My last article titled “How to Price a Newborn Session” went off with a bang! Thank you to everyone for the positive feedback, the comments and the follow-up questions. I love to help you grow your business. There has been one topic/question that has come up time and time again times in response to the article (and others that I have written onSproutingPhotographer.com), and instead of privately sharing my response, I thought that I would write a follow-up article here on NewbornPhotography.com to answer the questions.
Here is the question that I have paraphrased, summarized and refined after having been asked many times:
These numbers and calculations all sound great, Bryan, but they won’t work for me. My market is smaller and my clients won’t pay that kind of money for photography. How do I run a successful photography business in a smaller market?
Yes – great, a challenge! Let’s dive right in, then!
Five Steps to Success
In this follow-up article, answering the above question, I will share the 5 steps on exactly how to run a successful photography business in a “smaller” market:
- Define success
- Get yourself out of the way
- Be the best
- Create value
- Slowly raise your prices
Step 1 | Define Success
A lesson that I learned early on in my career as a photographer is this: How can you know when you’ve achieved something unless you know what that thing is? Put more specifically, in the context of this article: how can you know when you’ve achieved success unless you know what success looks like to you? This would be like taking a road trip and saying “we haven’t reached our destination yet” when you don’t even know what that destination is!
To further that point, if you don’t know the end point, then how are you to come up with a roadmap? You simply couldn’t!
Therefore, the first step in achieving success as a newborn photographer in a “smaller” market is to define what success looks like for you. That might be different than what success looks like for me, or for any other reader for that matter. Define what you want your business to look like in 5 years from now and be specific. Below are a few examples of what success might look like:
- Financial success – Does success mean that you can take a personal salary from your business of $80,000? Or does it mean that your business will have a gross revenue of $250,000? Or maybe success means to you that your average newborn session will be bringing in $2,000 per session.
- Quantitative success – Does success mean that you book 2 sessions per week, consistently throughout the year? Or does it mean that you actually go down to only 4 per month?
- Reputation success – Do you have another metric that you judge your success by? Perhaps it’s by the reputation that you have in your community? Do you want to be known as the “go to” newborn photographer? What does that look like?
- Industry success – Perhaps you want to be looked up to by your peers. Does success take the form of being an “expert” in the newborn photography industry? Do you want to be teaching workshops to other up-and-coming newborn photographers?
- Personal fulfillment – Success may not even necessarily be a physical achievement to you, but instead, perhaps you want to feel like you are doing something great with your talent and you want to have clients who truly appreciate what you do and trust you to follow your passion without limit.
Once you’ve defined what success looks like to you (and it could be a combination of any of these and more), then you are that much closer to achieving it. It also defines a destination for you in which you’ll be able to map out a path to.
Step 2 | Get Yourself Out of the Way!
Fear holds great power over us, and it’s unfortunate, but it’s the reality of the human condition. You need to allow yourself to push through fear to break new grounds and achieve greatness. I wrote an article on Sprouting Photographer all about the idea of eliminating fear and why we must become excited when we feel afraid of doing something, and so if you’d like to check that out, I invite you to do so. Instead of going into detail here, I’d like to simply quote Stephen Pressfield, from his popular book The War of Art:
Are you paralyzed with fear? That’s a good sign. Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do. Remember one rule of thumb: the more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.
You need to become ok with trying new things by getting yourself out of your own way. While you’re at it, stop making excuses! I don’t want to belabour this point too much, but the idea of being in a “smaller” market needs to be thrown out the window! There are no “smaller” markets, and that’s why I’ve been “quoting” the term throughout the article – it’s simply not true. I know many photographers who charge top dollar for their work who are in small, isolated areas across the globe. I know many photographers who live in the middle of nowhere and have clients drive several hours to them. You can do it, too, if you really want to. You just need to get your own mental blocks out of the way. At the end of the day, our clients will assign a price they’d be willing to pay for photography that is proportionate to the value that they place on it. Doesn’t matter how “small” your area is, this is the truth about consumer behaviour.
End rant. Phew … that was a tough one!
Step 3 | Be the Best!
Speaking of placing value on photography, you need to be the best! Maybe your town is actually physically smaller, or perhaps all your competitors are cheaper, well then surely the only way that you’ll be able to rise above is to be the best. You need to practice, learn and grow. Be great. How? Simple – every week, be better than the week before it. Spend time working on your photography as opposed to always in your photography business.
Step 4 | Create Value for Clients
I mentioned earlier that clients will assign a price they’d be willing to pay for photography that is proportionate to the value that they place on the photography. The only real way, then, to increase the amount of money that someone would pay for your photography is to increase the value that they put on your photography. Seems too simple? It’s really all there is to it! You need to create value for your clients and show them why your photography and service as a professional is worth the price that you charge. I wrote an article on Sprouting Photographer all about how to create value first and in doing so, you’ll eliminate the price objections. If you’d like to dive deeper into the mechanics of creating value first, you should check out that article.
Step 5 | Slowly Increase Your Price
If you are confident, have an open mind, are a great photographer, and are creating value up-front to show your worth to your clients, then there’s no reason that you can’t start to slowly increase your prices. By increasing your prices in small pre-determined amounts, you will eventually get to a price point that is more realistic and reasonable to guarantee a long-lasting sustainable business. I wrote an article over on Sprouting Photographer about increasing prices and you should check out if you’re interested in finding out more about the theory of increasing prices. Side-note: sorry to keep referencing SproutingPhotographer.com, it just doesn’t make sense to re-type everything out here, might as well re-purpose existing content that I’ve already put time and effort into creating. Efficiency!
That is it! Five simple steps to run a successful (to you) photography business in a “smaller” market. First, define what success means to you so that you know once you’ve achieved it. Second, don’t be afraid to try new things, third, be the best, fourth, create value and lastly, slowly increase your price over time. It’s important to constantly re-evaluate your business, your metrics and your numbers. Continually re-visit your “success” statement to be sure you’re on the right path.
That’s not it though! There is a second part to this article that would have simply made this post too long! Part 2 is called How to Make your Business Work for you While you’re Still Building, and I go into how you can still take advantage of a lower-priced business model and/or a smaller client base when you’re building your business. I’d love to share it with you for free! If you’d like to get instant access to it, please leave me your e-mail address here and I’ll send it to you right away.
I would love to hear your feedback! Please let me know what you think of the ideas in this article in the “comments” section below! Enjoy!
Bryan Caporicci is an award winning wedding and portrait photographer based out of Fonthill, Canada. Bryan is a Fuji X-Photographer. In 2011, he was awarded his Craftsman of Photographic Arts (CPA) designation by the Professional Photographers of Canada (PPOC), making him one of the youngest photographer in Canada to receive this level of achievement. Bryan can be found at bcapphoto.com