The three ways to make more money as a photographer
Before I became a professional photographer, I used to wear a suit and provide business consultancy to companies – big companies like Microsoft and Rolls Royce. In the process of doing this I learnt a lot about how businesses worked and how you change them.
Some things work just the same for a company the size of Microsoft or a photographer with their own business
One of these principles that works at any size is that there are only three basic ways to increase your business – sure there are lots of techniques and variations, but only three basic ways.
- Get more customers
- Get them to buy more for any one job
- Get them to come back to you more often
Yes, that really is it – sometimes getting back to the fundamentals helps you cast a critical eye over your current business activities.
If you are starting out, then the natural thought is to go for the first option. Indeed, if you only have a few customers, the impact of losing one is proportionately worse. I’ve seen too many pro photographer rely on a few core customers that keep coming back, only to lose the contract after someone at the client moves on, or gets a new position.
New customers are difficult to find – it takes real effort and a well thought out approach to making a go of it.
In terms of the amount of effort you put in, it’s worthwhile looking at the next two items quite carefully
Sell more to them (make more per job)
Have you thought of additional services that you can add to your offering? I make a point of offering our photoshop skills to some clients, where they might want an extra high resolution image, or even a large print for the boardroom. We also provide specialist training.
If you deal with the public (portraits/weddings), then look at expanding the range of prints and related products you offer. Whilst you might never dream of owning a plate with your photo on it, tastes vary, and there are a lot of companies offering all kinds of (IMHO) tasteless kitsch that you can up-sell.
Just make sure to work out whether this extra service is profitable for you.
It’s not just selling more – are your prices high enough?
A lot of photographers seriously undercharge for their time and work.
Think of this example:
- You buy photo frames for $6 and sell them for $8.
- 100 customers makes you a profit of $200.
- Let’s say you decide to compete on price and reduce your frame prices to $7?
- Now you need 200 customers to still make that $200.
- Doubling your customer base is not easy.
- Instead of this, let’s say you up your picture frame prices to $9.
- You now only need 66 customers to make $200. In other words, a third of your customer base can leave and you still make the same amount
Remaining customers can benefit from the better service you can give them and you have more time to spend on marketing and other activities beneficial to the business.
If you just lose 20% of customers through the price rise then you can bet they were mostly the high maintenance ones that caused the most hassle, paid late, and kept asking for extra discounts.
Get clients to come back for more
Given the cost of acquiring new clients, it’s surprising this is one area that is overlooked by many photographers.
I’m always keen to make sure that images we’ve provided are used well, and am happy to offer free advice on colour management and image processing (both having the potential for selling training services too)
Keep contact with your clients – make sure that when they next want a photographer, it’s you that they call.
I was discussing this with a wedding photographer, who quite reasonably wondered about the prospects for repeat business – unless they set up a law practice specialising in divorce. I pointed out that people who get married might want ‘anniversary portraits’ – make sure the client knows that you do portrait work too and keep in touch !
Couples also tend to have children, with all the associated portrait opportunities I know of one photographer who gets in even earlier, providing a pregnancy photo service…
I first heard of some of these business principles from a popular business speaker, Jay Abraham, who is paid to pass on this sort of stuff to big corporations the world over.
If you look to increase each of the three areas by just 10%, you are looking at a total increase in revenue of 33% – could you do with an increase in business of a third?
One minor caveat to this. Remember that a increasing your business by a third does not equate to one third more profit. You need to look at what aspects of your business are making money – but that’s a lot easier once you’ve started looking at more details of just how your business is working. To increase any aspect by 10%, you need to know the basic numbers to start with. If you know those numbers, you’re already well ahead of many other working photographers…
This is one of a series of short articles about the fundamentals of business, applied to running your own photography business – there are links to more, on our Business of Photography page.
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