10 Business Networking Tips for Photographers
Getting lots of good quality clients as a self-employed professional photographer is all about building and maintaining relationships. People work with people; if you connect with others in a meaningful manner, they are sure to remember you, and more likely to hire you when they require a professional photographer.
Of course your photography skills have to be up to scratch, too. That is a given. Being a good photographer is not enough, though! Not anymore. There are millions of good photographers in the world, and quite likely hundreds just in your home town. People hire you because – apart from being good at what you do – they trust you to be pleasant, easy and inspiring to work with.
That’s why business networking is a good way to get local work as a photographer.
How to get clients from networking?
People who are new to networking often complain that they went to an event and didn’t get a single client from it. They try a few different networking groups with the same result, and end up believing that you can’t get any work from networking and it’s a waste of time.
If this has happened to you, here me out: it may well be that the reason was not the event itself, but you! Yes, you. There is an art to networking, but it’s not difficult to learn it. All you need is a few simple tips that you can follow, and you can expect to get plenty of work eventually.
See how I said ‘eventually‘? You will see in the very first tip, why. Here are the 10 simple tips for successful business networking:
- Don’t expect to get work immediately. Sometimes you may get lucky and get hired for a job immediately on your first visit to a networking group, but usually you will need to attend a certain event/group multiple times before you start getting work.
- When you talk to people, remember that you are at a networking event making connections – not giving a sales pitch to an audience. Yes, communicate clearly what you do, but don’t limit your conversations to just telling people what you do. Find something common to talk about, have fun and let your personality shine through. I can’t emphasise this too strongly: networking is relationship building. People work with people, not companies. Be likeable (as well as skilled and professional) and people will want to work with you.
- Find a group that you like; people you ‘click’ with. Yes, you shouldn’t expect anyone to hire you the first time you visit a networking group, but if you go to a group 5-6 times and still feel like you don’t really connect with anyone and don’t get any business from it, cut your losses and find another group that better serves you (and also better serves the people you are able to help!).
- Use moo.com for double sided business cards and showcase your own photos on them. You can upload up to 50 different photos that will be printed on the other side of your card. You can use them as a mini portfolio! For added impact, instead of just handing over your card to someone, show them your photos on the back and let them choose the photo they like the best. That way they feel almost like they have got a unique card for themselves, rather than a generic one that everyone else gets, too. They are more likely to keep your card when they have a photo they really like on the back of it.
- Don’t just hand out your business card and walk away. You are there to build relationships, not flyer dropping. Everyone knows a photographer nowadays; and anyone who does business networking knows several professional photographers. Make sure that you are unique – whether it’s a type of clothes you wear, wacky hair colour, an unusual strap line to your company name, or anything else that sets you apart from every other photographer. Be different! (in a positive way)
- Suggest connecting on LinkedIn (or other social media network) with every person you have a one-to-one conversation with. If they are willing, do it immediately on your mobile phone, or as soon as you get back in your office. It is so easy to go to many networking events and forget who you have talked with (which rather defeats the purpose of networking in the first place) if you don’t connect online. When your new contacts start seeing your good quality social media posts, they are much more likely to remember you – and vice versa.
- Follow up after the event with everyone you have had a good conversation with. Never send them spam, though. You shouldn’t add anyone to your email/newsletter list without their permission – if you do, they are sure to remember you for all the wrong reasons. Always ask whether they would like to receive your emails.
- Take photos at the event. When people see you taking photos and being professional, friendly and fun, they are sure to remember you. This tip works for both paid gigs and even if you work for free. Either way, get the event organiser to credit you when sharing the photos you have taken. On some occasions it may well be beneficial to take photos for free, as long as you can regard it as networking for yourself or you get some other tangible benefit from working for free. (Read more on this: Should I Work for Free?)
- Run a pop-up business portrait shoot at the event. Offer to take business portraits for a low price per person. For this, you will need the event to be at a venue where there is enough room for you to set up your portable studio. Coordinate promotion of the business portrait opportunity with the event organiser for maximum result. (Read how I have used this method to get thousands of pounds worth of business as an example in article: Should I Work for Free?)
- Offer to give a talk at the event. This works best at lunch events where at least part of the time people are sitting down and listening, rather than networking all through. When you do give a talk, don’t sell, but tell a story. Storytelling is the best way to sell.
Bonus tip: Don’t stand alone and wait for someone to come and talk to you. It is a networking event so everyone is there to talk to new people. It is completely acceptable to walk to people who are already talking to each other and ask “Do you mind if I join you?”
If you are stuck for things to talk about, check out this list by Hubspot: 17 Great Conversation Starters to Break the Ice at Networking Events.
Hope you get lots of new business applying these 10 simple tips. Do let me know your successes in the comments below!
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