Question for those who've been in the business for a long time

Discussion in 'General Shop Talk' started by heavenlymom, Oct 4, 2008.

  1. heavenlymom

    heavenlymom TPF Noob!

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    I am new to having my own portrait studio and so I am learning along with way with every new day and every new shoot.
    When business is slow and you don't have customers in what do you do?
    What approach do you take to bring in more customers that doesn't include paying for advertising.
    I would be grateful for any tips as the holidays are coming up and I feel this will either break my studio or help it gain a little more of nudge on the chain.
    I haven't had a session in a week!! I have some later in the month, but it's been so slow this past week.
    Please keep in mind that I am going on little advertising due to money issues, no store front (but I do have a small sign out front now yah!) and I am slowly but surely gaining repeat customers and referals.
    Thanks so much!
     
  2. manaheim

    manaheim Jedi Bunnywabbit Staff Member Supporting Member

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    I haven't been doing this for a ton of time, but I suspect the thread on generating new business is a good read for you.

    I can tell you that things have been slower for me, personally, over the past couple months. I think I'm in a very different segment than you are (commercial real estate photography), but I think the current US and worldwide economy woes are shaking everyone up a bit.

    Plus seasonal elements do come into play... summers tend to be slower in a LOT of businesses, for example.
     
  3. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    I only do this part time, so take my advice for what it's worth. ;)

    There are any number of ways to drum up business...you may need to get creative. You may need to put in some leg work and be proactive. Advertising isn't usually cheap, and if you don't have money to put toward it, you will have to pay with your own time and effort.

    I know several photographers who have taken advantage of networking sites like Facebook. It's fairly easy to set up a network of friends and family, you can then market directly to them. Many photographers (myself included) have also set up a Facebook group, which is a good place to show off some photos and send out messages to your friends.
    Some people have an issue about separating their personal relationships from the business ones...but some of them actually like to keep them intermingled. Clients become friends and it gives people a way to 'know' you. For the same reason, many photographers also have a blog of some sorts.
    All of this helps to increase your web presence. I would hope that you already have a good website.
    While we are on this topic, have you given any thought to SEO (search engine optimization)? There are things that you can do, to make your website show up closer to the top of the list for your key words.
    Also, it isn't free, but things like facebook advertising and Google Adwords can be useful.

    Next, you could increase your community presence. There is a photographer in my area who does a 'day in the park' a couple time a year. She invites everyone she can contact (facebook etc) down to a park on a certain day. I believe she sets up appointments every 20 or 30 minutes. For people or families that come down, it's a free portrait sitting for them. She probably makes money on print sales but more importantly, she builds a relationship with a lot of people who may become regular clients.

    Of course, word of mouth is king in this business, so always have that in mind. Do a great job for every client and treat them well, they will be your best advertisers when they tell other people about you.
     
  4. butterflygirl

    butterflygirl TPF Noob!

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    I have also been in the business for a couple of years and do it part-time, but I thought I may be able to contribute-

    What I have found is the best for free is a blog! Last month I hosted a contest, picking my favorite 15 photos and having my blog viewers vote on their favorite. The winning image won a free session and 11x14 - what was incredible is people from EVERYWHERE showed up to vote. Once people realized their photo was in the running they sent the link to all of their family, friends etc. etc. I had over 700 hits ON ONE DAY. Plus I've had new people book because they saw my work, prices, etc. and liked it.

    Another thing I have done is what Big Mike suggested - Facebook and MySpace. Just adding friends and family is a starting point, but you can go out and search people who are into photography.

    I also made connections with some local businesses in my area who are willing to post my fliers, business cards etc. I have business cards in a local framing shop. I also gave free $50 gift certificates to local florists to hand out to wedding customers. I have Christmas mini-session fliers in a salon.

    Plus I post to EVERY bulletin board I can find. It seems most of the fliers/business cards are taken from restaurants so far.

    Hopefully that will help.

    Hang in there. It goes in spurts for me. It'll be really, super busy for a month, then nothing for a couple of weeks. Right now I'm pretty slow. But I think by Christmas it'll be booming again :)
     
  5. Mike30D

    Mike30D TPF Noob!

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    Just like Big Mike above, I'm only part-time....

    Read this, it may help you.

    Marketing is really a huge factor in getting them in the door. You are going to find that it is one of the bigger expenses in being a pro photographer.

    One idea is to do "dollar day sessions" - For one month your session fees are whatever the date is, if it's the 25th then they're $25 dollars on that day. It might help encourage them to get in earlier in the month.

    I read about one idea where the photographer went in to the stores that related to the type of photography she did (babies and baby clothing stores) and talked to the owners and came up with coupons or certificates that said if the customer spent over a certain amount of money in that store then they would get a free portrait session or their names were entered into a drawing to win a free portrait session.

    Offer your newlyweds (if you do weddings) a free one-year anniversary portrait session.

    Do you have any prints on display in the windows? Don't just print 8x10's, print 'em big like 20x30. A big thing with a lot of studios now is the slideshows on the lcd monitors that are placed in the front window.

    There are some decent books out there on this subject by Mitche Graf and James Williams.

    Marketing is work but the payoff can be awesome!
     
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2008
  6. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    You could try joining clubs, groups or associations. A photography instructor I had, related the story of how he won a contest with a photography association and it kicked his career into gear with a snowball effect.

    As other have mentioned, you can target other business that have the same clientele that you want to target. Try to work something out with them, maybe you provide them with photos to hang on their walls and you get to have your name on them and maybe some business cards on display as well.
     
  7. skieur

    skieur TPF Noob!

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    Well, I guess several decades is a long time. My approach has always been diversification. I have never restricted my work. I have done photojournalism, editing, legal photography, public relations, politics, books, magazines, advertising, curriculum, television, multimedia productions, giving presentations, television production and working for stations, teaching, work on grants, tourism, etc.

    As a result, I am never dependent on one narrow source of income.

    skieur
     
  8. craig

    craig TPF Noob!

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    The above replies on marketing are sound for sure. I would also suggest branching out into other areas like editorial and commercial. Shoot some promo pieces in both areas. Start contacting ad agencies and magazines.

    Love & Bass
     

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