Which comes first, the successful photographer or the business photographer’s success?

One of the biggest challenges facing professional photographers is how to attract, build and hold on to a successful client base. Particularly now with the continued advancements in digital photography meaning more and more people are taking up photography as their choice of career.

The ability to send digital images quickly and effortlessly around the world has meant that New Zealand photographers are much more likely to be competing on an international stage. Which isn’t necessarily a negative, no pun intended. New Zealand’s client base can be relatively small – depending on your area of specialty – but the whole world is a much larger market!

During my 24 years as a professional photographer I have come across many young and aspiring photographers who have a fantastic “eye” for imagery and very advanced technical skills. The difference between those that stay in the industry and those that don’t is less likely to be due to their skill as a photographer, but their skill as a business person.

So are the business skills required by a professional photographer different to those required by any other business professional? Not really.

Successful business people make use of the professionals and industry support available to them – good admin, accounting, banking, marketing and PR personnel or opportunities.

Successful business people pick a market niche or area of specialty and they concentrate on finding work within this area. They constantly up-skill and stay abreast of changes and advancements in their chosen area of specialty.

Successful business people treat their business as a business!

So if you have been struggling to build a successful client base, ask yourself if you are treating your business as a business? Clients are far more likely to choose a photographer whose work is backed up not only by a hot portfolio, but by reliable business practices and after sales service. Price isn’t always the deciding factor. Do you regularly follow up with your clients to see how they are doing or if there is anything they need? Do you have procedures in place if there is a problem or they require additional help with anything? Is your pricing structure and the product you are delivering consistent? Are there any value added extras you can offer – without compromising your rate or your service – that will encourage clients to book with you?

Satisfied clients will be more than happy to pay your rates and will do a lot of your marketing for you through word of mouth recommendations, so long as you provide them with a reliable business to deal with.

And so we come full circle. If you make sure your business skills are up to scratch then you should have a business that allows you to maintain your photography skills and ensure your success – and enjoyment – as a photographer. Which I presume is what you were aiming for in the first place!

Pretty simple when you think about it.

 As written for D-Photo Magazine’s “Pro Column”.  Copyright Chris McLennan Photography Ltd.

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