Back in the day when film photography was king, marketing for photographers was reasonably straightforward. You would place a listing in the local newspapers as well as the Yellow Pages. You would also pound the pavements of your local city, knocking on doors, portfolio in hand. The latter cost shoe leather and bus fares the former could be quite significant junks of change to a small business.
Money to a photographer starting up is always going to be tight. Fortunately these days we can market ourselves in so many different ways. However, we are up against a global marketplace of photographers and clients, so how do we get ourselves seen without blowing our startup budget?
Today we are going to look at 6 free marketing techniques for photographers.
1. Social Media
We start with the most obvious one but also the most competitive and hardest to crack. Social media marketing can be free, but you are fighting the platform’s algorithms to get seen. Sites like Facebook deliberately hamper businesses that do not advertise with them, so you need to up your game to get noticed.
The key to success on any social media platform is engagement. The more people that like and share your posts, the more you will attract new fans and hopefully new clients.
You need to choose your posts carefully. Posts with images will get much more engagement than those without. Posts showing you at work on a particular project often get an excellent response.
You need to become a member of many specialist groups, sharing your posts to them. Make sure your posts are relevant to that group and do not break group rules.
Commenting and liking other photographers or potential clients posts is also a worthwhile thing to do. When you do so, make sure you like as your professional page, not as your personal profile.
You will need to hone down which social media platforms are best for you and concentrate on the top two or three.
2. Blogging and Guest Blogging.
If you can put down words in a generally coherent way, then blogging is an excellent way to market yourself. The chances are that you already have a website, so it would make sense to add a blog to that. The advantage of this is that your blog will be under your domain name, helping raise your website’s traffic. If you do not have a site yet, then there are a number of free blogging sites such as WordPress and Blogger.
Your blog should be themed very much towards the work that you do. Write about a particular shoot, a piece of gear that you have enjoyed using or share your favourite techniques.
Blog posts should be regular, perhaps once a week and should be shared to as many appropriate places as possible, social media, forums and even mailing lists.
It’s also well worth approaching some of the big photography blogs and asking if you can make a guest post. You will get your name seen by a much larger audience.
3. Building A Mailing List.
This is another useful free marketing tool that you can build on the back of your website and blog. You need to encourage visitors to sign up to a newsletter or for free tutorials to build up a list. Once your mailing list has reached a suitable size, you can leverage it to keep subscribers up to date with blog posts, shoots and special offers.
4. Teaching Online.
One very rewarding way to raise your profile and market yourself is to teach online. Mostly this will be through video tutorials uploaded to YouTube. You should try to create a series of videos that teach, for example, a photographic genre, lighting techniques or post-production. Create videos around your knowledge and upload them regularly and frequently.
Some important things to consider when creating videos is to make sure you have a distinct and consistent style, that you see a series through to the end and that you encourage viewers to like share and subscribe to your channel.
If you build your YouTube channel big enough, you can even monetise it, marketing yourself and adding a secondary income stream. The current YouTube requirements for monetisation are 1000 subscribers and at least 4000 watch hours in the previous 12 months. At that level, the amount of money you make will be minimal; however, if you can build upon that, you will reap more significant financial rewards.
5. Search Engine Optimisation.
As a website owner, you have probably been inundated with spam offers for SEO on your website. While there is no doubt SEO is a complex and challenging science, there are some things that you can do yourself.
Much of this revolves around the way you caption and keyword your website, the pages within it and also photos that you upload to it. As a photographer, there is a good chance that you add significant metadata to your images in post-production. It’s well worth making sure that when you add your images to your site, that metadata is also uploaded.
Tools like Google Analytics and Google Search Console are free and very powerful ways to analyse where your traffic is coming from and what people that landed on your site searched for.
SEO is undoubtedly complicated, but there are numerous videos on YouTube explaining the basics, many themed towards photographers websites.
6. The Little Things.
There are a lot of little things that you can do to help market yourself or your business. A simple signature can go a long way to boost your visibility. Your business email should have a signature attached to it. This can contain your company logo, links to your website and social media profiles and your telephone number.
You can use a similar technique if you regularly visit forums. Most forums allow you to add a signature to your profile. Again this could be linked to your website and social media profiles with a little prompt such as “check out my latest work here.”
Adding client reviews to your site can also be productive. It tells your audience that you produce quality work and are trustworthy.
These are just a few of the many free things that we can do as photographers to market ourselves. Their effectiveness is directly related to the amount of work you put into them. The following list is the best combination of ease v effectiveness, with the best at the top.
- Social Media Marketing
- Simple SEO
- Mailing Lists
- Teaching Online
- The Little Things.
As photographers, it is often said we spend 10% of our time shooting, 90% of the time editing. If we want to raise our profiles, then we need to cut into that 90% and dedicate some time to marketing.
As we have said, there are some excellent free ways to market yourself. The best we have listed above, but it’s not an exclusive list. However, to be successful, you will need to be dedicated to it and consistent with it.