Growing and maintaining a photography business has never been for the faint of heart, but it is possible if you have an excellent, multi-faceted plan. I recently collaborated with Lancaster, PA-based headshot photographer Richard Wayne to create a list of 20 steps photographers can take to keep their phone from ringing, and build a business that will stand the test of time. But stand These tips will be offered in four installments.
1. Website and SEO
Your website is either helping or harming your business. If you neglect your site, it is costing you visibility and customers. If your site is confusing to navigate, loads slowly, and isn’t easy to use, people will click through almost immediately, because their attention spans are short and they can get what they want quickly and easily. want to find. Here are some things to consider:
Your website should showcase your work in a clear, well-organized manner. If you’re a headshot photographer, for example, potential clients shouldn’t have to wander through multiple galleries, engagement sessions, or sports photos of children to find samples of your headshots. If you shoot weddings, it should be easy for people to see wedding photos and understand that weddings are your area of expertise.
Although many photographers shoot different styles, I believe the “jack of all trades” model is bad. For one thing, it is extremely difficult to become proficient in a specific style of photography if you are not laser focused on a style. I’ve found that the best wedding photographers usually don’t take newborn photos, and the biggest headshot photographers probably aren’t shooting real estate photos.
Now, there are clearly exceptions to this rule, and for those of you who work in multiple styles, your website should still be easy and clear to navigate for every potential customer. So, if you shoot weddings, headshots and engagement photos, make sure each of these items is clearly marked and easy to use. Or, consider a separate site for each style entirely.
Don’t upload every single photo you’ve taken so far. I am always surprised how many photos some photographers upload to their websites. For example, there’s no reason to have hundreds of engagement photos, or hundreds of portraits, on your site. Your website should be proof of your best work, not a catch-all for anything you’ve pulled up recently. Avoid multiple images of the same subject, as this is not only unnecessary but signals to customers that you don’t have enough work to show, so you need to repeat the same person more than once. Overall, be extremely selective in what you post.
Display a variety of galleries representing the population you serve. When people are shopping for photographers, it’s important that they see themselves as your customers. Therefore, your site should be diverse when it comes to ethnicity, age, gender and body types. Not only does this make it easier for people to see themselves as your subject, but it shows them that you have experience working with a diverse client base, and will know how to look your best.
Learn the basics of SEO (Search Engine Optimization). Even if you decide to hire an SEO specialist, it’s important that you understand the basics for yourself, as Google’s algorithms change regularly. People are extremely impatient, and if they don’t see what they want, they’ll click through to your site in seconds. This is why, apart from everything above, your homepage should have a clear call to action to make it easy for people to book you. The most important part of your site is what is visible to visitors “above the bottom” (the part of your site that can be seen first). You should have a clear call-to-action like “Receive Price” or “Book a Session” above the fold. Give your visitors a reason to stop and scroll down by quickly showing you your best work, and employing text that grabs their attention.
Use Google’s Business Profile Manager (formerly Google My Business). If you are not using Google Business Profile Manager, it is paying the price for your performance and ultimately business. The first step is to claim your business profile and add all your information. Once this is done, it is imperative to ask customers to write you reviews, as each review will help your search rankings. Rich has a QR code on a neatly printed card stock, which he presents to customers at the end of each session. When they scan the code, it takes them directly to its review page. This is a great way to get reviews, but make sure they aren’t connected to your studio Wi-Fi when posting reviews. I have had several clients who have told me that they booked me based on my 5-star reviews, so don’t underestimate their importance.
You can also post updates about your business through your Google Profile Manager, and this is another way to help Google see you as an active member of your specific business community. Posting updates regularly is a great way to increase your local SEO.
2. Cold Calling and Emailing
Yes, it’s annoying, and no one likes to do it. But a cold call or email is an easy way to spread the word about your business. Often I’ll spend an hour sending cold emails to local businesses offering my services as a headshot photographer. I’m always surprised by how many people reply to these emails, and I’ve booked some lucrative clients this way. I also connect with companies and individuals through LinkedIn, although I do not solicit people directly through LinkedIn connection requests, and choose to send a friendly note saying that I want to connect with other professionals in my community. I want Remember, you may be the best photographer in your field, but if no one knows who you are, it doesn’t matter. If your phone isn’t ringing, send 100 emails today and see what happens.
3. Quickly answer calls, emails and texts
It’s so easy to do, yet almost every week, I book a client who tells me they called another photographer who never got back to them. One thing I’ve learned when it comes to headshot photography is that many people want to get their headshots done at the last minute. Often, this is due to a company press release or an upcoming newsletter/news article, and the customers themselves have little notice that they need to submit a headshot. Replying to your messages, in any form, instantly, is a simple and effective way to grow your business.
Also make voice calls as much as possible. I prefer to talk to customers on the phone for a variety of reasons. Even if I receive a text or email, I’ll follow up with a voice call if I can. Making timely calls to potential customers shows them that they are important to you. Plus, it’s much easier to explain the benefits of what you do, how your process works, and why they should pick you up over the phone (in other words, your sales pitch). Another reason I prefer phone conversations is because it gives people a glimpse into my personality. Connecting with people on a personal level is one of the most important keys to growing a photography business, and it’s increasingly easy to do on the phone.
Once you connect with someone, don’t forget to follow up. After your initial contact, it is important to follow up with people who have inquired about your services. Some people like to shop around, and will contact several photographers before booking. Follow-up will show people that you are reliable, and care about their business. I like to follow up with potential clients using an email drip campaign, which sends out a variety of emails that not only showcase my work, but also address the specific needs of my clients and show them what to do. Why am I the best solution for them.
4. Video Content
People watch a short video instead of reading a paragraph of text, so if you haven’t started yet, make 2022 the year you use video content. I have video content on my homepage and also post regularly on my YouTube channel. The video above (created in collaboration with Pineapple Shirt Productions) is shown right below the fold on my homepage and provides customers with an overview of what a headshot session with me is like, making it easier for them to get to know me and watch mine goes. place. I have had several clients who have told me that they booked a session with me based on this video alone. The content on my YouTube channel is all based on photography, but is much broader than just headshots. I post photos related to gear reviews, business tips, BTS sessions, and anything else that interests me and my clients. The beauty of this is that since Google owns YouTube, this content only helps my website ranking.
Perfection is the enemy of progress. I must have recorded and deleted my first YouTube video five times before I could edit and post something. I criticized the lighting, my looks, my voice, camera angles, materials and everything else, but I finally decided to post something. And I find that each one gets a little better than the last one as I keep posting videos. This is the best way to view video content, especially if you are primarily a still photographer and the thought of recording and posting video intimidates you. Remember everyone started somewhere, so make 2022 the year you start posting video content.
5. Be the Best in Your Market
Even if you make it easy for potential clients to find your website, it doesn’t guarantee that they will book you. They need to know that you are the best in your market at what you do, and are able to consistently deliver excellent results. Therefore, it is imperative that your portfolio showcases high quality work that sets you apart from the crowd.
Adopt a growth mindset as a photographer. The more I learn about headshot and portrait photography, the more I realize how much I have to learn. One of my college music professors used to say, “There ain’t nobody out there,” meaning there’s always room to grow and improve, especially in a creative field. To grow as an artist and business person, I regularly attend workshops, watch tutorials, and read books on photography, art, and business. In addition, I recommend face-to-face with photographers who create work that inspires me to grow as a headshot and portrait artist.
Create work that inspires you and you’re willing to get paid for. At the beginning of my headshot journey, I discovered the great Peter Hurley. His work spoke to me in a strong way, so I decided to join the Headshot crew and learn Peter’s style. Later, when I began to explore portraiture, no one’s work spoke as strongly to me as London photographer Evan Weiss. So, I contacted Evan and started learning from him through Zoom lessons. As I began to refine my personal style (an ongoing process), I made sure the work on my site was representative of what I loved to create, and people started looking for me and requesting those photos. Started doing what I already liked.
To be successful in photography you need to be confident, but it’s important to remember that there is always something to learn, and someone who is better than you. I strive to be the best in my market, but always try to outperform myself and push the limits of what I have achieved in my last session and my last quarter. Photographers who are stuck in their own way, and resist change, however, will eventually lose out in the long run, as people’s tastes and good business practices evolve over time, and we should be able to too.
I hope you enjoy the first part of this four-part series. Stay tuned for the next installment.
Lead image by Ilya Ovchar, used with permission.