Is there space in the creative economy for new photographers to build their businesses? Yes, and here are some tips to make that happen.
For creatives, one of the scariest things to do is to put their work out there. The next scariest thing is to make that decision to monetize their craft. It is one thing to be a photographer, it’s another to build a business off of it.
With the latter, there is more pressure. Your bills and rent depend on it.
So, how do you build a business at this time, when there seems to be a lot of photographers already? Is there still space for the new talent?
Know Your Style and Build on That
If you must know, there will always be space for new styles and fresh takes. Countless professional photographers have photographed the streets of New York and showcased its culture, but nobody has done it the way you would.
There are so many great wedding photographers out there, but they’re not you.
Point is, your style is yours exclusively. Figure that out, know what makes you different from other photographers, and build on that.
It’s a trial and error process but once you know your style, you could easily set yourself apart. And, you won’t feel threatened by the growing photography community because you know your work is different from theirs.
The way you see things through the lens and the way you capture stories is different from theirs. Hone your skills in the basics of photography, explore and develop your own style, and keep at it.
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Develop a Solid Business Plan
A business is not a business without a business plan. Yes, even for photographers.
Creatives like writers and photographers are prone to diving head-on without a solid business plan, and that’s not always a bad thing.
A lot of great photographers started by simply taking on small clients with no solid plan. However, business growth won’t happen unless you create strategies. Unless you have steps on how to achieve the kind of growth you want.
A business strategy can be as simple as a layout of your goals, the timeline or how long you expect yourself to achieve those goals, your main services as in what type of photography you want to do, your rates and packages, and perhaps some alternative plans in case things don’t work out the way you thought.
Think about marketing strategies that are in line with your mission and vision or with who you are as a person. This is a broad one and you don’t have to have it all figured out right off the bat.
But slowly, develop marketing strategies that will help your business grow and something you’d enjoy doing too! For instance, if you’re not a fan of newsletters but really like social media, focus your marketing efforts on the latter.
Also, know the kind of people and businesses you want to work with and study how they want to consume content. If you want to work with couples, most likely they’re scrolling on social media for photographers, not scouring newsletters.
But, if you’d like to work with small businesses, a newsletter to stay connected and be present in their email might be a good element for your marketing strategy.
Diversify Your Streams of Income
Just because you want to be a commercial photographer, and you’re struggling to make it work, doesn’t mean you’re not worthy. It simply means (1) you need to keep at it to figure out how you can make it work and (2) you need to open yourself up to other opportunities.
This is to say, consider collaborating with other creatives and see where it’ll lead you. Sell your photos through stock photography websites, and maybe contribute to print magazines.
Or, if you want to really go out of your comfort zone, see if printing your photos on mugs, journals, and calendars is something that will bring in money and bring you joy.
The beauty of being in the creative field is that you have so many options when it comes to income streams.
It’s just a matter of being creative and taking bold, but calculated, risks. So, when your main gig is a bit touch and go, you have other avenues that bring in money.
Make Your Work Relevant
While this isn’t a hard requirement, this could help ensure your client list will grow.
The thing about businesses today is that they need visuals that help tell their consumers they care. This means businesses are leaning towards relevant and relatable imagery.
What does this mean for you?
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If you’re into sustainability, for instance, you may want to build on that and create a series that can be part of your portfolio. This will help you attract businesses that are conscious of the climate crisis and the environment. Or, businesses practicing zero-waste or sustainable packaging.
If you’re a wedding photographer and an LGBTQ+ ally, maybe dedicate your October to doing same-sex couple shoots—whether that’s weddings or pre-nuptials.
Making your work relevant doesn’t have to be an all-year thing, but it does have to be consistent and easily accessible to clients. So, make sure you have a dedicated space for it on your portfolio.
Maximize Social Media
You’d be amazed at how many clients you can reach out to and build relationships with through social media. Which is why you’d want to maximize this tool.
Stick to one or two platforms and showcase your work there regularly. Show behind-the-scenes photos. Show bits of your editing process. Put a face on your brand.
Your potential clients will want to see your work, but they also want to get to know you.
The world is becoming more and more creative—that’s a fun thing, but it can also be overwhelming.
This doesn’t mean it’s becoming crowded. There will always be room for new creatives and new photographers. You will always have clients if you know who you are as a photographer and if you anchor your business on that.
Professional photography, just like any creative business, can be tricky, especially if it becomes your main source of income. But, even in this heavily creative era, it’s still very much possible to turn your passion into a sustainable business.
License this cover image via BAZA Production.