They may be embarrassing. They might make you cringe. But rest assured that every photographer’s made them. If you’re a legit business owner, mistakes are a natural part of life. Luckily, they also provide valuable lessons for us all. We gathered the top business missteps photographers make and looked to our community to shed light on how to avoid them.
Mistake #1: Marketing to everybody, everywhere
In theory, marketing to everybody, everywhere sounds like a great idea. Cast the widest net possible, right? Unfortunately, this is a common misconception that can lead to doing extra work without any extra results. Your time is limited, valuable, and better spent doing what you were made for: photography.
So what’s a time-strapped photographer to do? Find focus and be strategic. One way to do this is to understand which marketing channels work best for you. For example, HoneyBook tracks where all of your leads came from, so you can figure out where to spend your time and energy marketing your services.
Once you’ve figured out which marketing channels are working for you, cater your content to that channel and create content that highlights your unique photography or business style for a specific audience. Remember: Trying to please everybody results in generic content that’s easy to overlook. On the other hand, creating thoughtful content that speaks to your audience’s needs and desires will resonate with the people you actually want to work with.
Real-life example: HoneyBook member and photographer India Earl focuses on working with boho couples and her Instagram stories reflect that. She shares behind-the-scenes images of couples skinny dipping in the woods or driving around in their adventure vans. Yes, her Instagram feed is beautiful, but it’s also strategically focused.
Mistake #2: Accepting paper checks
Getting paid is paramount to your photography business’ health and cash flow. Yet, it’s one area that continues to be a challenge for photography business owners, especially those who rely primarily on paper checks for payment. Only one in five (17%) small businesses are using payment tools, such as electronic invoicing.1
If you’re part of the majority (83%) that aren’t using these tools, studies show you’re missing out. Small businesses that accept online payments make 2x more than those that don’t.1 Electronic invoicing tools, like the one HoneyBook offers, are:
- Faster than waiting for snail mail – Timely paydays are important to keep the lights on when you’re running your own business. They also give you the capital and confidence to re-invest in and grow your photography business. Eyeing a new lens or want to hire a second shooter? Knowing when you’re going to get paid helps you decide when and how to make these decisions.
- Trackable – Save time and energy tracking down payments, and spend more time doing photography.
- Smart – They can send automatic payment reminders to your clients when an invoice is due and/or hasn’t been paid so you don’t have to.
Mistake #3: Working harder, not smarter
Getting new clients can feel daunting and discouraging. For one thing, you have to respond quickly to new inquiries. It’s key to strike while your inquiry’s interest is hot. This might feel overwhelming when you’re out shooting and away from your email. For another, if you’re on top of your inquiry game but still not hearing back, it can feel like your business is stuck.
Luckily, you don’t need to hire a team to drum up new photography business. Email automation tools can do the work for you. For example, HoneyBook’s Workflows tool can automatically send emails to prospects after they inquire via the contact form on your website. Workflows can also automatically follow up with prospects who don’t reply to your initial email. Including galleries of your work and client testimonials in your automated email series is a smart way to show prospective clients why they should work with you. Just set it up once and forget it. It’s like you have someone holding down the fort for you while you’re out of the office.
Mistake #4: De-prioritizing building an emotional connection with clients
Did you know that building a strong emotional connection with your clients has been scientifically proven to help you win more business? According to Psychology Today, “Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) shows that when evaluating brands, consumers primarily use emotions (personal feelings and experiences), rather than information (brand attributes, features, and facts).” We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: People want to work with people they like. Paying attention to this vital, often underestimated piece of your business can be a way to recharge your operation if you feel like you’re hitting a growth plateau.
And while it’s important to work on building your relationships with current clients, don’t forget about nurturing the emotional connection you have with prospective clients in your:
- New inquiry email responses
- Social media posts
- Blog and website
Mistake #5: Underpricing
Ask yourself these three questions: Do you have a top-notch brand? A portfolio that wows? An ability to connect and impact your audience on a personal level? If you can confidently and objectively say yes to all three, you might be underpricing.
When photographer Mark Dickinson went full-time with his photography business in 2008, he faced the ultimate business challenge: the Great Recession. After trying out multiple tactics, he re-launched his brand and built up his portfolio, effectively raising his prices as a result. While he admits raising his prices was scary, he found a strategy that worked. Here’s his advice:
“When I was working at jobs, you’d have to ask for a raise. It’s no different owning a business—you have to ask for a raise. You can create value and urgency. Those two things will seal a sale instantly. So if you do raise your prices and feel resistance, then offer a sale. That’s the urgency and the value. “I can get him for lower! But I have to act now.” Raise your price $300, offer a $250 sale. You just gave yourself a $50 raise.”
By learning from other photographers’ top mistakes, you can avoid making the same errors twice. Apply the lessons learned to grow your own photography business by:
- Focusing on the specific marketing channels that work best for you and creating content that appeals to your target audience
- Using online invoicing tools to get paid faster and with less legwork
- Turning more inquiries into booked business by using email automation tools to respond and follow up with each and every inquiry
- Building strong emotional connections with current and prospective clients throughout all of our brand touchpoints
- Raising your prices to charge what you’re worth
1. Source: PayPal commissioned study conducted Ipsos, PayPal Cross-border Consumer Research 2016
(Top photo by Guillermo Sanchez)