Here’s a saying we find really annoying: “do what you love, and the money will follow.” Umm, nope. If we asked every photographer out there if they are working hard, they would say yes. But if we asked every photographer out there if they are raking in the big bucks, many would say no.
So here is the dilemma. You feel like you couldn’t possibly work any harder. And yet, where’s the money? Something is wrong. And it is your job to work it out, because let’s face it, you have to be completely delusional to believe that just taking pictures because you love it is going to make you rich.
Let’s examine some possible issues that could be dragging down your bottom line (and learn how to correct them).
1) Wrong market. This is a pretty common problem. If you think about who your clientele is now, it is likely made up of past clients and referrals. Word-of-mouth is not always the best way to reach your ideal market. You want to be more deliberate about who comes to you, than just hoping the friends of your clients will be the right fit. Yes, you still want to encourage word-of-mouth. But to get the right new clients you might need to fine tune a few things.
First, make sure your online search terms are catered to your target market. The search term luxury wedding photographer is going to garner different clients than affordable wedding photographer. And search terms like photojournalistic weddings, or backyard weddings, or beach weddings will all bring in different people. None of them are incorrect search terms, but you want to ensure that you are bringing in the right clients to help you meet your business plan objectives.
Second, ask the clients that are a good fit (and didn’t come from word-of-mouth) how they found you. This way you can throw more marketing efforts, and dollars, at the methods that are bringing in those ideal clients. And Ditch the duds.
And lastly, find your people so that your newer marketing initiatives are going to the exact right places. For example, if you are going to send out a mailer, have it delivered to a very specific set of homes that meet your criteria. And how do you know what your criteria is? It might be tempting to put in “houses within 10 miles, that have a household income of $300,000 a year or more.” They are close and likely have a disposable income- but these parameters might not give you the results you desire. The close-in-proximity, affluent people might not be your people. Instead target locations where your “good” clients are coming from; specify household incomes that seem accurate to your clients; and most importantly, make sure you include the correct age range of children (or non-children if you specialize in weddings) in the household.
2) You’re not shooting enough. As photographers there are endless ways to spend your days- updating your Facebook page, adding images to your Instagram account, designing studio samples, writing blog posts, etc. And all of these things are important. But you need to make sure that you are spending enough time actually photographing! In fact, portrait sessions and weddings should come before anything else. If you need to push your Facebook updating back to accommodate a session, then do it.
Or, another possible reason you're not shooting enough is because you don’t have enough clients. Then you may need to advertise. Even $50 a month for online marketing on Google, Facebook, Yelp, etc. can pay off. Just make sure to have a specific budget (you don’t want to blow all your profits on advertising), and make sure to research ideal locations for your ad. Start by thinking about where you shop for vendors online. After your ad runs, review your stats and fine tune as needed.
3) Your work sucks. Yep. We said it. We know it’s not nice, but in order for you to succeed, we need to be as honest as possible. We know many photographers out there that are trying to make it, and when you look at their work it’s immediately obvious that their biggest hurdle will be making their work stronger.
The way to improve your work is through education, practice, and research. You can educate yourself by joining photography organizations like PPA, WPPI, etc. and seek out quality education where you can learn from other photographers about a variety of topics. And you need to spend some time pretending you are a potential client and see what they see looking at what they are looking at…. Pinterest, Instagram, and other photographers’ websites. In the end, the photos that you produce will ultimately make or break your business. All the marketing and networking in the world won’t make any difference until the photography work is solid and consistent. Where to start with your education? Read your camera manual from front to back. We’re serious!
4) Your process is complicated. We believe in streamlining and simplifying everything. Keeping workflow simple is a key to long-term success. If steps are overly time-consuming and difficult you won’t do it, and your clients certainly won’t do it. Consider the ease in which a client can determine your point of differentiation (what makes you special!), makes them book you, and order products from you. If it takes a client more than 10 minutes to find you, love your work, and book you, then change your processes.
5) You aren’t good with people. This is a complaint we hear from clients fairly often. When asked why they left their last photographer, more often than not, it had nothing to do with the images; it was a personality conflict. Cultivating great relationships is half the battle when it comes to portrait and wedding photography. After all, the goal is usually to make them happy, right? There are a few required practices. You must be on-time. You must be genuine. And you must be patient. If you don’t think you can work those three things in, then find a career in photography that works with the processing or design-side, instead of one that requires you to work with clients directly.
6) You aren’t confident enough to raise your prices. All of us know a photographer that is still charging $79 per session. And truly, when you first start out, you should be reasonably priced for the service and product you provide. If you are charging a big dollar amount, and can’t deliver what a client is expecting at that price range, then you won’t be in business for long. But some photographers, are stuck in a rut. They are so afraid to raise prices, that they do nothing. And you know the saying, “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.” You don’t need to double your prices today, but you should slowly start working towards a higher financial goal. And substitute the hours spent worrying about if people will pay it, with hours spent making your photography better and your marketing more effective. We promise it will pay off. Professional photography has real value, more than most material possessions. So make sure you are earning the money you actually deserve.
Understand the real cost behind running a business & master your pricing in just two weeks. Get started here.
7) Product. We all know that successful photographers must be selling products. Not only do products make us more money, but they also multiply our brand’s value. First, we have the profit that we earn on the sale of the item. And secondly, when our client has the treasured framed portraits on their walls, or beloved luxury albums on their table, the value of our brand is greatly solidified. The products you sell are a million times better than anything they can go get on their own. And you need to believe it, and help your clients realize it.
Now that we’ve laid out these potential money-making barriers, are you ready to address them and start making some serious cash? We know it can be hard to admit to any fault, whether they be in our business or personal lives, but giving your business a critical once over is the essential first step to raising your bottom line. Just be honest with yourself, and we know you can do it.