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The Big Secret to My Successful Photography Business

 

Christine Tremoulet's big secret to her successful photography business - be sure to read it!So let me tell you a little story which leads to me discovering the big secret to my successful photography business. I live in Houston, Texas, which is the 4th largest city in the United States. Back in 2008, When my photography business was still focused on weddings (with some boudoir), I asked another wedding photographer if he wanted to share my studio space.

He looked at me like I had grown a second head or something. “But … but …” he stammered, “we are competition?!?”

I just looked at him, a little shocked. Once I finally found the words, I asked him, “Have you looked at my clients and looked at your clients? They are not the same people at all! If someone comes in, sees your photograph on the wall, and says that they have to book you over me because of that photograph? They were never my client to begin with!”

  • His clients: early 20s, fresh out of college, planning elaborate weddings paid for mostly by their parents.
  • My clients: late 20s to late 30s, have had a career before getting married, sometimes it is a second marriage, they paying for most of or the whole wedding themselves.

We had complimentary styles, design aesthetics, and brands, which was why I offered to share my space with him, but we were two VERY different people. His clients are just like him. My clients are just like me.

There are only 52 weeks in a year. Most wedding photographer only want to book 20-30 weddings* a year. There are only 12 months in a year. Most portrait photographers only want to book 10-20 portrait sessions a month*, or 120-240 a year. (Math is hard, yo! I had to bust out a calculator for that. #sadtruth)

You don’t need everyone in your market to love you! You only need to connect with the right number of people for your goals.

When I launched my photography business, I was successful (profitable + booked) from the start. I booked up my first year, and I made over 6 figures.

Want to know the big secret to my photography business success?

I had a long-time established personal blog before I booked a single photography client. I had a presence on Social Media that involved only sharing about myself, not selling a single thing. People knew me – or at least the me that I shared online – and connected personally with me.

I can’t tell you how many times people have walked in to my studio and told me that I sound in person exactly like they imagined I would from reading my blog. (Oh, and they read my blog – all the time! Not just my business blog, but my personal one.)

Use your blog. Use social media. Tell people who you ARE, not just about your latest work. Tell them about the things that make your friends love you. You represent your personal brand at all times. Brand: YOU. Find your VOICE.

Do all your blog posts sound the same? “This is my favorite client ever … I love them so much … this day was just the best…” over and over again? How boring do you think this must be for people looking for a photographer? (Hint: Snoozefest!)

Do you share your story?

Your potential clients are clicking along, visiting one photographer’s blog after another. (After all, the blog is the part of your website that gets the most traffic.) “I just loved this session!” is on repeat and their eyes are glazing over because that is all they are reading on every blog. *yawn* Then they come to your site. You have also written about your latest session, but you’ve talked about why YOU loved this session. Truly why you loved it, sharing a personal story of your very own. “The way mom looked at her son with love in her eyes, you could tell that she knew these moments were fleeting — and as the mother of two yourself you completely understand. It seems like only yesterday they were babies, and now they are off to kindergarten and third grade, and those moments are over in my house.” Pass the tissues! *sniff, sniff*.

Know what that potential client is thinking? “Oh, look! THIS photographer? I can relate to her. I mean, I know exactly how that feels, and I just have to know more about her. SHE GETS ME”

WINNING!!!

This works for EVERYONE. Talking about YOU in your voice? Your authentic story? It is a disruptor. Most people in your market are not doing it, but even if they all start tomorrow? Your story is still unique. You need to share it with the world!

For example, I talk a lot online about my geeky addiction to gadgets. Which reminds me, I need to share reviews of my Livescribe 3 and my new iPad Stylus, to go along with the review I wrote about my Misfit Shine. Telling you these things about myself? You get it, I’m a geek. Which is probably why I’ve worked with so many engineers over the years, they love the geek stuff too! Which makes for a much stronger connection with my ideal client. We bond over these things.

Do you know who YOUR ideal client is? Can you tell me all about them, what they love, what car they drive, where they eat, who they are — and how you can connect to them over those things? What stories do you have to share about your life that people can relate to and embrace?

Find your voice. Talk about yourself. I promise you, it is OK.

Friends buy from friends. All things being equal, people buy from people that they like.

Are you taking the time to be friends with your clients? Are you being vulnerable with them so that they can relate to you and trust you enough to be vulnerable with you in return?

How many clients do you really need?

Look, I get it. When your calendar is looking pretty empty and you’re stressed out over it, it is terrifying. You feel like you desperately want everyone to like you.

Stop and think about it though. Do you really only need 10 clients a month? 120 people a year? Unless you are in a town of only 200 people, 120 people is a pretty small number. I’m in a city of millions – every person out there doesn’t have to love me. They don’t even all have to know about me. If the right people know about me? They will tell their friends. They will come. I can honestly say that they have every year for me.

You can compete on price, or the style and way that you photograph, but you will always have to be reinventing yourself. People will always be copying you. You will always have competition, and competing on price is just a race to the bottom.

Or you can Brand: YOU — and always stand out from the crowd. Your former competition now becomes your peers. No one, no matter how hard they try, can ever be you. They don’t have your stories to share with the world. They don’t see life the way that you see it. They can’t. You are unique. You Are Enough.

I’m going to be writing a lot more about this. (Hopefully not all long, rambling posts!) It is topic I am SUPER passionate about. I believe that through the power of blogging and social media you can share your stories with the world and work with clients that you love, all while building a photography business that is wildly successful.

You can have an awesome life & an amazing business — and I look forward to helping you get there!

PS – if you haven’t already, make sure to sign up for the email list in the sidebar. I’ve got a whole big series – ok, several series – planned out on giving your blog lots of love, growing your social media presence, and bringing it all together to rock out your business. I want to make sure the posts get to you!


* Ok, for some of you those numbers (30 weddings a year or 240 sessions a year) may seem really low. Maybe you want to have a huge volume studio with 20 photographers, 8000 sessions a year, or whatever crazy numbers you’ve got in mind. I start to feel an anxiety attack coming on just thinking about running a business like that. Soooooooo not my thing – but kudos to you! Branding You probably won’t make that much sense. That is cool. I’d still love it if you stick around in case you want to learn more about blogging, social media, and all that good stuff.

Marketing with Marketog!

I am SO EXCITED to share that registration is open once again for Jamie Swanson’s Marketog course!

I signed up for the first round of this course and so far I have LOVED it! It is a six week course, but the information included in it is so extensive, I’ve taken longer than six weeks to go through it all. Good thing that you have lifetime access to all the materials once you join the course, in addition to the Facebook group, so you can complete it at your own pace!

The material is top-notch, and the months and months that Jamie put in to building this really shows!

Have you ever wished that someone would walk you through improving your marketing to grow your business, step by step? That is what this course is all about. It is full of videos and actionable worksheets that goes deep into the strategy, the all-encompassing plan you need for landing more of your ideal clients. Each week there are at least five activities to do, all built one upon the one before, to make your business grow!

Registration is only open from December 30, 2013 – January 5, 2014 – so if you want in, sign up NOW! Visit the Marketog course page for all the details!

Self-Employed? You Can Be Fired for What You Say Publicly



Self-Employed? You can still be fired for what you say onlineMy first thought was, “I’m so glad I work for myself so I can say what I want.” I came home from holiday shopping and while my husband unwound with some X-Box time, I went to check in on Facebook and saw the first trickle of the response to the article GQ magazine.

That was my initial reaction as I read the Duck Dynasty story as it first broke late on Wednesday night. Thinking that just because you’re self-employed means you can’t be fired brings about a false sense of security.

You can still be fired – by your clients.

By the next morning, news was out that Phil was put on indefinite hiatus by A&E, and half the internet seemed to be in a uproar about his rights under Freedom of Speech, and the other half was either ambivalent or felt that A&E made the right move.

Personally? I’ve never seen the show, so I couldn’t speak on the issue. I could speak about the Freedom of Speech issue though — because Freedom of Speech does NOT mean freedom from consequence. It simply means that the government or the police can not come after you for what you said. If your employer or your client isn’t happy with it, they can choose not to work with you.

Then it happened again.

Just over 24 hours later, Justine Sacco made a rather crass post to Twitter, and then boarded a plane to Africa. The same continent she just slammed in her tweet. Probably smart to get out of London, after saying things about them too. By the time she landed after her wi-fi free flight 13 hours later, she too had been fired from her job. She was a trending hashtag on Twitter. People were sending her death threats.

I didn’t see anyone defending her right to Freedom of Speech though. Probably because what she said was pretty horrific.

It was fascinating to watch these two events go down in such a short span of time. The lesson I was reminded of is that the internet never forgets. You can delete a tweet, but you can’t control who has seen it or copied it already. What you say can and will live on. While many of us are self-employed, we are still employed – BY OUR CLIENTS.

“Type up a Facebook status update — and it can be radioactive forever. Don’t be fooled by your keyboard: the Internet doesn’t have a delete button. Screenshots can make your words have a half life of eternity. Social media is exactly that — social. It impacts you socially for as long as you are a member of society.

One tweet can be the last tick in the bomb that detonates your life.” — from Dear Kids: What You Need to Know About Duck Dynasty, Justine Sacco, and Christmas, the post that inspired me to write this post.

We might not make a late night joke on Twitter or Facebook and then find ourselves fired the next day. What you say might be seen by a potential client on social media, or a friend of a potential client. Or a friend of a friend. Doesn’t matter. It is seen by others, and it can hurt you. It can keep you from getting more clients.

Private is not private when it comes to the Internet.

Do not fall in to the trap of thinking that your Twitter stream or Facebook wall is set to private and only your closest friends see it. Or that you’re posting it in a private Facebook group, so your clients will never know. People can easily capture an image of the screen or copy/paste the text. You do not know who is in that group, who may be watching.

I see it constantly. People complaining about clients in the groups that I’m in. STOP. Your peers are judging you for it, and one of them could choose to leak it. I’ve had people who live in other cities ask me for recommendations of people to work with. If you’re constantly complaining in a private group about how much you hate your clients, how crazy they are, how they frustrate you, do you think I will recommend you? The answer to that is a loud & resounding NO.

You never know who sees what you are saying online.

Back when I was in high school, I passed notes in class with my friends. I wrote something in a note once about a friend who I was angry with at the time, and another friend showed it to her, causing quite a shitstorm for me. My mom said that if I didn’t want something to get back to someone, never write it down.

The same still applies these days. Only now? The internet has a permanent quality that note passing in 10th grade never had. Something can come back to haunt you, even years later. Think about what you write down online. What you say to other people. You are your brand at ALL times, and what you say matters to your clients, who are ultimately your employers. With social media what you say can spiral far out of your control. Just ask Justine Sacco about that this morning.

Justine Sacco Twitter Stream
Screen cap from my iPhone last night, before Justine Sacco’s Twitter Account was deleted.