Building a brand
Having a strong brand can transform your business; just look at global corporations such as: Coca Cola, MacDonalds and Nike. It is crucial to invest time and energy into planning what your key message will be. To do this, consider what the aims of your business are, who do you want to approach, what do you want to be known for and how you will try to achieve success?
Begin with a business name. Using your own name and adding ‘photography’ on the end is a simplistic, but candid approach that ensures customers know who you are and what your service is. However that shouldn’t stop you exploring more creative names. Whatever you decide – test it out on a few people and appreciate their honest feedback. You could be restricted if that name has already been taken, so do some research and translate it into other languages to see whether it carries any negative connotation you may wish to avoid.
Design a logo, however simply or extravagant you desire, and if you don’t have the artistic flair for such a challenge why not ask someone with design skills to help? With time you can forge new working relationships that allow you to ‘trade’ services rather than money if such a thing is agreed upon by the parties involved.
Although there is still a need for directory books, newspaper adverts and magazine listings – you should consider building a strong presence on the internet. There are hundreds of online directories you can advertise on – many at no cost. Gumtree is a superb website for advertising your services to the public in and around your area – again at no cost.
If you stand any chance of competition against the volume of competitors out there you must consider developing a website. This can be as plain or as plush as you like – but should emit your style and your purpose. Google discriminates against websites, when listing matches, that contain large or high res images – so be sure to reduce your files to 72dpi. It is a good idea to watermark these, especially if you decide to sell your images online.
Next promote yourself to as many clients, businesses and individuals as you feel necessary. Make contacts through social networking arenas and enter competitions to get your name out there and skills on show.
Exposure is extremely important to professional photographers and you’ll want to make as many contacts as you can to get your work seen by as many people as possible. Thanks to the internet you can contact thousands or even millions of people within a few clicks. Online communities such as Facebook, MySpace, Flickr, Blogger and Twitter can link your postings to a worldwide audience.
For further reading on social networking read What Every Photographer Needs to Know about Social Media.
No one likes to hear bad things about themselves, but when it is said in a business-related context listening is essential and developing a thick skin can help. Knowing where you are going wrong will only help to nurture your business in the long run. If a client chooses not to book you, ask them (politely) what their reasons were – learn from these – make changes where necessary and continue. Likewise when you perform a job for someone and you feel it has gone well, ask for their feedback and perhaps even use their response as a client endorsement on your website which will in turn help to attract new clients.
As well as the endless bounty of guides, tips and advice you’ll find on the internet don’t forget to read from the vast quantity of industry publications and trade magazines that exist. Furthermore there are numerous books that will provide invaluable advice and contacts, such as: The Freelance Photographer’s Market Handbook 2010 by John Tracy and Stewart Gibson, and the Freelance Photographer’s Notebook by Cliff Hollenbeck and Nancy Hollenbeck.
There is a wealth of software packages that can also benefit new business people such as Foto SF Lite which is complete photography studio management software for your studio. It is a great photography-orientated software package that is ideal for any wedding, portrait, event, commercial photographer. It is easy-to-use software and runs on both Mac & PC and is designed to help get your business organised and marketed like a pro with its built-in bulk/mass emailing feature set and helps to hone your workflow into a more fluid and dynamic operation. Also available is GridIron (www.gridironsoftware.com) – a useful workflow management software for anyone working in any creative industry, helping to develop productivity, version control and time tracking with Adobe Creative Suite, amongst others. Streamtime is another beneficial app that is actually multi-award winning. The software is suitable for those who need total project management help and is designed specifically for those using a creative discipline to make a living.
If you’ve enjoyed this part of the Turning Pro series, be sure to visit DPS for the last installment in the next few days – Ways and means of making money from your photography!