January Madness – How To Create A Booming Start To The Year

I know, you’re probably swimming in holiday orders at the moment, and are counting down the days until you can take a much needed break from production. But a funny thing happens between the end of the holiday orders in December and the first of the New Year – the orders come to a screeching halt.

Depending on your niche, January can be a rough month. As the bills come in from a fun-filled December, people begin to put the breaks on so they can pay off those credit cards, and bring their budgets back under control. Which means they tend to “hibernate” a bit more, and just do the things absolutely necessary, bypassing the extras.

Instead of taking the month of January off, or sitting back with the understanding it will be a rough month, do something about it.

Create A New Campaign

If you keep doing the same stuff, you’ll get the same results. Instead, come up with an entirely new idea – something you’ve never done before or have seen anyone do in your area. Put a twist on your regular offerings and breathe new life into it.

You can also look for places where people are spending money and reach out to them. For instance here in Denver, the Rocky Mountains are a short drive away. And January through April are huge for the ski industry. Piggyback off of this trend, and find a way to combine your photography with the ski industry.

Market It Differently

In the above example, you actually have two market areas. Because a large majority of Denverites head up to the slopes on the weekends, you can market to the more affluent zip codes within Denver itself. Many also have ski condos they spend the weekend at, so they aren’t on the slopes the entire time. Not only can you market to people in Denver, but you can market to the resort communities in the ski areas as well. Get to know the businesses in your select areas – in some cases you can put up portraits in their shops, and have a great marketing pull that way as well. [Read more…]

How Do Struggling Photographers Become Successful Photographers?

What would it be like to be a successful photographer?

Maybe you would travel around the world, photographing the most remote places on the planet.

Maybe you would create photo layouts for some of the most successful fashion houses in the world.

Maybe you would photograph celebrity families.

Or maybe you would be content to have a small photo studio, and have hundreds of local clients put you at the top of the list when it comes to a hometown photo studio.

Everyone has a dream; and no one dream is the correct way to success.

Yet in order for every dream to come true, you do need to follow a certain path.

Where Is The Path?

With all of the changes we’ve been experiencing over the past few years, its no wonder people are beginning to wonder if the dream is even possible any more.

  • The average photographer makes $29,440 here in the United States.
  • According to the Bureau of Labor, around 152,000 people listed photography as their profession in 2009.
  • Over 50 percent are listed as self-employed, a much higher percentage than any other occupation.
  • Most are self-educated, meaning they have no formal training. Instead, they rely on self-teaching methods to pick up the skills needed. This includes both photography and business skills.

So when I tell people we’ve consistently made $200k, $300k and more every year, they tend to find it almost unbelievable. Can you REALLY make that much from photography?

Yep. Its possible.

Which is why we started up our Virtual Photography Studio blog back in 2003. We wanted to give back to the community, and offer tips, resources and strategies to the majority of the photographic industry that was just starting out, and really hadn’t found a way to turn their dreams into reality.

A lot has changed over the last 8 years. For instance,

Traditional marketing is all but dead. If you are still paying hundreds of dollars a month for a phone book ad, or paying thousands of dollars to be listed in a bridal magazine, you probably have been questioning your sanity for quite some time.

Online marketing has grown by leaps and bounds. Google has over 31 billion searches every single month. And Facebook has over 39 billion unique page views a month. That adds up to a ton of searching. Which means your clients are there.


The problem is reaching out to them.

Why Marketing Sucks

Marketing is a love/hate relationship. You may hate it, not understand it, and doubt if it will ever work for you. Yet if you don’t focus on it and do it again and again, one thing is for certain: your business will fail.

A great photographer and a lousy marketer will quickly shut their doors.

Yet a great marketer and a lousy photographer will be in business for years.

Why is that?

Because great marketers knows one thing.

They know how to get people to love buying. Not just do it because they have to. They get people excited about the process, wow’d by the experience, and more than anything have a desire to hand over their money happily.

As we continued to build our business, we became better and better at the marketing side. And that made all the difference in the world.

We quickly understood that the easiest way to success is to stand out from the crowd. Don’t do what everyone else is doing. Stay ahead of the pack, and give potential customers something they’ve never seen before.

So we looked at everything we did. If it met those qualifications, we did it. And if it didn’t, we abandoned it.

If You’re Interested In Marketing – Don’t Miss This

During the last hundred years, things have moved rapidly.

I’m sure when phone books were first introduced, having a large ad was cutting edge. Those that took out an ad were almost guaranteed success.

Then magazines and guides came along. I remember when the first bridal magazine was introduced here in Colorado – Colorado Brides. We were one of the first photographers to advertise, and also helped fill the magazine with our images. The business came pouring in because it was cutting edge – nobody else was doing it.

Then the Internet. We were one of the first photography studios to be listed on The Knot. Not only did it bring local business to us, but allowed us to grow our business nationally as well. Very quickly we were getting calls from New York, California, Mexico and even Germany. It was new. It was hot. And it made us stand out from the crowd.

If you are the first to jump at a new opportunity, you’re at the head of the pack. People will automatically find you because you are the originator, an innovator.

But just as quickly as opportunity shines its light, the entire crowd bursts onto the scene, and the opportunity is gone. So while opportunity can be magical, the most important part of an opportunity is being first in line.

As a business coach here at Virtual Photography Studio, that’s what I watch for every day. I watch for the next opportunity. The next magical innovation that allows you to spring forward from your competition, and helps you reach out in a way that makes your clients and prospects say WOW.

And that’s what I’ve found in Mobile Marketing Photography.


The Next Biggest Opportunity

Before I wrap up this blog post, I want to share with you a snapshot of why Mobile Marketing is the next big wave.

Did you know right now, there are over 1.8 billion Internet users on earth, ready to look for you in the online world? Sounds impressive, right.

Nope. What’s even more impressive is there are over 5 billion cell phones currently in use around the world. And because people carry their cell phones with them everywhere, that makes mobile a much bigger force.

If 1.8 billion people access the Internet regularly through a desktop application, imagine what they will do when they can access Internet with their mobile devices. That means you’ll quickly have 3 times the audience. And because that audience will spend much more time with their mobile devices than they ever would sitting behind a desk, you have a huge opportunity just waiting for you.

I was so excited when I started learning about mobile marketing, I quickly implemented this technology into my own business, and have gained multiple clients using this method – this year.

But that doesn’t mean this will last forever. You know how quickly new technology comes on board. And when the masses use this new method, it will quickly become old technology. Back to the “been there, seen that” philosophy.

But for now, it’s brand new and very exciting. If you quickly take it, create a new marketing method with it, and use it to grow your business, you’ll find a ton of customers waiting for you. You’ll be the leader. You’ll be the innovator.

So if you’re ready to make 2011 your year, and you want to be at the front of the pack instead of following behind, this may be your opportunity.

This may be your shot at jumpstarting your business, and seeing how far you can go with it.

It only takes one step. Are you ready to find out what I’ve been using for several months now, and what I know is going to be the turning point for more than  a handful of photographers?


Lori Osterberg

The Easiest Way To Come Up With Dynamic Marketing Promotions

This post is Day 12 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.

Have you started planning out your special promotions for 2011? If so, you probably have the standard ideas on the calendar. Valentines Day, a spring promotion with chicks or bunnies, pumpkin festivals in the fall, and of course Father Christmas come December.

Not only is it standard, your prospects and clients can easily expect it as well. And while they may be open and receptive to it, chances are it comes somewhat of a given in their lives.

What if you mixed it up a bit? What if you gave them the unexpected?

While marketing does follow a pattern every year, there is no reason you can’t shake it up a bit. While everyone is creating something that follows the norm, you’ll stand out from the crowd.

Laying Out Your Calendar

There are only 12 months of the year. And as a business owner, there is no way to effectively create a special promotion every single month. Instead, focus on your year in quarters. Or if you are part time and that is too much work for you, cut it back to two or three times per year.

Take a look at your calendar for 2011 right now, and decide what are the best months for you to run promotions. If you have always been slow in April, that may be a good month to try something new. If you always take the month of August off to go on vacation, don’t plan something in July that will create a huge amount of work left over to do in August when you’ll be gone.

Choosing Your Promotions

Now comes the fun part. Let’s choose promotions. Did you know that every single day of the year is dedicated to some fun cause or event? Think beyond the national holidays, and go with the less known and a lot more interesting.

The 2011 List of Bizarre, Wacky and Unique Holidays will give you something to think about. This list is filled with possibilities. How about Creative Ice Cream Flavors day on July 1st? Or National Golf Day on October 4th?

Run through this list of National Holidays. You’ll find ideas like World Rainforest Week and Sneakers At Work Day.

Thanks to Donna for this list for natural health practitioners – with a lot of interesting dates that will match any business. How about Family Literacy Day on January 27th? Or World Theatre Day on March 27th? Or Women’s History Month in October?

And if you stretch out with your searches in Google, you can find special events in different geographical regions or cultures too. How about Belize? In May, they celebrate with a Coconut Festival, which could be made into a dynamic event just about anywhere in the world.

Incorporating The Ideas Together

After running through the above lists, did you find some interesting days, weeks or months that would fit nicely with your area of expertise? Now its time to set up your special events.

We’ll use National Golf Day on October 4th as our example, and build a special promotion around that date.

No matter where you are in the world, chances are you have one or two golf courses close by. No matter the size or the layout, a golf course is where big business happens. And a golf course is also unparalleled in natural beauty. Which means it’s the perfect place for any type of photography. Family portraits, business portraits, or even event photography – within a few steps of the clubhouse, you can find amazing backdrops.

Approach your favorite golf club, and talk to the general manager. Do they have a special event to celebrate National Golf Day? Would they be interested in doing a charitable function as a way to celebrate? Would they be interested in a portrait package deal for all those who attend?

With something this big, you don’t have to go it alone. Work with charitable causes, and find someone to help you put the event together.

With an event this size, you can get considerable PR for it as well. You can host a silent auction, raffles, or even a dinner/dance combo in the evening. Let your imagination run – and work with a team to gain even more leverage within the community.

You can see how quickly I can turn one idea into a huge event. I don’t recommend going this large your first time out. But every event has to start somewhere. Start simple; it may just grow from year to year as you gain more exposure, and more people willing to tag along and offer their own areas of expertise.

While this idea is perfect for the photographer that loves golf, you can also jump in with any other cause or event that interests you.

I’m heavily involved in literacy projects. So Family Literacy Day or Get Caught Reading Month is exciting to me. Why not work with a local bookstore – donate a book and get a free portrait? Or donate a portion of sales to a literacy campaign?

Again, the ideas are endless.

You can also see how events can take on a life of their own, which is why I suggest keeping it simple – two to four events per year. They do take some planning, but the rewards and opportunities are endless.

And a promotional calendar isn’t just for portraits; it can be for commercial work as well. Corporations love jumping in on a cause if they support it too. Not only can it keep current clients happy, but it can attract new one’s as well.

The Ultimate Purpose

Events bring in sales. However your ultimate goal is exposure, not profits at this point. If you bring in a few dollars from a business portrait on a golf event that morphs into a wedding client spending thousands at the same location a few months from now, that’s networking.

Events aren’t meant to bring in your yearly profits in one lump sum. Instead they are meant to bring in exposure, build your reputation, and provide points of contacts for future transactions.

If your goal is to be in business years from now, you can’t do it by staying in your studio and working one client at a time. You need to get out into the community, and build relationships with those around you.

With promotional events – large or small – the goal is to open up your doors to more potential customers than you ever could do in normal situations. And make connections that will last a lifetime.