Post by TWiP Contributor Shannon Rosan
#1 – Thinking Everyone Wants to Hire You
When you are first starting out the truth is no one wants to hire you, unless you are dirt cheap or free. That is the hard truth. Why would anyone trust you to shoot the most precious day of their life with someone who has little or no experience? Even if you are free. The risk is just too high for many people. How does one gain experience? Become a second or third shooter to a seasoned professional wedding photographer whose work you admire. A second shooters job is to assist the main shooter, get alternative angles to a scene, carry bags, etc. It is a fantastic way to learn as most of the pressure is off and allows you to observe how the seasoned professional works. If second shooting is just too much to start off with consider third shooting or assisting for free. Second shooting will help you build your portfolio but also will help you learn how to manage a timeline on a wedding day, anxious family members, posing, directing, and dealing with any disasters of the day – That type of knowledge is absolutely priceless and is just as important as creating beautiful wedding photographs.
#2 – Taking Every Wedding that Comes Your Way
Whoa. Wait. Really?
Taking every person that is willing to hire you is a huge mistake. Why? Not everyone is a good fit. If your gut is telling you this is not going to be a good relationship – trust that feeling. Clients who just hire you because they ‘need' a photographer and you are in their price range creates bad profits. Bad profits is taking a profit for today but ultimately losing money in the long – or worse. Clients that are not a good fit will not value your work – no matter how wonderful it is. They will not value you or your time. And the most frightening of all – they will tell all their friends how disappointed they were with their wedding photographer and how you ruined their perfect day. Negative word of mouth like that travels incredibly fast and is so hard to recover from. Avoid the above nightmare situation by creating a ‘Client Profile.' Write down all the key attributes of the client you want to work. When writing your client profile be extremely specific. An example of your Client Profile should look something like this depending on your personality/criteria:
Loves to read style blogs like Style Me Pretty, Wedding Chicks, etc.
Already you can start to get an idea of the type of person this is. Once you have a very detailed ideal client profile written up, it will be the springboard to our next topic – branding.
#3 – All I Need is a Website
Having a website is absolutely vital in showcasing your work. There are quite a few companies offering nice looking website templates for a great price. Making it extremely easy for the average person to plug in their photos, a little text and viola! Instant branding. Except that your branding looks like every one else's. With all the cookie cutter branding out there how will you attract your ideal client? Simple answer is – you won't.
Hire a professional graphic designer. The initial investment is worth so much in the long run at setting up a good foundation for you business. Provide them with your ideal client profile, show them your photography and together you can figure out the underlying metaphors behind them. Is it – Romance? Creating a Legacy? Light Hearted? A mix of all of these? You are now on the right track for creating branding that portrays your personality and attracts your ideal client.
#4 – Not Accounting for Your Time
An initial mistake many new photographers make is thinking they are making a ‘ton' of money per hour. If you charge $1500 for 6 hours of wedding coverage, that equals, $250 an hour. You might think you are rich. The problem is not accounting for all the time spent in client consultations, emails, phone calls, driving, and then spending hours or days editing that one wedding. If we take all that in account – you've lost money. Accounting for your time is crucial in sustaining a successful business in the long run. If you don't you run the risk of burning out or not making enough money to keep the business going.
#5 – Thinking Success Happens Overnight
Getting a business off the ground and running let alone profitable takes time. As much as we would like things to happen overnight – they just don't. It can take years to really dial in the perfect mix of great branding, pricing, photographic skill and attracting the right clients that get you to the next level. Don't get discouraged if things aren't happening as fast as you'd like them too. In fact it's normal. Just be aware that a lot of hard work, perseverance and creativity are required to be a successful wedding photographer.