By Guest Contributor Tammy Zurak of Z Photog Studio
You’re a photographer; it says so on your business cards. You shot your portfolio and added them to your fancy website. You setup your Facebook business page and you post to it periodically with new shoots and info about your business. You may even pay to promote posts occasionally to try and get people in. You have a Google + page, even though you’re not sure anyone sees it, and the same goes for Instagram. You know people are there because high school kids keep telling you about images their friends shared there. You even write an occasional blog post. You may even tweet. So you’re ready for clients to be beating down your doors and your phone to be ringing off the hook right? WRONG!
All too often photographers think that having the structure setup to “do” business means that clients will just find a way to their website and call them up to setup a shoot. I hear it all the time, “I do good work, my prices are reasonable for my market, and people say they really like the experience they had with me. Maybe my town is just too small or people won’t pay these prices here.” I know it seems like people should come knocking, but from first-hand experience, I know they don’t. I worked a full time job outside of photography during my first year in business. I was focused on putting all of the structure into place so that I could one day quit my corporate job and shoot full time. Occasionally during that year the phone would ring, or I would get an email, but if I relied solely on the just these measures, I would quickly be out of business.
First and foremost, photography is a business. And for any business to be successful, others must know that they exist and that they provide a service that serves a purpose or fulfills a need. Photographers get hung up on providing “the experience” and sit home dreaming up new ways to sound like their shoots are more fabulous than the next guys. But if people don’t know you or your business directly, how will they ever know that? You’ve got to get out there and talk to people.
I know this is a scary thought! “Why do I have to go and talk to people? What will I say?” I come from a background in sales and sales management, words are generally not hard for me to find. If they are for you though, you’ll need to figure out how to be of service to the businesses in your city, or create something of interest to tell them about.
As an example, I recently put together a “Ladies Day Out”. I simply invited four businesses that were women centered to setup shop in my studio; the enticement was each of us would be giving away a “grand prize” on the day of the event. I proceeded to hit the street in my city each day prior to my event with a goal of swinging open the doors of 25 businesses to introduce myself and invite them. If they were receptive to talking, and I felt it was a business that might parallel my own, I asked questions about them. Prior to walking in though, I had already looked up their business online so I already knew a bit about them. “I noticed that you do such and such events on your website, can you tell me a little more about that?” “Your jewelry is beautiful, how do you market to your clientele when you get new pieces in?” Do you see where I’m headed? Engage them about their own businesses and see if there is any way you can help them with their goals. When you are of service to them, the universe has a unique way of returning the favor; they want to help you be successful too. It’s like any relationship, make it about them, and when you have met their needs, they will be more willing to do the same for you.
I visited with 115 businesses in the week before my event. Within that week I found gold to follow up on. There were 3 licensed hair and makeup artists, 2 jewelry stores, a bridal store, a makeup store, a weight loss center, a cupcake bakery, and an antiques place that all cater to the same women that I do. Several of them expressed an interest at that first handshake meeting in doing work with me to diversify their own offerings. Along the way I also had a variety of conversations about the type of photography I do and where my studio is. I always mentioned that I was right down the street, because I am a local business. Local businesses like to do business with others within the community; this can sometimes be your greatest asset if you deliver what you promise.
Now I’m a seasoned outside sales person. If you can’t imagine calling on 25 businesses in one day ever in your life, that’s okay, just start small. Take one or two days out of the week, get out from behind your computer screen, and call on 5 businesses. You can park in a strip mall and hit them all within 30 minutes. The hardest one is the first one, once you’ve walked through that door and you find the magic, you’ll never look back. Make a plan and get out there and do it, I promise you won’t be sorry!
About the Artist: Tammy Zurak is the owner of Z Photog Studio in the Memphis area. She specializes in Contemporary Glamour, Fine Art, Business Head Shot, and High School Senior Portrait Photography. Visit her Website, Facebook, Instagram, and Google+ Pages to see her work and get to know her better.