Finding Clients

Discussion in 'Beyond the Basics' started by shmne, Apr 10, 2010.

  1. shmne

    shmne No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Hey guys,

    I finally started my business! Registered and everything, though right now it is technically a sole-proprietorship until I get off the ground at which point my uncle will be helping me out making it into a business.

    Right now I've been doing portrait work, though the company is all about commercial advertising. I'm not just a photographer, but also a digital designer. So I will be taking pictures of product and create the media in which they want it advertised.

    The problem I'm having right now is finding clients.

    I'm in the process of locating local business owners and contacting them about my services, but I really don't know what to say besides "This is who I am and what I do." Is there anything I should include in specific?

    I guess basically right now I'm a bit nervous since next month college loans are coming in and I really need to get my butt moving. I know the business won't take off in that time but I have other jobs for that. It would just be really nice to start getting clients.

    In short, how did you find your first couple of breaks?
     
  2. GeneralBenson

    GeneralBenson TPF Noob!

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    Do you have a website? Steps 1-5 are all Get a website. Step 6 is keeping it updated. Steps 7-10 are getting people to go to it.

    Steps 11-a million: Identify who you ideal clients are, then target your marketing efforts towards them, get in contact with them, have examples of the kind of work that they would be interested in, answer the question of why they would want you to work for them before they ask it... And on and on and on.
     
  3. KmH

    KmH Helping photographers learn to fish Supporting Member

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    You've kind of gotten the cart in front of the horse.

    It's common to identify your target market and generate a prospect list as a part of your business plan which gets written before you open the doors.

    Do you have a written business plan, or are you just winging it?

    If you're using the 'winging it' method, your chances of developing a viable business are severely hampered.

    How are you contacting local business owners? It sounds like you're doing it in person?

    Do you have a portfolio to show? A web site to refer them to?

    Being a digital designer too, do you have promo cards made up that you can direct mail?

    Here is a short cut for you. Get the inexpensive book:

    Successful Self-Promotion for Photographers. Expose Yourself Properly: by Elyse Weissberg....$20 new, used as low a $12.

    [ame=http://www.amazon.com/Successful-Self-Promotion-Photographers-Elyse-Weissberg/dp/081745926X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1270935742&sr=8-1]Amazon.com: Successful Self-Promotion for Photographers (9780817459260): Elyse Weissberg, Amanda Sosa Stone: Books[/ame]
     
  4. c.cloudwalker

    c.cloudwalker TPF Noob!

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    GeneralB, I like your work and I like most of what you have to say but I strongly disagree with the website being Steps 1-5. At least, not in the case of someone going after commercial work.

    I'll be opening a new 100% commercial studio later this year and I have, at this time, no plan to have a website. The reason, after talking to old customers and friends, is that what little work would come from it is probably not the kind of work I want. In the meantime it does need to be kept current and it cost money. Most of it up front (when most people have the least money to spare) with the design of it.

    I have worked in graphic design so I could make a good looking website but that is such a small chunk of the job. The bigger job is to create one that is visited and that has very little to do with how it looks. That is also beyond my personal abilities. The average cost of paying someone good to do it for me is outrageous.

    All that to say that the Website is way over rated. IMHO.

    I agree way more with KmH's take on this. Especially his first line. When I opened my first studio, I had been promoting it for about nine months...

    I had designed a postcard promo campaign that created anticipation through mystery. My first client ended up being the printer who did the postcards because he loved what I was doing. At the end of the postcard campaign, I had an open house in the studio and I booked a number of jobs that day.

    But to be honest the money didn't start coming in that day. Most commercial work is planned ahead of time, sometimes months in advance, and I had to pay my bills until then. And that is a way to go into the problem of under financed businesses.

    Most new businesses are under financed. As far as photography is concerned (although true of a lot of other types of businesses) most businesses don't suffer from lack of equipment, they suffer from lack of money to keep going until the money starts coming in.


    shmne, you've learned about photography and design, how much have you learned about business?

    It's been said here a number of time but I'll repeat: the business of photography is more about business than it is about photography. You can be a great artist and never get anywhere if you don't have some understanding of business.

    And I'm not talking about business school either. I learned from books (library) and from ex-business people. The SBA will put you in touch with retired business people in your area willing to help. Take advantage of those free opportunities.

    KmH mentions a business plan. I learned how to do one from an SBA contact.

    None of us know it all. Most of us need help. Get it from the right places.
     
  5. GeneralBenson

    GeneralBenson TPF Noob!

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    I can see your points. I guess my advice should be viewed through the lens that I'm largely an editorial photographer. And for people trying to get a start editorially, not having a website is about as bad as not having a camera. When trying to stir up business with local clientele, I guess I can see how it would be less important. But I wouldn't go as far as to say it's not needed.

    It almost seems as if your studio is kind of like my website. Which is an interesting thought to me. I don't have a studio or physical location besides my home office, and the goal of all my marketing efforts is to drive people to my website where they can see and read more and then contact me if they like. Where as, it seems like your goal is to drive people to your physical location, where pretty much all the same thing can take place. So I guess the revised plan would be:

    1. Define your niche.
    2. Build up a volume of high quality work related to that niche.
    3. Define you target clients.
    4. Decide how you want to present yourself to them (website, storefront,studio...).
    5. Concentrate your marketing in a way that reaches you target clients, and drives them to your intended 'presentation'.
     
  6. c.cloudwalker

    c.cloudwalker TPF Noob!

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    GeneralB, although I don't have a disclaimer in my sig, I don't believe that I necessarily have the right answer. What I offer comes from my experience and my situation and those can be as different as there are photographers.

    When asking for advice, one should always look at all the answers offered including those from newbies who, because of their innocence, can sometimes/often come up with a fresh new idea. Then, one should use a mix of what was offered that fits one's particular situation.

    Now, in your case, I agree that it probably wouldn't be a good idea not to have a website. But it would be a bad idea to rely entirely on it. I hope you are visiting magazines that could use your work.

    Yes, I am older and therefore somewhat old fashion, and I value direct human contact. But, as I found out from talking to different photo buyers out there, so do they. Not a single one of those I talked to ever looks at emails from photogs looking for work. The way most of them put it to me is: if they can't be bothered to visit me to make their pitch, why should I bother opening their emails?

    Now, I'll admit that because of my experience and my contacts in the industry, I deal only with high end users but isn't that who we all want to deal with? Also, the way of doing things will probably change but for the time being they don't seem to have. Not much anyway.

    Private Advice to the General: Look at the European market! I did plenty of editorial work, once upon a time, and Europe was always a better market. First of all, they are fascinated by all the crazy stuff we do here in the US. Two, within the same size area, you have ten times the markets you have here in the US. Every country in Europe has its own magazine(s) about a certain subject.

    If you can write, it gets even better. You can sell article and photos as a package.


    Anyway, to get back the the main subject of this thread, I still use the same old book for ideas on marketing. I've mentioned it a few times here and it's called "Guerilla Marketing" by Jay Conrad Levinson. If you look at his website, he's got more recent material and some of it probably addresses web marketing but the book I have has served me well and it is probably very cheap used. Great ideas in there.
     
  7. kkamin

    kkamin TPF Noob!

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    Join ASMP. You will suddenly be exposed to an avalanche of resources to help you get started.
     
  8. shmne

    shmne No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Hey guys thanks a million :) All great responses from what I've read so far, and exactly what I was looking for.

    Right now I just have my sole-proprietorship so that I can right off the equipment I'm buying, as well as business cards, fees for websites, etc.

    As of now I do not have a website, although I am constructing one in flash (though I'm quickly looking for someone to do it for me) I'm starting off by going around with a physical portfolio since in my experience the work I do looks better printed than online. I am aware of the importance of an online presence, it just isn't plausible for me to start with something I feel fits my branding at the moment.

    KmH, I just ran to the store yesterday and got that book, amazing.

    As I finish up the comments I'll have more to say, but thanks again for all the help so far :)
     
  9. c.cloudwalker

    c.cloudwalker TPF Noob!

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    A couple more thoughts.

    A sole proprietorship may be just fine or even better, cheaper than something else depending on what you do. Some people swear by incorporation but my lawyer always told me not to bother with my photo/art business. I did however have another business which was incorporated. Different situations may mean different setups.

    As far as writing things off your taxes, keep in mind that you first need some income. You have, for example, only so many years to write things off with no income (I don't know what it is today) before the IRS decides it is only a hobby.

    The business side of things can be daunting but it is not rocket science (kind of like photography, lol) and it is well worth the time to learn about it. The library is one of your best friends. As is the SBA, lots of free resources. As can be a pro organization, whichever one you choose. And, of course, a combo of all three is the best. :thumbup:
     
  10. GeneralBenson

    GeneralBenson TPF Noob!

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    cloudwalker - Once, again, quite interesting. I am in complete agreement with you on the fact the face to face time is the ultimate contact level and the best form of marketing. And I do meet with all the magazine people I can, for coffee with the ones in town, and at national trade shows for the ones not in town.

    But the vibe I get from pretty much all photo editors and art directors is that they're so busy that they don't have time to meet in person with everyone, nor do they want everyone to mail in their portfolio. Most I've talked to prefer an email as initial contact, and you better have a website, because that's what they want to quickly use to decide if you're worth any more of their already short time. Then if they like that, they will maybe call in a print port, or have a face to face meeting if you're local.

    But especially with sooo many new photographers out there and the fact that many magazines are struggling and short staffed, they just don't have the time to give everyone a meeting, so the website is the first line of defense to screen out those who aren't worth their time.

    Thanks for the tip on the Euro market. I've heard similar things, and that's where having a solid website is really really important. I would love to get some face time with some european editors, because that would mean I was in Europe. But that won't be happening in the near future. In fact I just got contacted by a new German magazine that found me through my website.

    I have been wrking on my writin, a very important skill for photogs. Even if just used for the copy on your own promo materials like blogs or newsletters, it's very useful to have god writing skills. Even better if you can sells photo/text packages. But again, it's a very interesting thing that highly depends on who you're dealing with. I feel like I've heard about an equal mix of people who think it's a great asset to be able to do both, and say that they want photographers who are 100% focused on photography and writers who are 100% focused on writing. rom what I've noticed it seems to be a bit of a budget thing. Mags with bigger budgets that are primarily focused on highest quality, will typically want a writer to do the writing and a photographer to do the photos; and smaller mags will be much more open and inviting to packages that will help them save budget a little bit, even if it's at a slight loss of quality.

    Great dialogue going on here. I like it. :)
     
  11. c.cloudwalker

    c.cloudwalker TPF Noob!

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    shmne, if you mind the thread hijack, let me know and I will go to PMs with the General. I feel like it could benefit others but it is your thread.


    General, it may well be that my way of looking at things is due to my age and the fact that I've worked mostly in European market for years. And all of the people I talked to in the last year are in Europe since that is where I'm opening my studio. Europeans definitely do not do business quite the way we do here in the US. Also, again, the fact that I'm not new to the business gives me easier access. I know people who know people, etc.

    I'm sure you are quite right about editors not wanting to meet everyone who wants to meet them. Would you? They'd never get any work done otherwise. But that is were you need to develop a promo plan. One that gives them the want to meet you without ever asking, maybe?

    As is often said here, in pro photography, business sense can be/is more important than the actual quality of the shots. A close friend of mine makes a very good living selling articles and movies but he'll tell you straight off that he is neither a photographer/videographer or writer. Now, true, he is a bit more modest than most but it is also true that his work is probably never going to make into the PJ Hall of Fame. But he sells.

    We are lucky in this country to have an amazing number of weirdos that fascinate the Europeans. Why not take advantage of it? But I wouldn't try and get in touch with editors there yourself. Instead, look for an agent. Yes, they take a % but if they didn't make their clients money, they wouldn't exist. I would look in Germany by the way. The Brits are not always well received in the rest of Europe and there is not a single German of a certain level who doesn't speak english. Plus, they are harder working than the french.

    I also wouldn't worry too much about your writing abilities as long as they are not horrible. 100% of articles by nobodies get re-written. Sometimes in very amazing ways, lol. The main point is to give them the basic story to go with the photos. Which I guess leads to a very basic fact: be thick-skinned. Don't get pissed if the printed story has very little to do with reality.

    Now, to get back to the original idea of the thread, a big chunk of whether or not you make money as a photographer (or commercial artist) has to do with marketing. I have mentioned "Guerilla Marketing" more than once on this forum but there are other books, other marketing gurus, etc out there. This one works/has worked for me because it fits my personality. That is very, very important. One cannot do anything well if it goes against their personality.

    Whichever aspect of photography anyone of us goes into, it needs to be in tune with our personality. And so does the marketing.
     
  12. eric-holmes

    eric-holmes No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Simply subscribed... :). Lots of information in these posts.
     

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