Some of the biggest questions that land in my inbox are: “How do I get more inquiries?” “What did you do to get your business to take off?” “How did you book so many weddings last year?” If you’ve got those questions, this post is for you! After creating the Client Experience Guide (coming to my new shop on Monday #shamelessplugonmyownbog), I honed in on certain habits and principles that I applied to my business that helped me grow.
After my first three years of capturing weddings, I decided to get more serious about turning photography into a career. At that point, I’d only considered photography a hobby that might one day be a dream job. However, researching other photographers and learning from some of the best, I found that the only thing that was holding me back was the fear that others would laugh at my effort. I could just imagine some acquaintance on Facebook looking at my posts of sessions and thinking “She wants to be a photographer?”
It’s tough trusting in yourself and going for what you want. But if you can get past that fear of failure, you can take your business anywhere.
Here are the 5 principles I’ve learned over the last three years. These principles have taken my business from an average of 13 weddings a year to over 30 last year alone and running a six-figure business for the second year in a row.
My dad always said that every business makes mistakes, but the difference between a good business and a bad business is how they make it right. And I’ve carried this message with me through life! Customer service matters.
Having incredible customer service is so important in building your business! Getting started, the majority of my referrals and inquiries came from word-of-mouth. Through exponential growth, my couples from previous years would rave about their experience with me as their wedding photographer! They’d share their images and tell all of their engaged friends about using me, and my name spread around like wildfire!
Ultimately, it came down to trust. One of the hardest obstacles for me to overcome when meeting with a potential couple was convincing them that their day was safe with me. They only get one shot at their wedding day, and so did I! There was no re-do. Through incredible customer service and the praise of my former couples, I was able to show, with backup, that new couples could trust me with their wedding days! Now all I had to do was deliver on the same or improved experience I gave my previous couples, and I knew I’d gain another fan.
As you build your business, it’s important to remember that how you treat your clients matters. I’ve made plenty of mistakes as a wedding photographer, but it’s how I’ve handled those mistakes and treated my clients that has boosted my business forward.
What happens after you book a client? Do you know the steps you’ll take to finalize the details? Do you have a contract? What happens after a wedding day? Do you have a system for backing up their images? What about editing consistently?
Having an answer to all of these questions – and many more – will improve the success of your business. Plans take out the guesswork and help you streamline your business for growth. Plus, so many mistakes can be avoided when you know exactly what to do next. Early in my business, I felt like I was laying down tracks in front of a runaway train! Certain steps of the process got lost in my messy brain, and I would miss crucial tasks that needed my attention (like forgetting deadlines on engagement photos!)
You never want to leave your couples wondering if they made the right choice in booking with you, and hiccups in their experience with you can lead to doubt. It’s important to write down the tasks you need to accomplish for each of your couples to have an incredible experience, and implement those tasks into your daily workflow!
Making connections is everything. (Did I just hear a sigh from all of my introverted friends?) Networking is tough work! Getting yourself out there is a constant effort, and if it doesn’t come naturally, it feels like a burden. But I realized early on that dream weddings would never fall in my lap if I waited patiently.
Just like word-of-mouth referrals, your friends in the wedding industry (and outside of the industry!) can be your biggest advocates! One of my favorite quotes is “A rising tide lifts all boats,” and those words by JFK ring true. By making friends in the industry and helping others, I’ve booked countless weddings. Even more, I’ve received encouragement, support, and help when I’m down. I can easily say that I would not be in the position I am in today without the support of my peers! So don’t be shy. Sign up for a conference, attend a Tuesdays Together meeting for your local Rising Tide Society group, or reach out to a local creative you admire.
Having systems in place will help with the longevity of your business and help you avoid burnout. After consistently booking for a season, I was exhausted just looking at my schedule! I was elated to have so many successful bookings, but how would I find the time?
Instead of buckling to the burnout, I noticed a pattern of what I needed from my couples in order to create a better experience for them and give me more time. I wrote down the steps that I needed to take for each element of my business and created workflows so that I could replicate that experience for future couples. After implementing my system, I haven’t felt burnout once. In fact, I just ended a season of capturing 17 weddings in 14 weeks! Each one of my couples had my full attention, got everything they needed from me in a timely manner, and received their complete, consistent wedding galleries before their deadline.
I see too many photographers give up after only a couple of years in business because they feel like they can’t handle the stress of running a business. In truth, they don’t have systems in place to give their life balance and focus. If you want your business to have longevity, prepare for the future and put systems in place so that you can grow!
It’s not enough to have business savvy and a quality camera. If you want to charge more, you need to be worth more, and greater worth comes from experience and putting in the work to improve!
Each year, I give myself a budget to attend conferences and workshops that will hone in on what I want to improve that season. I’m constantly investing in improving my abilities as a photographer because I know that educating myself will serve my clients better! Without growth, a business can die. And I want my business to grow, grow, grow!
If you’ve never attended a conference or invested in education, start by looking at the photographers and industry leaders you admire. How can you learn from them?
And if you’re looking for the perfect resource to take your business to the next level, I’ve created one just for you! My Client Experience Guide goes live in the shop on Monday!