‘Cause “Everyone Else” is Doing It

Dear Stefanie Shutters,

I’m really struggling to get clients. Everyone in my area includes the digital downloads. EVERYONE. I don’t want to do it, but I feel like if I don’t I’ll lose business to those that do. I also feel like I have to decrease my prices so that I am competitive with those who give digital since I don’t. Help!

~Needs business but has standards

Dear “Standards”

At the risk of sounding like my mother, if everyone jumped off a cliff would you too go splat on the rocks below?  Are you the photographer that does ‘what everyone else is doing’ or are you an innovator and a creative, even in your business model and practices?

If everyone is just shooting and burning this is your chance to easily differentiate yourself from your competition by offering one stop product shopping for their custom artwork, complete with display consultations and expert advice from their photographer! There’s a whole market of people who want to own prints and canvases and have them ready to go that’s being missed in your community. This doesn’t mean you can’t also sell digitals at valued pricing; it just means that you shouldn’t be limiting yourself to ‘what everyone else is doing’.

The worst way to price yourself is to look at what every other MWAC business in your area is charging and assume that’s all you can charge, that’s all that the market can bear and that is the one and only way to do anything with success. If you’re in this business to make a living wage and not some extra Starbucks money, then the only way you can survive in the industry of the cheap pricing and no service is to rise above it all and become what they can or will not become: a luxury brand.

Because its not that your community can’t afford anything other than rock bottom prices, its that your competition and yourself are looking to the wrong client base.  YOU are NOT your target market.  Your target market is someone who values prints as art, photos as family heirlooms, and truly values portraiture. So far, sounds like you… after all, you got into this business for those things… but here’s where the difference begins: they have the disposable income to put their discretionary spending money where their values are.

What you need is a business plan that focuses on capturing your target market – and doing so will allow you to keep your standards for art and be working smarter. It may be harder – the client pool might be smaller than the client base of the “everything i shot, and I mean everything, on USB that you give me for $30″ but how sessions of that caliber would you have to shoot to reach your real target income? You’d burn out in a week.   If you’re in this for the long haul, its time to buckle down and become the “it photographer” for the clients who will value you and pay you.

So, two recommendations for you:

  1. A product plan. What you offer how much it costs, samples of the items so that potential clients can see and feel and covet what you offer.   If you’re looking for a crash course in getting this area set up, Belly Baby School has a great course.
  2. A marketing plan.  Reaching those people who aren’t buying into the shoot and burn business model is going to be a lot of work… but very rewarding in the end.  Not sure where to start? Check out Motivated Marketing.

Now like all things worth doing, this is going to take time, effort, and dedication. You’re going to need to consciously put your blinders on. No more seeing ‘what everyone else is doing’ – take them out of your Facebook feed, unfollow their Instagrams… and BE YOU.

Because if you’re so busy watching everyone else you’ll realized they’ve passed you up because they have their eyes on the prize, fixed on their goals. So set your goals, and stay focused.  You CAN do this.


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