Why are so many photographers broke?
The beautiful thing about having a skill you are passionate about is that it is quite easy to turn it into a business if you know how to do so. I used to think that making money from your skill was the same as having a business. Many photographers fall into that trap as well. What they do not realize is that until you have products and services that generate income even when you are not around, you do not really have a business.
Question for today is,
“If I went away for 3 weeks, would my business be able to generate income without me?”
In this series, I am going to share some insights on how to make more money with a skill such as photography. The best photographers I have met use these strategies and tactics to increase their income and customers.
It is said that the best basketball players are not in the NBA and the best footballers are not in Champions League. This is not completely true in the context of commercial value. A lot of people have a talent but they do not have enough efficiency, knowledge or competence to make this talent commercially viable. Maybe the neighbourhood soccer star can score more goals than Lionel Messi but does he have the composure to remain calm when 75000 people are booing in a Champions League final? Will he be able to show up for practice at 430 am for 7 weeks without fail?
Being good with a camera is one thing but the talent only become commercially valuable when it can generate income and be compared with the best when matched on a global level. Sadly, many photographers I have met no little to nothing about business.
Always think about the client first. She is the one paying for the photography so it should be more about whether she will like the photos forever or not. The likes and fame will follow only after client satisfaction.
How to get popular
When Barrak El-Mahmoud, started out, he was not very good and he did not have any paying customers so he came up with a plan. He would go to a popular lounge in Labone and take pictures of the guests for free. He would however take down their Facebook names and tag them online after editing the photos so their network would like and share his work. This worked out brilliantly for him because he quickly put up a website with his rate card and positioned himself as someone to call whenever you had an event.
Another strategy that works is to approach a potentially popular startup or celebrity and take some photos for them in exchange for a mention on their Facebook, Instagram or Twitter pages. An even more effective approach would be to ask them for the phone numbers or email addresses of people you want to work with that are in their network. You can then send your portfolio with a personal message and your rate card to these potential clients. Knowing that one of their friend’s likes your work will lower the barriers of entry. In addition to this I would say that is prudent to make a list of 100 people you would like to shoot in your local area or nation and contact each one personally to introduce your work. Also when picking people to work with, make sure they have a lot of engaged followers. If you have 1000 followers and they have 2000, that may not be the best joint venture unless it is a niche you are going after. If not, you may need to find someone who has at least 10 times the number of followers you currently have.
Do not fall for the “I know a lot of people so take free pictures of me. “
In addition to this, when someone puts up your photo, they can ask their followers to contact you in the next 48 hours for a discount on your services. You should explain to them that they will get some kind of remuneration for this.
Sidenote: Too many photographers are afraid to walk up to someone and pitch their services. I do not know how they expect to make money with shyness. On another note, not everyone is honest so be careful you do not go around taking free photos for people who will not help you. It is also important to tell people that you will be charging them some money before you take the photos. I have seen photographers get to the middle of a project and realize that they are doing too much work for free. The client by that time is not interested in paying for something that she did not know was going to come with a bill
Someone asked me on Tumblr recently, which photographers I thought were doing exceptional work. That question made me think about positioning. As a photographer, do you want your ideal client to think of you when she wants photos for a corporate event, baby shower, wedding or a portrait of herself? This is why it is important to have no more than 2 areas that you heavily publicize as your strengths. Only about 10% of your audience will remember what you shot two years ago. The other 90% care about what you are shooting today. Allen Coleman has done a fantastic job of positioning himself as a fashion photographer with an editorial flair. Looking at his online presence will never make anyone confuse him for a wedding photographer.
There are events happening every day that need good photography. Talk to event management companies or friends and find out who is about to have a baby shower, a wedding or a party.
Look out for people who have clients that need photography. For example, pastors and marriage counsellors are a good place to start.
Speak to your local church and find out which couples are getting ready for marriage and offer your services.
This will help you gain enough traction and also spread word about your services. My mother once saw a company she wanted to supply automobile parts for, but didn’t know which parts they would need so she devised a plan. She followed their trucks to their loading stations and asked the drivers for the names of their mechanics. She then approached the mechanics and they told her which parts were usually faulty. This information helped her to tailor her pitch for the company. The alternative was to sit in her office and wait for business to come knocking on her door.
We will speak about pricing because let’s face it, most people do not want to pay you the right amount for your work.
Any other tips and personal experiences for photographers and creatives the visual realm?
Photographers featured in this post
Baby Raj(that’s how I know her. lol)-her work has soul
Barrak El-Mahmoud, @capturegh, www.captureghana.com. Many of the photographers in this post were trained by him at some point.
Steve Mooresive : His commercial photography work is stellar
Amfo Connolly: He knows how to do the glam and has an eye for design
Allen Coleman: You can tell how passionate he is about fashion through his pics without ever meeting him face to face.
Ofoe Amegavie: He has an eye for fashion editorials
I think one of the biggest problems for a creative entrepreneur is growing a business. This is my attempt at helping. I have made and sometimes lost money as a fashion designer, graphic designer, founder of an artist management firm,web developer, freelance designer, brand consultant and marketing director at a footwear brand.
Do you know any good resources for creative entrepreneurs? Please share below.
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