One of the biggest problems photographers face when trying to grow a viable and sustainable photography business, is needing to generate more income.
It’s so easy to fall into the trap of doing ‘behind the scenes’ work all the time… Staying in the comfort zone of the ‘planning’ phase, perfecting and procrastinating… Trying out different editing presets… Designing paperwork and faffing around in Canva… ‘Researching’ other photographers on Instagram… Tweaking your website and playing around with different logos, templates, fonts, colours… Reorganising computer folders… Doing more training… Looking at new camera equipment…
This is all totally within our comfort zone because it means we can hide away and don’t actually have to get visible. We can reassure ourselves that we’re ‘working on the business’ whilst not doing any of the things that can make us feel uncomfortable – we don’t have to start any conversations with clients or potential clients, and we don’t have to put ourselves out there. The activities above of course have their place and are all well and good; I’m not remotely saying that you should never do them… But what it’s so important to realise is that none of them actually get bookings in your diary, generate more income or pay your bills.
Among us photographers, there’s often more of a feeling than in other non-artistic professions that we should be doing this ‘for the love of it’, that we are ‘artists’ and that thinking about money is somehow vulgar and inappropriate. This is such nonsense! We all need money to pay our bills, to provide for our families, to put food on the table. Not earning enough to cover these is incredibly stressful. Not only this but we need it to enjoy many of the other non-essential (but still incredibly important and valuable) things in life such as going on holiday, fun activities, putting petrol in the car to visit loved ones, enjoying dinners with friends and family, lessons and equipment for much-loved hobbies, making our homes welcoming and comfortable, giving to others.
Wanting to generate more income from your business is not remotely vulgar, it’s completely understandable and necessary – after all, a business needs to make money otherwise it’s not a business! So now that we’ve got the mindset monkeys out of the way, what are practical ways you can help this to happen?
The answer is to make sure that you set aside time each week to engage in some ‘income generating tasks/activities’ – the things that are the most likely to quickly generate bookings and actually put money in your business bank account. When you’re planning your work, ensure that you set a weekly reminder in your task list or calendar to block out some time (I’d suggest at least a half day each week) to focus on income-generating tasks. The quicker you can get earning, the more confident you’ll feel and the more you can invest in growing your business further.
Here are 12 effective ways to generate more income:
1. Phoning or Zooming/Skyping potential clients
Yep, I don’t enjoy phone calls either. However, they’re one of the most reliable and tried & tested ways to convert people from enquiries to clients – the more personal and direct the communication, the more likely they are to feel comfortable with you and the easier you’ll find it to help them with whatever specific concerns or worries they might have. If you have any people who have indicated in any way that they might be interested in booking, either now or in the future, try to get them on the phone or Zoom to chat about what they want and how you can help them. You don’t have to put pressure on them or sound sleazy or salesy – personally I just send them an email saying, “Would you like to have a quick chat on the phone or Zoom/FaceTime? I totally get that sometimes it’s nice to put a voice or face to a name. My number is below – feel free to call me or let me know when’s convenient if you’d rather I contact you.” If you have an online calendar where they can choose a slot to chat with you, even better.
2. Direct messaging potential clients
This is a good alternative if you don’t enjoy phone calls or Zoom calls. The important thing is to start that personal, direct conversation where you’re moving from generic messages to your whole audience to personalised conversations with individuals where you can really start not only building a bond and affinity with them but also understanding and taking care of their unique needs and concerns. If you’ve had people show interest via Facebook or Instagram etc, drop them a DM and start that conversation.
3. Upselling to past clients (other products / services)
Past clients are the easiest people to sell to because they already know, like and trust you! If you offer more than one service (such as contacting past wedding clients to see if they’d be interested in family photography or personal branding photography), or if you offer other products that they haven’t yet purchased (such as offering albums to people who didn’t buy them at the time), make sure you don’t overlook these people who are already ‘warmed up’ to you and who already have confidence in you.
4. Upselling to past clients (repeat business)
If you offer a type of photography that people might come to you for more than once (e.g. personal branding, family photography), look back through your past clients and consider who might be ‘due’ another session. Contact them directly and let them know what you’re now offering, and even better if you can incentivise them booking with a past client bonus/reward such as discounted rates or extra freebies.
5. Asking past clients for referrals
Again, don’t overlook those people who already know, like and trust you! If they were your ideal clients, chances are they know other people who would also be your ideal clients. Get in touch with them and ask them to share what you do with any other people they know who might be interested. Incentivise this if you can – lots of people give money off or extra products for their next shoot, but personally I don’t think this is too compelling as it means them having to spend more money with you to receive their ‘reward’. Cold, hard cash rules supreme here – reward referrals who book with a £20 voucher (or whatever you can afford and/or whatever is commensurate with the value of the booking).
6. Following up past enquiries
Photographers often feel that getting back in touch with people who have previously enquired is ‘hassling’ them – this is rubbish! They got in touch with you, it’s good customer service to make sure that you follow up with them. People get waylaid for a whole host of reasons, and many will appreciate you reminding them about something they had intended to sort out, and it will mark you apart from the other people they might have enquired with who might never get back in touch. When I follow up with past enquiries who had apparently ‘ghosted’ me, more often than not it generates at least one booking from someone who had just got distracted by general life chaos and really appreciates the prod.
7. Replying to current enquiries promptly
This is a biggie! For some reason in the photography industry, it’s more commonplace than in other industries to take a few days to get back to people. Perhaps it’s because we might be out shooting, which is fair enough (in which case there should definitely be an out of office in place letting them know about this) but often it’s not for any particular reason and just really the knowledge that other photographers take a few days to reply too. Try not to think about what others are doing – instead think how YOU feel when you enquire with people whose services you want to enlist – chances are you a) expect them to reply within 24 hours, and b) prioritise those who reply most speedily as you instantly assume they will be the most efficient and competent ones. Remember this is exactly how other non-photographers (i.e. your clients and potential clients) will see things too.
8. Creating & launching a new offer
Brand new services or products that you’ve never offered before are incredibly appealing to your past clients and potential clients. It’s also far easier for you to feel comfortable creating a buzz around something that’s new, and you can incentivise booking with a related special launch offer. If you’ve been meaning to launch a new ‘arm’ of your business for a while then don’t procrastinate – just get it out there! You can always tweak your prices, packages etc later. Done is better than perfect!
9. Offering mini-shoots in the near future
Mini Shoots are basically a form of special offer. They are smaller, more affordable shoots that differ from your main, standard offering, that take place in one pre-specified location, and are only available for a limited amount of time. They are incredibly appealing to clients as they mean they can try you out without much commitment. You can do these no matter what type of photography you specialise in – they are not just limited to family photography. You can do personal branding mini-shoots where they only get a small handful of headshots in one specific location (as opposed to the full shoot where they get a wide variety of shots in various locations), and if you’re a wedding photographer you can do couples mini-shoots where you take a small handful of engagement shoot type photos. There is a detailed step-by-step training on exactly how to run effective Mini Shoots in the Shutterhood.
10. Offering free shoots with the option to purchase afterwards
Free shoots are obviously much easier to sell than paid ones! However, you can easily turn these into an income-generating activity by only providing a limited number of free images, with the option to purchase more afterwards if they want to. Yes, you have to accept that some people may just take the free images and nothing else, but more often than not, people will want to purchase more. You must of course be completely transparent before booking them in about what’s included for free and what’s not, and what the costs will be if they want to purchase more.
11. Sending / chasing invoices
Often there is money already on the table that you’ve just not picked up. Keeping track of your finances and unpaid invoices, either via a CRM such as Studio Ninja (use the code ANNAHARDY50 to get 50% off your first year) and/or accountancy software means that you’ll not miss these. I use FreeAgent which is completely free if you open a NatWest, Mettle, Royal Bank of Scotland or Ulster Bank NI business account. If you already have a business account in place, you can always open a second one to save for tax etc.
12. Emailing your mailing list with an irresistible special offer
Finally, a great way to generate some income quickly is to email your mailing list with an irresistible special offer. Consider what seasonal events you could leverage as these are often fantastic opportunities to create compelling special offers. If you don’t have a mailing list you can still offer these to your audience wherever they are (social media etc) but mailing lists are much more effective than social media, so if you don’t already have one set up, please do prioritise this! Again, there are full step by step trainings on how to do this in The Shutterhood if you’d like help with this.
So, there you are – lots of ideas for income-generating tasks that will be far more likely than others to actually put money in your bank account. Please do schedule these in to your weekly planning!
Which one(s) are you going to do this week?
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