Often when it comes to professional photography, I get asked one simple question. That question is - How do you get clients to pay? It’s not uncommon to have some troubles jumping from the TF (Trade For) world into the paid world, so I'm here to share with you the tip that every single Fortune 500 company has used to get payment out of clients and build a successful business.
Start Charging Money
Seems ludicrous, I know. I'm not trying to troll you or screw with you in any way, this is just the only way you can start making money from photo shoots. There is no secret formula, or tactic to use for earning money in photography, you just have to start asking for it. Not just asking for it, demanding it. You must keep in mind some very important tips when it comes to this though.
You’ll Lose All Your Previous Clients
If you've been working for friends and family for free, you can expect to lose all of them as clients when you start asking for payment. Sure, your close family might begin to pay, but when you decide to start charging, you can expect to be looking for an entirely new market of clients. This will be intimidating and discouraging, but I promise it’s for the best.
You Might Not Enjoy Your Work As Much
If you've been hand selecting models to work with to build your fashion portfolio and want to start charging, you’ll have to work with anyone who is writing you a check. There is some good and some bad that can come with this. Ultimately though, it just means you'll have to work harder to get great images, but that’s good practice for you anyway.
You Might Have to Adjust Your Portfolio
One important, but often neglected piece of research that must be done when starting your business in photography is finding your clients. If you're shooting beautiful artistic nudes of local models, who are you marketing them to? Certainly that business strategy isn't going to work well when it comes to family portraits and senior photos. You need to find who will pay for your work, and I think you'll find that the modeling industry often doesn't have many buyers.
I'm not trying to discourage you from the modeling side of things, it's just never been an industry with money. Often times, models have either made it or haven't, and they try not to pay photographers on both sides of that fence. You need to research who has the bank roll, and those are the people you need to impress, not your photography friends on Facebook.
You'll Actually Be Making Money From Photography
That's right, you'll actually start getting people who will pay you to do what you love. That's the dream, right? It may not be the amount of money you want, or as often as you want, but it's a start, and that's the important thing to remember.
Not all of your work needs to be paid, you simply need to make the choice on what is and what isn't, and be stern in your reasoning. I personally, do not make it a secret that I sometimes work for free, you need to make sure that you free work is actually benefiting you. Whether that is in exceptional photos for your portfolio, and a grasp in a new technique in shooting it needs to be something you walk away with feeling accomplished. Remember, it's call trade work for a reason -- both must be benefiting from it.
The most important aspect of working as a full time professional photographer isn't the inverse square law, rule of thirds, or Photoshop techniques. It's learning how to effectively market yourself to the industry. Each person has a different approach to this, but I'm not convinced that any of them are rocket science. As for me, I take the "Tell Everyone, Everywhere" approach.
|"Marketing is a contest for people's attention." -Seth Godin|
Tell Everyone, Everywhere
I order 1,000 business cards every 9 months or so, and use all of them. If you've met me, odds are I've given you a business card at some point in time. Everyone I meet for the first time, I tell them I'm a professional photographer. The wording to that is important to me, as I want people to know that I'm not just some guy with a nice camera; but rather, I'm a professional at my craft. And I sell myself too - I'm a firm believer in the idea that if you can't effectively sell your work and craft to people, how do you expect others to?
I also brand everything. For example, I've even put my business logo in the header image of this article. Did you even notice? If not, good...let me get it into your subconscious; if you did, even better. All of my paperwork and marketing materials is uniformed in style, to help build a brand that people are familiar with. People have recognized me on the street based off of the face outline logo I use, believe it or not.
My clients aren't excluded from that tell everyone mentality either. After working with a client, I hand them a couple of my business cards, and tell them my entire business is built on referrals, and ask them to keep me in mind, and hand a card off to a friend or family member that might need professional photos taken. On average, each client will refer 1-2 additional clients to me, which continues to exponentially grow my business.
Certainly, there is going to be struggles when you decide to make the jump to paid work, and start demanding that your time should be compensated. That doesn't mean that you should be concerned on making that jump though. The struggles will be there, and it's important to weigh your expectations. However, if you're constantly wondering what steps you need to take in order to start charging for work, all you need to do is take that first one. Charging for work isn't hard part to the equation, the marketing and finding your niche is.