Like everybody else, I’m so tired of the doom and gloom naysayers. Every year business gets a little harder. It’s the natural progression of consumer trends, technology, marketing and business. While it’s getting harder, there are also more tools to help you build your business and your brand. Plus, you’ve got more reach than at any time in history. A well-structured website and social media activity can give you a level of reach that just a few years ago was reserved exclusively for publications.
1. Your Website:
When was the last time you checked how your website was working?
- Load time – I know you like the music and ego-driving introductions, but don’t get carried away. If it doesn’t load right away you’ll lose your potential customer.
- Image Quality – I’m amazed to see how many photographers simply load in images to fill up space. If it’s not your very best work, don’t put it on your site. I’ve already written about each image needing to be a “wow” print!
- Diversity – show diversity in your technique – black and white, infrared, classic portraits, great lighting, etc. If you’re going to show diversity in your specialities – make sure they relate to each other. For example, landscapes don’t belong in the mix with wedding, family and children.
- Contact information – give people a way to respond and talk to you live. We’re in a service business and nobody has confidence in an email contact system by itself. Let people call you!
- Images – If a picture’s worth a thousand words, then give people more images than text. Check out websites by people like Joe McNally. Matthew Jordan Smith, Yervant, Joe Buissink, Bambi Cantrell, Justin and Mary Marantz for example.
2. Your Network:
WPPI is one of the biggest and best networking experiences in professional photography. You don’t need to travel the road to building your business by yourself. Take advantage of the wealth of information out there through contacts you can build at every function you attend. You should be at your state conventions, Shutterfest, PhotoPro Expo, IUSA, PhotoPlus in New York and every monthly chapter meeting of various groups of photographers in your community.
3. Social Networking:
Facebook, Pinterest, Google+, Twitter…they all have a place in building your network. Get active in a couple of relevant forums where artists with like interests are hanging out. Participate in the discussions and ask questions when you need help. Participate in consumer forums that have a common interest with your target audience and simply build a reputation of being helpful.
4. Read and Listen:
We just don’t do enough of it and there’s a ton of great information out there, much of it written by some very talented photographers. Roberto Valenzuela has a new book on posing. Tim Kelly has a new book on black and white portraiture. Erik Valind has a great book on portraiture as well. Then there are books that have absolutely nothing to do with photography, but you need to read to feed your soul. Check out webcasts and podcasts along with the wealth of information being shared online with video programming. Obviously my favorites are Weekend Wisdom, Mind Your Own Business and SPTV.me. We’ve had some amazing guests sharing information to help you grow.
5. Community Involvement:
You want your community to be good to you, so you have to give something back. Get involved! Do a little volunteer work. Let people know they can count on you for support – and I’m not talking about donations of money here, but your time with local charities, the Chamber of Commerce, the school system, etc.
What are you offering your client base? Make it a point to offer as many products as you can and consider frames, albums, image boxes and canvas prints. There’s a ton of research out there that supports an increase in satisfaction when consumers can “accessorize” their purchases! This is like a fast food chain, “You want fries with that?” If you’re having trouble figuring out what to offer than call your lab and album company! There are new products being introduced every day.
It’s an expression borrowed from Jeff Jochum, but think about how much time you’re working on projects taking up time you could be marketing yourself. For example, if you’re spending hours every week working on your images, when you could be turning it over to a good lab, then you’re missing the opportunity to promote yourself and your work.
8. Back to Basics:
There are too many photographers out there spending too much time on mouse clicks instead of shutter clicks. It’s time for many of you to take a refresher course on photography basics! You won’t need to clean it up in Photoshop if you get it right in the first place! You’ve got to practice constantly. Even great ball players warm up before a game.
9. Take a Break:
On those days when you just feel like you’re going to crash and burn, take your camera and get out for a day. Or, maybe it’s time to get out without a camera and just find some alone time to ponder the meaning of life. Whatever it takes, recognize the signs of exhaustion and learn to shut off the business for a little while.
10. Phone a Friend:
Just like the TV show, “Who Wants to be a Millionaire”, you’ve got a few lifelines. The most important one links one of your best friends. Most of us have those one or two people in our lives who we trust with our secret goals and ambitions. Yet, so often we think we need to work something out alone. You don’t need to be alone when you need help. You need a sounding board or somebody to just help you through the rough spots.
Look, these aren’t the only tools out there to help you deal with the challenges of your business and growing your skill set, but they’re ten of my favorites. Most important of all is getting in the habit of doing something and not getting complacent. You’re part of an amazing industry and as I’ve written before you can stay on the sidelines and watch the parade go by, or you can be right in it!
Skip Cohen is President of SCU, founder of Marketing Essentials International and past president of Rangefinder Publishing and WPPI. He’s been an active participant in the photographic industry since joining Hasselblad USA in 1987 as president. He has co-authored six books on photography and actively supports dozens of projects each year involving photographic education.