Yes, You Need Great Photos of Yourself If You’re Running a Solo Business

Why Personal Branding Portraits are key in personal branding

I had been running a photography business for 10 years before I became aware of personal branding. I honestly didn’t know about it. Branding wasn’t something, even in the broadest sense that crossed my mind. I was a solo business owner and up to my ears with client work and admin tasks, and I had blinders on to anything outside of getting these things done, and then getting back to being a mom and running my family.

That all changed when I attended a business conference and met a “branding photographer” a few years ago. As a photographer myself, my interest was immediately piqued. How had I never heard of, or even seen, these types of images? I poured through more branding photographer’s sites, and I knew this was an area I wanted to expand into.

To be able to be a branding photographer, though, I needed to be able to take branded images of my clients, of course. My journey into understanding personal branding began from this perspective; how to serve clients to get branded images.

Over the next few months the ah-ha’s were so major that my hunch that this was my next step were confirmed. I got to work. I started putting up a new website, collecting portfolio images and learning as much as I could.

The most exciting thing happened next. While putting together my client intake process I created a method to visually show what makes your brand unique. It occurred to me that what I had developed could be used by anyone to get on-brand images. With a little guidance, I could show anyone this method. And, a two-for-one, this would distill the unwieldy and intimidating branding topic and make it understandable, simple and easy to implement for everyone, not just my photography clients.

Before I share more about personal branding photography, I want to share my previous mindset, because I’m betting it might reflect yours. For me, the disconnect to branding was that I didn’t have the money to hire a branding expert to brand my business. I didn’t have the time to find one, and I didn’t know how to find one if I did have the time. And, at the end of the day, it would be a bunch of stuff I would have to implement, and this seemed like a lot of work. What value could it bring me, really? Time suck alert activated.

After ten years in business let me tell you what was going on though. I advertised minimally and donated my services to charities to spread awareness. The client’s I had were repeat customers and referred me to others. This was the extent of my business’ footprint.

The result was that I wasn’t growing at the rate I wanted. I didn’t know how to promote myself. I was stuck in an old, traditional model. And, I was stagnated, and frustrated.

I perceived myself as a high-value photographer. I had been at it a long time and knew exactly how to guide my client’s to phenomenal results and have fun doing it. I took great care with the client process. But how would new clients know this upfront, and seek me out to hire me for these reasons? I didn’t know how to share this.

I thought that if I were amazing I’d catch on and the world would know about me and seek me out. Yes, if I’m being really honest, this was really what was in my heart. But we all know it was essentially like I was hiding under a rock and waiting for lightning to strike.

After a lot of soul-searching, and feeling like my business wasn’t growing and truly fulfilling me, I closed my business. My friends and clients were shocked. “You’re soooo talented, whyyyyyy…” they all said.

A fateful thing happened then. I decided to take a business class. I can’t really explain why I took a business class right after closing my business! But I’m really glad I did. The course was about online business marketing. As a part of the class, I attended that conference I mentioned earlier. The pieces were starting to click into place. I was learning how to transform from a caterpillar (the old model of business) into a butterfly (online, global reach).

When I became re-energized to restart my photography business at that conference, as a personal branding photographer, the final and most important pieces clicked into place. While I learned how to best serve my clients to get branded images, I learned all about personal branding and the immense value of it. I could look back to my missteps of the past in my business and clearly see what I had been doing wrong.

Now, I’m on a mission to help other solopreneurs discover these insights. We are running one-woman shows, and who knows where we’ve been trained or what we’re bringing to the table. If you’re like me, I was formally trained in photography, but not business. I had no training in branding. My reason for starting a business was to stay home with my daughter. I started my business on a hope and a prayer.

WHY PERSONAL BRANDING PORTRAITS ARE KEY IN PERSONAL BRANDING, via The Rising Tide Society Blog

What is personal branding?

Put most simply, personal branding is showing and telling what you believe. Sharing what you believe connects you to your ideal client. Why is this revolutionary? Before, I was selling my services to everyone. Post an ad, people call me, I work. That’s the formula, right?

Here’s what that old formula really is: Post an ad, anyone from any walk of life calls you, I work…but then something ELSE happens, adding to this equation. What happens after the work is done? Because everyone is my client, then I was subject to a whole host of reactions to my work. These people weren’t seeking ME out, most wanted something I didn’t provide: one, single family portrait, as cheap as they could get it.

In my mind, I’d think, “go to Picture People! Or Sears! I don’t deliver one single image of your family smiling. This you can do with your iPhone.” So, many, many clients exploited me. I couldn’t build a business on the same model as Sears. I offered high-touch, highly personalized service, with a lot of time spent with each client. Spending $100 with me is outrageous. Spending that at Sears is perfectly reasonable. They see tons of clients per day. I see only a few per week. I could not grow, or thrive, like that.

I believe that personal branding is the key if you want to stay in business for the long haul. It’s really that clear-cut. You share what you believe to a specific ideal client.

Personal branding is different than branding a business: personal branding is branding your skills, talents and personality. To ascertain if personal branding is what you need, answer the question: Could your business exist without you? If not, you’re a personal brand. Think coach, nutritionist, doctor, artists, and any solopreneur. It’s not the same as a branding a medium or big business. You have a solo practice.

What are personal branding portraits?  Are they headshots?

Personal Branding Portraits are images of the real you, the real honest to goodness you, doing the real things you love to do, and showing your personality. These images are key in personal branding. They are not headshots. Headshots are simply a single head and shoulders image of you smiling, which is not a branded image. That’s just you looking pretty.

What you want when someone visits your website is not for them to see simply a logo and your portfolio, and a quick bit of text. Instead, you want to share images of you that make you personable and relatable, and then they buy into you as someone they admire. They connect to you, instead of just seeking out a quick fix for an immediate need. They believe in you, personally. This eliminates the “everyday” clients, those people who aren’t looking for a personal connection – let those nice folks hurry on over to Sears.

Jessica Christian

Jessica Sunshine has mastered the art of portrait photography. She is an expert in helping solopreneurs share their truest self in on-brand imagery in sessions, and in a course she wrote so you can learn how to do it yourself on a dime.

1 comment

  1. We are meant to meet..

    Reply

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