How To Snag One Big Client That Can Keep The Money Coming In Year Round

Let’s say you have a goal of bringing in $50,000 a year. If you hit that mark, you could quit your full time job and concentrate on photography year round.

What would be better:

Finding one $50,000 client?

Or finding 10 $5,000 clients?

 How To Snag One Big Client That Can Keep The Money Coming In Year Round You probably jumped one way or the other immediately. Some would say the easiest way would be to find that one great client that you could focus all your energy and provide them with the best service ever. Others would say that is impossible – it’s much easier finding 10 people that are willing to spend $5,000 each.

Now lets define what a client is. How would you define “client”?

Most people would say something like “a person that hires you for a service and brings in money to your business.” Yep, that is a client.

But I think you can look at a “client” in a different manner as well.

I found this definition of client in the Merriam Webster dictionary:

A person who engages the professional advice or service of another.

And that’s where the difference lies. It’s with the word “advice”.

For me, a client doesn’t necessarily have to bring you in money. They can bring you in non-monetary services as well. Including referrals.

So if you are a wedding photographer, and you become close with a wedding reception site – close enough that they send you a good selection of their own clients every year – the wedding reception site could be your client.

In order to market and service this “client”, you would have to maintain a very good relationship with them over time. You could:

  • Take the manager out to lunch
  • Send over a gift basket after you book a client they send over
  • Refer clients to them if they book you before their wedding venue
  • Provide them with a free sample album to showcase how their venue looks in photographs

And of course a whole lot more.

So if your goal is to snag one big client for the year, where should you look for that “client”?

Should you market to a list of newly engaged couples? They get married once. They may refer their newly engaged friends, but time will move them away from your business if you focus on wedding photography.

Or should you concentrate on getting your one big “client” from a referral source so strong, they can literally keep you in business for years to come?

You choose.

The #1 Myth That’s Holding You Back

If I asked you what is holding you back from creating the photography business of your dreams, what would you say?

I’m willing to bet it’s related to the one myth that holds every photographer back at some point in his or her career.

I know, you might say a variety of things – I have people email me all the time with different comments and questions.

Some say they simply can’t find clients in these hard economic times.

Some say they don’t have all the pieces to put together a business.

Some say they don’t have the time to dedicate to do all the things they want to do.

But no matter what people say or how they say it, it all comes down to one thing. The one myth that will hold you back and keep you from being the success you are truly meant to be.

I need to “give” away my photography services and not charge what I’m truly worth.

Yep, I hear it all the time. They may say it in different ways, but that’s truly what they mean.

Have you ever been held back by this myth?

The 1 Myth Thats Holding You Back As A Photographer

Have you ever said:

“Photography is easy – how can I charge for something that people do all the time. Everyone has a camera. Why is my work better than theirs?”

I agree. Photography is easy. Anyone can find a camera, see something they want to capture, and press the button to freeze the moment. The art comes in creating something different that the average person can’t create.

A photographer understands there are many ways to capture an image, but only a few that will make the viewer say “WOW”. They look for the WOW in everything they do. They leave nothing to chance. They take images that most can’t. Because they know how to look beyond what most people see, and capture a whole lot more.

That’s the art form. And that’s what people get paid for. They create an experience that they can’t recreate themselves; that very few can capture.

And they aren’t afraid to charge what that experience is worth.

Or how about:

“I used to charge more 5 (10, 15, 20) years ago. But the market has changed. I can’t get what I used to. I have to lower my sales just to keep up with the new players in the industry.”

Have times change? You bet.

But that doesn’t mean photography has changed. In fact I would argue that there is more demand for photography today than there has been at any other period of time.

Yet that doesn’t mean its business as usual. You can’t “do what you’ve always done” and expect to get paid the same for it. You have to look at things differently. You have to offer things differently. You have to give people what they demand.

And when you tie it all together, you can most certainly make what you did 5, 10, 15 or even 20 year ago … and more.

Or maybe that’s not you. Maybe you’ve thought:

“I would be thought of as greedy if I charged a whole lot more than what someone can print a picture for at “insert your favorite big box store here”.”

Does anyone think you’re greedy if you have a roof over your head, clothes on your back, and food on the table? Nope, I don’t think so. We live in a society that is way beyond “existence” mode.

We live in communities where the basic necessities are a given. They are the norm. We expect people to be well fed, have clothes on their backs, and live in a place that is acceptable to them.

If you have a job, is it greedy expecting a salary? Is it greedy wanting to give your family everything they need and desire?

Then why is it greedy expecting a healthy living from photography?

Photography is a whole lot more than printing an 8×10 at Walmart. Yes, I’ll agree, some “photographers” attempt to do that. And that’s why they are held back.

But if you treat photography as an art form – not simply a business – you create an experience they can never get using their iPhones and Androids.

You offer professional products – not merely an 8×10 that could be printed at Walmart.

You offer albums only a professional has access to.

You offer unique sizes, styles and options your audience has never seen before.

You go the extra mile and do what very few don’t.

And once you do this – once you feel the difference – you’ll quickly realize you are worth everything you charge … and more.

What Is A Photographer’s True Competitive Edge?

Digital cameras of today are sophisticated, easy to use … and everywhere. Whether you use an iPhone and an app, or your Canon EOS 5D with a full array of lenses, anyone with a digital camera and a computer can establish themselves as a photographer willing to be hired to shoot for a fee.

Yes, these wannabes may lack classical training in lighting and posing, but clients trying to stretch their budgets often see them as a viable option.

And so the pricing wars begin.

The reality of it is photography isn’t a product based industry; it is and always will be a service based industry.

Someone may tell you a photograph is a photograph – and the pricing should be comparable from place to place. But if you hear that from a potential customer, they don’t understand the nuances of photography. That isn’t his or her fault. It’s ours as photographers. And in order to create a full fledged, full time, six figure business, you must understand this and build your business into the service business it should be.

What Is A Photographer’s True Competitive Edge

Start with your photography

The problem does arise from the photography itself. What makes you different from the wannabes? Does your work stand apart? Or is it easy to confuse your work with everyone else out there?

If you want to make this your true profession and you are wanting to grow into a six figure photography business, your work has to stand apart. You have to understand posing and lighting. You must create truly professional images. Practice, practice, practice. Attend seminars by people that are already making six figures in their prospective fields. Head to judging contests to learn what master photographers are looking for in images.

Then use this to make your photography stand apart from the competition. You can also use your knowledge to make others aware of what they should be looking for. Point to an image with a telephone pole coming out of a clients head once, and a potential client will know exactly how to look for composition as she heads off to visit other prospective photographers.

Change your marketing and sales

A potential client doesn’t know what to look for until you tell her. Arm her with questions.

  • Does the photographer have liability insurance?
  • Does the photographer have backup equipment?
  • How many images does the photographer take at the wedding?

Whatever questions you present, explain your answers in detail and why it matters to her. If she’s armed with the knowledge you have something that other photographers don’t, chances are she’ll be back with a check in hand when she can’t find the customer service level anywhere else out there.

Use stories to teach

Doesn’t the idea of a general photographer sound great? You can visit them for your wedding, have your baby’s portrait created, and have them photograph the new earrings you’ve fashioned for the brochure you’re designing for your new business.

That’s how many people view the photography world. Flip that around and make them think differently.

Would you really want a cardiologist answering a question about a mole on your back? Or a plastic surgeon helping you with a sore throat?

People specialize to become good at what they do. And as a photographer, there is an extreme difference between shooting a pair of earrings for a brochure, and following a bride and groom around for the day of their wedding.

Yet many consumers don’t understand that. Use a story – just like the one I described about the medical field – to get your prospects to understand the differences.

Maintain your pricing

Finally, don’t be seduced into lowering your pricing in order to get jobs. If something isn’t in your arena, or a client wants you but “can’t” afford you, the decision should be on them – not you. Your time is too valuable to spend accommodating the penny pinchers that don’t realize your true potential.

Let them head out and go with the wannabes to save money. Let them be disappointed in the overall service they received. And allow them to help you by providing stories to their friends – stories that will push them towards you with the lessons they learned.

The 2 Secret Ingredients Any Photographer Can Use To Print Money Every Day

I bet you know a person like this.

Everything she touches turns to gold. When she starts a new project, it’s an instant success. She brings in more cash in a day then you’ve made in months. She celebrates by buying herself little “trinkets” – a new Rolex watch or a red Audi TT.

What makes her so successful? Is it luck? Is it skill? And how can we “drink” in whatever she does so we have a little of it ourselves?

While she may seem lucky from our perspective, she has something that very few people figure out. She controls her actions – and she does so very well.

What? I know, you’re probably wondering what action has to do with it. Here is why it is relevant.

Everyone wants money. And that’s where most people put their focus. They hate their job so they decide to start a photography business on the side to bring in their current income level. They focus in on that dollar number and they do everything they can to bring in that amount of money.

Now you’re thinking:

“Not me. I just love photography and I’m willing to shoot anyone who wants a portrait. Money isn’t the object. I need it to pay the bills, but I’m willing to take anyone as a client and do so regularly to make what I need.”

If this is you, what is the ultimate purpose of every client you bring in? Yes, you’re willing to take in anyone and everyone, but ultimately if you are in business, it is to bring in money. You have to have money to survive, and therefore you have to focus on the numbers at some point in order to bring in enough clients to pay the bills.

Your action isn’t in taking on a certain client. Your action is focused on the end result, which is ultimately bringing in money.

If you owe $1000 at the end of the month, and the only way you will make those payments is to bring enough business in, you aren’t focused in on the clients – you’re focused in on the money. If someone calls and asks for a modeling portfolio, even if you have never done one before, and they offer you a couple hundred to do it, you’re likely to take it, just to meet that $1000 goal.Secret Ingredients Any Photographer Can Use To Print Money Every Day

That’s the difference between your very successful friend … and you.

Your very successful friend understands action. She understands if she puts action on the most important thing in her business, it will bring her in business tenfold. So she does two things and she does those things very well.

1. Focus in on one client
2. Take action to bring that one client in

Rinse and repeat. Again and again.

If she is a wedding photographer, all she looks at finding are wedding clients. And not just any wedding client; a client that meets her specific requirements. She refines that target client again and again until she speaks to that one client so specifically, they hire her on the spot.

If a modeling client calls in, she says no. Even if she is short a few hundred dollars towards her goal. She knows that modeling client will cause her stress, and she won’t perform at her optimal level. Instead of spending hours with the modeling client, she spends the time honing in on a new wedding client. She’ll find that one client. And she will book her. Guaranteed … that’s how she became so successful in the first place.

She does this enough she no longer worries about money. Business isn’t hard to find; it pours into her every day. She’s recognized for what she does. And people think she’s lucky.

And she agrees. She just knows the secret.

9 Things To Do To Drive Your Photography Customers Crazy

I recently wrote a post 13 Ways To Make Sure 2013 Doesn’t Suck For Your Photography Business. I’ve been doing a lot internal planning with my own business for 2013, and I used that post as a trigger for all of you to start thinking about what you want the New Year to bring into your own lives. In order to stick with that theme, I’ve decided to run a “13 Days Of Photography” feature throughout December to help provide you with a ton of ideas and tips on things you can do for your own business starting on January 1st. Here is 9…

Want to know the biggest problem in the photography industry today?

Everybody is the same.

Yep, grab a cup of coffee and surf the web for a while. You’ll quickly find site after site built on a similar platform, or using a similar template, and the only thing that changes is the colors and the customers in the images. It all quickly blends together.

Of course you don’t need Internet access to see it. Head to your local wedding guide. Or pick up a high school newspaper advertising to seniors. You’ll see ad after ad looking suspiciously the same – only the names change, yet everything else could almost be a carbon copy.

What the photography industry needs now is massive disruption – something to make customers’ heads spin and make them really take notice of who you are.

Those photographers are out there. They are changing the landscape of photography as we know it. The only question is will you be one of those photographers? Or will you be one of the many left to blend in to the landscape?

1. Simplify, Simplify, Simplify

Apple. Whether you love them or hate them, you have to admit they have a good thing going. If you are PC, you have hundreds if not thousands of choices. Everyone builds their own PC with slightly different variations. You can get a tablet – you have many different choices. You can get a laptop – again, pick from a huge array of options. But when you choose Apple, your choices are simple. They usually come in threes and your choices are easy to understand. Want an iPad?  You can have an iPad mini, an iPad 2, or an iPad Retina. Once you make your selection, the choices are even easier. Wi-fi or wi-fi with cellular? 16GB, 32GB, or 64 GB? And your order is complete. Easy to choose. Easy to operate. What you expect is what you get.

Now look at your own options. Are you PC or Apple? Simplification can be your easiest way to attract more clients.

2. Reduce complexity

What does it take to do business with you? Do you have a lot of forms to fill out, meetings to attend, and choices to make? How can you create something that requires less time and less to think about? People are busy. Photography is supposed to be a fun experience, not make lives more stressful. Look at your process from an outside perspective. The easier you can make it, the more customers you will attract.

3. Change from the inside out

In many cases, your lack of efficiency isn’t something that targets the customer, its within your own production area. What can you do to become more efficient, giving you more time to spend with the customer? Research apps and find things that make your job easier. Find software packages that combine billing and accounting and production. Work to improve your processes from the inside out.

4. Make your products smart

In this ever-changing world of technology, what makes us more efficient is having things done for us. Think about it for a moment. Don’t you hate buying a new toy, only to discover you don’t have the right batteries to operate it? You have to stop everything and run to the store to complete the project – 30 minutes of time you may not have had. The same holds true with your photography. What if every image came fully framed and ready to hang? What if they came with a hanging kit – hammer, nails and level included? What if you personally went to a client’s home and hung the image for them? Now that’s smart thinking. [Read more…]

12 Things To Do To Guarantee Your Success

I recently wrote a post 13 Ways To Make Sure 2013 Doesn’t Suck For Your Photography Business. I’ve been doing a lot internal planning with my own business for 2013, and I used that post as a trigger for all of you to start thinking about what you want the New Year to bring into your own lives. In order to stick with that theme, I’ve decided to run a “13 Days Of Photography” feature throughout December to help provide you with a ton of ideas and tips on things you can do for your own business starting on January 1st. Here is 12…

Here is a question for you.

How do you know 2013 will be more successful for your photography business than 2012 will be?

I’m sure every one of you looked at that question in a slightly different way. That’s what makes us all different.

You could look at it from a money perspective – I made $20,000 in 2012 and will boost it up to $40,000 in 2013.

You could look at it from a client perspective – I had 10 wedding clients in 2012 and will book 25 for 2013.

You could look at it from a business perspective – I worked a part time job in 2012 and will quit that and devote 100 percent of my time to my photography business in 2013.

Any and all of these perspectives could work for you. IF you do the one thing needed to make sure these goals come true … work on the outcomes every day.

The problem with broad goals – I made $20,000 in 2012 and will boost it up to $40,000 in 2013 – is without the support behind it, it’s a “hit or miss” as to whether it will come true.

But one way will get you on the right track; focus.

Right now is a great time to look at the New Year in a whole new way. Don’t approach it as “one year” to accomplish all you are setting out to do. Instead, break it down into 12 month chunks to give you a reasonable chance for success.

Spend one month focusing in on one detail of your business. Do everything you can to make it work for you. Then move on to the next idea for the following month. [Read more…]

7 Essential Questions To Ask As You Are Designing Your Next Ad

You’ve decided to put an ad in the next issue of your local bridal magazine. Or you’ve decided to invest in ad in the next several months’ editions of a trade publication reaching out to your target market.

Advertising is a long way from being dead. And if you create the right ad, in can bring you in business for a long time to come.

In many cases, the scenario goes like this.

You do your research and find a publication that looks perfect for your target market. You make contact and find out you can be in the next edition … IF you get your ad in by next Friday. So you quickly throw some ideas together and ship it over to the publication’s in-house marketing section. They throw something together using your images and your words, and send you back a proof. You okay it and it goes into the next edition.

But the problem with that scenario is its lack of thought and focus. Your goal is to get it completed quickly. The in-house creative person’s goal is to get you to buy.

No where in that scenario is the concept of helping you create the perfect graphic to maximize your exposure and maximize your potential for clients and profits.

Pick up any magazine you have lying around you and you’ll quickly see a bunch of ads that all look the same. They may be selling a new water heater, tax services to help you with your business accounting, or a clothing store that caters to kids. It really doesn’t matter what business they are in … they all use the same concept in design.

They include a photograph of their product or service concept. They include the name of their company in large font. They include their contact information: address, phone number, store hours, etc. And they may include a price if it’s relevant.

But the purpose of the ad really isn’t to motivate you to take action. Instead, it’s simply more about brand awareness.

Brand awareness is fine for the big companies like Coke or Xerox. But as a small company, we really can’t afford to place an ad to improve our brand awareness. We need sales. We need leverage.

But that’s never going to happen in 80 percent of the ads being used today.

So what can you do?

Start by asking these 7 questions before you begin creating your next ad.

1. What is the purpose of this ad? Are you trying to sell a product or a service? Do you want them to visit your websites? Do you want them to use a coupon? Start with your ultimate purpose in mind before you start the design process.

2. Is your ad engaging? A good ad makes people think. In this case, simple photographs aren’t always your best choice. Don’t believe me? Pick up a local bridal magazine and you’ll see how quickly you become overwhelmed with ads featuring little more than a photograph. Instead, ask questions, provide benefits, and motivate people to think beyond your ad.

3. Do you use the space effectively? Yep, ads can be expensive. But if you have a lot to say, bump up to the next ad size to give yourself more room to say it in. [Read more…]

3 Scary Reasons Your Referrals May Be Nonexistent

This Halloween is definitely one for the record books. While here in Denver it’s supposed to be close to 70 degrees today, up and down the east coast their greatest fears are coming to light with the perfect storm. As we plan for the little ones’ trick or treating (and maybe some not-so little ones too), it always amazes me how real looking and down right scary some costumes can be. They definitely bring our fears to a whole new level.

Even though a monster, goblin or zombie can make our heart beat a bit faster, the feeling quickly disappears when you shut the door. But what about when your fear is more business related. What about when you’re not quite sure of how to bring referrals into your business?

Asking for referrals isn’t rocket science. You don’t need a degree, special classes or years worth of knowledge. The only thing you truly need is the belief you can do it, and the ability to set up the perfect plan that allows referrals to come flowing into your studio on a regular basis.

Yet most people don’t. And it all comes down to one thing: fear.

If you’re not asking for referrals on a regular basis, the first thing you need to do is identify the reason why. What fear is holding you back from referral marketing? Here are 3 of the top reasons people simply don’t ask for referrals – do you see yourself in one of them?

Fear #1: The Fear of Rejection

One of our top fears is not looking or being good enough. We don’t want to hear that someone doesn’t like what we do. So we avoid the situation all together. If we don’t ask, they can’t say no or tell us how they really feel. But if you stop to think about what response you’ll truly get, you can sum it up in several ways. A client will either tell you they don’t have a referral, will be vague about their response, or bring a name to the table immediately. That’s it. And if that’s all you are expecting, the worse you can get is a “no” or “I don’t know anyone”. Accept the “no’s” and move on. Every once in a while you’ll get the yeses. [Read more…]

5 Reasons The Quality Of Your Photography Doesn’t Matter

Think you have to be a supreme artist in order to become the best paid photographer within the industry?

Think again.

In fact, it isn’t your photography at all that makes people come to you.

Nope. It’s your presentation.

Now I know, you’re probably ready to argue with me. “People would never pay for a crappy image” you might be thinking.

But people do it all the time.

Think about it. Lets say you are shooting a wedding and its time for the bride and groom to cut the cake. You take a few images without realizing your settings are wrong.

The images are terrible.

But you find one “savable” image that with a little Photoshop work, you can turn it into something artsy.

Instead of waiting for your clients to question you on it, you show it to them first.

“I can’t wait for you to see this one image. Its amazing!”

You get very excited and you show them your “artsy” cake cutting image.

And they go wild!

“Yes. Yes. It’s your best image ever. We love it!”

Yep, it really works like that. I know because we’ve actually done that before.

Now I wouldn’t suggest taking crappy images all the time and trying to pass them off as your greatest images. But at the same time it really proves that art is truly in the eye of the beholder. You can convince someone something is great … IF you put your mind to it.

And if that’s the case, is there really a set protocol for the type of photography you create?

You’re right, the answer is no.

And in fact, I think there are 5 reasons why the quality of your photography doesn’t matter. Instead, it’s all about something else. [Read more…]

Once Upon A Time In A Photography Studio Far, Far Away …

Don’t you just love a good story?

When you read a great story, it has to have certain things in place.

A great beginning, middle and end. If any of those pieces drag on, aren’t well thought out, or are left to chance, you end up wanting more. It may be an “okay” story, but it will never be great.

Conflict and resolution. There is always something in the story that the main character has to deal with or fight off. Even in a great Disney movie for kids, there will always be a reason the main character has to look within to discover more about him or herself.

A lot of detail. This is Alex. Alex was a recent high school graduate, looking forward to a bright future. Both of these sentences introduce you to Alex. But one begins painting a much more detailed picture. You can start to see who Alex is. You know how old he is and potentially the direction he is heading in life.

As human beings, we care about the story. No one exists in life without a story. That’s why you see stories wherever you go.

Think about the Olympics. Michael Phelps is a household name because they tell his story over and over again. In his third Olympic run, he beat the long time record of total medals held when he swam to his 22nd win. We all rooted for him because we knew his story, have watched him win time after time, and are right there with him as the announcers scream in excitement as he touched the side.

Think about what you read or watch every day. If you have a favorite show, it’s because you are into the story. The Voice, for example, allows us a peek into every day lives of people trying to find that one lucky break. Before every one of the contestants gets up on stage to sing, we spend a few moments learning about who they really are. They grew up bullied. They were different in high school. They’ve been singing in small town bars for years looking for the “big break”. Their mom’s died of cancer. They spent their last dime on a plane ticket for this audition. Whatever the story, you are pulled in and are right there with them, rooting them on and hoping they do well.

It’s because that’s how we are wired. That’s how humans make connections and move around in this world. [Read more…]