How to Make Some Money With Photography This Weekend

Whether you're an amateur or a new professional, money from photography will likely be on your mind. This video follows a photographer as he goes out and tries to do just that. (Warning: some strong language.)

When I first started out trying to make money from my photography, I went the brute force route that North Borders, the YouTuber behind this video went too. That is, contacting as many companies as possible, talking with the owners, and seeing what's available. It's a hard method to mentally withstand as you are going to receive rejections left and right. However, you only need one job to come in from a stint of canvassing for work to make it worth it, generally speaking.

In this video, North Borders goes around local cafés asking if they need any photography done for their social medias. You'll see straight away that people reject you as almost a knee-jerk reaction. Eventually though, these guys get a small job (and then an unrelated bigger one). You might look at how much they earned and wonder if it was worth it, but I can assure you, the value often exceeds the money that initially crosses palms. You grow your network with local businesses, and open the door for repeat work.

I think North Borders did well in this video, but I'd have changed a few things if I were them. Firstly, I would have had a business card with me. People old and young will ask you for them, and while he offers his Instagram instead, I think a card with his details and Instagram would have been far more valuable. Also, and this is simply because I have a background in sales, bowing out at the first "no" someone gives you is seldom necessary or a good idea. It's most often a failure on your part to demonstrate your value or the value of your product.

Nevertheless, these guys went out on a Saturday morning and ended up securing two jobs and some connections. Perhaps you could do the same.

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7 Comments

Bill Williams's picture

Cold calling is basic sales 101 that is not exclusive to photography. What I think could improve this a bit is having a value proposition ready that is more than "do you need photos" and mitigating objections that come up.

For example the objection of " we don't have any social media" could have been mitigated with a value proposition of setting it up for the business, creating some content for them to start with and teaching them the basics of a platform. This could turn into an ongoing client relationship making more content and would be longer term better value from a business perspective than a one time purchase.

Overall I think the video makes a good point about in person sales, and that the 10 - 5 -1 theory of cold calls still applies but it would be nice to show a bit of progress from the first cold call, to refining the sales process a bit.

EL PIC's picture

If you cold call on businesses .. you will probably get more no soliciting reply’s than sales.

Cold calling a business doesn’t always have to entail asking if they want to hire you. There’s the common sales mantra of the call to action that you have to *ask* for a sale. This doesn’t have to be “do you need some photos taken”. It can simply be a flyer with an example of your work, then you simply introduce yourself, hand them a flyer, and then say “give me a call if you need some work done” - thank them for their time and then leave. Quite a bit of the time they’ll say “wait” and then talk to you about your work. People don’t like to be put on the spot and basically be asked “hey, you have to make a decision right now if your going to spend money”.

Jonathan Brady's picture

I'm in a restaurant for lunch so can't hear the video but after watching a few seconds of it (jumped to 2:50 and watched him get shut down quickly) gave me the impression that he has no idea what he's doing. And that's coming from a person on lunch break... From his SALES JOB. I've been in sales since 2003 after graduating college and in that time I've won 5 national sales awards and more honors/recognitions than I can count and I've been a sales trainer the last 4 years. I've only had two years where I was ranked below the 50% mark in the nation and I'm usually in the top 20%. I share all of that so that hopefully my analysis here carries some weight.
-He doesn't look professional - a suit and tie is unneeded (hell, I wear scrubs to work - medical device sales) but he should at least ditch the graphic t-shirt
-He doesn't have a card or method of contacting him other than forcing the potential client to write something down. Worst case, email them (while standing there) so you have each other's contact info.
-No portfolio to show immediately - prints would be amazing and far more impactful than showing on a tablet or phone, but even those might work. All he has is a camera and the person he's talking to may very well have one "just like it", or maybe their parent does.
-He doesn't say WHY he chose that business or why he thinks he can offer value to them - an example could be: I checked out your web presence and I think that some images like these (shows portfolio) THAT I TOOK of ______ (business) could really show off the very best of what your business/store has to offer your customers instead of relying solely on images shared on review websites
-No upsell to offer like a photo package vs a store front only image, video, website (re)design, SEO recommendations, etc. Even if he can't do these things he should let them know that he has great contacts who could help them if they need it.
-No attempt at differentiation from the general public (as mentioned previously) or other photographers
-Most importantly there was no attempt to learn ANYTHING about the business or the person he was talking to. You can't (or at least shouldn't) sell a solution until you know what the customer thinks (or agrees) the problem is

This was just HORRID. But, based on the editorial it sounds like he landed 2 jobs. Imagine if he had a clue...

Martin Melnick's picture

$150 for an entire day of traveling around town and cold calling, and finally a photo shoot. I think this video plays more like what practices to avoid as an emerging photographer.

Benoit Pigeon's picture

Plus it's a 2 guys team $75/each. But wait there is more! these guys seem to be from Australia where 1 AUS $ = $.70 US. Ouch! I'll admit I don't have all details but it sounds like a day of fast food pays more, provides the uniform while these guys use their own gas, car and camera. I'm open to review and get more details, but that's my conclusion for now.

My eyes just got burned out! Of my 38 years in marketing and sales, this is a big no-no in the industry. You never ever want to do a cold call in this why. It conveys to the customer you are not a professional. I could have walked right behind him and made a sale. Heck, I think I could have charged double the price. This kid has no clue.

Why did he fail on the coffee shops that said no? He didn't show the managers his works. He didn't show how great photos could help boost business. You first need to do your homework. A quick search, you can find out if a company is in need of photos. If they have a great looking website and good looking facebook and/or Instagram account, then you would be wasting your time and gas money to physically visit them. If you find that they could use your services, grab your iPad and make a demo of what you can do for them. It needs to be mind-blowing photos. Let the product sell itself!

If the owner is good with doing the photoshoot that day, make sure you bring all the gear for the photoshoot. I notice the guy didn't have any light modifiers or any lights. I'm not talking about the large studio equipment, but they could have used the portable lights that fit in your camera bag. Bringing in that gear not only improves product photography, it also impresses the owner that he's getting professionally made photos. It also helps to dress up for the part. Would you trust a fireman that shows up in blue jeans and a t-shirt to fight a fire? What if he only brought one fire extinguisher? Where's the firetruck I would ask!

Timing is also important. Anyone who has worked in the restaurant industry knows, you never show up during rush hours. You will be shown the doors even if you were giving away free gold bars. Hours between 2 and 4pm are the best times to meet with a manager. Other businesses, say like a gift shop, you could approach them an hour after they've open. Business is usually slower in the mornings. Never ever go an hour before closing time. They are usually doing closing chores and are just wanting to go home. Also, people are getting off work and wanting to get their last-minute shopping done before heading home.

Cold calling can work if you do your research of the business, create a presentation of your works, dress the part, and bring your lights, you can make some quick cash. As someone once said, "Never go into battle until you know that you already have won."