Welcome to Monday Musings by Caitlin Domanico!
Monday Musings: How to Succeed in a Saturated Business Market
If you own your own business, you probably entered it with some very naive and beautiful thoughts about what it would be like. You probably found that you enjoyed doing something, or did something well, and thought, “hey, I could do this as a business”. Next, thoughts probably started swirling around in your head with phrases that sounded a lot like this, “flexible, be my own boss, set my prices, set my own hours, love life, quit my day-job”.
If you own your a photography business, you probably heard compliments about the photographs you took. People may have suggested you start your own business.
You giggled and rolled your eyes, but internally, the thoughts began their ever-loving tornado of what-ifs: What if I am good enough? What if I am not good enough? What if no one hires me? What if I don’t know what to do in the middle of the shoot? What if I get scared?
You may not realize that a slew of other roles/tasks are about to hit you life a brick wall including but not limited to:
naming your business
making it legit with the US Government
If you made it past all those with uncrossed eyes and a heart that is not palpitating, you are ready to go.
So you get going. You start getting clients. You edit, network, promote, and smile when you get feedback from happy clients after a session.
Then you realize you have to keep working to keep getting clients. Return clients would be awesome. Referrals would be amazing.
You might hear about a friend’s friend who just started a business, so your friend is just going to let them do their pictures since they’re free and building a portfolio.
Next, you will notice several friends on facebook have also been dabbling in photography.
Everywhere you go, you will hear about so-and-so who is also a photographer.
Some newbies may start to email you and ask you to tell them all about how you started your business. They will ask you if you can help them by telling them everything you did, so they can also make photography their career. They might even offer to buy you coffee in exchange for your wisdom.
Social media sites will remind you that your friends and family (and sometimes clients) are not married to you. They will shop around, they will snag deals, and they will try out other photographers.
You will start to feel like the whole world is made up of new photographers, and if you are like me with a beating human heart, you may even start to feel a little nervous. You will wonder how you can survive being a photographer in such a saturated market. You will wonder if you should price yourself lower, the same, or high above the rest.
You may even begin to doubt yourself.
Over the past seven years, I have learned a lot. I have become friends with a lot of awesome photographers. I have listened to photographers’ complaints and triumphs.
Though I have had my periods of feeling insecure (who doesn’t?), I have discovered a few mantras that have helped me push forward to create and sustain a successful and very fulfilling photography business.
- Commit fully. If you take people’s photographs in exchange for money, you are a professional photographer. Own it, and follow up accordingly. Register your business with the state, pay your taxes, protect yourself, your gear, and your clients with insurance. Do your market research, write a business plan, and get crackin’!
- Put your blinders on. This one is my favorite. If you know me in person, you have heard me say it before I am sure! I grew up with horses on a farm in Bucks County. While we didn’t put blinders on our horses, we were certainly around them from time-to-time, like at our annual trip to The Devon Horse Show. This visual always pops into my head when a fellow photographer mentions that someone may be scalping their location/poses/props/etc. It is also something I tell myself when I see a client hire another photographer (thanks, Facebook!). Though this is a figure of speech, I sometimes literally hide people or fanpages if their posts stress me out. It is very, very freeing. It helps you focus on the most important thing in the world- you!
- Be really good at what you do. I am not saying you have to be the best right out of the gate, that would just be silly to say…but I am saying you should be really good. Take the time to learn. Learn how to use your camera. Learn how to operate editing software. Consider taking a business class and photography classes. The more skills you have, the higher your confidence will be. There is no sense in winging it when you are working on someone else’s dime.
- Put service first. When you are in business, you will quickly learn that the customer is NOT always right. Unfortunately, you will run into a situation at some point- and you will have to do your very best to remain professional, confident, and respectful of your client, even when it feels like a personal attack. Put service first- be someone you would want to do business with- treat your clients with respect, answer requests carefully- stay true to your business/style/etc, but use extreme caution not to hurt feelings if you cannot accommodate their request. Be flexible. Be truthful. Be genuine. Work hard. Work carefully. Work passionately.
- Find balance. I tell you this because I truly want you to strive for your balance. Some days, there is no balance. I may or may not be hiding upstairs while typing this post, just to get some peace and quiet, while my husband and daughter watch television. Some days, I do not touch the computer because my family requires all of my time. Other days, I am out photographing most of the day, and make it home just in time to nurse my eight-month-old to sleep. Balance is an on-going quest. It’s ever-changing- and balance truly never looks the same on any given day, so keep that in mind and do the best you can. Give yourself appropriate timeframes and put them in writing in a contract with your clients. Clients do not need next-day galleries. They need quality, consistency, and an amazing experience.
What do you do to succeed in business? Do you practice any of the above? What would you add? I look forward to reading your responses!!!!
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Best Children’s Photographer: http://montco.happeningmag.com/happeninglist/2014/2014-kids-childrens-photographer/