Building a client base and having repeat clients are two of the most important aspects of having a photography business, especially if you are primarily a portrait photographer. Whether your specialty is weddings, children or senior portraits, here are a few steps that will help you begin building your client base.
1. Word Of Mouth
A lot of photographers I know who are just beginning to pursue photography either full-time or on the side often seem to be a bit timid about telling their friends and family that they are able to take their photo. I don’t know if this is related to being afraid to break the news to the family that they are pursuing something other than their “day job” or they are a little bit intimidated by the idea of photographing others. I suppose this could be due to any number of reasons. However, photographing friends and family is a great way to break into portrait photography. Not only will you get practice and experience by photographing people you know and are comfortable with, but, chances are, they are going to share the photos with their friends and extended family. You would be surprised at how quickly word-of-mouth can spread, especially with social networking sites like Facebook (and especially if you add a small watermark to the photos they share online)!
2. Bridal and Maternity Fairs
If you are interested in photographing weddings or newborn and children photography, looking into setting up a small table at a bridal or maternity fair can be a great way to drive business your way. These tables or booths can be relatively inexpensive to set up, and will guarantee that people will walk by your table and see your work.
3. Schools and Universities
There is a growing market for creative senior portraits. Some of the most successful photographers I know are senior portrait photographers! Most schools will have an area where you can display your business cards or a flyer, so be sure to call some of the high schools in your area and ask if they would let you display your information. If you are near a college or university, then you are in luck because there are many college students who need photos – from theatre and music students, to sorority and fraternity members. Scout out the student center in your local university, as well as the different academic departments (especially theatre and music, because they often need headshots) and find a place to display your cards.
4. Local Businesses
Check your local coffee shops and restaurants to see if they have a spot for local businesses to display their ads and business cards. You will often find that a lot of your local retailers, salons, dentists, vets, doctors offices and music stores will allow you to leave a few of your cards on their bulletin board or front desk. Try to find businesses that fit your area of photography. For example, if you photograph children, find out if your area pediatrician will allow you to advertise in their office. Or, if you are a wedding photographer, you would probably want to advertise within a salon or jewelry store.
5. Renegade Networking
I coined the phrase “renegade networking” one night when my fiancée and I were walking to our car after dinner. We walked passed a musician playing on the street who had an amazing voice, so we sat and listened to him play his guitar and sing. My fiancée, who is also a photographer, gave the musician his card, and told him that if he ever wanted photos, he would be happy to photograph him. Well, the musician eventually had my fiancée photograph him and his band-mate, and from there, they recommended my fiancée to all of their friends, and so on. Always carry your business cards with you, and look for opportunities to hand out your cards! Give them to musicians, people with children, women wearing engagement rings, because you never know who will need photos. And, if they do not need photos, they may give your card to someone they know who does.
Always look for opportunities to showcase your services, because such opportunities are all around you. Start by carrying your business cards with you – Moo makes beautiful and affordable business cards, which are great for handing out to people. If you are displaying your cards in an office or a retail space, you may want to consider a postcard size composite card, showing several images from your portfolio. I customized my composite cards on Vistaprint, and they have been a great resource!
Anna Gay is a portrait photographer and photography tutor based just outside of Atlanta, GA. She is also the author of the dPS ebook The Art of Self-Portraiture. You can follow her on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/AnnaGPhotog.