Anonymous asked: I've been having a hard time getting my business off the ground. I'm finding with the economy the way it is no one wants to spend the money on a professional photographer in my area and worse yet they think that their Iphone with Instagram takes great pictures and so don't see the need for professional photo's. Have you encountered problems like this and how have you overcome them?
#1 - You don’t have enough experience and/or confidence and/or ability to sell in a tough market.
#2 - You’re finding the wrong clients. The clients you need doesn’t think an iPhone is as good as a professional photographer.
As you are getting started as a professional photographer you have an amazing amount of hurdles to cross. Think of starting to climb a mountain. In the pouring rain. Straight up. And it’s cold out. The rain is starting to freeze. You’re going to have a very hard time finding your traction at first.
And someone told you there was a quick way to do this. That there was a four hour work week to be had. That within a few steps you’d be seeing a return on your DSLR investment. You and 500 others were on your feet applauding a photographer who made you feel like you could take on the world with a camera. Hahahahaha!
Now. Let’s wake up from the dream and face reality. You’re on the side of a rock face that is freezing over and you either give up now or get over this first hurdle. It’s up to you. How strong are you? How much support do you have of those closest to you? Strong? Good support? Good. Let’s go.
First. While you may build your first portfolio through friends and family they are most likely NOT your client base simply because they won’t be able to afford your rates.
Second. You yourself can’t even afford your own rates that you set. You couldn’t hire yourself to shoot yourself. You have to make these rates so you can pay yourself enough to live on, pay taxes, pay expenses, and make a profit. If you aren’t profitable you wont survive.
Third. The clients you seek value what you do and have the ability and means to pay you what you ask. Key word here is “value”. You have to find clients that value what you do. They realize you bring something to the table that an iPhone just can’t do. If you are competing against Instagr.am you’ll never make it up this mountain. Ever.
Fourth. You need to look at this cliff you are barely hanging on to and find a path up it. That means research. If every place you put a hand or foot immediately crumbles you’re going to die. Who is your client? Where do they live? Where do they shop? Where to they hang out? You need to be there. You need to be in front of them. They’re probably in a different zip code than you are. You’re going to run the tires off your car for awhile.
Fifth. Stick to your guns. If you give this person a deal and that person a deal and the next person a deal then any progress you are making up this mountain will be lost. You have to stick to your guns. You have to know why your rates are what they are. You have to believe in them come hell or high water. You have to, oh gosh… here it comes… be a salesman/woman.
You will not walk into a BMW dealership and get a new 7 series for $189 a month. You can get a stripped out Toyota for that next door and that’s what the BMW dealership is going to tell you. If you want to be the Toyota of photography then you are going to have to sell 100 cars to every BMW the other place sells.
You’ll start here just to survive but it will soon kill you in volume unless you’re the type of person who can build associate photographers quickly and get them out shooting for you. You’ll soon find yourself in an office all day staring at spreadsheets. Yeah, that’s why you picked up a camera in the first place isn’t it?
You’ve got 100 other photographers breathing down your neck trying to get past you. You, yourself, are part of the 100 photographers breathing down someone else’s neck. They’re underselling you just trying to find a hold on the rock face. They’re knocking your legs out from under you. You’re knocking the legs out from someone as well. As soon as you find a path up a dozen are following you. As soon as you see someone blaze a path you’re most likely going after them.
You know that somewhere beyond the line of fog above you there is a solid ridge to find some rest on. It’s not enough to build a house on but enough to catch your breath and get to climbing the next phase.
So you find some new clients. They are out there. They live in a bigger house than you do. They drive a nicer car. They have more of a budget.
"But in this economy! Aaaahhhhh!"
Go to the good zip codes around you on a Friday night. How long is the wait at the nice places to eat? Long. How hard is it to find a good parking spot? Hard. How much money is Apple making right now? More than God. 6th graders have iPhones.
The economy has taken a hit. Things are hard for a lot of people but not for everyone. If you had 50 awesome $2,000 clients in a year that’s $100,000 gross. NOT net. Remember… net is what you get to keep in your “net”. It’s the fish you get to take home. Getting to net half of that while driving a beater car and keeping expenses low isn’t too bad. But that’s also a great client once a week. 100 awesome $1,000 clients. Twice the work, twice as easy to catch. Will this happen in your first year? Nope. Nope. Nope. But maybe in your third. If you are busting your ass now.
It’s pouring rain on you. Are those tears or is that rain on your face? Both. I can tell because it’s raining all over me too. I have found some ridges to rest on here and there but I’m still climbing. It doesn’t get easier but it gets better if that makes any sense at all.
Why the #$% are you climbing in the first place? Because it’s the only thing you know how to do. Because sitting at the bottom of a mountain in a cubicle is killing you as well. You can die down there or you can die on the mountain. Either way it’s hard. Either way it can suck. You’re never going to see yourself standing in victory while in a cubicle though. You see yourself on top of the mountain one day. That’s why you do it.
Yet another motivational post brought to you by Mr. Sunshine.