This post is Day 10 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.
Maybe you don’t want to open up a part of your house to customers – you want your house to be your home. Or maybe your city won’t let you run a business out of your home where you have clients come on a regular basis.
You can’t afford to lease a commercial property – how do you go down that road when you barely have enough clients to make ends meet?
So what do you do?
In today’s world, it’s easier than ever. Not having a studio isn’t a detriment; in some cases, it can actually be a distinct advantage.
Stability … Or Not
Having a studio can mean stability. You can put backdrops and props where you want them to be. You can set up your camera equipment and your lighting all in a position you can leave day after day. You have total control. Everything will always be where you put it, and nothing will ever change.
That can be good. And bad.
When we leased our first commercial studio, it was an old dance studio. So we had a huge room with wooden floors, high ceilings, and lots of room to work. We put up backdrop after backdrop, and began accumulating props.
Then we decided to move to a different part of town, and we were shocked at the amount of stuff we had accumulated. So we started to downsize. Instead of studio space, we rented office space. And decided to do all of our photography offsite, and only use our commercial space for meeting prospect and clients.
And we never looked back.
In fact within a couple of years, we closed down our office space, and moved everything back home. Why? Because we simply didn’t use it anymore.
The World Is Your Studio
Think about mainstream photographers right now. You know, the one’s with a lot of backing, that appear in the valuepaks delivered to your door. The discount stores and big box locations that offer discount portraits at the front of the store. You come in, wait an hour in line, stand on the X, move to the sales area and sit through a high-pressure sales pitch to buy everything or have it deleted. Then go home unhappy and unsatisfied. Yep, it happens every day. That is the norm in studio portraiture right now.
And that’s why we decided to never take another portrait like that again. The thing the big box stores can’t do is provide highly customized portraits, and highly personalized customer service. They don’t have time, and it’s not in their mission. They want the bucks as fast as they can get it to create a healthy bottom line.
While I use the example of portrait photography, the same holds true across the board. By providing highly specialized services, you never risk being compared to someone else. Whether you have a studio and love it, or choose to make the world your studio, the most important thing you can do is customize.
Then realize that it’s not where you are located. Rather it’s about what you can provide.
The First Step Is Control
Just because you’ll meet clients anywhere doesn’t mean you can’t be in control. You just have to approach it in different ways.
As a studio owner, you are the professional. You own the business, and the entire process is up to you. So never leave it up to your clients to decide where to take the portrait, or where to meet for an initial consultation. If you ran a brick and mortar business, they would come to you, no questions asked. It doesn’t have to change just because you don’t.
By choosing where to meet, you are also deciding how much time to dedicate to a meeting. If you don’t want to drive half way across town to meet, choose a coffee shop or restaurant closer to you. Scout out areas that meet your requirements. Find a spot that is:
- Quiet and intimate
- Provides wifi if you need it
- Creates a professional image
Is close to you and easily accessible
Then when you are talking about setting up a meeting, take control over the location and time. I usually say something like:
“I generally meet my clients at ABC Coffee Shop at this address. I’m available Monday at 3, or Wednesday at 1. Which works better for you?”
By taking control up front, you’ll rarely be questioned, and this will become your norm.
You can use the same philosophy with your portrait locations. Find out what a client is interested in, and make suggestions. If they enjoy nature, have a few parks lined up. If they enjoy a more elegant setting, have buildings or architectural settings lined up. Give them a couple of choices, and plan your session.
If you do choose to meet in a client’s home, make sure you are compensated for the distance. You don’t have to charge a special fee – just make sure your prices are high enough to absorb the costs of travel.
Start With Your Virtual Presence
While its important to control how you meet with someone face to face, what’s even more important is how you meet with someone in the virtual world.
Today it’s possible to book clients, do the work, create a sale, and deliver a final product without meeting a client face to face. In a commercial setting, a client can easily view your portfolio online, book your services, ship you their products, select their final images and have you ship the products and your final work back to them. You only meet online and possibly by phone.
What matters more than ever is how people view you when they don’t actually see you or meet with you. People will now form an opinion about you without you there to guide it. So you must guide it by the work you put into your virtual presence.
- Your website.
- Your social sites.
- Your voice mail.
Everything needs to direct people to the next step, and provide them with the details they need when they want it. For example, if they find you on Facebook, they should easily be able to connect to your website and blog for more information about who you are and what you do. Your branding should hold through from place to place. And when they call to chat with you by phone, your voicemail should direct them back to your online portfolio.
Everything should work together. And be completely under your control. You’ll be more confident going into the meeting. And will be able to showcase better customer service because you can move securely from task to task without thinking twice about your next move.