10 questions to ask yourself when you aren’t getting photo gigs
Jan 26, 2024
10 questions to ask yourself when you aren’t getting photo gigs
It’s a tough market out there. I mean, really tough. Perhaps it is the most competitive and strangely challenging market we have ever seen in photography. Yeah, that could be it!
But guess what, my now-frustrated friends? It is not a dead market by any stretch of the idea. In fact, if you follow A Photo Editor on Instagram, you will find that while some photographers are having a tough time of it, others are having banner years.
What makes the difference?
I have no real idea. Anyone who tells you they do is lying unless they have interviewed every single one of these photographers.
But in my group of photographers, the ones that are thriving are doing so by changing their marketing to fit the times we live in. Far too many photographers are operating like it was 1985, 2015, or even February, 2020.
Yeah, those days are behind us, and we have a vastly different landscape in front of us regarding finding and keeping clients. Vastly. Different.
So what are you doing about it?
I have 10 questions that I want you to answer to find out what is going on in your photo business world. Grab paper and pen. Pencils are cool, too.
Do you have a price list for typical, repeatable types of assignments?
Like drop-n-pops, corporate headshots, grip-n-grins, or basic product shots on white? These are items that you should consider productizing and not bid every bloody one of them.
Have you established a base price for your shoots?
What is the lowest price you will shoot for? For me, it is $500. The simplest photo is going to be $500 and up, even if it only takes me 15 minutes. So if it is something in the productized items, they have to have enough to add up to $500. On some jobs, I add that as a base before I begin figuring out the shoot fee. This is usually for smaller gigs under $2K. This is important.
Do you have a social media plan?
First of all, you should know that Instagram is not going to save you. Not even close. And if you are posting here and there without consistency, a plan, and some sort of system, you may as well be photographing that comfort food you eat in the studio while not working.
Sorry, but social media is a process, not a randomly approached freebie. Social media can be beneficial, but it is tangential to finding work that will sustain you.
How healthy is your marketing strategy/system?
A marketing strategy is different from a marketing plan. One is semi-generic; the other is focused and deliberate. You must have a solid plan, but just like a dream, it is useless without execution. Your strategy forces your system, and your system feeds your strategy. Both are on full display as you take action to bring in the clients who need you.
Is your portfolio worth a client’s time?
Ooh, that one is a little spicy, but I am not sorry. It is simply something I am seeing more and more. Badly designed, or worse, boring websites that look like a free version of something that was offered along with your hosting plan. And in many situations, it usually is.
Listen, you need a clean, modern, lovely, cool, terrific website. We are in the visual arts, you know. And if our website makes us look like we have no visual taste… well… that is not going to help our cause as we seek to make photographs for people who DO HAVE visual taste.
How big is your email list?
If you are in a big city, 250 solid leads can be all you need. In a smaller town or region, you will need a few more, say 350. You do not get them all at one time. You must begin to gather them, research them, know who they are and what they do, and then begin to push your work out on a solid, irreversible, and consistent schedule. Failure to do this will create a huge problem for growth. This is not up for debate.
How many new portfolio images are you making each week?
Yes, week. If you are not adding at least one image to your portfolio per week, then what the hell business are you in? This is what we do. This is what we show our clients we do. This is not optional, nor is it something we ignore for a time while awaiting the muse to strike us silly in the middle of the night. It is our job, our number one job. To not understand that is to go swimming with anchors on your legs.
Do you know your numbers?
If I say KPI, do you know what it means? Do you know and track your KPI? How about a P&L? How much do you spend on advertising or promotion? How much profit did you have last year? Did you know that your net is not profit unless you have set yourself a salary? Not knowing the numbers of your business can lead to making bad decisions, wasting money, or ending up behind the 8-ball at a crucial time.
How strong is your contract?
You do have a contract. I know you do because you follow me and know how much I believe in rock-solid, well-presented contracts. Are you protected against a non-paying client? What happens if the client cancels or doesn’t take possession of the images? Who is responsible if someone, even someone who signed a model release, decides to go nuts and sue? What about if the client decides the model you hired or the food stylist is not what they had in mind and wants a reshoot on your dime? Contracts can be boring until you need yours to fend off a disaster. Ya know.
Do you know how to sell?
Because everything we do is sales. Yeah, I know, you don’t want to be a salesperson, and selling is such a turnoff, and yadda yadda yadda. Talk to the hand. You have only one other choice, and it doesn’t involve using cameras at any point in your day, but you’re gonna know how to flip a fry basket. It is a sales business. Whether you like it or not is irrelevant. But it doesn’t have to be icky or painful if you do it right and with your own twist on it if you don’t know how to learn to sell.
OK, so how’d you do? Do you see what you are doing right? Are there any places where you could do better?
If there are, you now have a list, a roadmap, to where you need to put some attention. And we cover all this and more in my Client Acquisition Sprint for Serious Photographers, which incidentally is starting this Monday.
See what I did there?
About Don Giannatti
Don Giannatti is a photographer, writer, designer, entrepreneur, and avid motorcyclist. After enjoying a 40-plus-year career as a commercial photographer, he has successfully mentored hundreds of students through his Project 52 Pro system and helped them transition into full or part-time commercial photography. He has owned studios in Phoenix, LA, Chicago, and New York and has been a guest instructor on CreativeLive. You can subscribe to his newsletter In The Frame. This article was also published here and shared with permission.
We love it when our readers get in touch with us to share their stories. This article was contributed to DIYP by a member of our community. If you would like to contribute an article, please contact us here.