So you decided to go out on your own and start a freelance photography business. Congrats! This first step is both exciting and terrifying.
You’re creating a business doing what you love. Yet you need a reliable way to find clients so you can pay your bills.
Finding clients as a new photographer can feel overwhelming. Fortunately, there are some proven techniques you can use.
In this post, we’re sharing 10 tips to help you land clients as well as some common mistakes that newbie photographers make:
10 Tips for Landing New Clients
You need to consistently set aside time for networking and marketing to be a successful freelance photographer and see results.
To help create a marketing process for landing (and retaining) clients, set aside a specific time to
- Reach out to potential new clients every week or month depending on your business’s needs
- Create content for your business
- Connect with past clients
- Update your portfolio with current samples to reflect your most recent work
Creating a system will make it easier to find clients because it will become routine. Here are 10 techniques you can use to create a repeatable process for finding new clients.
1. Generate referrals through word of mouth
You have a powerful network available to you — your friends and family.
They want you to succeed, but they can only help if you tell them about your business. You can discuss your photography business without it feeling awkward or pushy.
Tell family and friends about your business by
- Posting about your new business on your personal social media sites
- Providing periodic updates on recent developments in your business, such as new services or posting a photo you love
- Providing occasional social media posts with helpful photography tips that will interest your friends and family
While occasionally talking about your business is helpful, don’t make it the only thing you discuss. Your friends and family also want to hear about everything else happening in your life.
2. Build connections with clients
Think of the last time you were looking for a doctor, hair stylist, or dentist. Did you randomly pick someone from an ad? You probably asked your friends who they like and then made a choice.
It’s easier to get a new client when they’ve been referred to you by someone they know, like, and trust.
While you can’t control whether a past client recommends you, you can increase the likelihood by
- Providing quality service every time
- Staying connected with past clients through social media or email
- Sending a reminder postcard to past clients about booking a photo shoot for the holidays or a special event, and asking them to share the information with a friend
3. Partner with other photographers or related businesses
Start conversations with businesses that can benefit from your services or that serve your ideal client. For instance, if you’re a wedding photographer, start networking with local wedding venues, caterers, and wedding planners.
You can establish a mutually beneficial relationship where they can send clients to you and you to them. They also may need your services to freshen their website or marketing materials.
No matter your specialty, there’s always a business that can benefit. But before partnering with a company, be sure that they represent your business values.
4. Donate to school or charity auctions
Donating to school and charity auctions can help you build leads and spread awareness of your business. Yes, you’ll be giving away the package you donated, but this approach often leads to paying work.
For instance, the person who bought your services through the auction may decide to add on other services or upgrades. The people who didn’t win your package at auction may choose to buy one anyway.
To get started, contact schools or charities that you’re familiar with, or search for “Silent Auction [your city].” Look for organizations that are a good fit for your particular service or that serve your target clients.
Then develop a valuable package that leaves room for the winner to potentially upgrade during the photo shoot.
5. Be a guest speaker for local groups
As a professional photographer, you have expertise that others want to know. A fun way to make connections is to speak for local groups.
Select organizations that cater to your target client. If you provide family photo sessions or pregnancy photo shoots, focus on local moms groups or new moms groups at hospitals.
Other types of groups to consider include:
- Chambers of Commerce
- Business networking groups
- Church groups
- Service clubs and organizations
- Parent Teacher Associations
- Public libraries
6. Create a professional website
Potential clients will want an easy way to learn about your services and see samples of your work. A professional, easy-to-navigate website can help build trust and authority with visitors, making it easier to close the sale.
When designing your portfolio, group your images by your areas of specialization so visitors can find the type of content they’re interested in. Also, only select your best pieces to showcase on your portfolio page. Then make it easy for prospects to book an appointment.
You can also add a blog to build authority and trust, and increase your site’s search engine optimization (SEO). If you decide to maintain a blog, update it regularly and select topics that your target audience will find interesting.
7. Join social media groups
Social media groups can help you connect with other industry professionals and potential clients. When using social media groups to find new clients, select one or two where you’re likely to find your target audience.
Set aside time to answer questions, join discussions, and be helpful. You’ll want to do this consistently, so group members start to recognize you.
You can also join groups for freelance photographers. Participating in these groups can help you build connections with other freelancers and provide a place to get answers to your questions. These groups can also be a source of referrals as you build relationships.
8. Ask local businesses to display your work
Instead of just leaving business cards at local businesses, see if you can hang up some of your photographs. You can supply framed photos from your portfolio for free or produce new photographs at a reduced fee for the business to display.
When hanging the photos, make sure it’s easy for customers to see your name and contact information. If possible, also leave your business cards near the display.
9. Submit images to stock photo companies
Do you have a portfolio full of amazing photographs that you own the copyrights to? You could submit your images to stock photo agencies.
You can get paid for your work while also getting noticed by businesses. Before signing up with a stock agency, check their policies to determine how you’ll be paid and whether you’ll retain the copyright.
10. Set up your own email list
Email marketing helps companies grow, including small businesses. About 81 percent of small to midsize companies rely on email as the primary way to turn prospects into new customers.
Email lists are powerful tools because almost everyone uses email and potential customers are more likely to see your email than a social media post. You’re also in control of your list, unlike social media sites where algorithms or rules can change unexpectedly.
It can take time for your email list to grow, but you don’t need thousands of people to have a successful email list.
Top Mistakes That New Freelancers Make When Looking for Work
When building your business, try to avoid these common mistakes.
1. Not maintaining a CRM
Creating a customer CRM — or database — will allow you to stay in touch with past clients and reach out to them about future offers. This step is essential since it’s easier to sell photography services to existing customers.
2. Waiting for clients to come to you
When you’re starting out, you need to network, market your services, and talk to people. Otherwise, no one will know about you.
Fortunately, finding clients gets easier with practice and consistency. Schedule marketing and networking time into your calendar. As your business grows, you can evaluate which marketing tasks you’ll continue and the amount of time you’ll spend on it each week.
3. Defaulting to discounts
Sometimes running a special or offering a discount, such as a discount to close out inventory or to offer a bundle, can work. That said, discounts on your primary services shouldn’t be your main strategy for attracting clients.
Offering discounts may lead to quick sales, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll attract the right customers. Clients that bought your services on sale will be unlikely to buy future sessions at full price. They’ll wait for the next time you offer a discount.
4. Not using forms and contracts
From collecting photography requests to sending contracts to new clients and having models sign waivers, there are many forms and contracts that a professional photographer needs. This will not only protect your business but also make you look more established.
If you aren’t sure where to get started with forms and contracts, there are several online resources for free photography contract templates.
To find new clients, talk to people online and in person. Making real connections will help you land new clients and keep past clients returning to you for future photography needs.
These 10 strategies are proven ways to find new clients as a freelance photographer. To maximize their effectiveness, try making them a weekly or monthly habit.
Establishing a consistent marketing system now will help ensure you always have clients, so you can avoid the dreaded feast or famine cycle.
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