This post is Day 6 of 30 Ways In 30 Days To Redesign Your Life With Photography. This series seeks to provide you with practical steps to get you from wherever you are today, to exactly where you want to be – this year! If your goal has always been to take your photography to a whole new level, hang on and start enjoying a new lifestyle you’ve always dreamed of.

A person forms an opinion of you and/or your company in a matter of seconds. Once that opinion is formed, it is very difficult to sway the opinion one way or the other. Which means those first few seconds are crucial in turning a first opinion into a customer.

First opinions come in a variety of ways.

If you meet someone in person, it may be formed by your appearance, the clothes you wear, how you look, your neatness (or lack thereof), your timeliness, or even your attitude.

If someone recommends you, it could be the way a person talks about you, what they use to make the referral (a business card, brochure, etc), or the body language they use while giving the referral.

If someone finds you online, it’s the presence you have built online. Have you taken the time to develop a professional presence? Do you stay active on social sites? Do you control what is being said about you?

And it also is impacted by your studio, your marketing materials, and the way you connect with a person again and again throughout the process.

“I’m starting on a shoestring budget, and am not sure what I should do next. I’ve printed up a few business cards on my own. I’ve created a simple site on Blogger and have a Facebook page. I want to be able to tell and show people what I do, but without a lot of money, what should be my next step.” Josie

When you are just starting out, the last thing you want to do is print up a thousand cards before you have your true identity built. Yet at the same time what you do now will forever impact your business in the future. So where do you spend your time?

For me, it’s always been the Internet.

Start By Building Online

I love technology. In fact I have dozens of websites doing all kinds of things in all kinds of industries. I couldn’t run my business without them. They are my business.

And now more than ever, you don’t need to spend thousands on a beautiful web presence. If you have some technical knowledge and a desire to learn, you can build a beautiful web presence for very little money. However I don’t recommend Blogger or other free sites for a variety of reasons.

1. They are free. You get what you pay for. You will have their branding, advertising on your site, and will be at their mercy if they decide to shut you down.

2. You have little control. With you own site, you can control the RSS, link it to your social sites, and gain traction in Google and other search sites. You have your own domain name, and can brand it in any way you choose.

With WordPress being at the top of the pile of design tools, and with the ease of plugins and share capabilities, WordPress really is the way to go. (Not the free site – always control it yourself.) You’ll be able to design anything, and have full control over what you do.

Make sure you brand yourself, and devote time to growing online. You should have:

  • A website and/or blog
  • Social sites like Facebook, Flickr, YouTube and Twitter
  • Specialty sites or landing pages for individual promotions

Also concentrate on putting together a dynamic presentation. Try expanding beyond the normal – if you see something on other photographer’s sites, how can you make it better? Try creating a high impact video and sharing it on YouTube and other video sharing sites. Or design with SlideShare and add a variety of content. Animoto is another way to create a great message.

While I do recommend having something online that says “WOW”, I also recommend keeping your overall site simple, and avoid Flash sites. Within the next couple of years, most people will be accessing sites from their mobile devices, and Smart technology does not recognize Flash. Which means your site will not show to anyone accessing it through mobile devices. Keep it simple, and give people choices as to what and how they access.

Stay Simple and Say Wow

While you can do pretty much everything and anything online any more, sometimes it’s nice to be able to showcase what you do in a personal way. Because photography is all about image, don’t forget to showcase what you do with an actual image.

I personally love Moo. They offer mini cards, business cards and postcards that come on a heavy cardstock, and give you just a bit more sophistication for the money. Their colors are brilliant, and the overall impact says wow. You don’t have to design one card and print it in quantity – you can change the image on every card if you choose. And if you are just starting out, you don’t have to print in the thousands – start with just a few. I have their ShowCase – a business card holder that holds 15 cards, and have a variety of images within the ShowCase. When you fan it out and the different photographs show, it definitely says more than a standard business card.

Yes, you can argue that the price is a bit higher than you can get elsewhere – you can even find free business cards online or print them yourself. But I’ve found I don’t hand out a ton of cards, and even 50 can last quite awhile. And the overall impression is definitely worth it.

I also love the postcards. You don’t have to use them as postcards and mail them out. Instead, have a variety on hand to show what you do. If you photograph weddings, baby portraits and seniors, have a few from each series. You can combine the postcards in a marketing kit with your price lists and other content, and turn it into something special without a lot of extra money.

Creating Your Marketing Kit

Creating your marketing kit can be a simple process. If you haven’t been to a paper store – not an office supply store – find one in your area. Or check out Paper Direct. They have a lot of ideas for presentation folders, and make it easy for you to create just about anything. I’ve used vellum envelopes, plastic folders and a wide variety of other materials over the past. When you order matching papers and envelopes or folders, it automatically gives you a superior quality. Then print your information yourself, and include postcards to supplement the look, and give you a totally professional appearance.

Some of the things we’ve put into our marketing kits over the years include:

  • Price lists
  • Company overview
  • Resume
  • Awards
  • Testimonials
  • Press releases
  • Article – in the news features
  • Personal articles we’ve written
  • Clothing consultation information
  • Gift possibilities
  • And of course, a variety of postcard images

In many cases, we like to go for the overwhelm. Some people will glance through the packet, others will study it. Sure it’s nice to have it online too. But there’s nothing better than walking out with a professional presentation.

Sometimes Material Is Better

Think back to your birthday, your anniversary, or the holidays. When you head out to the mailbox and receive a card, how does it make you feel? In today’s online world, a physical card can definitely make you feel extra special. It takes time and thought to go that extra step and put something into the mail instead of writing a couple of lines in a text message or email.

The same holds true from a business standpoint. People are so used to being directed to a website, anything else is somewhat of a shock. Which means it can be very beneficial in helping you book a client to step away from the norm, and create marketing materials as well.

The reason we don’t print in bulk anymore is because you can book a variety of clients simply through your online resources. They are excited about you, connect with you online, and are happy with what they see online.

But some will take a little longer, and need a gentle push. That’s what your hardcopy presentation materials are for.

  • You may hand them a presentation folder when you meet in your studio or in a coffee shop.
  • You may mail them a postcard reminding them about their appointment.
  • You may mail them a greeting card thanking them for meeting with you.
  • You may send them a reminder postcard and note about booking with you.
  • And finally a thank you card when they book with you.

If you photograph weddings, you may only need a handful of items per month. So why print things by the thousands when you may change your marketing methods, or add a new image to your portfolio that you love?

The key behind a great marketing kit is to have it sell you without you having to sell yourself. If a person can go to your site, and discover you are the photographer for them, it’s worth the effort you put into your site. If a person loves your presentation when you meet one on one, it’s worth the time you put into your presentation. And if they love your extra touches, and love your postcards to just say thanks, that’s going the extra mile.