If you own your own photography business, most likely you have felt stuck one time or another. But it seems all the self-doubts and questions come in January. It is January, after all, a month after the big rush of the holidays and deadlines. It is a month when photographers work on their business plans and goals for the year. It is also a month where many photography business owners feel stuck, even the successful ones. I think it is common this month, and I call it the January bug. All of a sudden, you want to rebrand, change all of your pricing, work on your SEO, and criticize your whole business. Sound familiar?
Perhaps you didn’t hit your sales goals for the previous years, or maybe you need 2020 to be the year. The year you work less, make more, and gain some freedom back in your life. Or perhaps everything is going great, but you are still questioning everything in your business right now or have this gloomy feeling of feeling stuck.
Fuse here with some tips on how to grow your photography business when you feel stuck and how to move forward.
Feeling stuck or just wanting more?
The truth is that maybe everything is going great, and you just want to scale your business. Or perhaps you are at a crossroads where if you don’t increase bookings, you will have to close down. Either way, take a deep breather. One thing is for sure. You will need to take a step back and get what is called the Eagle’s eye view. It would help if you looked at the bigger picture. Work on your business and not in your business.
Step 1 evaluate. Step 2 is to plan. Step 2 is to take action.
You will need to evaluate where your leads are currently coming from as well as evaluate if you are, indeed making a profit.
Typically photographers feel stuck when they are either wanting to switch genres and start offering new services or stop offering others, or secondly when they think they don’t have enough clients. It is super important to be profitable in business, so you do need to look at the numbers. Perhaps sit with your accountant and look at the previous year.
You may want to work on your pricing and rework your numbers to make sure you are profitable. If you discover that you are not, then you need to take action. Here are some options:
- Book more clients
- Raise your prices
- Offer more products
- Try in-person sales
- Build a better referral basis
After looking at your numbers and sales, it is time to define what growth looks like for you. Do you have an X amount of clients that you need a month? Or do you have a specific monetary value you want to make a year? Then the next step is to break that down into quarterly goals than to monthly goals. This way, you can see that for certain months you need to market your business more or perhaps less. Grab this free worksheet so you can jot down your answers and work on your plan and action steps.
Feeling Majorly Stuck?
If you are feeling majorly stuck, it may be best to spend some time doing the big picture vision and taking a break. Sometimes a little self-care goes a long way. Do a weekend trip, work on a home project and spend some family quality time. This can help you clear your mind before taking the next step. Remember Rome wasn’t built in a day and you don’t have to have it all figured out in a day or even in a month either.
How Can I Get More Photography Clients?
Next up, most likely is needing more clients or better quality clients. So take a step back and answer the following questions.
How are photo clients finding you now? Is it Google? Referrals? Paid Ads? Fellow vendors? Think of these as your buckets. Which of these buckets are more profitable? Which of these buckets are empty? I firmly believe that referrals dry out and that being found on Google is essential for business growth. I also don’t mind investing in paid ads if it will yield results. Now let’s brainstorm some tactics for each of these buckets.
- Work on your page optimization. If you haven’t done any SEO work, I recommend you check out my Local SEO Academy. This has the best of both worlds since it includes the Google My Business Bootcamp.
- Content marketing. Remember your blog? Yes, people still search for things online, and your blog posts can rank in Google. You don’t have to blog every session; in fact, I recommend you don’t do that. Instead, create long-form posts that will answer an FAQ, be more of an inspiration, and offer tips. So if you are a newborn photographer instead of blogging cute baby John, you can do Top Props for Newborn Pictures for Girls of Feature maternity and baby shops in your local town. This will gather local SEO content for your blog and serve your website better.
- Make sure you are always getting reviews on Google My Business. Google makes up 25% of Local SEO, and having an optimized Google My Business account is key.
- Pinterest. Isn’t Pinterest social media? Well, Pinterest doesn’t call its self social media, instead, it calls itself a discovery platform. Thus I view it as more of a Search Engine. Your pins and boards rank in Google results, so one tip is to make sure you have local boards. For example, if you are a wedding photographer, have boards that feature a specific local venue. Add the full address of the venue on the actual board. Also, pin vertical images instead of tiny ones.
- I see many photographers are reluctant to have a newsletter. They feel they have nothing to say or that they are bothering people. Well, my friends, clients are super busy, and they appreciate being reminded about mini sessions, specials, and yes refer a friend program. You need to ask for the referral, so add a line in your brochures and post-shoot emails.
- Ask for the Google review. Make sure you claim your URL shortname in your Google My Business, so you have a link to send to current clients so they can leave you a review.
- Fellow vendors can be an excellent resource for new clients. This does require relationship building and local networking. You can trade services, feature each other on your blogs, and list each other on your websites.
- Treat your vendors well. Take them out to lunch, get them thank you gifts, and be different. If everyone is taking them out for coffee, invite them to happy hour. If everyone is offering them a photoshoot, offer them a mini video, they can use on social media. Share tips you are learning in your business, and they will see you as a resource. Connecting with fellow vendors is a work in progress and a long term strategy.
Social Media – Organic And Paid
- Get local on social. Find local hashtags on Instagram and also share local content. Find local businesses and influencers who share great content, then repost their content. This way, they may repost you or thank you and introduce you to their audience. I have a saying that people can’t ignore you if you compliment them online, even if they don’t like you. 🙂 I used this tactic back in the day on Twitter, and it works very well on Instagram.
- Don’t be afraid of testing out paid ads. Facebook ads, when done correctly, can be quite beneficial. The main thing is don’t just boost a post. Start an ad from scratch in your Google Ads Manager. The best ads are those that tell a story, so have several photos and offer something. This can be tips, resources, tools, or a promo.
- Linkedin Tiktok. Gary Vee is sharing these two platforms, and I think they can work for photographers. Tiktok requires some more creativity, but it’s amazing how many views you can get overnight without having many followers. Linkedin is more of a professional place, so it works better for portrait photography, but I would check fellow vendors and try networking by sharing their content and liking their posts.
The Growth Plan
In order to grow, you must decide if you need more clients or you need more profit or both. It would be best if you also saw what those quarterly and monthly goals would look like so you can break them down.
Check your Google Analytics to compare your full year of data and compare your most trafficked months. Write down how many monthly sessions you have, and ideally, how many inquiries you got those months then also check your booking rate. So if you typically get 10 inquries a month and book 6 then your booking rate is 60%. So do you need to better your sales calls? Email info? Brochures? Follow up sequence?
Let’s keep it simple. If your booking rate is 50% and you need 8 bookings a month, this means that you would need at least 16 inquiries a month. Ideally, even more. So what are the quarterly action steps you can take to reach that? What do you need to work on above to achieve that? Do you need to do some Google My Business ads or just increase your insights on Google My Business by adding reviews and photos? Do you know to move up in Google rankings for better search terms? Do you need to email your current clients more? Do you need to post more on social media? Only you can decide what the action steps can be.
I have given you a lot to think about, so make sure you grab your free worksheet and take yourself out on a nice coffee date and work on your business.
Bonus tips. Positive affirmations and Impact Theory episodes have helped me be clearer about my goals. I also use tools like Trello/Google Calendar to help grab my goals and make them actionable steps.
Bonus tip from Hendersonville Newborn Photographer, Shannon Payne:
When I’m stuck in January and things are slow. I like to shoot for myself. I’ll schedule a model call or some kind of themed session with a setup that I want to test out. Basically, where I can control everything and call all of the shots. It’s good for the soul after busy season!