Kim. Not much money but lots of time= get your networking on.
So let’s say you’re a little fish in a big pond. Or you’re a new fish in a big pond. Maybe you’ve jump-started your photography business, or moved to a new location, or added a new service to your photography business that you’ve never done before. Do you:
A: Go online to photography groups and ask for lots of advice.
B: Get out there and start meeting and greeting new people.
The answer is, a little of both. The net is a great place to start, especially when you have no idea where to start and marketing dollars are a precious commodity. But those people behind the screen don’t know your business. They don’t know your personality and they don’t know your market. It’s YOUR job to figure that out.
If I had a dollar for every post of some photographer whining that they’ve “reached out” to other established photographers and “no one responded” and the resounding choruses of “that’s so terrible, they should remember what it was like when they started” I’d be able to retire.
It doesn’t work that way. You cannot expect learn to run a for-profit business for free.
In the beginning stages of my business, I put my face in front of people as often as I could in networking situations. Any chance I had to say “Hi, I’m Kim and I’m a photographer” and give them my elevator pitch I did. It was the only thing I could afford to do. With that, I formed real, in-person, in my town relationships.
Gather round kiddos, because Imma gonna tell you a story. Right now in my inboxes I have 4 requests from various local photographers that I have never heard of asking to “buy me lunch and pick my brain”. On average, I get about 5-7 per month. If I met each of these 7 photographers for a 90 minute lunch that would mean spending 10.5 hours with them. There would inevitably be follow up emails asking me to look over what changes they implemented, or phone calls or emails. It easily could turn into another part-time job.
And frankly, I wish it would. Because I LOVE meeting other photographers and help them strategize their business plans and problems which is why I love blogging. But guess what? They very rarely want to pay me for my time and expertise, they’d just like to buy me lunch. I like lunch a lot, but I can’t make it a part time job.
If your area has networking meetings for photographers or other event professionals then that’s the best place to start. Meeting someone face to face is a group setting is always a better way to begin, then you can ask to meet privately. If you don’t have anything like that in your town, how about you be the one to start one? Even a once a month networking lunch at a restaurant is a great idea.
Be an advocate for your business, value other peoples time and realize that there is no ONE magic bullet when it comes to marketing.
Charo: Build your brand but don’t stay married to it when it’s not working.
I built my brand around the wallet scene in Pulp Fiction
Jules: I want you to go in that bag, and find my wallet.
Pumpkin: Which one is it?
Jules: It’s the one that says Bad Motherf****r.
When I started shooting was just when the era of wedding photographers having different styles was emerging. It was right around the time Denis Reggie popped on the scene and it kind of set the wedding photography field on it’s ear. Suddenly there were “Photojournalists” and “Fashion Based” and then your plain old traditional photographers. It was pretty cool, actually. You could really see a difference in not only in the work but in the branding of the websites.
And because my branding was based on not being like everyone else, it worked. I attracted clients that I wanted that shoot for, which were not clients who based their weddings on some Style Me Pretty fantasy they had in their head, my clients were badass. They were Rockabilly, Tattooed, Alternative Lifestyle people, but like me had a soft spot in their heart for weddings and romance. It’s a weird combination, I know.
Then, as all things do, the market changed. Photographers flooded the market, and suddenly all the template websites looked the same. Since the majority of my clients are not from my transient area, I meet very few of them before the wedding. All of a sudden I was showing up to weddings with a bride I’d talked to on the phone and who loooooooooooved my work and her wedding would be full of sorority sisters and they’d have a giant Kenney Chesney cut out (Not kidding, this shit really happened) that they wanted photographed with all the guests.
What happened? Why was I all of a sudden attracting these kinds of clients? And as you might figure, after the wedding they were not happy with their photos. They all claimed to love my work, but gave me 19 page shot checklist before the wedding. They wondered why I didn’t have them do that photo where the groomsmen picked up the bride after they got their photos even though there was nothing remotely like that in my work. I went through a year of hell and really almost threw in the towels on weddings. I was pissed. It was all the damn newbies. It was because no one read anymore. It wasn’t my fault.
Except, you know, it was. I was Lazy Marketing.
I had to kick my own lazy ass into gear and re-brand because I could not rely on my old branding to work. It was really hard, I really loved aspects of my old website and I wanted it to be as easy as it had been to get clients, you know? But it wasn’t working, and I had to set myself apart in a new way. I had to adjust my branding and my attitude on how to attract the right clients.
Mentally getting my head around HOW to make the changes was way harder than actually making them. I should have done it earlier but you kind of get paralyzed, right?
Sometimes you have to stop being married to things and rebuild.
If you’re looking for course that will help you learn to network, rebuild and re-brand today is the last day for Marketog before it closes until fall. When it re-opens it will be at least $300 more for this kick-ass course that will change the course of your business. We’ve mentioned this before, but we cannot recommend it enough. It’s got a 45 day money back guarantee and if you’re too busy to get to it now, you have lifetime access and you can start the course any time you’d like.
Check out a sample lesson here but remember, it closes TODAY at midnight.