Photography is great fun. It can appeal to both the creative side of the brain and the technical side of the brain. It can be a real headache when things don’t go your way and a real joy when things go perfectly. Photography gives me a lot of pleasure and I know it’s the same for many other people. One thing I’ve found though is that there is a common path for many people who pick up a camera. Whilst some people just enjoy making photographs and don’t want to to go any further than that, others have a lightbulb go off: “I can become a photographer and make money from this”. The problem with this thinking is, and I’m sure you’ll agree, that being a working photographer means you’ll spend about 10% of your time actually shooting. The rest is about the business side of things.
So, here’s how I see the path for many photographers (and we can talk about some of these other stages another time):
A large proportion of photographers just starting out fall down the hole of thinking that having a great camera and being able to use it well is all you need to become a successful photographer making money.
Eventually though a number of these new photographers start to learn, either naturally or through their photography communities, that success in the industry has a lot to do with marketing & advertising too. You know: SEO, Facebook Ad’s, Google Adwords, flyers, business cards in florists & bridal shops. etc. Getting your name and brand out there.
So now they havea camera and they’re telling and showing people what they can do. Good start!
Then (and this step can sometimes come before the realisation of the importance of marketing), I find that a smaller number of these photographers find that socialising & networking is also an important part of this process to start monetising their skills. Things like wedding Fayre’s and the like: Face to face interaction.
So now they’re making photographs, sharing them and they’re getting out there and meeting people. Good!
For most of those photographers who have got this far their learning about business ends there: They’ve got the camera and they know how to use it. (check!) They’re putting business cards in shops and flyers through doors (check!), they’ve possibly even got a website (Check) and a Facebook Business page too (Check). The result of all of this is that a very small number can end up with a slightly successful ‘business’ or one that is exhausting to run (most likely both). These photographers run out of steam, get bored and some even give it all up. It can just seem as if there is no money in photography or as though it isn’t worth the effort you put in. This can feel very true for even the most successful of photographers at times, I’m sure.
For others, and this one isn’t too uncommon, the belief is that to make more money they have to make even better photographs. Whilst this is completely true to an extent, the next mistake I often see that the misconception that to make this progress to take them to the next level they need to buy even more gear to replace what they have: a better camera, more lenses, lights and modifiers etc. They can end up in debt with too much gear, most of which is never used and again, some end up bored and give it all up. So even if they do start making a regular income much of it is eaten away by the debt they’ve incurred to get to where they are in the first place.
Whilst this isn’t always the case, it’s one I see far too often.
However, even for those who continued on in their pursuit of a career in photography after buying more gear and then started to make some respectable money the missing component and the forgotten element in their business skill set is usually one of a few things. Quite often: Sales.
And that’s it. people spend thousands and thousands to get all the gear they’ve got. Some people invest in training (well done to those people. Great investment!). But if you’re marketing and shooting well, but you can’t then sell what you’re producing, it can be hard to make money!
So you’ve got someone interested. They’ve got your business card or your flyer and they’ve seen your work and they’ve got in touch. They may have even booked you. But without wanting to sound too harsh or too corporate – how do you ensure you sell to that person as much as possible? How do you up-sell? How do you maximize revenue? You may be asking yourself; “Maximise revenue? This is photography, this is not a call centre or car sales!” Well, I believe that sales is the step that many people fail at because they say things like “I’m an artist, not a salesperson” or because “I’m a photographer, not a businessman” or because they believe that they let their work and products do the talking for them.
Well, artists as they may be, we all need to remember we are in business and that selling and the art of sales is not a criminal activity. Making more money from a client is not evil and selling is part of the process of being profitable. Selling is part of being in business. Sales is a requisite of making money. Making money is required to make profit. If you’ve got bills to pay then all this is true.
The final stage that many photographers seem to fail to get to is to realise that they’re not JUST photographers: They also need to be businessmen & businesswomen. As well as making good photographs and marketing those photographs to people looking for your services – you then have to sell to those people too. More pages in the album. Larger prints, more premium frames, a better quality canvas, more hours of your time on the wedding day. Sales is not evil. It’s part of business.
You are in the business of photography, right?
If you’re uncomfortable with selling, or you don’t believe you have ‘the knack’ for it, don’t give up. Go on training, speak to other photographers who are good at training. Do some research. Selling can be the key to success. If you work out that you need to shoot 55 weddings per year at your current average booking fee…perhaps try selling more during client meetings to increase that average. Sure, work harder and work smarter; sell more.
Sales is something discussed regularly over in the Ready Steady Pro Facebook Community. Come ask us a questions about anything and join the great group we’ve got going on.