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Now that you have your list built to start emailing people, it’s time to find a email marketing service to create great looking emails.   I’m a fan of Mad Mimi, which is one of the free services out there that you can utilize.  Mad Mimi works great for small lists or for someone who might not be very savvy at using these kinds of platforms.  The free service does not have all the features as their paid service, but you can always upgrade to their monthly plans once you find it limiting .  It has lots of great tutorials that will lead you step by step through how to create an email marketing campaign.   Once you create these campaigns you can save them and re-use them for different purposes such as monthly emails, etc.

Visualize your ad: Once you decide what you are going to offer, begin to think about how that ad copy is going to read.  Relax. You don’t have to think of becoming the next great Nike “Just Do It” campaign.  You just have to have a clear offering to the clients.  Your copy should include

  • The name of the sale and dates the sale is being offered
  • What you are offering
  • Pretty pictures to tie into what you are selling
  • Any fine print/limitations
  • A call to action

 

Add your contacts and compose your email:  import your emails into Mad Mimi, creating a list.  Then on your Dashboard, start creating your first  email campaign.   There’s easy to understand video tutorials right on the very first page showing you how to do this.    Basically, you’re going to be creating modules of text and photos to build your email campaign. The video will lead you right through how to add headlines, bold your text, add in photos and hyperlink to outside web pages.

Create a Compelling Banner Image:  The Banner image is the first thing people see when they click on your email so make sure it’s eye catching.  Create a 590×320 px  image and add in photos or even text if you wish.  However, be aware that if you add text in your banner people may not see it if they don’t enable photos in their email service.  So if you add text into the banner, make sure it’s repeated somewhere else in the email campaign.

Spell it Out For Them:  Don’t make your clients guess at what you are offering. Keep it clear, simple and concise without a lot of flowery words, testimonials or other distractions.  People tend to skim more than they read, so use bold text and page breaks to draw their eye quickly to what you are offering.

A Call to Action:  Give them a reason why they should spend money. Ever get hooked into an infomercial?  They are the masters of this.  They show you 400 ways you can use that Ginsu knife until you start imagining yourself using one.  But wait, there’s more!  Order now, operators are standing by!  Your call to action should make your clients want to purchase what you are selling because it benefits them.

Make it Easy For Them to Buy:  Sounds like a no-brainer, but if you make your clients jump through hoops to get money to you then they won’t do it.  I set up mine so it’s as easy as clicking a Buy Now Link that leads them to their PayPal account to check out in two clicks.

For my promotion I used PayPal.  To set up the payment hyperlinks, I went to the Merchant Services Tab and “Create a Payment Button”. (Note: I used hyperlinks rather than copying and pasting the code for the Buy Now graphics, because Mad Mimi in the free version does not support all HTML code such as drop down menus.  The hyperlinks might not be as visually pretty, but again you’re not relying on people having their images enable in their email service)

 

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After you click Save Changes your will be taken to this page. Click on the Email Tab on top and copy and paste the code there.

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My promotion that will be going out looks like this.  Feel free to click on the links to see how the interface works!  Notice the “Having a Baby this year?” and similar questions?  Those are calls to action, just worded very slightly differently than the in your face BUY NOW approach.  Again, think like a consumer:  Sell them things by showing them the benefit to them…mine is “you’re going to buy this anyway, why not save money?”

Promote, promote!  Another great feature of these campaigns is you can  create a duplicate copy of the promotion and tweak it to go out a few days later with different wording. You can copy and paste the code right into your Facebook account to draw people into it.   Make sure you ask people to forward it to people they think would be interested in the offerings too!

Get ready for questions:  Because I don’t have pricing built into my email campaign I will have some savvy clients who email me asking “Well how much are your portrait sessions anyway?” so I am prepared with several different responses for my wedding, portrait and senior photography questions.   If you prefer, you can include a link to current pricing in the email.  So make sure when you run the promotions you are not out of the office a lot because by not answering an email with questions you can lose a sale.

Say Thank You:  When I get the notice from Pay Pal that a client has paid, I send the following email to them:
” Thanks for your purchase!  Your  payment  and contact information is duly noted and you need to do nothing more than to schedule your session with me.  To do that simply call, text or email to check on availability. 

I offer the sessions in your home, in the studio or an outdoor session in Metro Milwaukee.  Just let me know what kind of session you are interested in and we’ll get it on the books.  Plan for about 1-2 weeks lead time for week days, weekends may be slightly longer at 4-6 weeks.   If you’re thinking of a summer session please note that due to my wedding schedule Saturdays are not often available.  

I’m excited to work with you and create some gorgeous photos that you’ll be proud to showcase on your walls and with friends and family!”

The great thing about having this in place now is it can be used for promotions in the future.  To set up this Cyber Sale this year took me about 30 minutes and most of was that was because I was dithering about what photos to use.  I changed the text around a bit, changed the format to be different from last year and it’s ready to go.  I didn’t even have to recreate the payment hyperlinks because they were saved in PayPal.

Now, go get yourself some Cyber Sales!

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A few days ago  I talked about Winterizing for the slow season, but let’s take one of the ideas a step further.  As touched upon, the Cyber Sales are upon us.   So if you’re thinking about offering something to your clients, there’s a few things to know and some suggestions for creating a compelling email marketing campaign for your clients.

If you’re going to rely only on Facebook for your promotion, you are going to miss out on a lot of clients.  Facebook is great when used in conjunction with other promotions, but you should not rely ONLY on Facebook promotions. Using email only is limited because you cannot email a lot of clients without violating the limits of your email provider and you can risk being shut down.

There’s lots of email marketing services, most commonly known are Constant Contact, AWebber, and Vertical Response. These services are paid services and are kind of the “gold standard” for sending out mass emails, newsletters and the like.  They have very powerful interfaces and really easy drag and drop templates available to their clients…at a price.  I’ve used several of them and I think for the money they are well worth the bells and whistles they offer once you understand how to use them.  For example, we use AWebber for this blog because for our needs it has a really easy and robust way to send out emails to our awesomesauce subscribers like you. We can go in on the back end, see who has opened the emails and have the ability to do further “drip campaigns” to those we know open our emails and click through our links.  Yes, it’s kind of Big Brother creepy, but are you really surprised?  The net is a creepy and wonderful thing.

But let’s just say you’re not there yet.  You don’t have the time to delve into learning those programs, you don’t have the cash and you don’t have the kind of subscriber list that would make sense for you to have a paid subscription email marketing service.  Where do you start with not much technical know-how but a desire to make some cash?

Your first Step:  Create a list.  You need an email  list of all of the clients you want send this promotion to.  Depending on the promotion you are running, this list could be friends and family, portrait clients, wedding clients, commercial clients…anyone that you have provided services for and that has give you permission to market/email them.  You can create these list in Excel or Word very easily.

What you cannot do:  Market to people that you have not received permission to market to but you have their email addresses.  I’m going to lay it on the line, this is a HUGE gray area with email marketing services.  It all has to do with SPAM laws and such, but let me give you the most common scenario.  You photograph weddings and have an ad in a local wedding publication.  That wedding publication has a bridal fair and the brides fill out a form that they get there to win a prize.  They check a box on the form saying that they are fine with the publication sharing their email addresses with you .  The Bridal Publication sends you a monthly list of those “approved” clients…so you can include them in your marketing list, right?

Maybe. You have to check the TOS (terms of service)  for the provider you use.  Some will allow it.  Some will shut you down because the brides did not specifically name YOU.   They are all different and it’s all very frustrating.

For that reason, I do not blind market to those people. We don’t have a relationship and they are not likely to buy. I want to only to market to people that I am currently working with or have in the past worked with.  My list looks like this: wedding clients and portrait clients.  Every client I book is added to the corresponding list  When I send a promotion it’s directed to them, even if I photographed their wedding in 2002 because they might have had a baby :) They can opt out to the emails any time they choose

Until they tell me not to contact them by unsubscribing, I contact them.  I have the rights to do this under the current SPAM laws.

You cannot do this with Facebook because not every client you have worked with “likes” your page and will see your promotion.  You cannot direct market to them through Facebook!

Your first job is something no one can do for you.  You need to create your email list.

Hint:  You can totally steal my email promotion for Cyber Week 2013 and I am going to show you how. Step by step. But I can’t create your list.  So take some time and do that now.  And make sure you’re subscribed so you don’t miss the next part!

 

 

 

 

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I just shot my last outdoor portrait session of the year and my last wedding.  If I had my way, I would sit on my couch and re-watch Breaking Bad while eating taco dip and drinking IPA for about a month.  That sounds like heaven, bitches!

Steno Pad+Highlighter=My Old School To Do List.

Steno Pad+Highlighter=My Old School To Do List.

But though my To-Do List is markedly smaller than it was a few weeks ago, I know if I don’t start planning now, my bank account will be markedly smaller.  And I am not down with that, yo.   Since my meth cooking opportunities are limited let’s work on a plan, shall we?

Sayonara 2013: Bringing in some fat cash at years end.

 First Step: Goal Setting for promotions .  <Groan> Yeah, I know. Setting goals are about as much fun as writing a business plan but people who actually do goal setting are more successful than you. I mean it.  So right around the corner we have a couple great opportunities to promote your photography business.   Black Friday is on November 28. Small business Saturday is on November 30. Cyber Monday is on December 2.

Pick one, then think about the different things you could promote for your business.

HINT: consider a higher priced service or product that is desired by your clients with limitations. By placing limitations you have the ability to up-sell.


How my 2012 Cyber Sale Increased my portrait business and brought back old clients.

 

Last year I did a ” Free Mini Session with Double Your Prints” promotion for portraits.   I picked this particular promotion for two reasons:

1. I have a base of past wedding clients who have the perception that they cannot afford my portrait services because I don’t charge 9.99 for a sheet of photos and I do not include digital files.  My 8×10’s are $65 and I often am told ” Oh, I love your work, but we just can’t afford that” after I send out my price list.

2. I have a particular passion for seeing peoples photos off their phones and computers and ON THEIR WALLS.  This promotion was specifically worded with that heartfelt message and they had to spend their credit on prints and were not allowed to use it towards any other purchase such as digital files.

This opportunity to have a FREE session for their kids and prints was key.  They then chose the amount they wanted to purchase via some simple links I generated through Pay Pal Buy Now buttons.  $25 got them $50 worth of prints, $50 got them $100 and on up.  Most purchased the $50 gets you $100.  In the space of that Cyber Week End, I sold $1700 and gained 6 new clients I had never worked with.

Ways I up-sold? This promotion was for kids only, no parents.  However at the time of booking, I offered the upgrade from a kid only mini to a family session for $50 which is just shy of my regular sitting fee.  80% of them bought it.   At the in-person sales sessions I had beautiful groupings of their photos already laid out in Preveal that had special pricing for both prints and canvas.   And since money spent is money forgotten, many of them didn’t even think of the fact that they had a credit until I subtracted it out of their total.

This promotion may not work for you if you’re not comfortable with up-selling or in-person sales, but you’ve got something that you can put out there that will.

After the promotion reward yourself with planned down time.

Look, you’ve just killed it for an entire season.   Maybe you’re still killing it and your push is all the way through the New Year.  You have to take time off.

 

Photographers need vacations too, and no client has ever died because they had to wait for their photographs(Click to Tweet)

 

I don’t care if it’s a 3 day staycation at home or a week in the Bahamas you need to take some time off.  Time off that does not include dealing with clients.  I recently read this post about The Art of Taking a Sabbatical which is an excellent read and very thought provoking.  Our jobs as creatives can kill our spirit if we don’t take time off.  I’m a fan of the work  hard, play hard school of thought.

In the next post, we’re going to talk about that fickle bitch the first Quarter of 2014 and how we can tame her while we work on our “Off Season To-Do List” and make money along the way.

Make sure you are subscribed so you don’t miss a thing!

P.S.  Our pal Jamie at The Modern Tog wrote a great blog post this week about Black Friday Sales for Photographers.  She did all the work for you, so you should go check it out for ideas and inspiration!

P.P.S. Need to brainstorm further about some promotions you could do and how to do them?  Post it up in the comments and we’ll help!

 

 

 

 

 

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 According to most photographers on Facebook, they are leading AMAZING LIVES.  They have AMAZING clients, AMAZING locations to shoot at  and are AMAZINGLY blessed to be doing the thing they love the most.   They are rockstars. 

They invite all their friends over and jump into their swimming pools to Kanye West songs.  They don’t come out and say it, but you know they are making AMAZING money.

You know what’s not AMAZING ?    My bank account in the winter months when weddings are as scarce as hens teeth around here.

During that slow  time of year I’d think twice about buying a 1.99 digital download of Kanye’s.   That’s two packs of Ramen, ya’ll.

 Even after doing this for so many years, budgeting is still a struggle for this self-employed photographer.  Every year I put more into my winter “Oh Shit” fund for expenses I did not expect and what do you know, shit just keeps coming up.  

I have one firm rule that I have followed for the past few years:  When the “Oh Shit” fund becomes the grocery money fund, it’s time to take action and look for ways to bring in some cash.

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