Well, technically it's economics but let’s be honest, proclaiming to the world “It’s Economics!” just doesn't pack quite as big of a punch. You probably haven’t heard that competition is good for business since (if I had to guess) your high school economics class, but most of us probably weren’t paying attention anyway. No offense Mr. Holt… The whole idea that competition increases your business is a super backward concept but when you break it down, it actually makes a lot of sense. As a photographer, I am going to explain this as it pertains to the photography, but the whole idea works for any industry out there.
When I first started out, saying I was the low man on the totem pole was a bit of an understatement. I was a small fish in a seemingly never ending ocean of amazing photographers. My work was sub par and my competition was growing at an exponential rate, or so it seemed. I could have very easily given up when things started getting tough (or rather didn't get easier), but I loved the idea of becoming a professional photographer so I stuck with it. I started studying successful photographers, not only trying to figure out why their photos were better than mine but also what made them successful business people. Here’s what I found out.
All it takes to be a successful photographer is to not be complacent. What I mean by that is don't just be as good as you need to be. Strive to be the best! Look at your competition and try to be better than they are. I feel very lucky to live in Nashville right now while the city is growing so quickly. There are countless numbers of amazing photographers here and the fact that they exist only encourages me to want to become better myself. If I don’t step up my game I won’t get any jobs. It's really that simple. Having competition forces me to be a student of my craft, always learning new techniques and trying new ideas.
Let me explain my point with a real world example. Imagine just for a second that it’s a couple months after the holidays and a bunch of people just got new cameras. They’re all excited to start their journey to becoming a professional photographer while you’re sitting at home scared they're going to steal your business. Here's why you shouldn’t worry...
As an experienced photographer, you charge (x dollar amount) for a headshot but you don't want to raise your prices because you’re afraid you’ll lose clients. You think that all the up and coming photographers are saturating the market so you decided to take to Facebook (or similar) to express your concern about how “photography should be left up to the professionals” or something equally arrogant and idiotic. In the meantime, those new photographers have also started charging (x dollar amount) for their headshots. This is good because those photographers who you thought were saturating the market have now set a new baseline for the price of headshots in your market. Provided you’re not a complacent photographer (see above) you can now increase your prices, keep your clients and probably gain even bigger ones. You may lose a few clients because they don't want to pay more for a premium service, but are those really the types of clients that you want? I know I certainly don't have the time to bend over backward to please a client that doesn't want to pay me what I’m worth.
I am fully aware that increasing your prices can be a risky move but a business never became successful by playing it safe. Sometimes taking risks is exactly what you need to bump your career to the next level. Trust me, I struggled for a long time with whether or not I should quit my steady job to become a photographer full time. When I finally committed to that, I was afraid of losing clients so I said yes to every job and worked my ass off for little to no money for years. It wasn't until I realized that the clients I wanted to work for actually paid for jobs based on the value I put in my own work. I stopped being the guy who did everything for (x dollar amount) and decided to give myself and my work actual value that could be appreciated by the kind of clients that were willing to pay for quality work.
To wrap everything up, make sure that you are being a proactive photographer. Don't be afraid to go after clients even if you think they're out of your league. Nothing is free and if you have that mindset don't be surprised when another "less deserving" photographer steals your clients right out from underneath you.