“Coffee’s for closers only.” –Blake, Glengarry Glen Ross
My name is Ben Marcum. I am a headshot and portrait photographer based in Louisville, KY. I started my business approximately 4 years ago. When I started this journey, I faced the same question that I see in Facebook groups and forums every day. “How do I get clients?”. At first, I didn’t. I’d be thrilled if I got 4 bookings in a month, but now, I have a steady stream of amazing clients and it is growing. Let me share with you what has worked for me.
Make Great Work
So this one seems pretty straightforward, right? At some point, you have to be really honest with yourself. Is your work good enough for people to want to buy? As long as you are very honest with yourself, it is ok for it not to be IF you are willing to put in the work to keep improving. I am better this month than I was last month. Next month I will be better than I am right now.
If you are already putting out work that can sell, keep going! Keep making and showing your best work and go back to your website and your social media and cull the images that no longer meet your current standard. This is one of the parts that is a marathon, not a sprint.
Do not worry about what any other photographer is doing
I am guessing you have heard, read, or said “There are so many people who pick up a camera, call themselves a photographer, and they just give away the pictures.”
You are right. There are.
I don’t care.
I could spend my valuable time worrying about them and complaining on Facebook, or I could use that same time to market my business, connect with new clients, create portraits and grow.
Don’t waste your time stalking other photographer’s social media and blogs to find out what their latest deal it, or thinking about how your work is better than or not as good as theirs. Focus on your customers and your business.
It’s Not About You
My clients are the most important thing to me. I want to make sure that from our first conversation or email all the way to the time when they become a returning client that they have the best experience on the planet. Everything goes to them.
If you do that, and create beautiful images of that person, they will be excited. They will want to talk about you. Their friends will ask them where they went and they will be happy to talk about you.
I connect with every person I work with. I genuinely want to know about them. The basis of my work, in headshots and portraits, is genuine reactions. If I don’t connect with them, this reaction won’t happen. Almost every person that walks into my studio starts with “I hate having my picture taken” and leaves with “That was so much fun!”
Get Your Website Together
Your website needs to be the central hub of all of your marketing efforts.My web address is on every piece of paper marketing I do (business cards, brochures, etc.). My social media serves as a funnel back to the website. My email marketing drives people to the site…see where I am going?
We are photographers. We are visual artists. Most of us tend to set up really lovely portfolio sites. Here is the problem. We aren’t good at telling people what we want them to do. Get calls to action all over your site! Show your best work and follow it up with an easy way for a client to book you.
I have a contact form on almost every page of my website. Thanks to 17hats, I can give each one a name. I immediately know what page someone contacted me from, which gives me a greater idea of what they may already know and what they are interested in.
Get your SEO going
I book a ton of work simply because people can easily find me on Google. Keep in mind, if they find you on a search engine, it is because they are in a place where they are ready to buy as opposed to social media where showing your work is a way to stay fresh in people’s minds.
Another big piece to your website game that you need to consider, people are consuming the web more and more from a smartphone. Make sure your site is ready for that. Your site needs to be responsive (meaning it will resize itself based off of the size display it is being viewed on). We have also become swipe and scroll consumers. People on their phone do not want to try to find your navigation to click around the site. They want all of the information that they really need on one page. After talking to a few 20 somethings about their web consumption, I updated the homepage of my site and I noticed a huge change in traffic and bookings.
Get Social (digital)
Post on whichever networks that you will actually use consistently. Tell stories about your clients. Share behind the scenes of your shoots. Which you may already be doing, but…are you being social?
There is more to it than just posting your images. When someone comments on one of your images, take the time to respond to them.
Get in local groups and interact with people without trying to sell to them. Just be a human. Let them get to know you. People buy from who they know.
Be genuine when you are talking to people. You don’t need to put on a show, or make yourself sound important.
“Mark Zuckerberg has squashed my reach. My business page is now worthless.”
Mark Zuckerberg is running a business, just like you. He is in it to make money. Yes, they have throttled reach. Yes, they want you to pay. It is still one of the most cost effective ways to get in front of local eye balls and Facebook and Instagram are places where people spend their time.
If you do not want to pay for ads you don’t have to, but you need to put out really good content that makes people want to share and respond to it. Mark wants eyes to stay on his platform, so if your content is going nuts, he’s going to make sure people see it.
Get Social (face to face)
Nothing beats talking to a real human. Get out of your studio or house and go meet people. We have a really cool job. People will want to ask questions about. Be able to talk about what you do confidently and passionately.
However, do not dominate a conversation. People like talking about themselves. Ask questions. Get them going about their passions. Connections are not made by you trying to sell to someone. Actually, most of the networking I do does not involve selling at all. It is all about getting to know people. Building trust. Being likable.
It is important to note, that even though someone you network with may not book you, if they like you they may still recommend you.
Network with other photographers as well. I have booked many shoots from photographers that get requests for styles they don’t shoot, or they are too booked to be able to accommodate a client.
Heck, I get wedding inquiries fairly regularly. Since I don’t do them, I send those clients straight to my friends who do beautiful wedding work!
Love What You Do
Every morning, I get out of bed excited to get to work. I love this. I love taking the best images of my clients that they have ever seen. I love when someone tells me “I am not photogenic” and I change their minds. I love creating headshots that get actors work and help business professional show their personal brand in the best possible way. I love that I create images that become cherished by people and will be passed on for generations. Need me to keep going?
I love what I do. I am deeply, emotionally invested in doing it. Because of that, I am excited to do more of it. I am excited to create my images. I am excited to grow my brand.
When I first picked up a camera and was trying to grow a business, I would shoot anything. Flowers, pets, landscapes, still lifes…I shot candy once. I thought that was what I had to do. I had no passion for any of it. I finally made the decision to photograph people, and to photograph them the way that I want to do it. Since then, I have grown a successful business.
Ask for what you want. Do you want a referral from your current clients? Ask for it.
Do you want reviews? Ask for them.
Do you want to photograph someone? Ask them.
“What if they say no?”
Say thank you and move on. It is really that simple. If your clients or potential clients don’t know what you want, they cannot supply it for you. They are not mind readers. Start asking for what you want.
So, as you see, there are many moving parts that you need to consider to get more clients coming your way. This list just scratched the surface. Some of it is mental, some of it is personal, some of it is product. Get all parts of the machine moving and you WILL close more clients. I’d then like to hear about it over a coffee.