If you’re an aspiring brand and commercial photographer, let me start by saying that embarking on this adventure behind the lens is bound to be rewarding and fulfilling. There’s no greater feeling than knowing that your clients have placed their trust in you.
As the founder of Focus Creative Co., I want to share with you some ideas on how to secure your first clients so that more clients will soon come knocking.
What follows are some excellent strategies that will entice those initial clients and give you the confidence you need to kickstart your journey as a brand and commercial photographer. Let’s get started!
Find your niche
As an aspiring brand and commercial photographer, you’ll do yourself a huge favor by evaluating your biggest interests and most obvious strengths so you can pinpoint your niche. If you’re passionate and/or knowledgeable about a certain industry—fashion, food, or tourism, for example—you can target these specific niches as you move forward. Passionate about the arts? You could become a brand and commercial photographer for your local ballet company, symphony orchestra, or theatre group. Every industry can benefit from a brand and commercial photographer who works hard to capture the essence and unique identity of the niche they serve.
Think about it: if you can deliver photos that resonate with a non-profit’s intended audience, then you can bring their brand’s story to life. In turn, they can stand out from the crowd, build genuine connections, and make the impact they’re striving to make in their community and beyond. Finding your niche is an important first step in establishing yourself as a brand and commercial photographer; it zeroes in on the clientele you’re most eager to attract.
Build your portfolio
You know you’re a talented photographer, but your clients aren’t going to acknowledge this until you give them a reason to—this is why building a consistently updated portfolio is crucial. The more photos you share that demonstrate your skills and creativity behind the camera, the closer you’ll get to “hired”!
If you don’t have a website, create an eye-catching one so you have an outlet to share your work. Since you’re just starting out, I also recommend enlisting help. Let’s say, for instance, that your niche is real estate. Ask friends, family members, and/or co-workers if they’d be so kind as to let you photograph their homes. Stage various scenes that highlight your ability to capture multiple aspects of different properties—interior shots that portray the home’s layout and design, plus some well-lit exterior shots that emphasize its undeniable curb appeal.
Once you secure your first clients, ask their permission to include the best photos from their shoot in your portfolio. This will allow you to expand your portfolio and confidently demonstrate what makes you the brand and commercial photographer others will want to work with on their next project.
Start networking—not tomorrow or the next day, but today! The sooner you put yourself out there, the sooner potential clients will know that you’re available for hire. If you can, join your local chamber of commerce or participate in industry-specific networking events that will give you the opportunities you need to meet fellow photographers and potential clients. Think of networking as your chance to stand in a room where dozens of closed doors surround you—the more doors you can open, the more leads and referrals you can generate!
Leverage social media
These days, having a website isn’t enough—it’s incredibly worthwhile to also advertise on all the social media channels that you know you can keep updated (because, well, no one wants to visit a photographer’s Facebook or Instagram page and realize that the latest post was shared months ago). Leveraging social media means that you’re doing the legwork necessary to acquire your first clients. Perhaps you can offer a special deal (10% off a photography session?) to those who are willing to give your photography services a try. Social media will help you garner interest from potential clients, so create engaging posts to build a following and establish your credibility.
Ask for referrals
Asking for referrals might sound intimidating, but remember, you’re out to secure your first clients and that requires putting yourself out there. If you want to pursue a niche in the tourism industry, then ask for a referral from someone who works in that niche. Next time you stay in a hotel, you could ask to speak to the manager and inquire if you could show him your portfolio. He might express interest in your work and/or refer you to some of his connections within the tourism industry. I recommend taking the “it can’t hurt to ask!” approach.
Once you’ve earned the trust and garnered the satisfaction of your first few clients, referrals will be much easier to come by. After each session is complete and all your deliverables have been submitted, emphasize to your client how much you enjoyed working with them and ask them to refer you to others who might be intrigued by the value you can add to their business, organization, club, or non-profit. Specify how a referral would help you, hand that client some extra business cards, and, if you want, incentivize them as you see fit. Most importantly, don’t forget to follow up if they agreed to a referral; if they’ve forgotten, send a friendly message—there’s nothing wrong with a little virtual elbow nudge!
Collaborate with other creatives
Collaborating with other creatives can be an excellent way to secure your first clients. Interested in building your niche in the fashion industry? Do you have a friend who, say, makes the most beautiful clay polymer earrings? Ask that friend if you can take some photos of happy customers wearing her handcrafted jewelry . . . when she posts them on her website and social media channels, she can make it clear that the photos were taken by you. It’s this type of cross-promotion that can help you reach a wider audience within the niche(s) that appeal most to you.
Refine your skills
Never stop learning, growing, taking chances, and pushing your creative boundaries. Securing your first clients—and all the ones that will follow—will require you to constantly refine your skills. Seek feedback. Respond to constructive criticism with grace and gratitude. Innovate as often as possible. Explore and adapt as necessary.
Embracing all the ways you can refine your photography skills—not to mention enhancing all your interactions with your customers—will help you position yourself as a commercial and brand photographer who takes pride in their work and is capable of elevating a brand’s identity like no other photographer in the area where you do business.
Final Thoughts from Kassady
I hope this blog post has inspired you to discover all the ways you can secure your first clients. Employing these strategies will allow you to cultivate a strong presence both in-person and online. Soon you’ll be well on your way to achieving your goals and producing incredible visual narratives that are sure to foster connections and elevate a brand’s image and reputation in the niche you proudly serve. Good luck out there, and don’t forget to watch my 25 minute workshop sharing how you can start booking 5-figure recurring contracts!