"Ask Me Anything..." is a weekly blog segment where I answer your questions about photography, me, or...anything. Check back next Monday on my Instagram and Facebook pages where I'll be taking all of your questions. 1-What is your marketing strategy to reach your ideal clientele?
I'm a very lucky photographer because I truly LOVE all of my clients! Not all photographers can say this and I'll tell you why...they don't brand themselves in a way that helps them to attract their ideal client.
In order to do this, you have to have a clear and concise image of who your ideal client is. Where do they shop? Do they drink beer or wine? What kind of car do they drive? Do they like to travel?
Sit down and make a list that is as detailed as possible of what traits your ideal client would possess. This way, you will have a strong outline for what kind of content you should be creating for your social media platforms. As a very simple example, if your ideal client is a dog person, don't post cat photos. If your ideal client has an excellent fashion sense, keep your content fashion forward.
I have also attracted my ideal client, while setting myself apart in a saturated market, by choosing to remain very open about my personal life. Not a lot of photographers or business owners would agree with this approach but I have found there are a lot of benefits to this technique. First of all, choosing to remain vulnerable with what kind of content I put out helps me to remain approachable and relatable. I'm a person just like everyone else. Pretending to be perfect for the sake of upholding an image doesn't connect with my ideal client. I want my clients to feel like they know me before they work with me so we can establish an intimate exchange of trust and friendship right from the beginning. I also share personal stories and thoughts because I hope that, by doing so, my own experiences can potentially help or inspire others. I've found that, more than anything, people want to feel inspired.
Overall, as simple as this may sound, I attract my ideal client by choosing to remain authentic. I share my mistakes, my adventures, and my passions so that I may attract clients who are like minded.
2-What are your thoughts on including digital images for your clients? I personally do not include them but allow them to be purchased separately. I know lots of photographers include a disc or digital copies with all of the pictures. Wondering which way you advise.
Ahhh the age old question: Digital files vs. Product Sales. I'll just start by saying that I offer the digital files in my package. I explain to my clients that I will select the best images from their session or wedding day to be delivered through an online gallery called Pixieset. I do this for two reasons: 1) I am a straight forward person and I want a straight forward delivery method. Delivering images through Pixieset is simple, it looks elegant, and it's very straight forward. 2) My clients want the digital images. Yes, I could structure my packages in a way that upsells products and includes the digital files at a premium cost. Yes, I could make a lot more money by doing it this way. At the end of the day though, this approach just. isn't. right. for. me. This approach to business is not who I am as a person and it doesn't feel genuine for me. My main goal is to provide a "what you see is what you get"' exchange of services that leaves my clients feeling happy.
This is not to say offering products to your clients is taking advantage of them! Clients are coming to you because they want quality service and by offering beautiful products, you are delivering a great experience. I still offer the option for my clients to purchase products and albums, I just don't structure my packages in a way that makes the digital files more expensive.
At the end of the day, the approach with which you choose to structure your business model is a complete reflection of what feels right to you as a business person. If "In Person Sales" feels more natural to you, you should do that! If your ideal client is interested in a studio that offers premium products, then you should offer that! Stay true to what feels right.
3-What advice do you have for someone who's just starting out on the adventure of creating their own photography business?
First of all, CONGRATULATIONS! You are about to embark on the biggest adventure/challenge of your life! I originally started my business with the idea of "I want to take pretty pictures for a living." But, they don't tell you about the bookkeeping, the taxes, the emails, the marketing, the blogging, the learning, the self doubt, the expenses, the interpersonal communication skills, etc and so forth. Owning my own business has taught me so many wonderful things about myself while bringing me on some pretty amazing adventures. There hasn't been a day that I'm not grateful for discovering this passion and starting a business, but DAMN, it's hard work. Here are some tips for your journey:
1- EAT, SLEEP, and BREATHE YOUR BUSINESS.
Starting and owning any successful business will require 100% of your time, focus, and, well, life. While I fully believe in the concept of finding "balance," it can be a difficult thing to juggle building a successful business, having a family, maintaining a relationship, etc. It may get easier once your business is a bit more established, but in the beginning, my business was all I thought about. I sometimes joke that "my business is my boyfriend." With a job that requires me to work on the weekends and edit at home alone during the week, it's hard to meet people that understand this kind of schedule, let alone finding the time to go on dates.
Owning your own business is not a 9a-5p job. This is your all day everyday life. It is also my biggest sense of pride, joy, and love and I have never once regretted the decision to start my own business.
2- BUILD YOUR TRIBE.
If you work from home and don't have any employees, like me, being a business owner can be kind of lonely sometimes. There are many times when I need encouragement, company, ideas, or just someone who understands my frustrations. This is why it's so important to build your tribe. By "tribe" I mean, a network of like minded people (probably fellow entrepreneurs and photographers) who you can get together with to vent, talk about ideas, or just get out of the house. Yes, I have other really close friends that I can talk to but, unless they own their own business or are photographers, they just can't fully grasp what you're going through. Having a close group of friends who I feel supported by has helped me tremendously on my journey.
3- DON'T COMPARE YOURSELF TO OTHERS.
As creatives, we strive to attain the same level of greatness as those who have inspired us. We are constantly growing, learning, and improving...while constantly making ourselves feel like we're not good enough by comparing our journey to others. STOP IT! Just stop it right now! (Reaches through the screen to slap you). You are an individual with rare and brilliant creative vision...why would you compare your talents to those of others? You are at a stage in your journey that is specific to only you...why would you compare your journey to someone else's?
While it's important to strive to improve, to practice your skills, and to enhance your creative eye...it's also important to truly own who you are and what your voice is as an artist. Comparing your path to someone else's is the firs step to self-destruction and the number one killer of creativity. I know this because I constantly struggle with it. Blaze your own trail and own what you have to say to the world.
4- BUILD A TEAM.
When I started my business it didn't take me long to realize that I am only as strong as the people I surround myself with. As hard as I may try, I cannot do everything nor can I be everyone. I have a designated group of vendors that I choose to work with on styled shoots and always recommend to clients. These hair and make up artists, coordinators, florists, photographers, and graphic designers are all AMAZINGLY talented. Why wouldn't I want to surround myself with super talented people? It inspires me and, together, we create beautiful things.
5- SET YOUR INTENTIONS.
How will you know how to get somewhere if you don't know where you're going? Manifesting success into your life and making all your dreams come true is 100% a result of setting your intentions. Where do you want to be with your business in 6 months? Sit down and write out your specific goals. Maybe you want to have a website up and running by the end of the month. Write it down. Maybe you want to set your profits at 6 figures by 2017. Write it down. Now, how will you get there? Make a plan for yourself and stick to it. Write it out in big, bold letters and hang it somewhere you can look at it everyday. Setting goals for yourself is crucial to success.
"Ask Me Anything..." is a weekly blog segment where I answer your questions about photography, me, or...anything. Check back next Monday on my Instagram and Facebook pages where I'll be taking all of your questions.
1- What are your top 3 non-negotiable traits for a romantic partner?
Choosing a romantic partner is a really big commitment for me...as I'm sure it is for most people. I believe the people I choose to surround myself with and how they treat me is a direct reflection of how I feel about myself and my own worth. I have made many mistakes along the way to get to this point, but I no longer tolerate certain characteristics or behaviors from my romantic partners. While I think it's important to be able to compromise on fulfilling certain needs, I also believe it's equally as important to set strong boundaries for what you will and will not allow in your life.
My first non-negotiable trait for a romantic partner is drug use & smoking. I don't choose to include myself in this lifestyle and I don't want my partner to either. It's important to me for my partner to love and respect himself and his body.
My second non-negotiable trait is dependability. I want to be able to know I can depend on my partner. For me, this is a direct reflection of being able to trust in their ability to be on my team. If I can't depend on my partner, they won't make a very good teammate in life or in a relationship. Qualities in someone I can depend on include: doing what they say they're going to do, showing up for me emotionally and physically, being on time, etc.
My third non-negotiable trait in a partner is believing in marriage and family. I believe 100% in the sanctity of marriage and one day hope to start a family with someone who believes in the same values. If my partner doesn't believe in marriage or doesn't want kids we are obviously on two different paths.
2-How did you finalize your presets? How do you maintain consistency?
When I first started out, I struggled a lot with maintaining consistency in my editing style. I hadn't found any presets that worked with my aesthetic and edited everything by tweaking settings until the image looked the way I wanted it do. It wasn't until I started using Mastin Labs presets that I was really able to maintain consistency with my images. Mastin's presets are designed to edit your images to resemble a film scan. I love the classic and romantic look of film, however, I still make several tweaks to my images to add pops of vibrant color, lift or exaggerate shadows, etc. I'd say I use the Fuji Pro400h Neutral preset from the Fuji pack about 90% of the time. I love working with this preset and highly recommend it. (And, no, they're not paying me to sell them. I just really love their presets.)
3-How does one register as a photographer? Also, what is the difference between freelancing and owning a business?
Have you ever been paid to take photographs of someone? Congratulations, you're considered a professional photographer. Becoming a photographer isn't necessarily something you need to "register" for. When I first started taking pictures, I called myself a "photographer" even though I wasn't necessarily comfortable with it. I didn't feel that I was deserving of that title quite yet but decided I would "fake it till I make it."
Starting a business can be a pretty daunting task. There are several steps you have to go through to be qualified as an official "business." In order to break things down a bit, I'll go over what I did to legalize my business as "Taylor Kinzie Photography." Some of the choices I made when starting my business were right for me at the time, but you may choose to go a different direction. This is a matter of preference.
First, I knew I would need a large sum of money to invest in the equipment I needed to start shooting weddings on a regular basis. I knew that if I waited until I had enough money saved up it would take me many years to be able to afford the gear. For this reason, I decided to seek out a small business loan. For me, it was important to be able to invest in the gear sooner than later since I knew this was what I wanted to do NOW. In order to receive the funds for my loan I had to do the following:
1) apply for the loan
2) provide a detailed business plan breaking down the vision for my business, how I plan to profit in a saturated market, my branding, and my financial goals
3) apply for a business license
5) Register a DBA or "Doing Business As" name
4) open a business checking account
5) seek out business insurance coverage for myself and my equipment
6) provide a copy of my Fictitious Business Name Statement
7) you'll also need to be registered with the state to obtain a tax ID number dedicated to your business so you can pay taxes (yay!)
In answer to your question, "freelancing" and "owning a business" are kind of the same. If I work under the umbrella of another photographer I am considered a "1099 Employee." This means the person paying me is treating me as a self-employed worker and any profits I make from working for them will be put into my own business profits. This would be an example of a "freelance" job.
"Owning a business" would be a job that I booked under my own business name that will be providing profits directly from my own client.
There are several organizations under which you can "register" as a photographer. Most of these organizations are designed to protect your rights as a photographer or offer exclusive membership rights. Some examples include: American Photography Association, Professional Photographers of America, and American Photographic Artists. I am not a member of any of these organizations as the niche market I'm in (wedding photography) doesn't necessarily require this. If I were more heavily involved in commercial photography, I might consider something like this.
For Janae's shoot I wanted to capture something that was feminine and kind of whimsical. I felt that wardrobe from Free People would be able to provide that soft, flowy look I wanted. Janae actually did her own make up for this shoot. Not only is Janae a stunning beauty, but she is also an extremely talented make up artist and half owner of DoubleTake MakeUp Artistry along with her twin sister. Yes! She's a twin!
I've talked a lot about how I use Mastin Labs presets for my editing process. These presets have been the first to offer me consistency in my editing while also delivering the classic, film look I love. Using these presets isn't just the click of a button for me though. It took me some time to get into the groove of how I can make these presets work for me. I have both the Fuji Pro and Portra Packs and use them for different environments. The preset I use about 90% of the time, however, is Fuji Pro 400H Neutral.
One of the issues I had most often when I first started using these presets was skin tone. Skin tones can sometimes seem a bit undersaturated with this preset so I typically increase the vibrance and up the warmth. I also have to be careful sometimes to avoid blowing out the highlights in my images. I usually bring highlights down a bit after applying the preset.
I don't know that I could choose just one of the packs. I think the Portra Pack and the Fuji pack are both amazing and have their place for different settings and tones. Someone just mentioned they're having a 50% sale for Black Friday! I swear I'm not getting paid to promote them. I just really love these presets and hope they can make someone else as happy as they've made me.
How did you start networking with other photographers?
I love this question because I think networking is a very important skill to have in any industry. Having a strong network of peers in your field is vital to building a supportive team that you can trust and depend on.
I think the most important tip I can give would be to participate. Participate in workshops, seminars, classes, conventions, and parties. Go out to events and be social. Attending events like WPPI has been one of the best things I've done for my business and I can't wait to go again next year. Surrounding yourself with people who are just as passionate about what they do as you are helps to ignite and inspire you.
These will be the places you meet other passionate photographers. You can swap tips and tricks, offer your services if they need an assistant, etc. I would try to avoid coming across like you want something though. A person can sense when you're using them for your own agenda. Be generally open and interested in what people have to say. Show that you're eager to learn and can be a team player. At the end of the day, we're all just looking to work with someone we can rely on to work hard while having a little fun, too.
Do you travel for weddings? I would love to hear more about you and your style!
YES! YES! And more YES! My love for travel is a huge part of the reason I decided to pursue a career in wedding photography. In 2015, I was lucky enough to shoot weddings in Maui, Yosemite, Costa Rica, and Joshua Tree among many others. I love when I get to meet with couples who love to travel, too. Destination weddings are my favorite because they're typically a little more intimate and can be stretched out to be more of a week long experience as opposed to one day. Next year I'm setting my intentions to book more weddings internationally... maybe a Bali wedding? Perhaps a whimsical wedding in Ireland? Mama needs some more stamps on her passport!