How to book weddings? Frustration abounds, yet I press onwards...

otherwise

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I'm four years into my business and am extremely frustrated with this lack of clients stuff. I have have photographed only about ten weddings, with the first year being only one: that of a friend. Everything else has been booked through Craigslist, which does not seem to be very successful since everyone is looking for a $400 wedding photographer. Sure, I booked a few of those last year and the year before...GREAT portfolio builders, and I even did one for $500 this year because it was an AWESOME couple, but really I charge between $900 and $1,800, and not many Craigslist folks are into that.

When people contact me through Craigslist and don't want to give me any idea what their rough budget is for photography, I just say that I try work within my clients' budgets. Though this is true, I think it turns people away. I direct people to both my website and Facebook page to get them excited about the work itself before talking about pricing, but still...not much luck. And then those who book me and end up LOVING everything about the experience, e.g. working with me (I'm quite an extrovert and life is a smorgasbord to me), the resulting photos, just everything. They basically rave over me. But referrals aren't really happening because most of these clients are coming in from out of town.

I just booked my first $1,800 wedding, actually, but it was that of a friend and not a random individual looking for a wedding photographer. Excited to be charging closer to what I'm worth, not excited to not be booking only a dozen weddings a year like I should be. There is no reason I cannot do this, as my work is excellent, my customer service and client relational skills are excellent, etc. But my marketing? Gotta figure that one out, and that's why I'm posting this. If anyone can help here, perhaps talk me through some of this, that would be very much appreciated. And if you'd like to see my website or some work of mine just send me a quick private message because I'd rather not post links on a public forum.

Thank you all SOOO much!
 

ronlane

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Welcome to the site.

Is facebook and craigslist the only advertising that you are doing? What about local bridal fairs? Are you networking with flower shops and wedding planners and even some of the local wedding facilities to get your name out there more.

I would suggest that you even look on creativelive.com at some the wedding, business and marketing videos that they have to help you out. One that comes to mind is this one from Sal Cincotta or this one.
 

12sndsgood

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I saw you mentioned craigslist half a dozen times but no mention of anywhere else your looking? If craigslist ads are your main advertising your only going to get people who view craigslist, and those people seem to be the bargain basement shoppers. the ones who are looking for $500 or under weddings. If you want to book higher end weddings you need to go where higher end customers are.
 

Robin_Usagani

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When I made the leap from $1500 average booking to $3500 average booking, I lost about 8 wedding consultations. Very frustrating. You just have to stick with your price and make sure you do awesome job. All of my previous wedding clients that only spent below $1500 will never refer me to more weddings at my current price. I just have to rely on my recent clients to give me new clients.
 
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otherwise

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Welcome to the site.

Is facebook and craigslist the only advertising that you are doing? What about local bridal fairs? Are you networking with flower shops and wedding planners and even some of the local wedding facilities to get your name out there more.

I would suggest that you even look on creativelive.com at some the wedding, business and marketing videos that they have to help you out. One that comes to mind is this one from Sal Cincotta or this one.

Thanks! Yes, just Craigslist (and word of mouth, which doesn't do much for the wedding side of things). No bridal fairs yet...isn't this something that will cost me hundreds of dollars to get into? And as for networking with other local wedding business, namely planners, could you provide some insight into how to get into that, e.g. how do I approach them? Do I start by identifying all local businesses and then picking a few to visit in person? Email?

That first course looks AWESOME...thinking about buying it. Thanks!

I saw you mentioned craigslist half a dozen times but no mention of anywhere else your looking? If craigslist ads are your main advertising your only going to get people who view craigslist, and those people seem to be the bargain basement shoppers. the ones who are looking for $500 or under weddings. If you want to book higher end weddings you need to go where higher end customers are.

Yep! That's why I'm asking for some advice and guidance on here :)
 

Robin_Usagani

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CL is only for portfolio build. Stop looking for more clients. CL clients will not give you referral to high paying wedding. OH.. and bridal show is not that much better. Stay away. Referral and FB is your friend.
 

KmH

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Rwsphotos

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+1 to all the above clients willing to pay higher prices are far and few between on craigs list. While I do put my self there it mostly only drums up people who say well so and so on craigs list will do it for $75. To get a higher clientele then cheap to free you need to direct your advertising to the crowd your after. Don't waffle on your pricing stick with it like Robin said.
 

ronlane

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Welcome to the site.

Is facebook and craigslist the only advertising that you are doing? What about local bridal fairs? Are you networking with flower shops and wedding planners and even some of the local wedding facilities to get your name out there more.

I would suggest that you even look on creativelive.com at some the wedding, business and marketing videos that they have to help you out. One that comes to mind is this one from Sal Cincotta or this one.

Thanks! Yes, just Craigslist (and word of mouth, which doesn't do much for the wedding side of things). No bridal fairs yet...isn't this something that will cost me hundreds of dollars to get into? And as for networking with other local wedding business, namely planners, could you provide some insight into how to get into that, e.g. how do I approach them? Do I start by identifying all local businesses and then picking a few to visit in person? Email?

That first course looks AWESOME...thinking about buying it. Thanks!

You don't have to get a booth to start with (although you can). Just the price of admission and spend time talking with the vendors. Get to know them, find out what they have to offer and what you can offer for them. Bring along a portfolio and/or wedding album that you have shot so they can see your work. (This second part is the same for the networking, visit their shops and stores, introduce yourself and then ask to set up a meeting maybe over lunch or something where you can show your portfolio. Even consider shooting some of their product for advertisement and marketing use.

Oh and listen to people like Robin, who does plenty of weddings.
 

tirediron

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Thanks! Yes, just Craigslist (and word of mouth, which doesn't do much for the wedding side of things). No bridal fairs yet...isn't this something that will cost me hundreds of dollars to get into?
Yes, if not $1K or more. The single most basic and important truth to remember about business is: It takes money to make money! If all you're relying on is Craig's List and facebook, to be honest, I would say you're doing well. Set aside a chunk (say, $5K) for advertising. If you have a big wedding fair in your area, then book that (and be ready to spend another $1K on getting portfolio images printed, matted & framed for that), take out ads in local magazines/periodicals & newspapers (Yes, print is dying, but most have an on-line presence now, so make sure that you pay the extra for that), investigate Google's 'pay-per-click' advertising. Is there a local-access cable channel that will run inexpensive ads? Check that out... is your business listed in local telephone listing services? If not...

And as for networking with other local wedding business, namely planners, could you provide some insight into how to get into that, e.g. how do I approach them? Do I start by identifying all local businesses and then picking a few to visit in person? Email?
DO NOT e-mail them! At the absolute minimum, telephone, but better yet, face-to-face! Make a list of all of the local dress shops, florists, caterers, etc in your area. Put together portfolio packages (album-style) and visit each one. Introduce yourself as a new wedding photographer in the area and explain that you're working on establishing your business and meeting others in the industry, and could you show them your portfolio. If they don't kick you to the curb, then show them the portfolio and offer to leave it behind (Yes, this will cost money) but it also means that you've made an impression and you may get recommended. Also ask them for promotional materials to take with you.
 

kathyt

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I am a wedding photographer, and most of my business is referrals. Do you utilize FB? It is a great marketing tool. I have never used CL to market. I would like to see your website, and I will give you my feedback in private.
 

amolitor

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I see little stacks of business cards for various things, including photographers, in various high traffic places. Anyone tried that out, and what happens?
 

Justman1020

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amolitor I have left some stack's behind, I get the occasional phone call, but when I go back most stack's are still sitting there, it seems that not many people pick up any of the card's in these area's.
 

Robin_Usagani

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I see little stacks of business cards for various things, including photographers, in various high traffic places. Anyone tried that out, and what happens?

Do you want to be compared to a plumber or electrician? It has to be referral first or the person has to see your work first.
 

hirejn

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Craigslist is not a good source for leads. I wouldn't pay a dime to advertise anywhere. All of my clients have come to me from referrals or me finding free ways to reach out. Free advertising includes social networking, physically talking to vendors/venues, talking to other photographers, networking in organizations, blogging, offering free sessions but selling prints. I'm sure there are many others. Craigslist is just one part of lead generation, but after four years your reliance on Craigslist should be minimal. Some photographers seem to do well paying for advertising, and some do not. It depends on the market and photographer. But my experience is that advertising is a waste of money.
 

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