Marketing Basics for Photographers
As a professional photographer in Brighton and Hove, I’ve been there.
You’ve started working as a professional photographer. You’ve learnt a bit about marketing and you’ve found a few new clients here and there. You’ve made a big effort to reach out to people on social media and via business networking, cold calling even. Perhaps you’ve also made the mistake of paying for magazine advertising along the way.
Gradually you’ve achieved more traction and have more work but after a while, sooner or later, you come to a moment when you feel like you have so much work that you don’t have time to market yourself anymore. You exhaust all current client work by shooting and editing all hours and you believe that being so busy, you are doing brilliantly.
Then you decide to check your diary. All of a sudden there’s the realisation that you have hardly any shoots booked for the next month. How did that happen? You were too busy to notice that you hadn’t planned long-term.
This means you have no money coming in next month. Panic sets in and you start doing anything you can to get some work in.
Congratulations, you have fallen into the freelancer’s feast or famine trap.
How to avoid the feast and famine trap as a self-employed photographer
The answer is very simple: regular marketing – daily, regular marketing.
Yes, I said daily!
When I was a newly self-employed photographer and my business coach said to me that I should market my business every day, I couldn’t believe it. “Are you serious? I have to do what? I’m a photographer, an artist – not some weird businessy person. I just want to take photos for a living!”
I know, I was naive. I’d started working as a professional photographer because I love taking photos, I love editing photos and I also like communicating with my clients. It’s good fun – and it was all I wanted to do.
My business coach brought me back to reality. If you want to work as a self-employed photographer, you are running a business – there’s no way out of it. You can outsource if you really want to (and if you have the money to do so) but you will still want to have your own vision as to how you want to run your business. Otherwise you might as well go and get a job – and who wants one of those?!
Marketing plan for photographers
First of all, you need to make a marketing plan. It doesn’t need to be a ten-page detailed document. Even a one-page rough is better than nothing.
If you don’t have even the simplest of written plans, you might as well be shouting into a void, “Does anyone want photos done?” in the hope that someone will say the affirmative. This is not a good plan.
What should you have in your marketing plan as a bare minimum? Let’s have a look:
- Who you want to market to? (Your ideal clients)
- Where do you do your marketing? (Online and offline)
- What is your message? (Brand, Unique Selling Point [USP])
- How often do you market in each marketing channel?
- How do you measure the success of each channel?
(Note – there can be a separate marketing plan for each target market, or a combination of them all into one marketing plan)
Here’s an example of what you might have in your plan:
- Target market: local families with small children
- Facebook groups, Facebook ads, local cafés, day care centre, children’s dance classes and other hobby groups
- A full-day photo documentary of family life during those fleeting years when the children are small
- Participate daily in Facebook groups, a quarterly special deal at daycare centre, etc
- Keep a record of every marketing effort you have made. Keep a record of every enquiry you receive, whether it resulted in a booking or not. Ask them to quote a booking reference for each special deal or use a different email address for each physical location (café, daycare, classes) so that you know where your client picked up your details.
This is obviously the rough beginning of a plan but it is a vital exercise to write things down and get used to a routine as it helps you think of new ideas and will give you clarity on what you are doing to make your business more successful. Think long-term – one, two, five, ten-year plans. Keep track of your progress and address weaknesses and issues as they turn up.
Remember: your plan is not set in stone. Schedule to review it every six months and make adjustments as necessary.
Planning for the future
It is so easy to forget marketing your own business. I have made the same mistake myself. You trundle along, thinking you are doing so well doing shoots and stuff, then all of a sudden you realise your calendar is almost empty for the upcoming month and panic ensues.
The roller-coaster life is stressful in the long run, so be sensible and make that marketing plan right now. Schedule in your calendar that you will do at least an hour of marketing every day, or dedicate one day a week for marketing only. Whichever way you find works for you best but make sure that you stick to your plan of regular marketing. There is no need to succumb to the feast or famine roller-coaster life.
Read next: 5 Social Media Tips for Photographers