Success’s Six S’s

I admit it. I TOTALLY thought of the title first. That said, I have put together some great ways to increase your sales, generate repeat business and referrals, and become irresistable to the opposite sex.

(As a quick side note, based on this awesome post here, I’m going to let “my” voice come through in my blog more. The content will still be there, but things are going to get a little bit sillier…)

Sell yourself – We photographers are a pretty ubiquitous bunch. A quick google search for “Atlanta photographer” gets 159,000 results. I checked several pages of results: 1, 4, 11, 19, 25, 32… all of them full of photographers. Clearly, we are not hard to find. So, what makes you different? For starters, none of those other guys are you. That’s all you have: your own talent, your own vision, your own personality. So, focus your business on selling yourself. Let clients know what you’re all about: your values, your focus, and your approach. We get hired based on our ability to apply our unique vision to a client’s needs. What do you do that’s different from the tens of thousands of other photographers who are so readily available?

Specialize – When I first started out, I pursued every possible opportunity to make money taking pictures. I freelanced for a local paper that paid $10/image. I shot my friend’s kids. I shot food, architecture, dogs, weddings, makeup, sports, real estate agents, bands, anything, anything, anything I could do to make a buck. I lacked focus. Figure out what you want to do, and concentrate on that. It seems a bit counter-intuitive to “turn away” potential business. Don’t get me wrong: If you’re broke, and a job outside your focus falls in your lap, go for it. (Ain’t nothing wrong with that!) The problem with being a generalist is that you are competing with specialists. You are a jack-of-all-trades and master of none. Specialize on the types of images you enjoy creating, focus your business efforts there, and give yourself a fighting chance.

Surprise your clients – Promise small, deliver big. Enthusiasm, I’ve found, is my best selling technique. I get extremely pumped about my client’s projects. Enthusiasm, though, can get you in trouble. Don’t promise what you can’t deliver. Hell, don’t even promise what you think you can deliver. Promise only what you have successfully done in the past, even on your own. Whatever you tell the client you can do becomes the bare minimum they expect of you. Don’t set that goal higher than you can consistently hit. In fact, with a little modesty, you can over-deliver! Who do you suppose gets called back: the guy who promised more than he could deliver, or the guy who delivered more than he promised?

Sustain your buzz – WHOA! PASS THE BONG! I’m not talking about huffing pot reefer or whatever the hell you kids call it these days. I’m talking about a sustained marketing campaign. However you do it, keep doing it. Send mailers. Stop by and say “Hi.” Show them new work you’re doing. Stay on their minds. If they don’t know you, they don’t call you. Nothing survives in a vacuum. That’s why they scare dogs so much.

Stay on top of your books – If there is one thing that will come back to bite you in the ass, it is your paperwork. I’m not just talking accounting. I’m talking contracts, model releases, invoices, all that stuff. You abso-tively posi-lutely must, must, must, must, must stay on top of this. If you can’t do it, hire or marry someone who can. Can’t afford an accountant? You can’t afford NOT to have one. Which is more costly, paying a couple hundred bucks for peace of mind come tax-time, or an IRS audit? Find some photographers that you respect and look up to. Ask who they use, and give them a call. (Be sure to note how that accountant just scored a new customer!)

Sign a contract – Respect the awesome power of CYA. A contract won’t keep a dishonest person from trying to take advantage of you. It will limit their ability to take advantage of you, and give you a leg to stand on when they do. A good contract just tells everyone involved what to expect from a pending business transaction. No big deal. Get some standard paperwork together so you can get all your ducks in a row quickly when a potential client calls. Make sure everyone knows what to expect as the project comes along. Clients like to be surprised with great pictures, not huge bills. Stay honest, get called back.

So, there we go. I managed to find six things, all starting with the letter S, to help you improve your photography business. I knew I could do it! Thanks for reading! And, hey, why not subscribe? Absolutely zero calories, and it feels soooo good.


  1. dan

    hey, i have your blog in reader along with many of the other photography blogs that you’re linking to 🙂 given my own position right now (amateur and staying that way for some time) i’m not in dire need of business advice, but it is something that i know is worth learning in case i want to make the leap to be a professional. the point i’m getting around to making is that if you’ll definitely keep me interested as a reader if you continue to develop your voice. more bad jokes please!

  2. Hi Shaun! This is a wonderful post – I love that you are letting your voice come out more – I think it is working for you!! Your personal experiences with these things lend a lot of credibility to your 6 points – awesome!

  3. chickenmomma

    Hi there. I am new to WordPress AND photography and am so pleased to have come across your blog.
    Thank you for this entry as it was clear and concise.
    I will indeed be adding you to my blogroll.
    Have a great day.

  4. Great post, Shaun. I’ve just added you to my blogroll!

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