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Thread started 01 Dec 2011 (Thursday) 21:40
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So I never considered the possibility that clients wouldn't come..

 
Shadow ­ on ­ the ­ Door
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Dec 01, 2011 21:40 |  #1
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Okay, so here's the deal..I'm 19, young, naive, whatever you want to call it. I've spent the past year and a half building up a portfolio and name to go into business, I was always operating under the assumption that once I open up for bookings, people would just come..so I finally posted prices and hiring info on my website and big surprise, not one email, not one phone call, no one knows my name.

I have some business cards that I had done through UV Cards for about $150 for 500 after learning my lesson about cheaping out with vistaprint, but I haven't found many appropriate opportunities to hand them out other than one real estate agent that I met last weekend who had some friends who were wanting to hire a photographer for bookings (not that I really planned on making a big business around real estate photography, but it is something that's interested me) she seemed pretty enthusiastic about getting me some clients but so far nothing's come from that..not a big deal though, it was fairly recent and I'm seeing her again this weekend.

So since the cards weren't providing the immediate buzz I was hoping for, I jumped on the facebook page bandwagon and got about 36 "likes" in the past month, luckily enough I'm in a college class with a guy who runs a social networking and web development business and he's helping me out with getting more publicity with that, but still it's mostly friends with the exception of 6 people so I don't expect much to come from that, at least not until I make a name for myself outside of social networking.

So I'm stuck here now, with $2500+ credit card debt on gear I thought I needed to run a "successful" business and no idea what to do to get those first couple paying clients, and also wondering if there's something I'm doing wrong that would turn people away.

Here's my website: www.jamesrphoto.com (external link)
Here's my facebook page: www.facebook.com/james​rphoto (external link)

Maybe my prices are too high? I priced myself lower than the competitors with their own studios by about 50%, but I did some calling and found one studio willing to rent out for $30/hr with a big white cyclorama wall, so pending unavailability that solves my problem for now.

I'd love to hear some insight as to what can be done either differently than what I'm doing now, or in addition to attract some paying customers (keeping in mind I'm out of money, no big ad campaigns). Only exception I'd like to make to that is my website theme, I've received some negative reviews for it on here, but outside of these forums the feedback has been mostly positive and I'm not open to changing it at this time.


19 year old photographer with a 5D, and some L glass.
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ssim
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Dec 01, 2011 22:38 |  #2

If you build it they will come seems to be the premise that you were working on. So many people seem to think if they build a website the money will just roll in. You cannot sit back and hope that the internet is going to do all your marketing.

This forum has many threads where people have asked the same questions you are, how do I attract more customers. There have been alot of great information by many members responded into these threads. Have you taken the time to try any of the things that are being suggested in some of these. From the text of your post you have a web page and business cards but you haven't done much else. Personally I would think that your intro page is going to chase people away, it is way too busy. There is no information on your page other than your about me and quite honestly most customers don't care what camera you use or what software you are using. Take this part out of your about and there isn't much left. It is hard to glean what kind of a market you are actually chasing from your site. Portraits, weddings, commercial, etc.

When I went full time I knew it was going to be hard and I spent the money to hire a small marketing firm to help me get better exposure in the local business community. I was after commercial work and there was no way that I could knock on all the doors myself but they helped out in this respect and it paid off great. I managed to sign on with an advertising agency as their primary photographer and I arranged to have a small group of others that I could call on for second shooters or simply assistants. I spent money where I thought I needed help. If you want to be seen as a business you have to act like one too but you have to be smart about it. Do you have a business plan at all. If so what is in it and what isn't or is working. I must admit that paying that much for business cards before even having one customer is alot. That's .30 each for something that in all likelihood is going to get thrown in the junk drawer at home. We (and I say we because I had more than myself in this) took a booth at some local business fairs and bridal fairs. We went and knocked on the doors of bridal service businesses. I was after commercial work but first and foremost I am a photographer and if that means shooting something than my most favorite subject then that is what I do. You have to get out and not rely on the internet to get your customers. I did work for several people that when we first went to see them they said that they didn't have any photography needs. We convinced them they did. You need to be a salesman.

The internet (including this forum) has lots of information on how to attract customers and be successful in this business. Generally alot of this is good but in my experience there is nothing like getting out and knocking on doors to securing customers.


My life is like one big RAW file....way too much post processing needed.
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Shadow ­ on ­ the ­ Door
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Dec 01, 2011 22:44 |  #3
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thanks for the write-up, very helpful. I have a book called fast track to a photography business (or something like that) and it did mention outsourcing areas that you find to be your weakness, I guess I should give that some thought. Since you're in Southern AB and I'm in Regina, could you give me an idea of what you paid for this marketing agency? Right now I have about $150 to my name. As for business cards, I did try going the cheap route and ended up with a product I didn't want to put my name behind.


19 year old photographer with a 5D, and some L glass.
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gonzogolf
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Dec 01, 2011 23:05 |  #4

I gotta say that all the animation on your website is annoying. too much movement to distract someone looking to view your work. The work is good, but its not enough to just be good. You have to market yourself. Advertise yourself and network, once you get a few of the right clients you can start to use the power of word of mouth.




  
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veritasimg
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Dec 01, 2011 23:10 |  #5

I'm sorry to read about your post. You are in college. Your priority is school and graduate. You don't need to be saddled with debt so very quickly let alone the mindset to try and start a business.

My suggestion to you right now is to quickly sell of your gear. Pay off your debt. Get back into your scholastic focus. Maybe pick up a used 40d and cheap lens. Shoot for friends & families. Shoot for free. Shoot for fun. Get that pressure off. And let life unfurl before you. You will be surprise by the freedom of not having that dark cloud of debt hovering over you daily.


Vancouver Portrait Photographer (external link) | Our latest Works @ Veritas Images (external link) | Let's Get Social! (external link)

  
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Shadow ­ on ­ the ­ Door
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Dec 01, 2011 23:28 as a reply to  @ veritasimg's post |  #6
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I bought most of my gear when I had a paying contract, a photography business is what I've always wanted and what I want to make a career out of, selling everything off isn't going to make me feel any better, I'm lucky enough to have no student loans.. A lot of my friends are in a lot more debt than I am. As for concentrating on school, my work load is light and I have a ton of free time that I can consistently dedicate to this business once I have a plan of action. Working for free is not something I would enjoy.


19 year old photographer with a 5D, and some L glass.
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srowlandson
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Dec 02, 2011 00:01 as a reply to  @ Shadow on the Door's post |  #7

Welcome to the world of business.

If you want work, Go Chase it, it won't come to you until you have established a brand and name and get referrals from word of mouth. Until then, you have to hunt for the work. It isn't easy. You will lose money. Its expensive going into business.




  
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Picture ­ North ­ Carolina
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Dec 02, 2011 05:18 |  #8

srowlandson wrote in post #13482971 (external link)
Welcome to the world of business.

If you want work, Go Chase it, it won't come to you until you have established a brand and name and get referrals from word of mouth. Until then, you have to hunt for the work. It isn't easy. You will lose money. Its expensive going into business.

^ This. ^

ssim wrote in post #13482730 (external link)
I did work for several people that when we first went to see them they said that they didn't have any photography needs. We convinced them they did. You need to be a salesman.

A question about this one specific point, Sheldon. How?

How did you convince them they needed better photography? I'm not contesting what you say, but in all my years of learning as well as talking to very successful sales people, the one consistent rule I've learned is that you don't make a sale by using a negative such dissing your competition or by telling somebody their current pictures suck.


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Firemike
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Dec 02, 2011 05:19 |  #9

So I never considered the possibility that clients wouldn't come..

It's not that the clients aren't coming to you by choice, it is because they don't know about you!

  • Having a web page is nice, but if it isn't placing high in search engines, you don't have anything useful for potential client to find you.
  • Fancy business cards are nice, but not if you don't get them into the hands of those that actually 'need' your services
  • Networking - with no advertising/promotiona​l money available you will need to put a lot of time into networking - local events, local networking groups, SBA, SCORE, local small business owners groups, camera clubs, stick your card up on the bulletin boards of local restaurant/businesses that have them available, etc.
  • As Simm said, there is a lot of great advice here (POTN) as well as elsewhere on the net to help you get going, but it is going to require a lot of "sweat equity" on your end as you are not able to pay someone to do the job for you.
  • The most important thing - Don't try to re-invent the wheel! You are not unique in your position, tens of thousands of people start their own business every year with the philosphy that "If you build it they will come", a major portion of them fail. Look at the ones that did make it, find out what they did to succeed and use that information.


Figure out who you want your target clients to be and find a way to get to them. If you want to do real estate photography, you need to talk to tons of real estate agents and sell them on why your services are better then who they are using now. If you want to do weddings, you need to talk to wedding planners and bridal stores. Maybe hook up with a local wedding photographer and volunteer as a 2nd shooter to get some experience and the guidance of a good mentor.

Read all you can read on starting your own photographic business. Start writing down ideas you have, pick them apart, and determine what will work best for you. Learn to write a business plan and write down some goals ( no matter how far-fetched they seem now) and try to figure out what you need to do to achieve those goals.

The main point is - you will need to put a lot of effort into it to get anything out. Owning your own business is great... you work when you want, take a day off when you want, have lots of money (I tell these people that I have to take time off so I can go home and weight my money, don't have the time to count it anymore), have cool stuff to play with (costing thousands of your hard-earned dollars), meet cool people (along with the bitchy, whinny, arrogant, know-more-that-you types), go to all the glamorous places ( yeah, nothing like carrying around 40lbs of gear on a 95 degree day or trying to keep people from knocking your tripod or light stands over), etc. [/SARCASM]

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watt100
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Dec 02, 2011 09:20 |  #10

veritasimg wrote in post #13482811 (external link)
You are in college. Your priority is school and graduate.

I agree with that ^^^
http://www.nytimes.com …otogs.html?page​wanted=all (external link)




  
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chrispychicken
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Dec 02, 2011 09:51 |  #11

Firemike wrote in post #13483557 (external link)
It's not that the clients aren't coming to you by choice, it is because they don't know about you!

  • Having a web page is nice, but if it isn't placing high in search engines, you don't have anything useful for potential client to find you.
  • Fancy business cards are nice, but not if you don't get them into the hands of those that actually 'need' your services
  • Networking - with no advertising/promotiona​l money available you will need to put a lot of time into networking - local events, local networking groups, SBA, SCORE, local small business owners groups, camera clubs, stick your card up on the bulletin boards of local restaurant/businesses that have them available, etc.
  • As Simm said, there is a lot of great advice here (POTN) as well as elsewhere on the net to help you get going, but it is going to require a lot of "sweat equity" on your end as you are not able to pay someone to do the job for you.
  • The most important thing - Don't try to re-invent the wheel! You are not unique in your position, tens of thousands of people start their own business every year with the philosphy that "If you build it they will come", a major portion of them fail. Look at the ones that did make it, find out what they did to succeed and use that information.


Figure out who you want your target clients to be and find a way to get to them. If you want to do real estate photography, you need to talk to tons of real estate agents and sell them on why your services are better then who they are using now. If you want to do weddings, you need to talk to wedding planners and bridal stores. Maybe hook up with a local wedding photographer and volunteer as a 2nd shooter to get some experience and the guidance of a good mentor.

Read all you can read on starting your own photographic business. Start writing down ideas you have, pick them apart, and determine what will work best for you. Learn to write a business plan and write down some goals ( no matter how far-fetched they seem now) and try to figure out what you need to do to achieve those goals.

The main point is - you will need to put a lot of effort into it to get anything out. Owning your own business is great... you work when you want, take a day off when you want, have lots of money (I tell these people that I have to take time off so I can go home and weight my money, don't have the time to count it anymore), have cool stuff to play with (costing thousands of your hard-earned dollars), meet cool people (along with the bitchy, whinny, arrogant, know-more-that-you types), go to all the glamorous places ( yeah, nothing like carrying around 40lbs of gear on a 95 degree day or trying to keep people from knocking your tripod or light stands over), etc. [/SARCASM]

This post is full of awesome.


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Nightstalker
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Dec 02, 2011 09:53 |  #12

Most business fail in the first few years because they have insufficient capital behind them.

Realistically most people will look to break even in year 2 or 3 and therefore will have been living off savings for a few years before they can take an income out of their business. Profits get reinvested in marketing and in paying off debts - it is not easy - especially now because as a newcomer you will be competing against people that will work for virtually nothing to fund their hobby or just because they enjoy it.

Businesses unfortunately tend to consume large amounts of cash to get set up and only pay back slowly.

If you really have $150 to your name then by this time next week you will probably be broke and a business without money is no business.


  
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Zansho
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Dec 02, 2011 09:53 |  #13

My advice, if you really want to make this a business in the long term, is to go to college and get a degree in a business related field. Accounting, Business administration, international business, marketing, whatever in the business related fields. You can learn photography as you go, but the business degree you have will help you WAY more in sustaining your long term goals than just expecting people to show up and beat down on your door because you have a website.

Get that degree, learn something from that degree, and apply it to your business. You'll be the more successful for it.


http://www.michaeljsam​aripa.com (external link) creating beautiful images for myself, my clients, and the world. Shooting with a mix of Canon, Fuji, and Sony.

  
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Brandon72
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Dec 02, 2011 09:59 |  #14

Ok, I have to say that I love your website (may I ask, did you code it? I love the background). And you're work is great - I would never guess your age by your work. I would not suggest selling off your gear - but I would suggest not buying any more on credit. You're clearly capable of producing quality images with what you have so stick with that for now.

You are not charging too much.

I could offer a bunch of specific ideas but the bottom line is that if no one has your business card, and no one knows about your website and Facebook page, no one is going to hire you... because they don't know about you. So come up with some ways to interact with people to encourage them to come to you. Tell everyone you know what you do and what you can offer. On Facebook, join your high school's page and offer senior portraits. Maybe someone you know has a family member in a band who needs some promo images. Maybe a family member is pregnant and attending parenting classes with lots of other moms who will need some newborn... and first year... and and and... soon. Mention it to everyone, hand out a couple cards so they can pass them along to friends... offer an incentive for them to do so, like a referral program... you have to figure out what works for you and the type of photography you do.




  
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Brandon72
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Dec 02, 2011 10:06 |  #15

Nightstalker wrote in post #13484438 (external link)
especially now because as a newcomer you will be competing against people that will work for virtually nothing to fund their hobby or just because they enjoy it.

People choose based on what they can afford. A person who hires a photographer who works for nothing cannot afford a photographer who charges thousands and therefore they are not stealing the expensive photographer's business.

If you have the money to stay in a 5 star hotel are you going to choose to stay at a bedbug-infested motel on the side of a highway?

If you have the money to eat at a 5 star restaurant are you going to go to the McDonald's Drive-thru?

No one who goes to his site will have a clue that he's a newcomer. He's done well with his online presentation and that alone separates him from hobbyists posting on Kijiji.




  
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