In my opinion, finding clients and booking jobs are the two hardest parts of being a photographer for a living. It has gotten much easier for me over the past four years, but still to this day I have to come up with some pretty creative ways to get new jobs. As many of you may know, I never went to college; not for photography, not for business, not for anything actually. I've learned all of the things I'm about to tell you by simple trial and error. Hopefully I can save you from making a few of the same mistakes I've made.
Q u a l i t y o v e r q u a n t i t y You may think this phrase only applies to your clients. Consumers need to consider that a quality photo shoot with 10 images is better than a crappy, amateur photo shoot with 100 images. It also applies to you in the sense that you don't want to overload yourself with $50 shoots with cheap people that you don't want to work with. Always make sure your client appreciates your art and never undervalue yourself. I got into owning a small business so I wouldn't have to work with ungrateful people and that's why I try my best to market myself to quality clients.
T r y n e w t h i n g s My real passion is in portrait and wedding photography, but I will never turn down the chance to try something new. There are still a number of things I would like to expand my skills in such as live concert photography and landscape photography, just to name a few. If you never try these things once, you'll never have the chance to find out how good you could potentially be at them. If you don't like them after all, at least you tried. I understand that fear of failure is a huge role in these types of situations, but I promise you, shooting a new experience is no different than trying a new food. Who knows, that guy you took car photos for could refer you to photograph his sister's wedding. Clients are often easily found when you're exploring.
E s t a b l i s h y o u r b u s i n e s s v i a s o c i a l m e d i a I don't care how against it you are, you must make a Facebook page for your business. Many people think making a Facebook page for yourself can be vain or pretentious, but I disagree. Facebook and other social media has been my number one source of jobs and I'm very sure many of my photographer friends would agree it is theirs as well. Sharing your photos on a tumblr page can lead to your image going viral on the internet, which is amazing, but always make sure you link it back to your website. Otherwise, those 153,672 notes on Tumblr mean nothing. Instagram and Twitter have both proven to be very useful to my social media marketing as well. All of these online platforms serve different, yet important, purposes. All in all, social media is a necessity for others to discover you.
G o o u t a n d g e t w h a t y o u w a n t 90% of clients aren't going to come to you. You must seek them out. I always keep a list of 'potential clients' who have previously inquired about my rates or booking a shoot who never got back to me. If I haven't heard from them in a while, I will message them with something like, "Hey! How are you? Were you still interested in setting up that shoot with me?" And half of the time, they say something along the lines of "Absolutely! I totally forgot about it and I'm so glad you reminded me!" Your efforts will almost always reward you. Don't ever be lazy.
C o m e u p w i t h y o u r r a t e s This one is easy. Every single time someone asks me, "What should I charge?" I always reply with the same answer - Charge what you're comfortable with. Of course you need to check out your competitions' rates, but if they're charging jack squat that doesn't mean you have to lower your rates. Don't worry about consumers potentially choosing their low ball price over your slightly higher rate. Your work will speak for itself and the photographer with the best quality work will prevail (9 out of 10 times.) Now if your competition is charging an arm and a leg, don't let that pressure you into charging way more than you're comfortable with. Personally, I could never charge $5000 for a wedding, but if you or someone else wants to, be my guest!
L o o k a n d s o u n d p r o f e s s i o n a l Professionalism is key. This one will come to you with time and experience, but it's never too early to learn the basics: good grammar, dress appropriately, and be a friend, not just a business (wo)man. Now when it comes to emails, make sure you're replying ASAP and always, I repeat ALWAYS, spell-check. I warn you, there will be mistakes. Heck, there's got to be a handful of grammatical errors in this blog post because I'm not an English major. I'm talking about EFFORT not perfection. When I say dress appropriately, I'm not asking you to look like you just walked out of a 'The Gap' ad. Again, just use that keyword EFFORT. I shouldn't have to tell you this, but be neat and presentable. 90% of my clients have become good friends of mine. Some of them are even best friends of mine. The people who book sessions with you believe in you and support you. Make sure you show them support too, no matter the occasion.
L o c k i n t h o s e d a t e s Unfortunately, I've learned this the hard way, but you must make every single client sign a contract and put down a deposit. And yes, your paying friends are clients too. Never trust a friend to do without a contract and a deposit, because they will be the first ones to cancel on you. It's happened to me too many times. If they're your friend, they'll understand why these precautions are necessary. I ask all of my clients to mail in a check worth 30% of their grand total to reserve their session date and to pay the remaining balance the day of. If they can't do that chances are they probably weren't that serious about booking a shoot in the first place.
If you have anymore questions on finding clients and booking jobs feel free to message me here. I may not be the 'oldest and wisest' photographer out there, but I've found myself to be pretty successful from taking these steps and I'm always open to sharing my knowledge with others.