Every professional photographer wants to make more money with their photography business. There are basically two ways to make more with your photography business: 1) increase your average sale OR 2) increase the number of sales. For most of you out there, the best path to take is increasing your average sale.
Sure, there are plenty of photography businesses out there that do very well by increasing volume. However, to make that model work really well, you need to have more shooters in your employ, many more clients, and a mostly automated system to keep things moving. It's the fast food business model and it can be very successful…IF you access to that many people. That's why this model is usually dominated by department stores that have a steady stream of people walking in for other things and just happen to see the bargain basement photography pricing. You just can't compete with this.
If you want to supercharge your portrait business this year, you need every advantage you can get. You need to be creative. Here are some ways you can do just that.
Ok, this one isn't very creative but if you aren't doing this already then you are leaving thousands of dollars on the table. This is the number one way to increase your sales average. When you only deliver digital images from a portrait shoot, you only have one product to offer a client. You've essentially capped your sales from ever being higher than that one price. You are also essentially telling them it's up to them to go print it if they want prints. You may think you are providing a great service by simplifying things for the client but you are really making them do more work if they want prints or, if the client doesn't take further action, ensuring that those photos will never see the light of day in paper form.
The good news is that by providing better service to your clients in the form of print products, you can also make a lot more profit. However, don't just add them to your price list and hope people buy. You need to update your website to feature the awesome print products you now offer. You need to post some images of great looking prints on social media. You need to talk about prints during the initial consultation, during the shoot, and, obviously during the sales meeting.
If you want to learn a few more tips about print sales, check out 12 Ways To Increase Your Print Sales.
Start In Person Sales
So about that sales meeting I mentioned…
Are you selling everything online? So when it comes time to make a purchase, your client is sitting there by themselves with the computer mouse in one hand and the credit card in the other, looking at a relatively boring grid of images trying to decide if they want the 5×7 or the 8×10 and also using a calculator to figure out how they can spend the least amount possible and still get something. This is not your ideal selling atmosphere.
Do you have a studio? Yes…awesome. You already have everything you need to do in person sales. (If, not, stay tuned, we'll get to that.) After the shoot, make an appointment for them to come into your studio to view the photos. Make them comfortable. Have some drinks and snacks. Have a TV set up with a slideshow of the images nice and large. Make it an event. People make purchases with emotion. When they are having a good experience, they are more likely to make larger purchases because they get a sense of inherent value.
Upgrade Your Products and Services
Offer better (and more expensive products). Most people (assuming they have the means) tend to buy something in the middle of the price range of products. No one wants to get the cheapest thing and most don't want to break the bank and get the most expensive. So clients gravitate to the middle, on average. So if you don't have an expensive package option for your portrait session options, then you aren't maximizing your potential profits.
This goes for print products that you sell also. Just because the vast majority of your clients do not purchase a $2000 giant canvas, does NOT mean you should take it off the menu. Just like with package pricing, putting something like that on the price list makes all the other prices look more reasonable AND someone may just want to buy it. If you never offered it, then you just missed out on a big sale.
Finally, make sure all your products are great quality. Use a good print lab. Make sure they are color corrected. Calibrate your monitor with the print lab to ensure you get what you expect (and educate your clients that you do this so they understand the value of having you prepare the prints). You should even go beyond the products themselves and ensure the presentation is of the highest quality. Don't hand over prints to your clients in the FedEx box that you got them in. Have well designed packaging. If they are coming to your studio to pick up the prints then have them displayed, maybe with a cloth over them, ready for the big reveal. All these things add to the experience that will ensure your clients come back and refer their friends.
Use a “Model Call” To Fill Out Your Bookings
I talked about this in my previous article 5 Ways Photographers Can Make Money From Free Shoots.
If you have open time slots that you want to fill with clients, then put out an ad for a free shoot! Wait…free? That can't possibly increase profits, can it? Actually, it can if you do it right. First, make sure you took the first two steps above and implemented them into your business. Because this just doesn't work for the shoot and burn photographer. Why? because not only are you going to get a ton new leads, you are also going to make sales on the back end when they see the beautiful photos and cannot resist buying them.
Next, put out an ad for a very specific type of shoot. I've done this for beach portraits (in the late summer) and Holiday portraits (in December). Be specific about the type of subjects you want. Specify families with two or more kids, twins ages 4-7, a boy and his dog, to name a few examples. That way when someone who fits that description sees your post they are going to think, “Hey! They are talking to me!”
Tell them you are doing the free shoot to add more photos to your promotional materials, to make a new studio display, or to create a series of social media ads. Whatever it is, have a reason for doing it other than just wanting to shoot more people. Also, make sure you offer them something from the shoot. A 5×7 is enough to make sure they get something for free. You can do this as a social media post, a paid ad, or whatever your most effective mode of information distribution is. I have seen is work to great success with Facebook ads.
When someone does respond, be honest with them. Tell them your print prices BEFORE the shoot. That way if they have no intention of buying anything, they might just say no thanks. That's good though! You just weeded out someone that didn't want to buy prints. Now treat them just as well as any other paying client. Give them the full experience. Make them feel special. Provide them with value. All these things will make them feel comfortable buying from you.
If you do this right, then the session fee you just gave away for free will be more than made up in print sales and you just turned an empty slot in your calendar or a slow time of the year into more profits.
Learn New Marketing Techniques
Are you an amazing photographer? Good, that covers about 20% of the skill you need to run a successful photography business. Marketing is a skill set that will prove infinitely more lucrative than being good with the camera. I'm not saying you can be a bad photographer, just that being a good one is the starting point to a successful business, not the finish line.
I am also not saying you have to go back to college and get a Masters in marketing. Start by learning just a few good marketing strategies. Helpful Hint: Look at the section right above this one to get started!
Almost everyone uses social media but very few business owners really understand how to leverage it to get the most benefit for their business. For the next month or two, pick one social media platform and take a deep dive into learning everything you can about it. Learn how to best use their algorithm to get your posts seen by more people. Learn how to run ads effectively. Most importantly, learn how to read and interpret the analytics that are offered by every major social media platform out there. These can tell you a lot about what works and what doesn't.
After that, you can do some internet searching and find some great paid and free resources out there to learn marketing more in depth.
Build Relationships With Other Local Businesses
As a photographer, you are also an entrepreneur. As such, you below to a very unique group of people in your local area. You should get to know them! I don't just mean other photographers. I mean the local hair stylist, the dance studio owner, the micro brewery, etc. Try to find businesses that share your same ideal client. Then work out ways to share those clients!
One of the best ways to break the ice with similarly situated entrepreneurs is to offer to do some work for them for free. You can do headshots or some shots of their products or retail area. Don't ask for anything in return. Most people will recognize the value that you gave them and find a way to repay it. That may come in the form of referrals, marketing your services to their clients, or even some kind of collaboration. Be open to new ideas from other entrepreneurs. Learn from them. Work with them. Your business will benefit.
Give Vouchers To Select Businesses
This is another targeted way of getting your name in front of new eyes and kind of goes with the previous item. Once you find a business that shares your ideal clients, you can use this method to tap into that resource. Create a voucher book that the business owner to use to give out free photo session to his or her best clients or clients that make large purchases. This should be a mutually beneficial arrangement. The business owner has something extra to give their clients as a thank you and you get new clients.
One of the keys here is that the voucher book has a tear off section where the recipient fills out their name and contact information. That way, you can contact them instead of waiting for them to contact you. Let's face it, people are going to lose that piece of paper and forget about you. But if they get an email reminding them that they have a free portrait session, they are going to take advantage of it. Just like with the free shoot we talked about above, you can make your profits on the back end print sales and you now have a new client that will be coming back for repeat business IF you provide them with a great experience.
Work With a Charity or Non-Profit
This is a great way to reach a new audience that you may never have otherwise. Find a non-profit organization that you like and offer to help them out with photography services. You can offer to shoot headshots for the organization's website. You can offer to document an upcoming event. Getting your name out there in this way establishes you as someone that is involved in the community and also gives you some great blog content to write about.
But if you really want to ramp up your business, do a photo project with the non-profit. For example, are you working with a non-profit that helps young kids stay more active with sports programs? Then tell them you want to shoot sports themed portraits of kids and donate a portion of the profits back to the organization. All they have to do is help you market this to their (hopefully large) audience. The people that regularly support the non-profit will jump at the opportunity to do something cool for their kids and also help the organization they love. You'll get free access to a huge audience and a number of new clients that you can keep coming back again and again.