Getting more photography clients can be a mystery. How do you get strangers to hire you? Friends and family are the low-hanging fruit, but it’s not always easy to build a business with clients you feel inclined to serve for free or super cheap. So how do you get fresh clients who don’t bring an awkward mix of business and personal baggage along with them? A combination of a strong business foundation and some good networking can go a long way.
Your business foundation is a series of decisions you make about the kind of business you’re running. When your foundation is strong, people can take a look at your business and quickly understand what you’re about.
Keep it simple. It’s really important that you can say – in kindergarten terms – what you do and who your work is for. There are so many things you can do for people, and I bet you’re happy to work with anyone who will pay you. But that doesn’t build understanding – it just confuses people. If you’re trying to be everything to everyone, then you might as well be good for no one.
Who do you most enjoy working with and what do you do for them? Do you like to create heirloom portraits for families in your area? Do you sell product and commercial photography to marketing managers? Do you work primarily on branding photos for solo entrepreneurs? Maybe you’re most comfortable creating decorative art for interior designers.
This task of figuring out who your work is for doesn’t have to result in a detailed “ideal client avatar.” No, you can keep it simple. The goal is to build understanding in your network. You want a little lightbulb to go on when people stumble on a good fit while they’re out in the world. If you serve several types of people, then pick one to focus on for a quarter or two before you change to a different group in your messaging. If someone comes across a unique job, they’ll surely ask if you’re open to it.
Once your message is ready, it’s time to spread the word! Get focused on building relationships in your area. Advertising and social media posts are helpful for getting attention, but in the end, it’s a feeling of trust that gets you hired. Engaging people in conversation and nurturing relationships is the quickest way to close a deal, so networking should be a big priority.
There are lots of ways to network with people. The important part of networking is deepening and expanding your relationships. The bigger and stronger your network, the better your chances of being hired or referred. Networking is the basis of “word-of-mouth”. It’s a very valuable business activity that produces clients because it shows you actually care.
How do you make networking enjoyable? One option: attend networking events that are hosted by your local chamber or business organizations. It might feel intimidating, but these events can be lots of fun. If you go regularly, you’ll start to see the same people over and over again, which can lead to strong relationships and new clients! Every time you go it gets better, since eventually it becomes a party with your old friends.
Another way to network is to connect with friends you already have. Create a list of the people you want to stay in touch with and contact a few of them every day. A quick “thinking of you” email can work wonders to keep you top of their mind. Share an interesting article, send a book recommendation, or make a relevant introduction. Simply being a decent friend encourages goodwill and more business. Get creative and implement ideas to establish and maintain meaningful relationships. That’s all it takes to be great at networking.
There are so many ways to market your business. But marketing without networking is just noise. Focus on meeting people through marketing and knowing them through networking. Once people know, like, and trust you, they’ll be among your most valuable business assets.