1. Shoot For Free.
No, not forever. But free work DOES always lead to paid work, in one way or another. Shooting for free in the beginning of my career eventually led down the referral line to help me book weddings over $10,000 for their photography collections. You have to start somewhere. Shooting for free gives you the time and experience to build a portfolio and gain the confidence in your shooting to ask for the right price. Also, shooting for free starts with offering to second shoot for others. Start networking with others like at your local Pictage User Group or in online forums, and you’ll discover photographers who need additional shooters for their weddings. This is the best time to watch and work with someone more experienced and see how they handle the stressful flow of a wedding day, while at the same time you are getting some great portfolio pieces to start showing your own potential clients (but double check that the photographer you are shooting for allows this!) Even now, 3 years into my photography career, I do still believe in selectively shooting for free as a way of tithing. We have each been given an amazing gift to serve others through our photography, and receiving truly is in the giving first.
2. Connect With Other Photographers
The great thing about the wedding industry is that a lot of people have moved beyond the mindset that a fellow local photographer is competition, and instead can be a great friend to help each other along the way. I like to joke that I owe my photography career to a Pictage User Group. I got asked to model at one for a photoshoot, and this was when my eyes really opened up to how amazing photography really is. From here, I became like a sponge wanting to learn everything I could about photography, bought my first camera, and made friends who allowed me to shoot with them. To this day, some of the best weddings I’ve shot have come via the referral of other photographer friends who were booked on a day and sent the inquiry my way, and I love doing the same in return. Plus, it’s fun to have friends who understand your foreign language called Photoshop.
3. Outsource from Day One.
Some days I like to think I’m superwoman and can handle running a 6-figure business all on my own. But I’ve made a resolution for 2010 to start thinking like a CEO who outsources different parts of my business instead of being an employee maintaining my business. One of the best decisions I ever made before I ever booked my first job was signing up for Pictage to handle my printing. I knew I didn’t want to be dealing with guests from the wedding who wanted to purchase an 8X10, etc, when I could be using my time to grow my business. Pictage has also allowed me to use their P3 system for accepting credit card payments, their free album design when I’m crunched for time and can’t do it on my own, and most securely, knowing all my client’s images are backed up forever on their server. There have been numerous times I’ve been out of town and a magazine asked for the high resolution images from a wedding to publish, with their deadline being before I could be back home to access my hard drive, and it was so awesome simply going to my Pictage account and placing an FTP request for the requested images I needed to forward to the publisher the very same day! The other thing that I recently outsourced that I’m kicking myself for waiting so long to sign up is ShootQ. It’s like hiring a studio manager to handle your client database, online contracts, tasks that need to be done, financial reports and bookkeeping. I can’t believe I ran a photography business without it in the past. It has truly helped me to organize my jobs and stay on top of my customer service that much better than before!
The most important thing I have learned about building a business is that, it’s not about faking it til you make it, but believing you WILL make it. Be true to yourself, to your vision, to the unique way YOU see the world through your camera and you will find your distinctive style that will attract clients who love exactly that!
Written By Scarlett Lillian