When a photographer doesn’t succeed, it’s not usually because of lack of talent. It’s because they didn’t know how to market themselves.
You need to market your work to have a steady stream of clients coming in the door. This is true whether you’re an emerging photographer or a seasoned veteran. And even when your schedule is busy, you still need to market.
Here are the top six marketing mistakes to avoid.
6. Not Charging Enough
I’m starting with this one because it’s the most significant. Not charging enough will have a big impact on your business and can cause you to fail before you’ve gotten started.
New photographers have the misconception that if they charge low prices, they’ll have a better chance of landing the gig.
In some cases, this may be true. But the job can end up being a bigger headache than it’s worth. Clients that choose a photographer based on price alone are often difficult to work with. The reason is that they don’t actually value photography.
In the case of a small business, they don’t understand that the photographs that brand their company can indirectly earn them a lot of revenue. You can charge them $200.00 for 100 images, they still won’t be satisfied. They don’t see the value.
In turn, you’ll be frustrated and resentful that you’re doing so much work and getting paid so little.
Your time is better spent on the marketing efforts that can bring you the clients with a bigger budget. These are the ones who will appreciate what you can deliver.
Not charging enough also affects how you’re perceived in the world. When you charge too little, the clients with deeper pockets will assume that you’re inexperienced.
They’ll think that you don’t have what it takes to pull off a shoot and deliver the required results.
If you’re working in a retail niche like personal branding portraits or boudoir photography, low prices may be associated with inferior quality in the client’s mind.
There is a reason that people will buy a $7000 Louis Vuitton handbag when they can purchase a purse at Wal-Mart for $40. There is a perceived value to each of these products that is quite different.
It’s a fact that humans assume that cheaper means inferior quality. Your photography may be stunning, but if your prices are too low, it might not be perceived that way.
5. Not Sending Out Promotional Pieces
Whether you’re a retail or commercial photographer, you should have your work printed in a form that can be handed out or mailed to clients. This can be a promotional brochure or mini-magazine. Which you choose will depend on the niche you shoot in and who your target clients are.
The Internet is a great tool for engaging with potential clients. But it’s still only one tool. Printed promotional pieces are a tangible way for them to connect to your work and also to see how your work holds up in print.
The computer screen is very forgiving of flaws. Print really demonstrates the skill of a photographer. There is nowhere to hide. Blown out whites or lack of detail in the shadows become very obvious. Print is not dead, it’s used in magazines and all sorts of advertising media.
Think of a promo as a visual calling card. It should include a bio, your logo and contact information.
If you choose to include text, like captions with the images, be sure to keep it brief. The point of the promo is to focus on your photography.
If you’re a retail photographer (portrait, wedding, families etc), get postcards printed up that you can hand out like business cards. Make sure they feature a few images and display your logo and contact information.
This can be used as an important piece of branding for your business.
4. Not Using Social Media
Social media is a great marketing tool. But there is a right way and a wrong way to use it for business purposes.
A critical mistake that photographers make is that they post often but don’t engage. Or they engage with the wrong people. Or they post too much, or indiscriminately.
It’s nice to support other photographers. But your focus should be on potential clients.
Another mistake that photographers make is that they spread themselves thin over too many platforms.
When promoting your work on social media, it’s best to choose one platform to concentrate on. This should be determined by where your ideal client is hanging out.
On the other hand, if you’re a commercial photographer, following companies and seeing what they are up to and making comments on their posts can lead to a vital connection.
Whatever the case may be, engagement is more important than numbers.
Have a strategy for using social media. Engage by commenting not only to those that follow you but also on the accounts managed by the clients you’d like to work with.
Make sure that you post your best work. If that means you can only post once a week, then so be it. If you post just for the sake of posting, it can give a negative perception of your work.
3. Not Writing a Blog
A lot of photographers are resistant to the idea of writing a blog. After all, most of us are very visual people and don’t consider ourselves writers. If this is you, you should still consider writing a blog.
For one, a blog can be a great way to build excellent SEO. Google loves fresh content. You increase your ranking when you regularly update your site.
Studies show that 80% of click traffic goes to the first three search results. People are more likely to refine search terms than go on to the next page.
I attribute this in large part to having a WordPress blog attached to my site and updating it regularly.
You don’t have to write a lot on a photography blog. Images are key. A post sharing about a destination wedding shoot, or advising on what a portrait client should wear will suffice. You can post testimonials or share industry insights.
Just keep in mind that your content needs to be of high-quality content to attract visitors. Also, search engines can penalize your domain for duplicate content, excessive backlinks, or broken external links.
2. Not Having a Mailing List
Whether or not you write a blog, you should have a mailing list consisting of important contacts and clients that you’ve worked with.
Having a mailing list as a business owner is crucial. You own your email list. On the other hand, social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook change their algorithms all the time. This can have a negative impact on your business.
You have no control over the whims of social media companies. Also, they can be here today and gone tomorrow. Remember MySpace?
Email has a much higher open rate and click-through rate than social media.
Sending out a regular newsletter allows you to connect with people who truly want to connect with you. Most of us are buried in email.
When someone subscribes or stays on your list, it’s because they value the content you bring.
It’s a great way of keeping in touch with past clients. They may not need a photographer very often, but when they do, you’ll be top of mind.
1. Not Investing in Marketing
There is no getting around investing in marketing to grow your business and appear as a professional.
Any given business spends an average of ten percent of their budget on marketing. Can you say that you’ve done this?
In my mentoring work with young photographers, I see a lot of resistance to spending money on marketing.
I get it. Photography gear is very expensive and there are so many things to pay for as a small business owner.
You sometimes need to spend money to make money. Good marketing and marketing materials will help you get a leg up on your competition and brand you as a professional.
Re-investing some of your profits every month instead of splashing out for the latest gear can help you make more money in the long run.
Invest your time in social media, writing a blog, and keeping your website up to date with good SEO. But also invest financially in the efforts that make the most sense for the niche you’re shooting in.
Get high quality, professional-looking business cards. If you’re a commercial photographer, send out promos at least three times a year. If you’re a portrait or wedding photographer, invest in the right print collateral. Hand it out to your clients and also have lots of printed samples of your best work to show potential customers.
Look into taking out ads on social media. If you’re not sure how to do that optimally, hire an expert to help you.
Being a successful photographer means appearing as a successful professional. This can be difficult to do if your branding is subpar.
As a professional photographer, you need to put yourself out there.
This is a business that’s built on relationships. You need to network and connect with the people that might hire you.
Marketing isn’t very difficult, but it takes persistence, consistency, and some organization.
Following these steps will go a long way in putting yourself in front of the right people and getting the kind of gigs that you dream of.