So you have decided to become a professional photographer. Or you have been a pro for a while. Either way, one of the cornerstones of photography is something that is becoming a lost art. They say “no man (or woman) is an island”. For photographers, this could not be more true! In today’s blog article we will explore the art of building photographer networks.
Most photographers, if not all, are small businesses. Many are one man shows. Sometimes you are lucky enough to have a partner or a spouse who has embarked on this journey with you. If you have been around 30+ years you may have a protégé or a child who is being groomed to take over the business. In ANY case, it is very likely that 80-90% of your business, is YOU.
This is NOT a bad thing. While your clients are hiring YOU to create a product, your product is almost as much the experience as it is the photos that are created. YOU create the specific brand of art that makes you a photographer. YOU create an experience for your clients that keeps them coming back for more. But, let’s just say, you are human, which means you are NOT invincible and unless you have found the fountain of youth you will NOT live forever (sorry to burst your bubble there).
At some point you are going to get the get sick, you could injure yourself or worse. What then? What happens when you shred your ACL and you still have 13 pre-paid weddings left to shoot in your wedding season? What happens when you have a full week of newborns and baby sessions and you end up with Influenza? What happens when you are in a car accident on the way to your biggest event of the year? What happens when this happy world of memories that you create comes to a crashing halt and you realize you are all alone? It’s SO many What if’s! I know! And we truly hope that you never have to deal with these things but the truth is, at some point, you probably will. Something WILL go wrong eventually if you are in the business long enough.
Because MOST photographers run single to two person businesses it becomes especially important to think of the “what ifs”. Even if you are a positive person, you need to prepare to protect your business and yourself personally. Building a network is about so much more than gaining new business. It is about inspiration, socialization and protection.
Over the course of the next 4 blog articles we will detail the types of networks that photographers need to build around themselves to help them become successful but for now we will give you an overview.
These photographer networks include:
Photographer Networks – Protective
The PROTECTIVE network is a culmination of people, places, businesses etc, that will help protect the livelihood of your business. This is probably the most important network to establish FIRST when you become a professional photographer.
Photographer Networks – Social
The next type network we will talk about will be a SOCIAL network. This is a place where you can make photographer friends. These people will become your cheerleaders and your critics. They will help you brainstorm and cry with you when things go wrong. They are your emotional support system in photography, and trust us, after dealing with your first overly emotional client you will need this!
Photographer Networks – Professional
A very important type network for any photographer (or ANY business person) to have is a PROFESSIONAL network. These are not necessarily other photographers but people in industries that support or surround you. These are people who are local to you who could be great sources of advertising and referral. For wedding photographers this might include wedding planners, florists, caterers, DJ’s, venues and more. For baby/ family photographers this could include pediatricians, kids clothing stores, or any other vendors who might be involved in children’s activities. For Senior photographers you could align yourself with prom dress locations, orthodontists, high schools and more. No matter what genre of photography you are in there are hundreds of connections that you can make to build your professional photographer networks.
Photographer Networks – Creative
The last type of network we will talk about is the CREATIVE Network. This can and usually WILL overlap with your SOCIAL network and that it OK. This is the type network that you build through professional organizations like the PPA, WPPI etc. You will learn through this network. You will compete in this network. You will find resources in this network. You will grow and evolve your business in this network. This is a photographer network that CANNOT be spared.
All of these photographer networks are important and serve to help you build yourself as a photographer and a business and none of them should be overlooked. Far too often photographers place themselves out there as islands. They isolate themselves and treat everyone like competition. We are all in this together and every photographer should realize that there is enough business to go around. Protecting your brother or sister photographer is protecting yourself!
Join us next week as we take a more in depth look at a photographer’s PROTECTIVE Network, what it is and how to build it! As always if you have comments or tips, feel free to comment below. We love to hear from you!