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How To Survive a Down Economy As A Photographer

Image by kwerfeldein

Image by kwerfeldein

You can ask 10 photographers what they think is their key to success in a bad economy – okay, flat out terrible economy – and you may get 10 different responses. Recently, a fellow photographer who had been following my blog commented that he wished he was busier, “but not Annie-busy!” He was stating this because I post client photoshoot sneak peeks on my blog every few days. Being a successful photographer is more than having a lot of business, it’s also about being profitable and, more importantly, being happy. That last point may sound hokey, but if having one photoshoot every few weeks makes you happy or making just enough to send your family on vacation is what you strive for, then that’s success.

Hearing this new term, Annie-busy, made me think about how I’d explain to other photographers what I’ve done in this economic recession that has kept my business flourishing. Though there are certainly other things that can be added to this list, here is what has been working for me.

There are three main points:

1. Have The Right Attitude

Even if you are a leader in your field, you need to keep learning new things – whether they are new gadgets and equipment or new techniques. You can take classes, attend seminars, and read industry publications. You can connect with other photographers to brainstorm ideas and learn tips.

Once you feel complacent and have an attitude that you don’t need to learn anything further, you will fall behind the pack.

2. Don’t Wait For Business

Whether you are busy with multiple photoshoots every week and a positive cash flow or your camera is collecting dust, there are many things you can do that can help your business.

Take action.

Here are some ideas to get you started: Can you update your portfolio? Are there vendors you wanted to try? Is there anything you can improve on your website? Are there things your competition is doing that you are interested in doing/having (ie, cool paper products, a blog)? Is there a way to expedite your workflow? Did you want to try out a new technique?

3. Think Outside The Box

I come from a Marketing background, so in my opinion, the three biggest reasons for one product’s success over another is Marketing, Marketing, Marketing. In this case, your “product” is you.

With that said, think about what else you can do to market your business.

You first have to have good online presence. So make sure you are happy with your website, and happy with how you and your business are presented to the public.

In addition to the traditional marketing methods, like advertising where your target audience will see the ad, there are also marketing avenues that are more effective… and often free! A good example is Relationship Marketing. It starts with creating a relationship with your clients. If your client refers you to someone else, that is 100 times more effective than having 100 people see your ad. Also, you can talk to business owners who share the same clients. You may be able to find common interests and run a co-promotion or find a way to help each other out. In this kind of economy, many businesses have to cut their advertising and marketing budget, so you may want to consider a product/services trade.

In the last few years, social networking has been growing in popularity, but it has also proven to be the new way to advertise. And it’s free! Networking sites, like Facebook and Twitter, are places millions of people frequent every day. I have gotten clients within minutes of an existing client posting their photos on their Facebook page. It is like getting an instant referral because that person knows my client, and referrals go a long way in this industry!

Another consideration is expanding your business in the form of your product line or even type of photography. I started out as a lifestyle photographer specializing in children, maternity and families, then tried out commercial photography and event photography this year – and really liked it! The commercial and event photography balances out the fast-paced, running-and-jumping-with-the-kids-til-I’m-sweating kind of photography! Expanding what you do to other types of photography will also expand your client base.

If you do this, don’t forget to stay true to yourself. Know what makes you happy and don’t change what you love only to grow your business. Clients will be able to detect your passion, or lack thereof, for the business. Plus, your artwork will reflect how you feel, so stick to doing what you love.

So test the waters, think outside the box, don’t wait for business to come to you, and have the right attitude regardless of the state of the economy.

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Annie Tao
Annie Tao

is a Professional Lifestyle Photographer in the San Francisco Bay Area who is best known for capturing genuine smiles, emotions and stories of her subjects. You can visit Annie Tao Photography for more tips or inspiration. Stay connected with her on her Facebook page

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