Does it seem like every newbie with a DSLR is trying to become a professional photographer?  

They took a few photos on their iPhone, edited it in Instagram and their best friend said they should be a photographer. So they dropped some money on a new camera, got a logo made on Fiverr, made a Facebook page…

And they’re coming for you.

So either:

  1. You’re the newbie reading this and using the guide that follows to send your business and revenue into the stratosphere


  1. You’re the veteran using this guide to keep the young bucks at bay.

I’ve been running multiple businesses online for over half a decade and I’ve seen what it takes to build and grow a business using online marketing. After working with a ton of clients (photographers who needed help with their marketing), I’ve seen 5 things that every successful photographer is implementing.

Every single photographer that is crushing it and building an even stronger photography business this year is doing these five things:

1. They Invest in a Good Website

Nothing looks worse than great photos on an old or amateur website.

I know that I’m part of the 81% of people that research somebody online before hiring them.  If I didn’t find you online, I’m definitely looking you up before I give you any money.

Being in control of what people find when they inevitably do search for you online matters.

Your photos can be amazing (A+), but if you’re rolling with a D+ website, it speaks to your brand and the level of quality that you’re willing to accept.

I remember that when my wife and I got engaged, one of my first red flags regarding our wedding photographer (who we ended up firing), was that his website looked like it hadn’t been updated since 1993.  He accepted low quality in his online reputation and, it turns out, he did with his business as well.

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Invest in a premium theme (like this SF photographer) and spend a few hundreds dollars getting a designer to customize it for you if you aren’t a web design expert.  Here’s what to have them add:

  • Testimonials from past / current clients (get photos AND video of this)
  • Blog that you can add articles to (and using the right blogging formula)
  • Professional images (this should be no issue for you)
  • Email form for potential clients to sign up for your mailing list or get in touch

There’s a reason that it’s first on this list.  Your website is your home on the internet. Put all of the care into it that you would if a potential high-ticket client was coming over for a consultation.

2. They Invest in Good SEO

I’m biased here.  SEO is optimizing your website to rank higher in Google and other search engines.  It’s how I’ve built my own businesses (selling the first two) and I believe in it. I think it’s the most powerful form of marketing in the world.

The reason that it rocks because of the number of people searching for photographers in Google.

Here’s what I mean:

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There are SO MANY people trying to find you in Google. By having your website there, you can easily get more traffic, leads, and customers.

3. They Build an Email List

One of my biggest regrets when I started my first business was not building an email list sooner.

If you’re using Facebook or Instagram as your main communication tool with your audience, we do you do when they limit your reach? (Facebook organic reach is now below 1%).

What do you do when they shut your page down without a word? (I’ve had this happen to friends for no reason).

You freak out, that’s what!

But if you have an email list, even if your website goes down, you can still connect with your past and potential clients.

The potential to grow your revenue is directly tied to your email list.

It can start with putting a simple optin form on your site and signing up for Mailchimp’s free plan.  Or it could be developing lead magnets and using something awesome like Sumo to get new subscribers.

Imagine if every time you had an opening, you could email thousands of people and get them signed up and paid within minutes?

4. They See Themselves As a Media Company

Success on social media in this day and age is 110% about becoming a local media company.  The money is in our potential client’s attention and keeping their attention is done more effectively by creating media that your ideal client wants to watch/read/listen to.

Reverse engineer what your ideal client wants to see online and mix in a bit of you showing your work (here’s a whole book on that process) and share content from others that helps make their day better today.

Here’s how we do that:

Super Bowl Commercials – Okay, not really. That wouldn’t be effective.  But every photographer should have some big media they only make once or twice per year.  You don’t need a guy jumping out of a spaceship like Red Bull, but creating something really rare and incredibly entertaining is step one.

Regular Content – What is going to keep your ideal clients coming back over and over?  Do you have anything you post on a regular basis that gets high engagement and gives you a chance to build a relationship with your audience?

Letters to the Editor Nathan Barry tells people to “teach everything they know.”  This kind of media is where you educate your audience on how you do your work and what you’ve learned about their work.  Keep it focused on teaching about your industry, your craft, their business, and their life and they’ll come to see you as the ‘go to’ expert for everything related to that.

5. They Use Social Media Influencers

Now that you see yourself as a media company, I’m going to assume you have a solid strategy in place to use social media to bring in new clients.

But the number one thing that most people neglect is using influencers to bring in new business.

Most photographers think that influencer marketing is just for big brands.  Only Coca-Cola can hire celebrities to post about their product, right?


Technically, we all have influence.  My wife has me (whom she has a huge influence on), her friends (significant influence), her parents and siblings (significant influence), and he extended friends (decent amount of influence).

She communicates with most of these people through social media.

So is she a social media influencer? Absolutely!

Since every person on social media is an influencer of some sort, let’s take a look at three levels of influence you can use as a photographer to grow your business:

Past Clients – Crowdsource content from them.  This could be testimonials that you ask them to share on social media, behind the scenes photos, etc.  They may not have a huge amount of influence, but if you give them some incentive (extra shots, etc.), then they’ll definitely post something for you.

Potential Clients – People love see the journeys of others. I’ve seen photographers have tremendous success by doing session giveaways to people who document some sort of successful process (wedding planning, etc.)

The incentivizes people to generate additional content and since everybody loves to see progress, they start to associate that with you and your brand.

Well-known Influencers – We’re not trying to get Kanye to endorse us here.  No offense, Ye, but I don’t think you tweeting about me is going to help me close enough new clients to make it worth the expense.

What will work is looking to well known people in your local area.  There are thousands more people with influence in Chicago that nobody knows at a national level and they’re a thousand times cheaper to get to make a sponsored post than a national-level influencer.

Here’s how it goes down (something I learned from Shane Cleminson):

Instagram DM: “Hey local influencer, I saw the post about you just getting engaged.  Congratulations!  I’m a veteran photographer here in Chicago and I’d love to take some photos of you two. I have a few locations in mind that would be PERFECT for you!”

And that’s it.  I mean c’mon, if you absolutely crush it how are they NOT going to share it with their audience?

Remember, social media’s value is based on the social network that you (and influencers) have.

I’d Love to Hear From You!

What would you add? Leave your suggestions in the comments below!

If you’re interested in Brendan’s work, click here to get 7 days of free training that’ll change your photography business.

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