Thanks for all the responses, definitely put things into perspective. It seems like I'm getting too ambitious for what I have to show in my portfolio, but I am confident in my skillset. Having said that,
memoriesoftomorrow wrote in post #16154856
Step 2) Ensure you have the relevant insurances, contracts in place and backup equipment before you take on your first paying wedding. Why? You are charging and you better be ready for the fall out if things don't go to plan. Not getting the basics covered before your first paid wedding shoot can be like committing business suicide.
When you do set your pricing consider that the referral base you establish will be based on how much you charge. Charge $200 for a full day's coverage expect your referral clients to be only willing to pay the same amount. If you start ridiculously low expect it to take years to slowly build up to a profitable level unless you are prepared to completely burn your referral base as you go.
If potential clients do not see the value in what you are offering at the price you offer it for then they won't buy. If this happens you have a problem and need to look at what you are offering (quality, product, experience and service).
Finally. If you want to build up a portfolio and buy gear thinking your best bet is the wedding route is very misguided. It is possibly the worst route you can go. Portraits, other events etc all don't come with either the risk or pressure of a wedding. You can re-shoot a portrait session, you can't re-shoot a wedding.
Reason 2 is why I see myself as an amateur, I am very aware of the precautionary steps and insurance that pros go through to insure shoots. Based on the post above, I am a cheap-professional, by definition so I cannot afford that for my buisness. On a regular basis, I shoot headshots to test new equipment and to practice my technique. I also shoot regular nightlife gigs so I am definitely out there shooting. The reason why I am seeking advice is to expand in the wedding industry.
I guess this is where the problem lies. I am confident in my skillset to charge what I charge. Sure I get a few referral clients here and there, and I have a winter wedding booked, but craigslist has always been a source of business for me. As I am moving out of the budget of craigslist service seekers, how does a photographer looking to expand to higher-paying weddings move from low CL budget weddings, if that is all he has shot for the past 2 years?
"If you start ridiculously low expect it to take years to slowly build up to a profitable level unless you are prepared to completely burn your referral base as you go."
Couldn't agree more. Perhaps this is the situation I'm falling into, but again I am a cheap professional. Is no money, better then little money? How do you reach out to higher-end clients? Google AdSense doesn't seem to get the job done, and my website seems to only exist as point of reference when I direct them to clients.
Also, I apologize, I should have clarified earlier. When I meant friends & family, I was stating that I was asking them for referrals. I stopped shooting friends and family for my website long ago.
Christopher Steven b wrote in post #16155328
When your fees are really low, the quality of your work isn't so much of an issue--you're hired based on your price. When you raise your prices so that you're charging a thousand or two, the quality of the portfolio will likely be scrutinized a little harder as clients compare between photographers.
You are charging high enough fees that craigslist will likely become less and less useful to you. This isn't to say that you shouldn't use craigslist, but that it has to be one of a multitude of means of marketing yourself.
This isn't to suggest that what you are doing is wrong and what I did was right, but when I had only one [edit: or two] wedding to show on my website, my fees for a wedding weren't a thousand or two. When I was starting out my focus was not on the present and how much money can I get <this week>; it was on working more, building up my portfolio knowing that it would make me money <later>.
Couldn't agree more. Especially the last part. If you don't mind me asking, how did you get these clients? Like I said, I don't mind shooting for free for the purpose of building my portfolio. While I do charge currently, the main purpose is to network with a couples for future work. Like memoriesoftomorrow pointed out, I want to move from the lower budget weddings, but it is a hard transition.
Would the best recommendation be to just gain a few more weddings under my belt (free), present them nicely on my website, then start charging the price I want to charge? How does one even find free weddings to shoot? A lot of the success stories here point out family & friends weddings, but in my experience, that never works.
Let me give an example. Friends of friends, especially, will barely consider a "free" photographer to cover their wedding, and they would rather pay to get a "professional". A friend of a friend was getting married and was seeking a photographer, and of course our mutual friend recommended me. They asked me what I charge, and considering I only had 1 wedding to show for, I asked for a very small compensation. They chose to go with another photographer who charged more. When I look over their wedding pictures, I was shocked. This self proclaimed "Professional" charged them $1500 for average pictures. Many of the pictures were terribly white balanced or composed. My mutual friend stated afterwards that she would have greatly preferred to have gone with me.
But let's say once I've gotten a couple of free wedding gigs done. How do you get paying clients then? Do you advertise locally..? Online?