Real success in portrait and wedding photography is elusive. Sometimes it seems like you have a better chance of being hit by a meteorite than being a truly successful portrait and wedding photographer… especially in a Recession, and with all the cheap digital photographers popping up everywhere.
But if you have a PROVEN PLAN, and you WORK that plan, you will be extremely successful in your photography business.
Here’s my 15 Step Formula to enjoying great success in portrait and wedding photography business. This is the “Proven Plan” which I used to build the portrait and wedding photography business of my dreams, and it will work for you as well.
But, and this is a big “but” – but, you are going to need to do the work to implement this plan and make it work for you! If you buy a power saw, it won’t build a house for you – YOU need to use the tool to make the house. It’s the same thing here – this is the proven plan, but you need to put it into action to achieve the success you desire!
1. Set up the business and organize it so it runs smoothly & efficiently. Set your policies so you are running your photo business instead of it running you & your life. This includes items like your Guarantee; having a pre-portrait “chat” with clients; charging a pre-paid creation fee that does not go toward the purchase of the images; having your original images never leave your photography business; having the client come back into your photo business so you can project her images into a frame, over a sofa; and requiring 50% minimum to be paid before post production work begins on the images.
2. Photo business layout & design is extremely important to your success. Why? Because you sell what you show. So if you show small images, your clients will invest in small images. But if you show ONLY beautiful wall portraits, you’ll find more and more of your clients investing in your images for home décor.
3. Learn how to sell – not pressure or trickery, but proven methods of persuasion that help your prospects & clients make the decisions that are correct for them. Use the proven laws of salesmanship. Also, learn the correct “sales vocabulary.” Never use words such as “picture,” “customers,” “proofs,” “photo shoot,” or “large.” Instead, use the words “Portrait, photograph or image,” “clients,” “Originals,” “session,” and “appropriate” or “perfect size.”
4. Price & merchandise your photography significantly enough to make you a great profit with the clients you serve. Don’t try to be a low priced photographer. Never try to “compete on price.” Have a “Whopper” for every product line. (A “Whopper” is something that is so amazing, so expensive, that almost no one will invest in it. But, it sets the value for everything else you do by comparison.) Charge a good price for what you do, and then learn how to present those fees. Frankly, it’s really not the prices you charge, but rather it’s how you present those prices to your prospects & clients that determines whether or not they will do what you recommend.
5. Create a HUGE demand for your limited supply, then control the volume of work you do with the price. Become a “Marketing Maniac.” Marketing is the fuel of your photography business. Without doing effective, proven marketing, you will go nowhere in photography. Word of mouth is not enough to bring you in the number of clients you require to achieve your success, and that’s why effective marketing is so important to your success. The most important word in photo marketing is “diversity” – you need to use multiple mediums and methods to create the huge demand and to define your brand.
6. Have an organized plan for handling inquiries on the telephone and from emails – so you turn most of the callers and emailers into paying clients consistently. How you respond to inquiries about your photography prices and services will determines how successful you will become, as all your business will pass through one or both of these contact methods at some point in time. The single most important key to success here is to ask questions of your prospects – rather than just talking and talking. Find out what they want, and then help them to get it.
7. Always meet with your clients ahead of time, in person – what we call the “chat” – find out what they want, collect the Pre-paid Creation Fee, and then plan the photography session… Guide them with their clothing. Educate them as to how you run your business. Build a relationship with each client. My rule: I will never photograph someone who I have not met with ahead of time first.
8. Have a proven system for your photography – so your photography is consistently of high quality, and you create those images which are proven to be loved by your clients. It’s important to know exactly what your client wants, and then to be sure you create that – and more. Use your talent to create what they have told you they want. Just be sure you create images you KNOW will also sell well, based on keeping good records of your previous sessions and sales.
9. Use THE proven method of presenting your images to your clients – so they invest in the sizes and volumes they will get the most enjoyment out of. Never have them order online. The proven method of presenting your images is projecting those images over a sofa, into a frame – either in her home, or your photography business. The first image your client receives of her photographs is the lasting image, so be sure her “first image” is of a beautiful 40×50 image over the sofa in a fine frame. She will love it, and thank you for years to come for showing it to her this way.
10. Never let anything leave your photography business until it’s perfect. Be a perfectionist in this area of your business. You are an artist, and a true artist is very picky about having everything perfect before the client receives it. True craftsmanship is rare these days. People will be happy to pay your higher fees once they realize how you want everything to be perfect for them. And once you’ve got it perfect, be sure to sign it as the artist you are.
11. Deliver the images when promised – actually, earlier than you promised them. But be sure you allow yourself plenty of time to do the very best that can humanly be done. Don’t rush to deliver something extremely quickly – it puts too much pressure on you, and the quality suffers. You must have an organized system in place that keeps track of when clients have been promised their images, and what progress is being made each day.
12. Follow-up with your clients by telephone (not email.) Make sure they are thrilled with you and with their images. Very few business people ever call their clients after the work is done, just to make sure everything is perfect. Be sure you do! Also get testimonials from them, and permission to use their name, city & state along with the testimonial, in your marketing.
13. Stay in touch with your clients at least once a month – preferably two or three times a month at least. It’s vital for your long term business success to maintain the great relationship you have built with this client. So stay in touch with her on a regular basis. Use email, Facebook, Twitter, phone, and snail mail.
14. Management – of yourself, your time & your photo business. Dress sharp & professionally. Work daily on your “things to do list,” your priorities, goals, dreams, vision, and your plan for success. If you don’t manage yourself and your business, you’re sunk in this day and age. I do this every morning in my “PTS Time.” The “P” stands for planning. The “T” stands for thinking. The “S” stands for study. I take one hour every morning for this, and the results are amazing.
15. Staffing – you can’t do everything yourself. Start with bringing on an apprentice who loves photography and will work with you for no money, just in return for learning what you do and how you do it. This is an extremely powerful way to find good people who love photography like you do. I have had over a dozen apprentices in my business history, and many of them went on to become excellent paid staff members after their apprenticeship period was over.
Now, I realize you may be thinking that the above 15 parts of my “Formula” sound like a lot of work. But that’s what separates the winners from the non-winners. The winners are willing to do the work, and make darn sure they are following a proven success formula. You can build the photography business of your dreams, as long as you follow the plan, and do the work each and every day to reach your goals!