New in Town – How Do I Get Business?

Free is all well and good, especially when you’re on the receiving end… but there comes a time in every photographer’s life when they’re about to leave ‘pre-pro’ behind and open the business.

How do you get that first client that will pay you?

 How do you get your first paying client?

I have a newborn portfolio that I built doing free shoots but my maternity portfolio is not that good. I’m trying to refresh it through more free shoots.

My SEO is practically non existent.  I’ve put out some model calls on Craigslist and a few Facebook groups but I didn’t get any responses.

I have a 17 month old son and we go to playgroups and I meet a lot of Mamas that way, but nothing has come from it.

To top it off, I’ve moved to a new town, and am renting a studio as of last week!

I need to get paying clients asap, as I am paying for childcare and life!


Dear Desperate,

I’ll be honest, it sounds like you’re in over your head with a studio lease but no established portfolio and body of work, especially if we throw in a new town where you don’t have an established network of friends and family.

I think its great that you’re moving forward with your business dreams, but I’m not sure your groundwork is solid enough to support your studio yet.  However, since you’re already renting and committed… let’s see what you can do with what you have to get you going!

First, lets talk about that playgroup. How many of those mamas actually know you’re a photographer?  Do you only talk diaper brands, or do you also share information about your lives beyond the next bottle feeding?

Bring your camera to the next meet up to photograph your son, then  let the mamas there know what you do and ask if they’re okay with you shooting some candids with their children too. Shoot a lot of images, and then share small resolution (4×6) sized images with them all for free (with your logo in the corner). Maybe even run 4×6 prints with your studio info across the bottom, then gift them that at the next meet up.

Next, Grand Opening! You just rented the studio, host an all-town gathering Grand Opening event, invite the ‘big shots’ in the city, get it in the paper, and make a big deal out of it… and sell “session special” gift vouchers that night that can be used any time in 2015 for a special session package (small discounted to encourage ‘pay now’ at the event).   Maybe make it a vendor fair, with your studio hosting several other local vendors that your target market would have an interest in.  Plus, they’ll be able to let their client base know they’re having a booth at your event, which may bring more people.  Oh, and invite that playgroup 🙂

Since you have a physical studio space, what kind of street visibility do you have? A big sign? Maybe a banner (that says GRAND OPENING!) or those yard flags…. you need people driving by to notice you.  If you’ve got a foot traffic area, same idea.

Speaking of being new in town, you’ve got new neighbors. Do you know them? Time to get to know your neighborhood! Do a reverse ‘welcome to the neighborhood’ tour one weekend (or during a time that you’ve got most of the locals home) where you stop by with some cookies (and your business cards) and introduce yourself!

Then do the same thing to the businesses local to you. See if you can partner with them for referrals. Ask how you can help them out. Read my Vendor Partnerships article here for more details.

Now, portfolio growth. If you’re not getting responses to your model call, its time to re-evaluate the call.  Read my article on Model Calls here.

Do you have a referral program? If not, its time to get your current clients singing your praises so they can earn free sessions with you!  Figure out the policy, such as $50 credit for every new client referred, then roll it out in force with everyone you know! Motivate other mamas to become your marketing bullhorn!

Check into local parenting magazines, see what advertising costs.

What it comes down to is that you need to be marketing every moment you’re awake and then dreaming of new plans for the next day in your sleep.  Take that desperation and use it to fuel you to get out of your comfort zone and into the marketing mode.

Best of luck!



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