Part 1: Sell Yourself
If you don’t have weddings to photograph, you can’t call yourself a wedding photographer. The most important part of being a wedding photographer- and in fact being in business for yourself in general- is marketing. It’s a trial-and-error process, really; it takes time, a serious amount of effort, and some financial output to get the ball rolling.
Marketing yourself may seem like a daunting and tricky task, but don’t give up: you’ll get where you want to be, with a little persistence.
Below, I’ve listed a few different ways you can sell your services, ranging from methods that are free of charge to those that require some kind of financial output.
The best marketing tool you will have is word-of-mouth. Chances are you have family and friends. One of them may be getting married. Maybe someone they know is getting married. If you drop hints that you are trying to become a wedding photographer, the people you know will be the best ones to help you get the ball rolling. Once you have booked and shot the wedding, your satisfied client will be happy to pass along their opinion to their own friends and family who might need the services of a good photographer.
I think it’s important to note here that you may have to give away a couple of pro-bono wedding photography sessions, just to get something to put in your portfolio; after all, people won’t book paid weddings without seeing your work.
You can also mention what you do in casual conversation with people you meet. At some point, somebody will ask what you do for living. That conversation might go something like this:
Person: “So what do you do for a living?”
You: “I’m a photographer.”
Person: “Really? Do you do weddings? My daughter is getting married next year… ”
Here’s My Card
In the above instance, it’s a good idea to have a business card to pass out. Whether you choose to design and print them yourself, or have some made for you, getting business cards need not be a complicated or expensive venture. In this case, simple, tidy and elegant often works best, and it happens that “simple, tidy and elegant” is usually cheaper. The return that you get will more than justify any initial expense involved in making your cards.
On top of handing them out to the people you meet in everyday life, you can also drop off some cards to businesses like: wedding shops, venues, event planners, DJs, florists, jewellers, caterers, and so on. Then, when these other businesses are approached by prospective clients they can hand out your information as a potential photographer for their clients’ big day. It looks good for those service providers, and it can bring in some nice business for you.
Like I said, you can make your own if you know a thing or two about design and have a good printer. Alternatively, you can have them made by a local service or send away for some from places like Vistaprint, where you can get 100 good-quality cards for as low as $10.
An Online Presence
The internet is a huge and invaluable marketing tool. A website, complete with your own registered domain name, can be created for next to nothing. As a professional photographer, having a well-put-together website is an absolute must, no matter what your specialty is. If you link up your website to your social media accounts, you stand a better chance of driving traffic to your website, which may lead to bookings for you.
A Facebook fanpage can be created at no charge, or you can pay a small sum for a business page. Twitter and other social media sites are also invaluable for marketing, and free to use.
Free marketing can also be found on websites like Craigslist.com, UsedEverywhere.com, or Kijiji.com, as well as 1000’s of other smaller sites. Something you do have to consider when you are drawing up any kind of ad, no matter where it is, is how you present yourself. By that, I am referring to the over-all look of the ad, and its content.
As with anything in life, first impressions are everything. No matter how awesome your work is, if you put out a less-than-perfect ad, it will reflect badly on you. Your prospective clients will have made up their mind about you in about 2 minutes. Make sure their opinion is good, by making sure that the entire ad looks clean and well-presented. Your grammar and spelling should be absolutely correct. It’s incredible how much this simple little thing is overlooked. If you aren’t comfortable with drafting up a top-notch ad for yourself, it will be better for you if you shell out a little money to hire someone who can do the job, or ask a friend or family member to help you.
Make sure you give a detailed description of your services. If you have a website, a professional email, a Facebook fanpage, a Twitter account, or any kind of social media account set up for your business, provide a link to them. You can also include some of these social media accounts on your business card.
Expensive, But Useful
Often, one of the first things to spring to mind when a wedding photographer thinks of marketing themselves are wedding shows. While these can be great places to show yourself off, you need to choose carefully which ones you go to. At any given show, there can be anywhere from 4 to 40 different photographers displaying their wares. Research the shows that are put on in your area, including how many professional photographers registered in those shows in previous years.
A wedding show can be an expensive venture. Not only do you have the cost of registering for the show, but you may also have additional costs, such as: getting electricity to your booth, some kind of display unit, professional mounting or framing for your sample photos, the cost of creating additional marketing materials, not to mention food and drink for yourself for the day.
If you don’t want to join in on the wedding show circuit, there are other venues you can consider. School fun fairs or community events are a good example. You can also consider renting out a booth for a short time in a shopping mall. In this case, it would also be a good idea to bring along photos that you can sell prints of, to make a little money on the side.
You don’t have to shell out a lot of money to market yourself as a wedding photographer. However, you do need a lot of patience and stubbornness; things may not always go your way, and sometimes you might feel like giving up. Stick to it; no matter what methods you choose to use, always remember that every photographer out there started at the bottom. It’s a good place to build a solid foundation for a rewarding career.