Guidance on family members stealing business


TPF Noob!
May 30, 2013
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Hey, I'm very new to this forum, so hello to you all and thank you for the welcome. I have a bit of a problem. I've been shooting for the past three years, love it and every day I learn more and more. I'm not actively trying to start up an official business but I am building a client base. My main problem is my sister in law. Last summer she decided that she wanted to be a photographer and bought herself a Canon t3i, (I was planning on buying this camera before she did and later on did buy it). She's older than me and knows a lot of people with families and a lot of people refer her to their friends. She has gotten better at understanding her camera but still doesn't know a lot. She uses me as sounding board and I know I am contributing to giving her the upper hand when it comes to business. It's just that because she has a DSLR she feels like she is a professional, what she lacks is the aesthetic sense for composition and such. She gets her lucky shots but most of the time she doesn't really know what she is doing. I feel terrible for feeling like this and I want to help her succeed but her success may not be the best thing for me. Is that selfish? What should I do in this situation? Specialize in something? I'm sorry if I come across as whiny, not my intention at all but just looking for advice in this situation and wondering if anyone else out there experiences this?
If you are operating in the same area as each other why compete and fight over customers - consider going into partnership; now suddenly you can advance her photography more and you can take advantage of her superior networking.*

It sounds at present though that you're not really quite sure what your doing yourself in a way - if you hit the commercial market you will have competition. It won't matter who it is you will have it all the time - so you can either join with the competition or ensure that your product, your marketing, your company is superior to retain your market hold. You can also specialise your services to ensure that you're hitting a specific market segment. Note that friends and family is a group that gets exhausted very fast when you use them as your clients - you'll need to market and spread out vastly from that (indeed one can argue you shouldn't even start there unless they are the specific financial market who can afford your services and are included in the target marketing groups you market toward).
Heard this story on here many times! My advice? Be better than she is... and don't worry about. You probably wouldn't get her clients anyway.. they are her friends after all.. not yours!

And if you are charging.. you have a business! And are hopefully paying taxes! The IRS can be very nasty if you aren't, and all it takes is one competitor or pissed off client to report you!
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You're only real options as pointed out above, is either team up or out shoot the other person.
IMO, it will boil down to which of you is better at doing business, rather than who is better at doing photography.

Unless you combine your talents.
However, business partnerships are quite difficult to maintain, and if dissolved can cost both partners some serious money.
competition isn't necessarily a bad thing; oftentimes it can motivate you to become a better photographer, either technically or just be better business savvy. aside from that, photographers can (and should) help each other out as much as possible. you can think of it as stealing business from yourself, but i have referral agreements with a select few local photographers in case i'm already booked for an event and vice versa. as was previously mentioned, i think it's better to focus on your skills and your marketing techniques, and be open to the idea of a two-way referral program or partnership.
Why aren't you letting this fuel your competitive spirit? Be better than her and your work will speak for itself. In the long run, photography success is much more about marketing and brand than the actual images.

Also, don't think that her success and yours are mutually exclusive outcomes. There's always room for another photographer.

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