You learned in photography
classes about producing images--traditionally and digitally. Now,
you want to make some money from your investment of time, energy, and
money. You enjoy making images and want more than the technical satisfaction
of a job well done. It is time to address the business aspects of "selling
yourself." Even professionals who began and ran their businesses
for many years by referral and word of mouth are being forced to re-evaluate
Whether you plan to pursue part-time or full-time assignments you will
want to work with techniques that are efficient and cost-effective.
Your objective is twofold. The first is to find and sell to photography
clients. The second is to work at a level of professionalism these clients
will respect. Clients will treat you as you have trained them from the
beginning of your relationship.
Like many photographers, Isaac Howard started his business hooting weddings
and portraits for friends. Now with 20 years experience, he explains
what it is like to start making money with your photography. "The
first thing you need to do is look at your own personality. Are you
willing to be a businessperson, to charge your friends and keep the
necessary records for the federal and state tax returns? Most of the
photographers who I have known want to be the artist and not the businessperson.
When you first start trying to make a little extra money with your camera,
your first customers are your friends. Charging your friends is very
hard for most people and keeping the proper records is more work than
they want to do. But if you plan on making money and using the tax deductions
to your benefit, it is a necessary evil."
Twenty, 15, 10--even five--years ago, you could market yourself
with just a portfolio and a business card and get work. Now you need
many different forms of marketing to reach clients, help them understand
what you can do for them, and remind them until they have work for you.
Most photographers starting out simply quit too soon. It takes time,
patience, and a plan. It takes getting the client's attention.
This is the true challenge of the marketing and promotion of photography
Money by itself is not the most important factor in self-promotion.
Whether you have $500 or $5000 to spend on self-promotion, the rules
and techniques are the same. When you are just starting out, the key
is to identify the best photography clients for your work.
This will increase success and decrease rejection. Ask yourself these
questions. What are you selling? Who buys it? How can you best reach
Howard adds, "Your camera can open many doors and take you a lot
of places. If you think you want to make a buck, start by shooting the
things you are already involved in, your work, the family, hobbies.
Weddings and family portraits are a big starting point for many people.
Youth sports are another big item that you can do with little investment
other than your time. With three kids in sports, I have spent a lot
of time photographing them in action shots like these. I was at a soccer
tournament and was asked to photograph on of the other players. Of course,
the parents offered to pay me. Look around and see what you are getting
in the mail. If you live in a small town, check the local weekly paper
and the school district's paper. There are always local and regional
newspapers looking for photo stories and you can sell your work to them.
From a church-sponsored trip to Haiti, the city regional newspaper picked
up a series of my photos including this Haitian child. Once people start
seeing you with a camera at community activities and school functions,
they will ask you for pictures like one of their kids in action."
Essential to success, a written business plan is the best way to turn
your time into money. There are dozens of formats for writing a business
plan. Check with your local Small Business Administration (SBA) office
for their publications on the subject. Another option is to make an
appointment with a consultant, such as SCORE (Service Corps Of Retired
Executives) a division of the SBA. Here is just one example of writing
a plan to make money with your photos.
· Statement Of Purpose. You want to be a high
tech product photographer. You will provide these manufacturers and
their agencies with photos of their products for use in promotions,
ads, and catalogs.
· Business Objectives. You will evaluate the
aspects of business such as your business skills and knowledge, business
forms and records, an annual budget, bookkeeping and marketing software,
technical skills, required equipment, etc. Take your time with this
step. These are all factors over which you have the power to control
and change for the better.
· Marketing Objectives. Once you have evaluated
the business side, list the steps or tasks to market your work. They
should include all your efforts, such as portfolio and self-promotion.
This your marketing plan and it is one of the most important parts of
your business plan. Be very specific and list or state exactly what
you will do and when you will do it. For example:
· Personal Selling Strategy. Concentrate on new
clients for high tech product photo assignments and plan bimonthly calls
for portfolio presentations.
· Call past clients monthly for follow-up on new work coming up.
· Keep the call list small and manageable. You can make 10 to
20 calls a week and mail promo cards after calling. For larger lists,
use a direct mail campaign.
Howard ends with tome tips on planning your start up business, "When
you are first starting to make a buck with your camera use the material
you have handiest. A good 35mm with a long lens can get you started
in the youth sports business. When or if you start to specialize you
will need to invest in other equipment for the job. But unless you have
a lot of money to spend, don't. Portraits can be done without
studio lights when you understand how to use available light."
But Does It Work? I'm always asked when I speak
at photo conferences, "Does these techniques work?" and
my answer is always the same. They work when you do the work. Probably
the biggest problem to overcome is the tendency to do "shotgun"
marketing. A mailing here, and ad there. You avoid this problem with
a written plan. With your plan, you can ask, "Does this fit into
my strategy?" whenever time or opportunity to promote yourself
comes along. The key to making money with your photography is to do
something daily from your marketing and business plan. Making money
with your photography is something you can do every day.