Where to Find Photography Clients in 2019

Where to Find Photography Clients in 2019

If you want to keep your business relevant or have that breakthrough year you’ve been dreaming of, you need to have a plan in place that continually attracts quality clients. Here is where you can find them in 2019.

It’s a new year and the perfect time to put a marketing plan in place for your business. Each year seems to bring dramatic changes to our industry. Think back to only five years ago when few people knew about mirrorless cameras, Facebook pages were where everyone shared their work, and the desaturated image wasn’t yet the trendy style. Photography has changed. The way to find clients has changed too. Below is a list of relevant marketing strategies, as well as a few you should avoid, when looking for potential clients in 2019.

Strategies To Do

Instagram

So where are clients looking for photographers currently? Although Instagram is always changing, and inevitably the momentum will soon shift to another social media giant, this is still the best way to find clients in 2019. Right now, posting on Instagram is comparable to the television ad of twenty years ago, except that it is free. The number of people you can reach for no cost is too good to pass up. Each year I track how my clients are finding me. Even though I am terrible at keeping up with social media, Instagram has provided me with an increasing amount of new clients each year and is the number one place that people tell me that they see my work.

Pay for Ads on Social Media

Did you know the recommended spend on marketing for small businesses is 10% of your gross revenue? Do the math on what that would be for your business, and I’m sure that most photographers don’t come close to that number. We all scoff when social media platforms require us to spend money for others to see our work. But you should stop and think about this. To grow any business, you have to spend money somewhere for marketing, and targeted social media ads give you unprecedented control over who your money reaches.

The negative side of this is that most photographers utilize ads poorly. As a married, male photographer, I should never see a sponsored post trying to target engaged women planning their wedding. Yet I see them all of the time. Facebook and Instagram allow you to target the exact type of client you are looking for, providing you with more effectiveness for the cost than any other kind of ad out there. Creating these focused ads are not hard. If you want to know where to start, take a look at Facebook’s Ad Manager. This tool gives you another level of control besides merely boosting a post.

Invest in Your Website and SEO

Businesses only survive when they have sales, but most creative people are terrible at selling themselves. Your website, however, is essentially a virtual salesman that promotes your work and captures leads daily. Yet it often gets pushed to the bottom of our to-do list in both content and quality. The point is that your site should do more than show your images and your contact info. It should sell. You need to take some time and evaluate if the flow of your page is selling or if it is only acting as a portfolio.

On design, I want to encourage you to take the financial risk and not do this yourself, even if you know how. Photographers are a funny group, in that while we have great eyes for capturing images, we are generally terrible at designing things from scratch. There are too many beautiful templates out there, or even better, professionals willing to work for a decent price that will do a better job than you can.

Lastly, here’s a thought on search engine optimization. You could pay a large amount of money to compete with other ads on Google consistently, or you could pay to improve your SEO once. It’s rare for a photographer to know what to do to raise their search ranking, so this is a great way to stand out in an area where competition is low. Spending money here could easily allow you to overtake one of the top spots on Google in your area.

Strategies To Avoid

Facebook Swap Pages and Thumbtack

It matters how your clients find you. I want that point to sink in. If any of these next methods are working for you, that’s great. But if you aren’t finding the clients you want, you are exhausted with being haggled over on price, and people don’t seem as excited as you hoped that they get to work with you, you need to think about how they found you. This is why I hate the options I just listed and sites similar to them.

If you want to find a real dumpster fire, search for the last time someone requested suggestions for a cheap photographer on your city’s Facebook swap page. To be clear, what I call a swap is a local page dedicated to buying and selling things in a community. What usually happens here is someone wants recommendations of photographers, and the primary thing they want is someone willing to work for cheap. These posts always end with dozens of comments from photographers so desperate for the job they will do so at any price.

I hope I don’t sound arrogant, but here is my point. As a wedding photographer, I don’t think the type of client I want to work with is looking for the photographer of the most important day of their life by asking who is cheap on a buy and sell page on Facebook. Secondly, if you are competing with other photographers on pages like this or websites like Thumbtack, you need to consider the effect this has on your brand and how you are perceived. I’ve been a photographer long enough to know the best clients are the ones who are excited that they get to have you as their photographer. On the other hand, the clients who settle for you because you fit their budget and are open on their day have been some of the most difficult to work with.

Rely Only on Word of Mouth

I regularly hear photographers say things like, “My business makes $50,000 a year, and I don’t spend a dime on marketing.” And my reaction is always, “You would be making $150,000 a year if you would reinvest some of that to get more clients.” There is no doubt, word of mouth is the best form of marketing. Having a client, not an employee, sell you for free based on their experience has more power than any ad out there. The problem is that the ability to reach large numbers of people is too limited when you only handle a few dozen clients a year. Word of mouth is excellent, but don’t fall into the trap of believing that the pinnacle of marketing is to only rely on this one method to gain clients.

Marketing is always a shot in the dark when starting, and it hurts to see your money go out without any return. Like anything though, with practice, you should eventually have a perfected plan that is proven and provides a decent average return for every dollar spent. In an area where many photographers struggle, now is the best time to get ahead of the pack and market your work well. Here’s to a great 2019 for us all!

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10 Comments

Andy Barnham's picture

Despite spending on ads and investing a substantial amount of time on social media, including IG, I’ve never gained a single client through these means. I’ve cancedlled my photo FB page and come close to doing the same for my IG. I’m also extremely distrustful of IG as it’s owned by FB and view it as an unregulated advertising platform.

Luke Adams's picture

I have one year under my belt doing business as a photographer now, and have found FB key to my client prospecting, and have definitely booked a good number through it. What kind of photography do you do? Some key tidbits that come to mind right off the bat is to not waste money targeting males with your ads (set to only female) as females 95% of the time are the ones who buy photography, secondly make sure to include your location prominently in the ad as many people think the ad is just some random ad on the internet, and not a local ad, and 3rd is to not go for a hard sell (it’s like asking someone to come home with you before you even ask their name), but use your ad to get people on your mailing list or liking your Facebook page. Use some sort of incentive to do this. Once people get on your FB page or site and start looking around on their own, then they will reach out to you when they are ready. Hope that helps!

Andy Barnham's picture

My work has been mainly editorial and craft/ heritage brands and so no afraid your comments don’t help.

Editorial is going through upheaval; the change from print advertising to online with FB and Google means editorial budgets have been slashed. Even titles who appear to have advertisers often claim zero budget for original photography (or copy sometimes).

And in regards to craft/ heritage brands, generally speaking small brands have no budget and larger brands, who claim the importance of their hand made skills, don’t show these skills, rather just the final items. I also regularly get undercut by amateurs/ friends.

Bill Wells's picture

I have say this is good information and photographers would be wise to follow. Social media has become to massive you can't avoid it. If you are a wedding photographer or senior photographer, you have almost every pair of eyes in your community looking at social media. It's only getting bigger and bigger.

If you want to put an ad in front of short people, with blonde hair that loves dogs. You can do it with paid ads.

Using Weddings for example. You can put ads in front of every female between the age of 20 -35, that just got engaged within the last 6 months and are within 150 miles from you. That is pretty powerful. Just think, if they see your ad they are your client. Nobody will see your ad that can't hire you.

Joel Woolhead's picture

To really harness social media, you need to be unique. There are so many business and clients on these platforms but…

What I would do is go and have a look at a group on Facebook where professionals/vendors can promote their posts.

Look at them they are all the same,

“ We are taking on brides for 2019, book now to Save 30%, blah blah”

Is this connecting with the potential clients inner problems and desires?

No….

Why not have something that really connects, prove that you will be the one that also meets the expectations, eg. a Great Service, and awesome photo/video (this is expected, so stop posting this)....

Instead you should be,

“Are you ready to find out how you will look so calm in your dream day photos?

The natural and calming look in our images comes from you, the ability to stay stress-free on your day allows you to feel you.

Once you feel you, we capture those moments that you will cherish forever with your loved ones.
Want to find out how we keep a stress free environment?
(image/video of recent work with natural looks)”
----

If you’re social media is not generating interaction on your posts or traffic to your website, then chances are you need to

Have a unique offer that is clear,
Have text that is simple but outline what you do and how they will benefit,
A clear call to action,

Remember connect with what they truly desire...

Hope this helps...

Bill Wells's picture

Wedding photographers just post on pintrest and Instagram. Use the right tags and you will see results. Show your work. For paid ads you are going to target your market. Make your ad so they want to click to see more.

Joel Woolhead's picture

Wedding photographers just post on pintrest and Instagram, they do but they all do. There is more to it than that but ok...

Bill Wells's picture

I wasn't meaning anything negative. I was saying the most important thing is to post. Post daily.

On Instagram you don't want to post a bunch of ads. Occasionally might be fine, but when a client stumbles upon my page, if they see a bunch of ads they will not hang around. Pintrest is a big one for wedding photographers.

If a client is on my page, the hunt is over. At that point I need to just let the images speak.

Before this, I have never heard of getting a piece of unsolicited business specifically because of Instagram post(s). Once a prospect is aware of a photographer, they will often check out their IG page and then confirm or decline to do business. But I've never heard of someone reaching out with a phone or e-mail or IM message along the lines of, "I've never heard of you before, but based on your IG post/page I would like to inquire about hiring you."

As such, I'm glad to hear it works after all.

Articles on Fstoppers have said you need to put 20 hours a week into your IG presence. I tried it and then tried as an alternative putting 20 hours a week into good old pavement pounding. For me, I found pavement pounding significantly more productive. But the article is helpful in showing that your results could be much better using social media instead.

Kirk Darling's picture

"Word of mouth" isn't just word of mouth anymore

Social media magnifies word of mouth. A few clients with substantial social media followings are more important than the social media following of the photographer.