In this article, let’s discuss three key questions to ask yourself when you begin to plan how you should be marketing your photography business. A plan is vital when it comes to setting the direction of your enterprise, and building up a stable of photography income.
We all have dreams about what our photography business could look like in the future. I know when my wife and I started our own photography business we dreamt about what our business would look like in the future too. We wanted a photography business that would be sustainable while we were raising a young family. We wanted decent hours. Good corporate clients who we actually liked working for. We also wanted to be well paid for our work.
That wasn’t too much to ask for was it? Well, we achieved our dream. We now have three wonderful children (who love playing in our studio). We have a sustainable business and we get very well paid for what we do. It took hard work and many years of perseverance. However we are finally in a good space.
It didn’t happen by accident though. We planned it. We wrote it down, and we strategised about how we would realise our dream of running a profitable photography business. We developed a business and marketing plan for our photography business.
After all of the planning we executed the plan and although we didn’t end up following it to the letter it gave us a pathway to fulfil our dream. Below are three questions that helped us fulfil our photography dream. I hope it can help do the same for you too.
What is your photography business like right now?
Creating an honest picture of your photography business right now is the best place to start when you are developing your marketing plan.
Write down answers to the following list of questions:
Who are your clients? Write down a complete list of your clients and what they do. If you haven’t started your business yet leave this question blank and go to question two.
What industry sectors they are in? Group them into industry sectors. I’ve made a list of industry sectors here.
Where are they located? Where are the majority of your clients based, are they local to you or are they in the Central Business District?
How profitable are they? Do you make a bit of money from them or a lot? Get specific about numbers here. This will help you clarify whether each individual client is the right kind of client to keep working for.
How much money do you make from your business? Are you struggling to make a living? or are you very profitable? This will give you a broad picture about the profitability of the group of clients you are servicing.
How your prices and services compare to your competitors? Are your prices on the high side or low side every time you quote? This can sometimes be difficult to find out. However start by asking your clients why you missed out on winning their business.
Often winning new business will come down to the price. If your client says its money then you can say something like “my hourly rate is $XXX, is our hourly rate higher compared to other quotes?” This is a great way to find out what your competitors are charging.
By answering the questions above you’ll be able to honestly evaluate your current reality. Don’t leave anything because it makes you uncomfortable. The next step is the fun step!
What do you want your photography business to become?
Where do you want your business to be located? Are you working from home currently and want to work in a cool and funky office.
Are you spending your days doing what you want to be doing? What do you see yourself doing in the future. You may do everything now including accounting, washing the dishes or admin work. Do you want to still be the main photographer or be the business leader – or both?
Do you want more of the same kind of clients you currently service or do you want a different kind of client? We’ve all got to earn a living and you may be working for clients not because you want to, however because you have to pay the mortgage. While there is nothing wrong with what I call ‘bread and butter’ clients we all have a mental picture of the type of client we dream of having. Dream a little. Write their names down.
Are you getting paid to provide the services you think you should be providing? A good example of this is that recently I’ve found myself providing sets of custom stock photos for a package price. The clients love it, however because I’ve been giving the advice in our preliminary discussions that it’s stock, they don’t want to pay much for it.
From answering the questions above you’ll be able to finalise your business goals.
What is the best way to get there?
This is the million dollar question. If every photographer could answer this then we’d all be millionaires! To put it simply – how do you get your business from point A (question 1) to point B (question 2)? You may need to change what you are doing now. Ask yourself these questions:
Do you need more time to look for new business? Is the growth of your business being held back because you are doing all the photography work and all the account management? You may be the bottleneck to increasing the number of clients your business has.
Do you need to hire someone who is really good at finding new business? Do you struggle finding new clients? Hate making cold calls? You may find that once you have a client you can grow that piece of business, however you struggle getting out there all the time. If you don’t have a strong new business edge to your personality then this could be a good way to grow your business.
Do you need someone to look after the day-to-day running of the studio? Are you torn between the demands of managing staff and keeping clients happy? Or are you like me, you may struggle with organising people and work flow. There are always issues to deal with too. You may need a studio manager to help you run the staff more effectively.
Do you need to increase your profitability and volume of work? You may want that studio with the river views and a holiday house for the weekends. You may want a new camera, the new car and that new iSomething or other. You had better look at how you can bill more hours and find profitable clients who are prepared to pay you what you need to keep you accustomed to the life you want to live.
Is there a photography or videography discipline that you currently don’t have expertise in? You may be missing out on work because your clients in the industry sector you want to target want more videography or stock imagery services from the same business. You had better think about hiring another person who can work in these disciplines.
Marketing your photography business
Collating all of your answers to the three questions above, should form part of your marketing and business plan for achieving your long-term photography business goals.
What do you want your photography business to look like in the future? Dream big and best of luck!