Business growth can be daunting while running a photography business, but we have you covered. Learn how to start and grow your photography business by reaching your target clients, capturing leads, and maximizing your profit.
What makes a photography business click? Sure, it’s the skill of the photographer and the quality of the photography, at the core. However, if it was just that, every skilled photographer would be swimming in clients, and you know that’s not always the case.
At some point, you want to be ready to reach the next level. Whether that means growing your client base, raising your pricing and value, growing your team, or all of the above–it’s up to you and your goals.
But in general, a successful photography business needs the same factors to sustain its growth and continue scaling up. So, what factors go into how to grow a photography business?
Your marketing strategy, business development, company organization, pricing, and budgeting are all pieces of the puzzle. Keep in mind that a photography business, while at heart it is all about the photography aspect, only scales in size as a business.
These all-important business aspects of professional photography are just as important as photography is an art. This guide will delve into the key aspects of how to grow a photography business, starting with targeting your ideal client to improving your profit margins and your workflows.
- Reach your ideal photography client
- Create a lead generation pipeline
- Improve your strategy to set photography rates and price your services
- Choose a pricing model for your photography business
- Pay yourself while maximizing profit margin
- Optimize your entire clientflow
Reach your ideal photography client
If one of your goals is getting more photography clients, you need to determine who your ideal client is first. Quantity isn’t the way to go over quality, so expanding your reach isn’t always the best step to take.
Create an ideal client profile
To create a more targeted reach for your business, you will need to need to develop an Ideal Client Profile (ICP) first that defines who you want as clients. The ICP (and your personas, if you develop some) is central to your business plan because all your marketing messaging will revolve around it.
Any potential clients that do not fit into your ICP shouldn’t be the focus of your outreach efforts. When it comes to evaluating qualified leads, you can also feel comfortable turning down these clients since they don’t fit your business well.
An ICP takes into account the following factors, among others:
- Demographic details like age and gender, education and income, and even ethnicity
- Behavioral details like hobbies and interests
- Geographical details like where they live and work
- Photography needs that align with your services
Use your ideal client profile to target your marketing and advertising
Altogether, the detailed breakdown of your ICP identifies the right people you want to reach while you’re promoting your photography business. So, if you place an ad on Facebook, for example, you can adjust the values in your ad manager to show your ads only to specific groups of people who exhibit particular behaviors and live or work in certain locations.
Modern marketing relies on performance-based metrics, which means you only pay Facebook when people see and click on your ads, for example.
To make the most out of your digital advertising budget, you can use your ICP to target audiences more effectively. On Facebook, make sure you’re targeting engaged couples (if you’re a wedding photographer) and adding details around their demographics that align with your ideal client.
Your ICP will also be essential in identifying the keywords you want to target when configuring Google ads. Your audience’s demographics and behaviors will dictate the keywords they’re searching for on Google, and bidding on those keywords will give you a better shot at showing your ad to the right people at the right time.
Structuring your paid ads with your ideal client in mind will also give you more focus when you’re creating your photography landing pages. You can use language that directly speaks to them and their needs.
Organic marketing and SEO
That’s just the paid angle. Your ICP details also factor into organic search optimization (via the same principles of targeting search keywords they would normally use), and other efforts such as email lead nurturing campaigns.
Make sure you’re creating content for your site that aligns with their needs, whether it’s for your landing pages or blog posts. Be sure to leverage search engine optimization with the content you create, and think of your ideal client as you’re targeting your social media marketing as well.
Pro Tip: You can go a bit deeper and use Buyer Personas, or multiple versions of ICPs, each of which can be central to marketing campaigns and sales efforts. If you find it harder to maintain the details of your ICP as they become broader, it might be time to split your ICPs into buyer personas instead and approach each persona differently.
Create a lead generation pipeline
Growing a photography business is typically a numbers game, and more leads = more clients.
When you’re thinking about capturing more leads, it’s best to create a system that funnels your leads into your business and organizes their information.
As professional photographer and business owner Tyler Hobbs notes, the essentials for growth in the photography industry include “solid contracts, a system you know and understand to keep clients and all information organized, and solid processes that you can stick to.”
Integrating a CRM platform
One of the first systems you want to put in place to capture more leads is marketing and customer relationship management (CRM). The best CRMs for photographers provide a way to keep track of leads, clients, project statuses, and more.
By tracking interactions and keeping contact information organized, photographers can better maintain relationships with current and potential clients. Additionally, CRMs allow businesses to automate tasks like sending appointment reminders or follow-up emails, which can free up time for photographers to focus on other areas of their business.
“A CRM that is set up efficiently—this includes your contracts, emails, questionnaires, lead form, and automations—gives you a minimum of two to four hours back in your business when set up properly,” said professional photographer and HoneyBook Pro Jenn Bays. If you multiply those hours by how many times you use the system and for how many leads, you get just how many leads, you get just how efficient proper systems can be.
Capturing and nurturing leads
You need a reliable net in place to catch all the new potential leads when your advertising and marketing systems generate more traffic. To make your lead-capturing process more efficient and effective, you should:
- Automate the process for initial contact. This ensures that your leads receive quick information about services and prices. This could include sending a sales brochure with detailed info on specific packages or offerings as soon as they submit their information through your contact form. It may also include setting up a scheduling tool linked to your website so clients can easily book a session without any hassle.
- Schedule emails with more information. If a lead is still in their research stage but hasn’t taken any further steps just yet, it’s important to keep them engaged by following up with additional emails about services and pricing plans. You may also provide testimonials from past customers or links to helpful blog posts related to topics that could be useful for potential customers in making informed decisions down the line.
- Connect your sales and booking process. To streamline your processes even further, connect your sales and booking to make it easier for everyone to book with you. You can invite clients directly to a services page where they can choose which ones are right for them. Directly afterward, they can complete payment before automatically scheduling their session date through one seamless step-by-step process. This is one of the many things that HoneyBook enables for photographers through integrating tools like pricing guides and payment processors together.
Improve your strategy to set photography rates and price your services
Aside from growing your leads and clients, setting your photography rates and pricing is key to growing your business. Evaluating your costs and adjusting your pricing for inflation and your growing expertise is crucial to improving your profit margins. How much you charge depends on how much you spend to provide your services, which includes all the material and labor costs as well as overhead.
Material and equipment costs
Everything from your hardware and software (e.g., cameras, lighting equipment, editing software, CRM) to vehicles required to transport them, falls under this category. For large-scale photo shoots, for example, you might need several helpers to help you haul the equipment required for the venue.
Remember, the requirements of each photo shoot might differ greatly depending on the kind of gear that is needed. Events such as weddings, for instance, typically require expensive DSLR cameras and lenses, plus lighting equipment. On the other hand, something like still life work or landscape photography would come with simpler requirements.
Labor or manual work
Essentially labor can be counted as the time it takes to actually perform the photo shoot as well as edit the photos. Labor may also take into account post-processing work such as image editing and touch-ups. Again, the investment of time depends on the type of photo shoot.
A corporate event, for example, might take hours to finish, while a portrait session at most could take a couple of hours tops—from setup to teardown. Furthermore, you would want to take into account the time it takes for clients to review the photos and then request edits.
You can think of overhead costs as miscellaneous expenses, or in other words, everything else that doesn’t fall into the above categories. Things like website hosting, website design services, marketing and advertising, and similar expenses would fall under this category.
You can expect overhead costs to grow alongside your business back end and admin work. This is a good thing — you’re growing to a point where a lot of expenses are being funneled into growing your operation instead of just doing it. That said, you should make sure the returns are multiples of the investments and you’re not just breaking even.
Pro Tip: The above is a simple and straightforward categorization of all the expenses you can expect to take into account. Depending on the complexity of your operation or business you may want to further diversify your categories to better manage your finances and budgeting.
Choosing a pricing model for your photography business
Once you have a clear idea of how much goes into actually producing your services, you can then plan out how much you want to charge for them. The most straightforward approach is to take all your expenses and then put a premium on top of that, which is what you want to earn for your work.
Consider the unique value you offer as a photographer and how much your clients are willing to pay for your services and always research the going rates of photographers in your area so you can price yourself competitively.
Now for your pricing, there are a few structures you can use:
- Cost-plus pricing guarantees expenses are recouped and should be calculated accurately. Unexpected fees such as software licenses, or one-off costs like hired help may not be taken into account. It’s best to add 20%-30% on top of total incurred costs to start a profit margin which can increase over time with client feedback used to justifiably raise prices gradually instead of in lump sums.
- Penetration pricing can be a viable strategy for fledgling photographers trying to break into the market by setting prices low initially, then gradually raising them as they become established. If expanding to a new locale, have a clear plan of how and when you will raise prices (and communicate this with existing/repeat clients).
- Competitive pricing – Your photography business’s pricing levels may fluctuate as it grows, requiring careful consideration when diversifying services or expanding locations. This is an ongoing process throughout the lifespan of your business.
Pro Tip: Make use of your experiences as a photographer to accurately price your services. As you gain more experience, you’ll likely acquire more insight into what your target audiences value and how the local market prices ebb and flow.
Pay yourself while maximizing your profit margin
Now that you know your expense breakdowns and possible pricing structures, you can use the information to generate a stable profit margin and pay yourself a salary.
Stay on top of your expenses
Your cost breakdowns won’t stay static—at least not for long. Even changing the hours of labor put into a project can drastically impact its pricing. So always be aware of your expenses as they change. Additionally, consider all of your major expenses like office rent or mortgage payments, insurance, and software licenses or subscriptions, for example.
Be flexible with your approach to pricing by offering different packages or incentives depending on the scope of work needed (e.g., discounts). This way it allows customers to pick what’s right for their needs while avoiding undervaluing yourself as a photographer. By accounting for every aspect of service, delivery times spent working before/during/after photoshoots, and all of the costs associated with them, you gain a deeper understanding of budgets over time through experience.
Understand your market value experience
Research current market rates and compare them with what other professional photographers around your area are charging for their services so you can price yourself competitively while still making a sustainable income as a photographer. Consider factors such as client size (large versus small), location/region served, and years of experience. By evaluating other professionals’ pricing ranges, you can get an accurate picture of where you fit within the marketplace.
Use current and past projects to assess the margins you need for future work. Take into account how much time and resources you were using per project and factor in any additional fees or expenses that should be included when budgeting for ongoing services. Doing so will help ensure your pricing is profitable on an ongoing basis while taking into account changing realities like client size, location served, etc.
Know when to increase prices
Having established baseline market fees, it is time to determine if it makes sense financially—and strategically—to increase prices. You can base the decision on demand and popular reviews from past clients that can be used to demonstrate the value created by working with your company via tangible deliverables achieved during service engagements. For more experienced photographers, it’s about the overall value of higher-end packages.
Optimize your entire clientflow
A clientflow is your entire process of selling and delivering photography services to clients—from capturing them as leads to booking, and then to the actual photo shoot and post-processing, and if you’re lucky, repeat service or referral. Regardless of how skilled you are as a photographer; your business won’t survive if you don’t have an efficient clientflow.
- Selling your services – Is the process seamless for new leads as soon as they enter your pipeline? You should have brochures, pricing guides, and other sales collateral ready to send them so you can help them select services and nurture them into clients.
- Booking – Booking is one of the most crucial parts of your clientflow, but it should also be the most simple. Make sure you have solid photography contracts ready with the clauses you need to protect your business. Consider combining your contract with your photography invoices as well so your clients have to sign before paying and moving forward.
- Project management – Make sure your client knows what to expect as your project moves forward. Schedule automated emails to remind them about upcoming shoots and meetings, and set internal reminders for yourself as well.
- Collecting feedback – Once a project is over, be sure to collect feedback about your client’s experience. You never know if they can become your next glowing review, testimonial, or even repeat business.
Grow your photography business with HoneyBook
Remember, taking care of the business side is as important as sharpening your skills on the photography side!
HoneyBook is an all-in-one clientflow management platform for independent business owners like yourself who offer services to clients. HoneyBook allows you to efficiently manage every background aspect of your photography business from capturing leads to selling, booking and accepting payments, to successfully closing projects with them.