How to Make Your First $1000
If you’re struggling to convert your photography hobby into an effective business venture, you’re not alone! Many photographers find that when the time comes to stop shooting photos for friends and family alone and start shooting for paying customers, they struggle with the transition. If you’re ready to stop shooting for fun and start shooting for profit, these simple steps will help you make your first $1000 and feel like a real, professional photographer.
Step One: Define Your Focus
From your first photography client, it’s important that you clearly define your focus. Working with a mentor in the field who can check out your photos, discover what you do best, and offer guidance moving forward is a great first step. Consider these questions to help you better define your focus:
–> What type of photos do you really enjoy taking?
–> How much stress are you comfortable with? For example, family pictures can usually be redone, but wedding shoots have to be captured right the first time!
–> What pictures in your portfolio are the best? What pictures really stand out as your best accomplishments? This might be a great way to discover what your focus should be, especially if you notice a theme among your best pictures.
As you’re defining your focus, make sure you’re clear about the services you plan to offer. Will you be delivering prints or digital copies of the pictures? How long do you want your sessions to last? While it’s okay to go a little over, especially if you have some extra time in your day, you don’t want what was supposed to be an hour-long session to transform into five outfit changes and one location shift. How much editing do you want to take on? Clearly defining your limits will ensure that taking on paying clients doesn’t become the biggest headache of your photography career.
Step Two: Build Your Portfolio
Your portfolio is the representation of your work that potential clients will study in order to decide whether or not they want to hire you. As such, it should contain clear examples of your best work. As you’re building your portfolio, make sure you consider these key things.
–> Your portfolio needs to be filled with photos that represent your area of focus–that is, the types of pictures you’ll actually be delivering to your clients. If you’re focusing on newborn photography, sixteen pictures of your dog won’t help show your clients what you can do.
–> Make sure you include several examples of different styles, models, and settings in order to give potential clients a great look at what you’re able to do for them.
–> Have your mentor look at the pieces in your portfolio in order to ensure that you’re putting your best work out there.
–> Include your prices with your portfolio so that when clients ask, you’ll be able to tell them exactly what to expect.
Step Three: Network
In the photography business, it’s as much about who you know as what you can do. When you’re first starting out, you may not have the available funds to head to trade shows and events on a regular basis, but you can still take advantage of many networking opportunities.
–> Spread the word on social media. Ask your family, friends, and past clients–including the models you used for your portfolio–to help spread the word for you.
–> Create a website or other online portfolio that will allow interested clients to view your work from a distance.
–> Talk to people about your new business! You can’t get off the ground if clients don’t know that you exist; and many of your family and friends will be willing to give you their business instead of giving it to another photographer if they know what you’re able to do.
Step Four: Know Your Audience
As you’re getting your business off the ground, it’s important that you know your audience. Develop an understanding of your target audience. For example, if you love doing newborn photography, you need to know more about what new moms want from their photographer. If you want to shoot weddings, you’ll need to appeal to stressed out brides-to-be. The more you know about your audience, the better you’ll be able to target your photography directly to them.
While you’re studying your audience, take a look at local competitors. Research what they’re offering, including their price range, and how they became successful. Take a look at the things they’re able to offer clients and see how you fit into a niche of your own.
Step Five: Set Prices
Setting your prices is one of the hardest part of breaking out of the “hobby photographer” category and turning it into an effective business. Ask yourself these questions:
–> What would you like to make in a year?
–> How many clients are you able to handle?
–> What is your time and talent worth? Remember to charge what you’re really worth, rather than underselling yourself.
Step Six: Build Your Business
Customer referrals are one of the most important parts of your new photography business. Satisfied customers often fail to mention how much they loved what you’ve done unless it comes up in conversation, but in photography, word-of-mouth advertising is one of the best kinds there is! Ask customers for referrals. Encourage them to share your pictures or their sessions with you on social media. When you know a session has gone well, ask for a review on social media or on your website. Interested customers love to hear what past clients have to say about your business–and many of them will trust those reviews, especially the ones on social media or other places where a name is attached to the review, as much as they would trust an in-person recommendation.
Building your photography business won’t happen overnight. With these steps, however, you’ll find that it’s easier than you thought to make your first $1000 and make a move toward professional success. You can have the photography business you’ve always dreamed of! They key is thinking like a businessperson and marketing yourself appropriately for your audience.
Humberto Garcia is the world’s leading photography business growth expert.
Founder of Photography to Profits and high-performance coach to multiple 6-figure photography businesses. Humberto coaches photographers from his special operations military experience and photography sales and marketing experience. After years of high performance in Marine Special Operations and building businesses, he knows what works.