002 How to Go Full-Time with Your Photo Biz
Welcome to The Profitable and Happy Photographer. Here we discuss business, marketing and life from a photographers perspective. If you are a photographer, small business owner, entrepreneur or mom finding her way, you are welcome here. I’m Kellianne Jordan, I’ve been a wedding and portrait photographer for over 16 years and I have learned the ups and downs of running a business, having a family and keeping things in balance. Now I coach photographers and entrepreneurs on how to create businesses that delight their souls, provide an actual income and allow them to have a happy and profitable life. If this sounds like what you are looking for then you are in the right place.
If you are wondering how you can go from hobby or side gig to full-time photography business it’s not as hard as you think.
Today we will be talking about how you know you’re ready and what you need to do to be able to go full-time and have a successful, fully booked photography business. This podcast is filled with everything you need to go to know if you are ready to go full-time with your business and what you need to have in place to make sure your business thrives.
- We talk about what to expect with a business plan and sales.
- We talk about niche marketing and how to choose the niche market for your business.
- We go over what you need on your website to make sure people are truly understanding who you are and are seeing your best work so they book with you.
- Listen in because we also talk about the best ways for you to market your business right away (and for free!).
I see three different types of people who want to go from hobby to full-time.
- You’ve got those who have been doing this on the side, just as a side hustle, and now you really want to dive in and do this full-time because, let’s say your kids are in school (finally) and you have more time or, whatever the reason is, you’re ready to go from just sort of seeing if this could work to having it be a full-time business. If this is you, I want to say, “Awesome!”. It is time to dive in if you are ready emotionally and you have the time to work on your business.
- The second person is somebody who just quit their job, or maybe got fired, somebody who needs to have income coming in right now. Friend, you probably have a lot of time on your hands and you really need the money. So I want to say, it is even more urgent and more important to listen to this whole podcast, understand exactly what you need to do to actually book clients and get them in your door because you need the money in your pocket now- you have bills to pay.
- The third person is going to be that person who works full-time. Now you’ve been doing this photography thing for a while, it’s just been here and there, on the weekends and at night, and now you’re thinking, “you know what, I’d really like to do this full-time”. “I really don’t wanna be at my job anymore.” “I’m ready to quit and just go for it OK.” Now if you are this person, you are in a tricky situation because you’re limited on time, but you have resources to pour into your business right now. So what I wanna say to you is, before you quit, it’s best if you can save up money to be able to pay your bills in case you don’t book things out. I’d say save up 3 to 6 months worth of money. And on top of that you want to be spending your time investing into your business to get it set up for success, and especially into marketing, because before you quit your job, you’re gonna want to see a fully booked calendar.
Fully booked means something different to each person and it’s going to depend on what your business plan is. So now that you know who you are, when you’re thinking about going full-time, I want to make sure that you have a really solid business plan in place.
When I first really started taking my business seriously, I mean this was years and years and years ago, I made a business plan and I ran the numbers and I was like, “Yep! I’m going to shoot two sessions per week and then I’m gonna shoot 30 weddings every year and I’m gonna make like $200,000 every year.”
Those numbers looked amazing, but I want to make sure that you guys have a reality check and know that you’re not gonna stay fully booked out all the time. So it’s really good to have a goal in mind as far as what you’re trying to book, and then really look at the marketing and try to book those things.
Make sure it’s really what you want you to do and that you can actually do the work and get it turned around quickly to your clients, because there’s nothing worse than a photographer who is fully booked up at really cheap rates, and then can’t get the images to the clients. I promise you those clients will not come back.
A really good goal when you are first starting out is to aim for two sessions a week. If you can do three sessions a week that’s even better because it’s more income.
So let’s say that you are aiming for 2-$500 sessions per week. If you multiply that thousand dollars by 50 weeks you have $50,000 of income coming in which is fantastic. But I want to ask you, if you only booked half of that would you be OK? Is $25,000 a year OK with you for the first year?
When I’m coaching photography students, I am all about making $100,000 in one year, so I’m hoping that the 25,000 is not OK with you and that you want to do more. But if it is OK with you then I would say that’s a really good sign that you’re ready to try and do this on your own and to really push forward with your business because, maybe you don’t need a ton of money, you just need some and you really want to get the business and the marketing nailed down. $25,000 is good for the first year, if you’re not needing more than that to pay your bills.
For those of you who are like “oh my gosh, that is not enough money”. I got news for you, the first year is hard. People are still just finding out about who you are, they don’t know what you offer, they don’t know what you do, and if your photography isn’t top-notch, like really high-end photography, you are going to have trouble booking out and you’re probably going to be at an average of one session per week.
Especially if you charge what you are worth.
So before I really dive into all the rest of the stuff that you need to put in place to really make sure that you are booking out right away when you decide to go full speed ahead and make this your full-time job, I want to take just a bigger picture look at everything that needs to be in place and why.
My goal for every photographer I coach is to make sure that they are marketing to the highest end client possible. Now that doesn’t mean that you need to be booking high-end clients, it just means that the marketing that you do needs to resonate with those high-end clients because that will filter down. So if you are actually booking the medium income families for your $500 sessions, that’s OK because if you look high-end they are going to feel like they’re getting a deal and they are going to feel like you are the most amazing photographer possible, and that’s really exciting because that’s how you get referrals, which is just free marketing. That is also how you get people coming back through the door. You wow them!
As you’re starting out and you’re wanting to dive into this full-time thing, there are a couple things that you need to have in place. That's going to be a Facebook page, and probably an Instagram page because photographers are searched for there, and then a website. Now the website isn’t necessarily something you have to have right away, but if you want to go full-time, I’d say, yeah, it’s kind of a big deal.
On top of that, if you are trying to market to the higher-end client the website is going to be huge for them and it needs to be mobile friendly, because they’re going to book from their phone. They are busy and they want professional amazing beautiful photographers who are easy to understand, easy to get to know, and easy to book with.
Once you have those items in place you need to make sure that your client communication is really perfect, and by that, I mean you’re going to need pricing guides to send out, you’re going to need emails that you send out consistently- so the same pre-written email over and over again that you can tweak for each client. Make sure that your client communication is simple and easy. You also need a planning guide so that they know how to plan for their session, and then you probably need some sort of thank you package afterwards.
Now, you might be thinking well, “I’m not marketing to the high-end person”, but I want to remind you that this is a really competitive industry these days and you need to set yourself apart, so even if you aren’t marketing to the high-end photography client, you still need to make sure that your clients know and love you. You need to help them to understand who you are and how amazing it is to work with you by knocking their socks off every step of the way.
Next, you need to get back to clients quickly. Even if you are working a full-time job, you still need to be checking your emails every single day, because no matter where you’re at in this path, you need to respond to your clients within 24 hours of them emailing you or Facebook messaging you or texting you. You have to respond to them right away or they are going to go find someone else to book with.
The number one thing that I hear from my clients is, “Oh you picked up the phone. Wow, that’s amazing,” and then they book with me. Or “Wow, I can’t believe you got back to me so fast. I’m so excited, let’s book.” I kid you not, showing up quickly and being there and being responsive, is the easiest way to get somebody to book with you. It’s also one of our top priorities when working with wedding photographers to book their clients at Taylr Made Marketing.
On top of that, I want to talk about the website. You need to make sure that when people come to your website, it’s helping them book with you. So you want to make sure that it explains clearly what you do, visually first, because that’s what they’re there to look at is the photos. You should have one niche market that you are marketing to. If you photograph multiple things, you may want to consider multiple websites, subdomains or at the very least, having one target audience that you’re really talking to, and then on your website you can show the rest of what you photograph in the blog, or have landing pages where you can send people.
For example, I was doing weddings, branding sessions and families. I have three different websites under my main website - so three different subdomains under my main domain. If you go to my website you’re going to go to the main page and that’s going to direct you to my weddings, branding, family sessions and then also to my photographer coaching site. For me, what this does is breaks it up by category so that when somebody actually goes straight to that site through my ads or through links that I send out, they’re actually feeling like I only specialize in one thing and that I’m the most amazing photographer at that. This is fantastic because I spent a lot of time, 17 years, developing these three different paths and I actually am really great at all of them and I want to make sure my clients feel that I am the best. I want them to get that full experience of working with somebody who knows what they’re doing.
I want to remind you that even though I’ve been doing this for 17 years, and you probably haven’t, you are still really good at what you do. If you weren’t really good, you wouldn’t be getting bookings and you wouldn’t be feeling like you need to do this full-time.
I do want you to really consider what your true passion is and what you really want to focus your photography on. If you’re having trouble understanding what it is that’s drawing you to that type of photography, I do coaching calls on helping people figure this out, because it's so important to start with the right niche. This niche is what people are going to know you for. It’s what you’re going to tell people you’re the best at, and that’s what they’re going to book with you all the time. That doesn’t mean they’re not going to book other things with you, it just means that you are going to present yourself out there to the world as the best at _______.
On your website, you want to make sure that those photos are really clear, that you say who you are and something exciting about why you are doing this, so that they connect with you. You really need to make sure that they see a good amount of your work. A portfolio is usually 10 to 20 images. If you’re showing them each session or a couple different sessions, it’s about the 15-30 images for each one of those just so they get an idea of what they’re going to get from you when they book with you. The main portfolio they see first should be 10-20 images max from a variety of places.
You also want to give them something for free, so some kind of an opt in, and not just a newsletter, but something fun where they can put their email address and you give them something. If they get on your newsletter email list, that’s really great! You also need a contact form. These are just the minimum that you need. There are a few other elements that can be infused into your website to actually make people excited to land on your page and to work with you.
My goal is to make sure that you are booking and that you have support in this, because I actually want you to succeed. I really love helping photographers figure this stuff out, because I know that it’s not easy. I have spent so much time developing the systems and figuring it out for my own business, by learning from other professionals in different industries, that I want to make sure you have this information too.
And because I am so passionate about making sure you guys succeed, we have actually added on website design services for photographers specifically. So if you are struggling with understanding the design elements and what needs to happen to make sure that when leads come to your website, that they actually click, and either opt-in or submit a submission form, let me help you figure this out.
One of the things that I love doing is figuring out your backstory and who you are and how to explain your passion and what makes you different to clients, in a way that makes them connect with you, and want to book with you right away.
Telling Your Story
Telling your story is a really great way to get people to understand you, understand why you’re doing what you do, and book with you right away, but it has to be the right story. It has to be the right messaging, and this is something that I help with. As far as website design goes, we do all the copywriting in your voice- I used to be an actress so I actually have a really fun time with videoing you and then taking on your voice and doing all the copywriting for you. So if website design is one of your biggest hurdles, if you don’t know how to communicate who you are, what you do, and why they should book with you, please reach out to my team and we will help you get started on web design and messaging because this is so so important.
OK, so now you’ve got your Facebook page going and you’re posting 15 images from every session on your Facebook page, you are posting images on Instagram, you’ve got your website beautifully made, you have your client communication figured out, and you are ready to book a lot of clients, respond to them quickly, communicate well, photographed beautifully, and provide an amazing experience - that’s when you’re ready to start marketing so you can go full time.
I’m always hesitant to have people dive into spending money on marketing before they have these pieces to the puzzle in place, because I want you to wow your clients and not get overwhelmed with inquiries or the work itself. That’s why these pieces really should come first.
So how do you do it? How do you actually get those bookings? Each person has a unique personality and because of that, we are each going to be marketing our businesses differently.
I will talk to you about a few different ways that you can really get out there and be seen quickly, easily and without a lot of money, but you may want to take it a step further and actually spend money to make money. I know it’s a cheesy saying, but it’s true. I will spend a dollar constantly if I can make two dollars - I am super happy with doing that.
So let’s talk about the free ways that you can do marketing. The first thing is going to be SEO and blogging. You want to make sure that your SEO is top-notch throughout your website and on your blog. This includes adding SEO to every single image on your website, as well as all of your keywords in your text. It’s really critical that you do this right because if you do it in a sneaky way, then you get caught and Google won’t show your website -they might take it offline. There’s a way to do this well and constantly, if you’re interested in knowing more, I have an SEO course that you can look at. It teaches you all the ins and outs in a really simple, easy way. I am not a tech person, I expect you are not either, the course makes it really clear how to maximize your SEO so that you can show up in search results for your clients.
The main things come down to making sure that you have the right tags and the right labels on your photos especially for your blog, and then that you’re blogging consistently. You also have to use keywords throughout your blog, throughout your website, and then make sure that your page has the correct SEO as well.
IG + Pinterest
The next thing is that you’re going to want to use Instagram and Pinterest consistently. Pinterest is really great because you can pin three times a day different photos from your blogs or graphics that you’ve made to send people to the blog post. If you’re having trouble coming up with a blog post, blog every session. Blog a lot of photos from the session - that will help your clients really understand what you offer and will help them be able to see your work better.
Do that and then you can also come up with how-to blog posts, give tips and ideas that will help them get a better session, and you know other fun stuff about your life so they get to know you. You also want to give them multiple opportunities to contact you or opt-in in the blog post, otherwise- why did you go through the effort of getting them there?
Local FB Groups
Joining local Facebook groups is also a great way to get your name out there. It’s a bit of a hustle and you constantly have to check in to see if people are asking for a photographer. Some groups allow you to place ads, I prefer the ones that only allow paid advertisers to place ads. The cost per lead is so low in these groups that I actually love paying for these advertising opportunities.
You can also post on YouTube, Twitter, Tiktok, Linked In and more. The more you can get yourself out in front of people, the better. That all being said, it’s best if you can choose 3 places to focus on so you can not only show up, but show up well to those audiences. Once you nail those, then try something new.
In social media, it’s not about the follower count, but how well you can get the followers to take an action. The goal is to get their email so you can constantly show up in front of them, through your newsletter or weekly emails as a helpful source of info for them.
Another great resource is having a Google listing. You no longer need an address to post your business, just a service area, which is amazing. Get on there, and remember to ask past clients for reviews. Reviews on your Google listing will go a long way in getting you in front of people who are ready to buy.
Then there is the paid advertising. This includes Google ads, Facebook ads, trade shows and more. I always like to test ads and constantly check in on them and tweak things. If you are not willing to monitor your ads then this may not be the right avenue for you at this time.
Remember that wherever you do advertising, you need to show up the way that people want you to show up on that platform. So for Facebook, people want fun stories, educational posts and interesting articles that help them. Once you’ve shown up in this way multiple times to the same audience, that’s when you’ve earned the right to tell them your real offer and ask them to buy from you. I go over all of this in my foundational course: Profitable and Happy Photographer: The Business of Photography. I built my entire business on Facebook advertising and continue to do so today. It’s a powerful tool if you do it right. And yes, there is a right and wrong way to use FB advertising.
- The big concepts here are that you need to know your niche, your story and how to communicate that to your audience.
- You need to have things in place to wow your clients, be able to communicate quickly and effectively with them, and have your photography worked out so you can deliver the same style and quality of images over and over again.
- Then you need to figure out where you are most able to do marketing- this often comes down to your personality and matching the marketing strategy to your personality so you have more of a chance of succeeding with it.
- When you are able to drive traffic to your business, easily book and wow clients, then you can book out your season.
That was so much!! I hope you were taking notes. It’s a lot of work to really do this business well, but that work is what will help set you apart from the photographers who aren’t as reliable. If you want to go deeper into this process and how to actually succeed at all these types of marketing then please check out my Profitable and Happy: The business of Photography Course. I will go through:
- How to find your style and story,
- How to set up a profitable business plan,
- How to find your marketing personality and
- How to use 14 different marketing strategies to grow your business.
It’s seriously jam packed with info to help you go from hobby to full time quickly. You can find that course at Taylrco.com under courses.
Lastly, for those who still have a full time job and you don’t have time to get these pieces in place, I have a done-for-you package where my team creates a custom website with copyrighting and full SEO. We create blog posts, FB ads, we create your Google listing, your business and marketing plan, all your client communication and more. We basically do all of the work that typically takes photographers years to do, in just 2 months, for you, so you can focus on growing your business and leaving your current job. It is an investment, but it took me 3 years to really get these items in place and, let’s face it, that’s too long. I want you to get over this hurdle of setting up things right so that you can have long term success.
If you are interested in that service please contact my team so I can chat with you one on one. Again, you can contact us at [email protected]
So I know I mentioned a number of courses. I really can’t dive deep in this format into each of the pieces because there are a lot of tech items that you need longer videos for, which is why I have created the courses.
I’m truly passionate about helping you grow a profitable business around your lifestyle and I hope you will dive into this process on your own, or with me by your side.
Thank you for joining me today! Please subscribe so you don’t miss any amazing marketing tips. Don’t forget to share the podcast with your friends or with anyone who may benefit from marketing education. It really helps us keep this podcast going. Thank you again and don’t forget to join us next week to learn :)