003 Grow 3x Faster by Finding Your Niche
When I first started out as a photographer, I thought, if I could just book as many sessions and weddings as I could, I could make this photography thing work as a career.
I’d love to know how many of you have ever thought this :) or maybe you are thinking this right now? There’s nothing wrong with that thought.
If you are in that place where you want to do more to make more, let me caution you. Doing less, might help you make more instead. Today, we are going to walk through all the reasons why focusing on one thing will help you grow your business 3-5x faster.
I want to walk you through my experience over the last 16 years and how I grew my business, becoming the best in my field at multiple things. Why this was good and why it may have held me back too. My goal is to help you see why having a niche and doing niche marketing can be the best thing for you- especially when you have a bigger purpose with your business.
I started photographing weddings almost by mistake and learned quickly to love it. I still love weddings! They are magical! What’s not to love? Plus I thrive in chaos so even the worst weddings, I love. From weddings, I learned to love family photography and watching families grow, capturing those sweet little smiles and moments that mom will love forever- I love it! But looking back, I can see where my true passion for headshot and branding photography started. I was a kid actor and I love photographing kid actors now. I had a number of clients early on and really unique ways of photographing them. I also got a ton of business headshot clients. I mean, this really was the main part of business for years. But I kept thinking that I had to build a wedding and portrait business because that’s what you do. I could see that headshots were lighting up my soul inside. I could see my true purpose and calling. But I ignored it.
I don’t know how easy it really is to just magically see your purpose. I’ve had to work hard to figure it out, because honestly, I love all three categories of what I specialize in: wedding, portraits and headshots. But when I look at my life and what I photograph, I see the small picture. That small picture is beautiful, and has a purpose of bringing joy to my clients and the world by allowing them to see the beauty inside them through my photos, but it stops there. For me, photographing weddings and portraits doesn’t have a big picture purpose- at least, not as big of a purpose as my headshot photography.
Now, I’m a four enneagram. This means I NEED a bigger purpose or I can’t function. It’s why I love coaching! I have a bigger purpose of helping to make your life better so you can bring more joy to the world and have more flexibility in your own life. I imagine that you will do something great with that energy and help in small ways to change the world.
That’s how I feel about headshot and branding photography. I know that if I can tell stories well and show people, not only how beautiful they really are, but help them share their story with the world, that together we can change the negativity in the world, to something positive. We can help people in significant ways outside of their own home. That’s what I love about headshots and branding.
I wish I would have gone all in on that one niche at the beginning because I would be the top in my industry right now if I had. I was the top headshot photographer in my area in Oregon, and I am again the best in my area in California. I did this quickly, in less than 6 months, in both places, so I know if I would have had the last 16 years to focus on that one thing, that my life would be totally different.
Instead, I focused on 3 niches, because I couldn’t decide- heck sometimes I feel like I still can’t! But I presented each of them as a niche, which I’ll tell you about in a minute because it really helped my business grow. I focused on how to get really great at marketing my business, because I ended up marketing basically for 3 photography businesses: my weddings, my headshots and my family photography.
I learned marketing really really well, which is why I teach marketing to photographers now. So as you are thinking, why do I need a niche? If Kellianne has 3 niches, why can’t I? I mean, yes, you can shoot whatever you want to- and you should! But when you have one niche, here’s what happens…
- You can focus on getting your system perfect and quick.
- You end up having more time to make your images better.
- You capture the same great thing for each of your clients, time after time.
This actually gives you so much freedom because you can begin to work faster when it’s the same each time, saving you time and giving you your life back.
I remember when I used to edit 100 family images from a session and it would take me 4-6 hours. Now it takes about an hour to cull and edit an entire session. It only takes me about 4 hours for an entire wedding. It’s quick!
Not only that, but
You can focus on marketing to your one niche market and become the best at that one thing to those people. This means you will be the sought after person for that one thing. And because of this, your business will grow 3-5x faster than the photographer who splits their focus. Plus it saves you time and money to only focus on marketing and paid ads for one niche. You can also start to say no to bad clients- those that you know aren’t the right fit for you because they aren’t your target audience.
Let me ask you this, what would your life look like if you had a niche?
This was not something I asked myself at the beginning and later, I feel like I got so good at weddings- that I don’t want to let it go, even if it isn’t my purpose and my true passion. I also love family photography, but again, is it the best thing for me to do? Should I grow this family photography business knowing that my true purpose lies with branding photography? These are the questions I still ask myself. The accountant side of me says “yes, keep shooting families because it's a great income”. The photographer side of me says “yes, you are great at it and your clients love you and are loyal”. But the soul, purpose driven side of me often says “No, focus on your one mission and trust in it”.
So I want to ask you, what is your true mission? What is the one thing that gives you a bigger purpose in life?
Maybe we should start with an easier question: Why are you doing photography as a business?
I know part of it is to give you a creative outlet that allows you to bring in an income on a somewhat flexible schedule, even if it means giving up nights and weekends.
Some of your answers might include providing a great service to your clients to delight them.
But let’s ask this question: if you didn’t do it, would someone else be able to? If the answer is yes, then one of two things may also be true: 1. You aren’t looking at the bigger picture of your calling. Or 2. You haven’t found your true calling to see a bigger picture.
If someone else could replace you completely, then look deeper at why you are doing what you do. I know other photographers may be able to provide a similar service as mine, but the heart and purpose behind it is different. That’s what makes me so unique- it’s who I am and how I show up for my clients.
I have a photographer friend who I’ve done a little coaching with who found her true bigger picture calling as a photographer and I want to share her story with you as an example. She found her calling in family photography working mostly with families who struggled with infertility. This was her struggle and she wanted to make sure that those who finally got a child, had every moment captured. She knew that these moments were maybe more precious to those with infertility issues because of the long years of struggles and sacrifices it took to create their family. I love her story. She has a mission and a bigger picture of stopping time so they can cherish each of these moments, but it goes beyond motherhood. It touches the soul in a way that only those with this same struggle can truly identify with. Now, someone else could photograph the family, but would they have the same goals in mind? Would they do it in a way that allows the client to feel the same way about the photos? No.
For me, with my family photography, I know that capturing the right joyful moments and connections brings me joy. I struggled with depression for almost 15 years and it wasn’t until my first kid was born that I actually started to see the light. I had the opposite of postpartum Depression. My kids bring me so much joy! But the days are hard too, friend! So when I can stop on those hard days and look at pictures of my kids and the joy I know they bring me, it delights my soul. It makes my days a little easier. It reminds me that life may be hard, but it has its ups too. This is the joy that I bring to my families. It’s a bigger picture calling - which is why I can’t quite seem to let it go, even if I should be focusing on branding.
I’m really not trying to make this about me. I just want you to see into the mind of someone who has it all figured out - and yet still struggles with the same things you do! And maybe part of it is just that we change as people over time. How can we change and grow our photo business as we change?
I want to teach you how I specifically do things, but before I get into that, I want you to write down your passion.
If you know why you became a photographer and what you are truly passionate about photographing, write that down.
What is that one thing you can focus on that gives you a bigger picture purpose? What are you trying to change in the world? What is your niche?
If you are like me and you actually have multiple things that you are excellent at shooting and that give you a bigger purpose, how do you still photograph each of them and focus your marketing?
Great question, glad you asked! :)
But seriously, what does this look like? I started by focusing my entire marketing strategy on weddings. I built out that business for 10 years before realizing that I was happier with family photography. During that 10 years, I made a lot of mistakes, but I also learned a lot. So when I switched to families as my focus, I knew how to market quickly to them. I stopped marketing to weddings and relied only on free marketing, SEO and blog posts to get leads. I continue to this day to get 3-4 leads per month because of the marketing work I did. I also have great systems in place for every step of working with brides and creating beautiful images for them.
So when I switched to families as my focus, my wedding business was pretty much on autopilot. When I switched, it took me about 6 months to fully book out my family season. I completely focused all of my energy and marketing on families. This helped people see that I was the best at that one thing.
Then I added back in my headshot photography. I have still never really focused my business on headshot photography- but I got a ton of bookings just from my website, SEO and blogging. So how did I do this?
I created a website with three subdomains. Each subdomain is a website on its own with a focus on either weddings, families, or headshots. The reason I did this is so that when someone clicks on my ad or goes to that website, they get only the information they need to be confident that I’m the best and they should book with me.
If you have multiple focuses, this may be the right thing for you too. Because think about It, brides may not want to see photos of families. They want to know that when they spend $3-$5k on their photos, that they are getting a photographer dedicated to capturing the most amazing photos of their day.
When you focus your photography on one niche, people trust you more and are more likely to book with you. The high end clients are usually looking for someone who can meet all their needs, at the place they are at right then. This means your messaging must be specific to them.
You don’t have to have a subdomain, but you may want to create different landing pages for each of your clients- different web pages that speak to each of your niches individually.
Or- just pick one niche. You can always shoot the other sessions and post them on your blog. If you choose just one niche, every part of who you are and what you do gets easier. When you are focused, you can grow so much faster because you are focused. If you start by growing only one thing at a time, you won’t split your focus or your energy or your time until the first thing is on autopilot.
There is less stress because you will know what you need to do to grow. You won’t be distracted. You will have dedicated high end clients who see your value. You will have a mission and a soul purpose that will feed you every day and that will make all the sacrifices worth it.
The journey starts with you. It’s a soul journey to find your purpose.
In two weeks, we will be meeting back here to discover the process of how you find your story, your purpose and your niche. Next week, we will be going in a different direction so you can have a minute to let this sink in. All focused on growing a photography business that is profitable and fills your life with happiness.
Today, I hope you see why a niche is so valuable. I want you to know that you can do this! You can have a successful income providing business that allows you to have a happy lifestyle. It all starts with finding your niche and your purpose. Please keep joining in on the conversation here. It is almost time to ask questions! Tell me how I can help you grow. You can also join our Facebook group: Profitable photographer of look up market for photographers to find that group. If you want help finding your niche and your purpose, believe it or not- I can help through a coaching call. Just reach out to me to find out more. I’m here to help! Now it’s time for questions…
(from Clubhouse @kelliannejordan):
Caller: If you know your purpose, why haven’t you switched?
Kellianne: Great question. I don’t think I really realized the value of switching to branding and headshots until this year. I’ve wanted to make the switch, but I’ve held on so tightly to all the work that I’ve done building the other two parts of my business that to completely let go of all that hard work is really intimidating. But, me and my team are actively switching to branding and headshots as a focus for my business. We have so many great services and add ons to help my clients grow that at this point it’s become necessary to focus. I’ll still be shooting weddings occasionally and families throughout the year, but again, those are mostly on autopilot at this point so I don’t have to think as hard or so as much to do them well.
Caller: How did you get those to be on autopilot?
Kellianne: A lot of hard work. It starts with knowing your niche and your target audience, making sure you are talking to them and meeting them where they are. I focused on marketing to the right people and saying no to the wrong people. I made sure my clients were overjoyed with the work I did for them. I worked hard on my website, SEO, social media and so much more. Basically I focused and did a lot of hard work on my business as well as working to make sure my photography was the best it could be. I invested in myself and in business. Also, my weddings may be completely on autopilot, but my family sessions aren’t. I still have to do marketing to book those, but the actual shooting, editing and client communication is on autopilot which helps everything go smoothly, keeps everything consistent and allows me and my team to have more time to grow other parts of the business.
Caller: As someone just starting out in photography, how do I say no to paying jobs and still have an income?
Kellianne: Ya! It’s hard! Learning to say no was the best thing I ever did. I think when you are first starting, there are so many things you need to learn and do, that saying no is actually the only way you are going to give yourself the time and space to grow and become great at that one thing you are called to do.
For example, if you say yes to a newborn session as a wedding photographer, you now need to learn how to shoot a newborn session. They are hard! I specifically don’t do them for new clients because it’s totally different from the system I use for the rest of my photography sessions. And I actually learned how to do these sessions well. But because they are out of my normal routine and I don’t love them, it throws off my weekly workflow if I shoot them. When things in your business are consistent, you end up getting better at your craft and grow your business faster because you don’t have a distraction.
So as business owners, we have to ask ourselves, is it an opportunity or a distraction? Sometimes it can be both, and that’s when you have to make a judgment call. The more focused you are, the easier that judgment is to make. The more distractions you have, the less likely you are to succeed.
I think once you can grasp that concept, it becomes easier to say no. Basically, being desperate for income makes it hard to focus. If you need to take the job, you can do it, but know that it’s a distraction from your true goals and purpose and adjust accordingly. With any newborn sessions I do for returning clients, I make sure they know that it’s not a studio newborn session. It’s a lifestyle session. That’s how I adjusted- I also don’t do these for new clients because I want them to know how I work, before a newborn session. This way they know that I will not offer the same service as someone who specifically focuses on newborns. It’s all about that balance of saying yes when appropriate, but keeping your eye on the big picture- or you can just commit to saying no and trusting yourself to grow.