Knowing where to start when you first venture into marketing your photography can be a real challenge. Here are some tips that should help to point you in the right direction.
When starting out in photography, there are a lot of people trying to put you off, price you out, and generally offer really unhelpful advice for that stage that you are at in your career. However, there are some tips that should help to get you going.
Firstly, you don’t need a big budget to get going. If anything, spending money at this stage will more than likely be a big waste. Everyone has different financial backings, but let's assume that we are all starting a business with a bank balance of zero. This is the order in which I would tackle the problem.
Before having a website or any form of online portfolio, I would start with social media. It is free to get going and a far easier way to get people to know who you are. This is not to say that a website isn’t more important, but you need a mechanism to get traffic to your website. For most of us, this will be social media.
If it were me starting out today, I wouldn’t even bother setting up a Facebook page. I would get set up on Instagram and perhaps try getting my head around Tic Toc, as this seems like it might be the next big thing. With Instagram, I would play it safe and set up a personal account, as I am pretty sure that in the next 12 months, everyone with a business account will be having the same issues that Facebook users suffer from, that being that if you do not pay for people to see your posts, no one will see your posts.
There are loads of great YouTube videos and articles out there for how to get the best out of Instagram, so I won't go too deep into it, but hopefully, these pointers are a good start.
The key to social media is consistency and engagement. You need to be posting to your grid once a day with a consistent theme. Your stories should then be used as a behind the scenes and candid look at what is going on. It might seem like a lot of work at first, but I usually get my Instagram quota done within five minute a day. I try to do it when sat in a taxi or on a train. So, anytime where you have nothing to do (today was while waiting for the boys in the playground for school pickup), get on Instagram and start posting.
You don’t need a big following as a photographer. It isn’t a popularity contest. What is important, though, is that the people who follow you are the right people. As well as this, it is vital that you engage with them, not with flippant copy and paste responses, but genuine and meaningful interactions. I have a lot of work passed my way from Instagram friends or from people who follow me recommending me to clients.
Now that you have a couple of hundred followers, it is worth pushing them toward a website that showcases both your work and your services. I have a very simple ethos for websites. You don’t need fancy design, you don’t need bells and whistles; all you need is for your work to be the first thing any potential client sees and that it has a wow factor. If you don’t have great website-building skills, keep it simple and use something like mine as a template.
Your website should have your portfolio, a contact page with both a form and your actual details, and an about page. This should not be written in the third person; it makes you sound like you think too highly of yourself. Make it candid, keep it short, and stick to the facts. Pop a photo of yourself either working or a cool portrait that you or a friend has taken.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is great when starting out. You probably aren’t at a stage where you are priced out of what most people can afford, so popping up on Google can be a real advantage, but it is also worth noting that it can cause a lot of calls and emails to come in that you don’t particularly want. In the last few years, I have had to perform some SEO sabotage, as I was getting far too many incoming calls from people wanting shoots where our budgets didn’t align. I find that in my niche, SEO can be a real waste of time, but if you are doing headshots or weddings, this could be a great tool to get you noticed in the local area. There are great resources out there to get you going. I managed to rank number one for all of my key search terms with very little work, and I outperformed some friends who had paid a lot of money to companies for them to help with their SEO. Give it a go, see how you get on.
I have a few mailing lists, one of previous clients and one for photographers who may be interested in my YouTube stuff or workshops. For the clients list, I don’t send the special offers or sales pitches. Knowing where most of them sit in their professional world allows me to send mailers out that are of use to them. I have just sent out my five tips for taking great family photos on Christmas Day with your phone. All of them have the potential to want to learn about that, it is free for them, and it only costs me time. Next time that they need a photographer, I bet my name pops up into their head. It is all about giving when it comes to mailers. Hard sells simply don’t work. Give people something they want for free; if they need your services, they will remember your name. Photography is often a panic purchase, and because of this, it is often a case of which name they last had in their head.
This is a do as I say, not as I do situation. I hate networking events. I never go to them, but if you are starting out, this is a great way to get to know and also to be known by local businesses. Yeah, you probably won't land an ad campaign with Nike, but you might get to shoot the local hair salon's Instagram content and perhaps pick up some Christmas event photography. Some networking is free (usually for a reason), and others come in at various prices. Maybe try the free ones first if you are nervous. Practice talking to strangers, but know that the chances of getting a sale are pretty slim.
What would your top tips on marketing for new photographers be?