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Photography business tips that are wrong

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Photography business tips that are wrong

Business advice that benefits your competitors (Pt.1)

Some time ago Keith compiled a collection of 50 rather poor business tips for working photographers.

Unfortunately, rather too many have been repeated in various guises in the intervening years.

Many have been expanded still further with a liberal application of ‘Social Media’ snake oil.

In this series of posts (5) Keith splits and revisits the big list and offers his own reasons for saying they are likely bad ideas.

It’s important to note that these are related to the running of a sustainable (from a business POV) photography business that makes a profit.

All our business related articles have their own index page

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10 business tips that really aren’t (pt.1)

From ‘50 photo business tips

It’s really only about the photos – great photos are what will sustain your business as a working photographer.

OK, this is what we’d like to believe. It appeals to our artistic and creative notions.

Unfortunately, without some form of marketing, who’s ever going to know about your work? Since we’re talking of photography as a business, these photos need to meet the needs of customers and be of benefit to them. Most working photographers take the photos that clients want – great photos may make getting clients a bit easier, but they need a lot of help.

See also:

Your creative vision is what counts – this is the main thing clients look for when hiring.

No they don’t – they are asking (if not directly) for you to answer their “What’s in it for me” question. At most levels clients want competence and reliability. Understand their point of view – there is a place for your creative vision, just realise that it’s nowhere near as pervasive as you might like.

Remember – enthusiasm trumps all else.

Enthusiasm may help get you up in the mornings, but it needs harnessing to advance your business. I still need a business model that works, and makes a profit. I may love going out and taking photos, but it’s all the dull business stuff that enables it.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking “I love doing this so people will pay me”

See also:

Most of your time as a pro photographer should be spent taking photos.

Definitely not – if I had to go out every day to take photos, my energy levels and enthusiasm would quickly suffer. To get the profitable work I enjoy, I need to engage in active marketing which takes time. I also need time to experiment and write my articles and reviews – these not only bring in an income and establish expertise, but they let me push the boundaries of my photography and learn new skills, whilst refining old ones.

Now, this mix will be different for different types of photo businesses, but you need to devote real time to the business – marketing is best carried out regularly and often.

Clients appreciate the technology – it’s always important you mention all the camera and lenses you will use.

Actually most really couldn’t care less. Every so often on a job I’ll come across someone who’s really keen to know why I’m using a tilt/shift lens, but that’s not often. What client appreciate is the benefits you can offer them – that may include some technology, but that’s not often the feature of your business offering you lead on.

When looking at your marketing, emphasise the features of your business – clients are interested in how your business works.

Once again, they are interested in what’s in it for them – you are there to solve their problems and supply their needs. Look at your web site copy – too much ‘We’ and not enough ‘You’ is not a good sign.

Have you thought of film? – clients will value your artistic integrity.

Mamiya 645 camera and lenses

Nice kit, but not for work any more

Film may be fun to experiment with, but the business advantages of working digitally have long since left it in the dust.

That’s not to say there are not people who can run a successful film based business, just that there are not many and your chances of joining them are not great.

See also:

Qualifications are essential – clients always check this out and many love to chat about your final year exhibition.

Really? Not one client has ever asked about my educational background in nearly 15 years.

My previous experience of running businesses has been far more useful than either of my degrees. Of course they may well have helped me get that experience, but neither had the slightest connection to photography.

Beware too the ‘made up’ letters after names so beloved of some photography organisations – they are the sort of thing that may impress your Mum, and represent a personal achievement, but as someone who’s spent many years in academia, they just don’t cut it.

Don’t let that stop you getting a real academic qualification, just don’t think that the fact you’ve got one will make much difference to real clients. Although it might help you get a job in the industry, if I was interviewing, I’d want to see skill before any certificate.

You only need a business plan if you are going to a bank for a loan.

A business plan can be as simple as a list of work you want to do and how you are going to get it.

See also:

Price is everything – undercutting competitors is key to getting more work – cut your prices to win.

Choosing tomatos at food market

Even here, price isn’t everything

Price can be important, but you need to sell the benefits of using your services, not the cost.

Don’t work too cheaply, since it’s all too easy to take jobs for a low rate ‘just for experience’ or ‘to get known’.

OK, maybe a few jobs at first, but don’t make a habit of it – you are doing photography to live off I assume?

Remember that people -will- pay for skill and the client that hires you just on price will just as quickly drop you for the same reason.

What you may see as a one-off introductory discount will all too easily be seen as a price hike when a client comes back to you to enquire for a second job.

For some of my thoughts about becoming a pro photographer see:

To be continued next week

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