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Issue No. 17 - Enigma

Top 10 ways to fail as a photographer

[Via Virtual Photography Studio] Every once in awhile I find something while out searching that gives me inspiration to write a new blog post. Today was one of those days. While I would never name names, I decided to give photographers some ideas on how to change their business around.

I just read that under normal times, the 80/20 rule applies. So in normal times, 20 percent of businesses will thrive and prosper, and 80 percent will hold steady or slowly go into decline.

But in today’s economic times, we move to a 95/5 rule. Meaning only 5 percent of businesses will thrive and prosper, and 95 percent will hold steady or slowly go into decline or failure.

And I know why.

You can’t give up; you have to work a little harder.

You can’t quit marketing; you have to market more efficiently.

You can’t do what everyone else is doing; you have to clear your own path.

So with those thoughts in mind, let’s discuss the 10 ways you can currently fail as a photographer, and hopefully you’ll see some ideas that can help turn around your own business.

1. Create a website like your competition. A ton of photographers use Flash presentation sites where they can input a little content and a selection of their favorite photographs. And yes, I’ve been to multiple sites that look exactly alike – the colors, photos and logo change, but they’re all so similar, they immediately lose their impact. Do something new and fresh. Make them say wow. Create a web presence that knocks the socks off of your prospects.

2. Charge what your competition charges. How did you figure your pricing structure? Did you look at other studios, and lower your prices because you’re newer at the game? That’s how today’s prices got so low. You have to charge what you’re worth. Great artists charge for their years of experience and training. They charge for their talent. And they charge for their expenses.

3. Give the same items in your packages as everyone else. “I give away the complete digital files because everyone else does.” If that’s your attitude, you’ll be in the 95 percent group very quickly. People start comparing when you’re just like your competition. If everything stands equal, it comes down to price. So give them something so unique, they’ll never be able to compare.

4. Photograph just like everyone else. Where’s your flare? What’s your style? Sure, everyone starts out at the bottom, and spends years working on their talent. But eventually you come up with your own style, and you become recognizable.

5. Work at your pace and on your time. Do you work at the convenience of your clients, or for you? While everyone needs to set boundaries, its important that you meet your customers expectations as well. Being available by cell phone 7am to 11pm 7 days of the week is not necessary, and it also shows you’re clients you’re willing to be manipulated. But being available Wednesday nights until 9, and all day Saturday from 9am until 5 pm gives flexibility. Make sure they know when they can reach you – and when they can’t.

6. Give average customer service. Photography is a service business. Depending on your focus, you probably don’t have more than a handful of customers per day (on the high side). How much time does it take to give a little extra?

7. Charge for the extras. You do need to get paid for what you do. But do you really need to charge for little things? Incorporate them into your fees, and become an easy business to do business with. If you charge $1500 for a wedding, do you really need to charge $100 extra for weddings 50 miles or beyond from your studio? Instead, raise your fees to $1600 for everyone, and it will all average out.

8. Keep your fees low. It’s not about what you charge. It’s about what you provide. People want value, not low prices. Everyone has a different threshold in mind. You can’t be in charge of their pocketbooks. You simply have to charge what you need to build the business of your dreams. And there’s no way you can ever do that on your own charging $500 for an all-day wedding. (There simply isn’t enough weekends in the year to help you get to a full time income.)

9. Market in the same ways. If you’ve always advertised in the phone book or the local wedding guide, stop. Is it bringing in a full time business? If not, its time to change. Try a new website. Try creating a blog. Try networking with a new group. There’s a ton of opportunity – many for very low fees.

10. Complain. What do you say when you’re out networking, or meeting with potential clients? Do you say things like, “business is rough” or “I haven’t had a new client in a month” or “the one business that referred me just shut their doors”. Would you want to work with someone that constantly complains? Or would you rather be around someone that’s always looking at it positively. Attitude is everything in this business.

One of my favorite sayings is “fake it till you make it”. Even if you’re not at the Six Figure level yet, there’s no reason you can’t act like you’re there.

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