There are many factors to success in the creative industry. Of course a big chunk of it has to do with the quality of the work, but we know quality isn’t the only factor to being successful as a photographer, otherwise, there would be a lot more of us. Yet most photographers put all their efforts into developing their technical or artistic abilities and leave the entire business chunk untouched. Today I would like to touch on the passive nature of many entrepreneurs.
It is not enough to simply “start” a business. Many entrepreneurs have grand visions of their own success and visualize the finish line at every moment of every day. This may be a great form of motivation, but this “too far ahead of yourself” mindset often leads to a short list of accomplishments. If you are too focused on the end result, you are simply living in your imagination, and not spending enough time thinking about HOW to get there.
We need to change this mindset in order to jump start your success. Many entrepreneurs start a business, put up a website (in our case an online portfolio), they tell a few friends, maybe even throw up a Craigslist listing, then they go make a long island iced tea, sit back, and dream of dollars. This is the extent of their business strategy. The thought is that if they put up a good portfolio, it will get exposure, and clients will start pouring in. This is not a viable approach, and a terrible mindset for client acquisition. You should never EXPECT that your clients will come to you. That will one day happen, but your mindset needs to switch from catching to fetching.
What Is A Fetching Mindset?
If you are a dog owner, undoubtedly, at some point you’ve tested out its fetching ability. Heck, even my girlfriend’s cat plays fetch. It’s not a very hard concept. Instead of waiting for something to come your way, you run after it and get it yourself.
You need to realize you are entitled to absolutely nothing. If you want anything, it will come from your own efforts, and how much you have will be proportional to the amount of effort you give. A dog can only get the ball if he decides to run after it. How soon he gets the ball depends on how fast he runs.
That is exactly what you need to be doing with clients. Make a conscious decision to go after them, and give it all you’ve got.
How To Start Fetching?
1. Don’t rely on your work
Your work may be stellar. It may be revolutionary. It may even move me to tears. Yet the fact remains we work in a subjective environment. How a client ranks your work against another photographer will vary wildly by client. It will take more than your images to convince them that YOU will be the correct choice. Think about value added benefits. What extra perks beyond image quality do you bring to the table? Because the other photographer is also bringing image quality, and do you really want the final hiring decision to be a subjective one? Give your client all the information they need to make a fully informed decision.
2. Don’t rely on clients FINDING you
Clients are very busy people. Just like you they are running a business and have a million tasks to oversee. Their searches are brief and often based on a combination of top search results and networking. Knowing this, you should be researching your target market (you do have one right?) and finding out what they are specifically searching for and who they are talking to. If you can find that information then you can begin working on targeting your exposure to those groups and creating networks of people that will bring you closer to your goals. Use those networks and the exposure from targeted marketing to make direct contact with your clients. You need to be the one initiating conversation and introducing yourself. Don’t wait for anyone to open the door. Sometimes you just have to knock.
3. Don’t rely on referrals
If you can’t fetch for yourself, get someone else to fetch for you right? Not quite. Referrals are great. I would say 60% of my current business comes from referrals, but I would never RELY on it. A lot of new entrepreneurs think that all they need is a winning attitude and some great customer service and that will directly translate into several referrals per client. Not the case. You are relying on someone else to make the sales pitch for you. Some clients will forget, some will just go out of business, whatever the case may be, it’s not a reliable source of new clients for your business. Think of it as a bonus, but never stop pursuing your own sources.
4. Don’t forget to plan
You can be ferocious and hunt down every single client in a 100km vicinity, but it is not enough just to show up at the door. Part of changing your mindset will require you to stop focusing on the finish line, so by occupying your thoughts with sales pitches and step by step strategies, you can begin finding clients AND turning them into YOUR clients. A solid business strategy will make you more confident in front of your clients who in turn will have more confidence in you and your work.
I hope what you’ve read here has inspired you to be a bit less of a dreamer and a little more practical. I know they say not to play in traffic but sometimes the best way to stop a moving vehicle is to get in front of it. Don’t be afraid to stop your clients dead in their routines and come up with an action plan to have them notice you. Be pro-active, and seriously, don’t play in traffic.
Feel free to visit me anytime at Peter House – Commercial Photographer to follow our work.