Many novice photographers have grand designs on becoming a professional photographer and getting paid to take photographs all day long, but the reality of it is that in doing so you are also becoming a small business owner. A small business owner who, by default, is now faced with the task of all sorts of not-so-fun side effects of being a small business owner–you know, like running a business. Ask just about any established photographer the ratio of time spent making phone calls, writing emails, and building his business versus the time actually spent behind the camera and you may be surprised at how little time is spent actually creating photographs. A lot of hours are spent working on networking, advertising in one form or another, and, hopefully, building your brand online. Here are a handful of ideas to help you make the process as fruitful as possible.
Build a Creative Website– This one is a no brainer, since you are trying to build up your web presence you need a little place of your own to send all your potential clients to. Put a lot of thought into the design of your website and don't be afraid to seek the help of a professional if web design isn't your strong point. Make sure the design is complimentary to the style of your photography and is not distracting. Remember, people are visiting your website to learn about you and your photography, make that easy for them to find. You would be surprised at how quickly you can lose a client because your website was difficult to navigate or the music you set to automatically play when your homepage is viewed is more annoying than relaxing. Take the time to do this one right and test it out on your friends and family before making it public.
There are several photography website platforms that are worth checking out:
Blogging – When clients are choosing a photographer, they want to be able to feel confident in not just the photographer's work, but also in the way she conducts herself, so think of blogging as a way to let your audience get to know you. What says more about yourself than your own actions and words? You can help shape those first impressions into a working business relationship by updating your blog as often as possible, ideally on a daily basis with content that would be useful to your prospective clients. It gives clients a behind-the-scenes look at your photographic life and, more importantly, conveys your dedication and passion.
The granddaddy of blogging platforms is WordPress. If you want to have your own blog on your own .com then check out WordPress.org. When you have set up your blog, you will want to get a great design. Here are some places that design WordPress templates specifically for photographers:
NOTE: It is quite possible to have both your portfolio website and your blog running through WordPress.
Bonus Tip: Familiarize yourself with search engine optimization (SEO) to make your website work for itself. Google's Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide, available as a pdf, is a great jumping off point. by Web Tutorials / T. Mueller, on Flickr
Get Onto Google – As we all know, Google offers up a whole variety of handy little tools which make our lives a little more convenient, but one that can especially be utilized by photography businesses are their wide range of webmaster tools.
Building up your web content enough to be included in the coveted Google search top 10 results can take a lot of work (which we cover in our “SEO for Photographers” short guide), but if you're willing to fork out a little cash you can pay to have your link appear as an sponsored link right at the top of the page.
For example, a wedding photographer based on Maui can pay to appear at the top of the page every time someone searches “Maui Wedding Photography.” I've spoken with many photographers who advertise this way with great success. Check out AdWords to learn more about the bid process and how you can set up daily spending limits so you won't go over your advertising budget.
Barter Your Photography – Offer to give a few of your photographs to other business that you've worked with on projects in the past in lieu of a free link back to your website. Event photographers could contact caterers or venues they've worked with on previous shoots. For example, wedding photographers can build up a relationship with florists and wedding planners, travel photographers have tourism boards, travel agencies, and so on. It's the most cost effective way to reach your target audience—-all it costs you is a little time and it's great for SEO too.
Get Active on Social Media – There is a really long–infinite, seemingly–list of social media sites where you can advertise your photography business. So many in fact, I could dedicate an entire article to that subject alone. But, assuming you probably already use Facebook, Twitter, Google +, 500px, or one of the others, lets talk instead about how you can utilize them.
Social media is sometimes referred to as micro-blogging and it can give you all the same benefits as it's big brother with the added benefit of having a built in platform for opening a conversation. Dedicate time from your schedule, just 5-minutes a few times a day will do, to create original updates and interact with your followers. There are apps which allow you to streamline multiple social network platforms into one, easy to update, task that can be really helpful, but don't rely on them solely. They tend to really take the personal connection out of the experience and socializing, after all, is the point. Engage and comment on other users posts and respond to comments on your own posts. Think of social media as a place to sell yourself as a person and photography sales will follow.
If you are time poor, then we highly recommend using BufferApp to schedule some of your updates (though you will still need to log in manually to reply to people).
Don't lose sight of the fact that you are trying to build your brand as a photographer, aside from an occasional vignette try to keep your content relevant to taking photos. Building up your fan base this way is sort of a means to filter out the riff-raff by attracting others who have some kind of interest in photography, whether it be hiring one or networking with one, either of which can be used to your advantage.