is that every single effort has reaped some awesome reward, both personal and business related.
I knew that in order to build my client base, I needed to be meeting more of my ideal clients.
No matter who we want to work with we need to have a presence where they hang out, eat, shop and do their errands.
Last fall I did a few drawings for free portraits at a local hair salon for kids. I started with putting a photo book and some canvases in the shop. This got me a few new clients but then I decided to try something else.
I did two different drawings for mini sessions asking people to sign up for my mailing list to enter.
Over 100 people entered.
The winners have already booked me for something else and referred me to their friends.
For Valentine’s Day and Easter I set up a backdrop and lighting and offered complimentary pictures with hair cuts at the same popular kids salon. I picked two evenings and a Saturday before each holiday and spent several hours meeting moms and dads with kids who had just had their hair cut. All together I probably photographed 90 kids.
Initially I thought I would mostly see families from my kids’ school and our neighboring elementary school but that was not the case.
I met only two new families from our local schools but everyone else was from surrounding areas. If that was all I learned while doing this experiment, I found it valuable information.
It taught me that there are plenty of families out there for me to photograph and potential clients galore. I would love to have one family per week on my schedule and this was encouraging!
This also made me realize I don’t need to reach out to larger cities 30 miles away to get more clients. These potential clients are 5-10 minutes away and are already visiting businesses in my neighborhood- including one that I already partner with.
(Hmmm, what else can I do for and with this partner?)
Doing this gave me great exposure to lots of families in a relatively short amount of time that I would have not met otherwise. It was a great experience for everyone.
Quick inventory on this experiment:
- The families were pleasantly surprised it didn’t cost anything
- They got to see how I interact with their children first hand
- They experienced my customer service
- Each got a custom Sticky Album with a few of my favorite images of their kids which included my logo and every possible way to contact me by website, email or phone.
Many of these parents signed up for my mailing list to receive my monthly newsletter and have actually booked spring mini-sessions. Now they are part of my tribe!
They are the first ring outside my core friends, family, previously known acquaintances. How exciting!
Sharing Ideal Clients
I also knew that meeting other business owners who have similar ideal clients would be mutually beneficial.
Since blogging is important to me, my goal has been to blog every week no matter what. I alternate between offering helpful info & tips or feature sessions as I have them. It can be harder to get through spring blogging because it is my slow time.
I decided that in May I was going to get out there and find four inspirational business moms to blog about.
I started with a Chiropractor in my neighborhood, Dr. Brooke Coates. I have always respected Dr. Coates for how she lives life to the fullest, is happy, healthy and takes great care of herself and family.
When I went to interview her, I was so inspired by what she does in her practice.
I had no idea.
It is of course about necks, backs and healing, but so much more.
She teaches, gives samples, recipes, promotes healthy lifestyle and is really interested in balance between the mind/body/spirit. She works with all kinds of clients but is also passionate about inspiring moms and helping them get healthy and live their best lives.
A few days after my blog post went live about Dr. Coates, I received an email from Shaunna who owns the fitness studio where Dr. Coates works out. She was super complimentary about my post and Brooke.
Shaunna invited me over to see what they did and I absolutely loved their studio. I have been working out there ever since. She and Dr. Coates have totally pulled me out of my fitness and injury slump are helping me to become a better mom and version of myself.
I featured Shaunna and her fitness studio in another blog post in May and she of course shared it with her clients which was fabulous because her ideal client is my ideal client!
I also blogged about Teresa, who developed a pure skin product line because her daughter had reactions to organic and natural products as a baby. I just completed a family session for Teresa and she is going to be a great advocate for me. We also share very similar ideal clients.
The four of us have formed a “Moms in Business” group to support, challenge and keep each other accountable.
My community is learning about my desire and commitment to serve families.
Through this experiment, I have many new friends and have gained followers who are now telling their family, friends and co-workers about me.
This is the good stuff…
We can all get stuck in the day to day necessary tasks, but we need to be thinking about and working on future possibilities too.
Sometimes as a photographer I like to hide and get a bunch of work done. It is comfortable for me.
However, right now I am focused on relationships, getting the word out about my brand and telling myself that having a perfectly organized office is overrated.
In summary, here are a few things you can do to maximize your down time and grow your photography business, even in the slow season. They are working for me and I hope they work for you too.
- Find ways to interact with your ideal client.
- Meet other small business owners in your area who have similar ideal clients.
- Figure out a personal way to get your work in front of potential new clients.
- Plan an event so people can experience you and your service. No strings attached.
- Work on building your mailing list with people who could be ideal clients.
If you don’t have any active clients, get out in the community and find someone to partner with! If you don’t have anything to blog about go find someone inspiring that deserves a bit of publicity. Photograph them and write about their story.
You will both win!