In the photography world, social media connects you with a multitude of people and not a month goes by where someone doesn’t mention they’re moving. The first comment they always make is ‘I don’t want to start my business all over again!’ But if you have developed a sturdy business in your current location there is no reason that continuing your business somewhere else shouldn’t be a possibility.
In the past two and a half years I have lived in four completely different states, all the while my business has continued to grow. According to the US Census the average person moves 9.1 times after the age of 18. So naturally, you would freak out about having to completely uproot your life. There is no easy way out and it will take time and effort, but here are a couple tricks that I have found have helped me get my feet steady in new locations.
1. Brand Yourself
In the wedding industry all you hear is ‘brand, brand, brand!’ but it is something that works across all realms of photography. Your brand isn’t just what your website is, or what your logo looks like. Your brand is how you represent your company and the product you are producing. So you need to be firm in what you do. If you meet someone and they ask what you do, don’t just say you’re a photographer. You need to say ‘I’m a high fashion photographer,’ ‘wedding photographer’ or whatever style of shooting you do. Down the road, if they ever need a wedding photographer you will stick out in their mind for a specific service. People are less likely to refer back to you if they are unsure exactly what you do. The more specific you are the more likely people will remember what you said.
2. Join Facebook groups
One thing that has helped me with my moves is Facebook groups. Most likely you are in a group that has people from another city, state or even continent. Be active and say “Hey, I am moving to New York, etc and I was wondering if anyone knew of any facebook groups specifically for fashion in the area.” Then go to the search section, type the name of the nearest main city plus the word ‘photographers,’ or whatever specialty you might be, after and facebook will return plenty of results. Join them all. Granted, they’ll be annoying at first. Once you get approved check to see if people are active, if it’s just groups where nobody talks for months at a time most likely it isn’t a main group. There’s usually hundreds of members in the main groups, when you get there say Hi, start commenting on things and liking posts.
3. Connect with other industry professionals
Facebook groups help a lot with connecting with people that you wouldn’t run into on the street, but so does Google. If you are a wedding photographer, search for people in the industry by typing in Baltimore wedding planner, San Diego makeup artists etc etc. Find people who mesh with your brand and approach them with an explanation of what you do. We shoot non-traditional type weddings, so clearly we aren’t going to contact wedding planners who display all barns and mason jars. They might be a fabulous wedding planner, but most likely their clients aren’t going to be your target market. Once you have a list of about five people you think best fit with your brand, contact them and set up a time to go out for coffee or a beer. Get to know what their company is all about and let them get to know who you are, not just the fact you’re a photographer. Industry professionals are more likely going to refer to you based on if they like you or not, not just the work you produce. Remember, the best way to get someone to like you is to show an interest in what they do.
4. Play nice
I am a very outspoken individual. I will always say what is on my mind and stand up for what I think is right. Professional relationships are not a place to do this. I have learned from numerous tiffs that sucking it up and moving on is more important and beneficial to your career than making a scene. If you get into a Facebook group where everyone is bashing clients, or other professionals remove yourself from the situation. Having a neutral position will allow you to make business relationships on both sides of the situation, regardless of their personal views or feelings.
5. People love free stuff
When I first moved to Virginia I was mainly a boudoir photographer. I decided to run a facebook giveaway for a free session that included hair and makeup. One girl got a complete package and I ended up booking four paying shoots and numerous referrals from the giveaway, all in a town I had only been in for a month. Contact a couple hair and makeup artists, show them your work and find a set who agree to shoot trade for the winner of the session. Run the giveaway through Facebook and Twitter. You should determine the amount of time you think people will be engaged with the giveaway. You want it to pop up in peoples feeds but you don’t want them to get to the point of being annoyed. They will either end up marking your post as spam or flat out unfollowing you. It’s worth noting that Facebook has banned contests, and will shut down your page if caught. There are loopholes however, third party apps such as Woot, Shortstack, Wishpond and Rafflecopter that make running contests feasible and in line with the Facebook terms of service.
6. Stand out
Do something different. With cheap DSLR cameras available, everyone in the world says they are professional photographer these days. What makes them one or not is not for us to decide; it’s for us to decide to be better. Whether it is providing a service that nobody offers, having an amazing beauty team that is always welcoming or something as simple as sending out a thank you card. If you provide an average service nobody will remember you. You need to be remembered for exceptional service that makes people want to refer you on to their friends.
With the reach of social media and word of mouth, continuing a successful business through a relocation is completely feasible. Be confident in the work you are producing and continue to collaborate with other professionals in the area and you will continue to expand your reach not only to your new city but cities all over the world.