The date is 18th January 2017. Yesterday I passed the 100 mark for enquiries this year. 107 to be precise. 107 people planning their big day have contacted little old me in the space of just 18 days. THAT IS MENTAL.
It made me think back to just two years ago – still fairly new to the industry, with very few photographer friends and even less clue about what I was doing, I was seriously low on bookings and had no idea what to do. To make it worse, it was January, and smug bastard photographers across the land (or Facebook) were posting about how many new enquiries they’d had. I flipping hated them and their successful businesses. Why wasn’t I receiving a squillion enquiries an hour. Why wasn’t my year fully booked up. The injustice!
The background to this? I’d started my business is May 2013 with the absolute certainty that I would not be a wedding photographer. No thank you – that crazy, high pressure shizzle was definitely not for me. I was quite adamant about that. For about 2 months. Then I was handed a couple of lovely weddings within the space of a few weeks. Two couples who were willing to take a chance on the unknown. So I went for it. I look back at my 2013 self with a mixture of exasperation and grudging admiration. If I knew then, what I know now, about the many many things that can go wrong on a wedding day. I wouldn’t have done it. Fear (and sense) would have stopped me. Thank goodness nothing did go wrong. The one single solitary camera I had with me on the day didn’t disintegrate My £50 kit lens just about managed to stand up to what I demanded of it and I left the couples with images they professed to be happy with. I was flipping buzzing. Rockstar photographer material right here! Bathing in my own success I decide weddings were now most definitely the thing for me. I set out with the determination to book many more and leave the hated corporate lifestyle.
It all went swimmingly at first. I used the local Facebook wedding groups to advertise my services. I booked lots of weddings in for the following year. I discounted heavily and competed on price because I was concerned with getting the numbers in the diary. By May 2014 – just 12 months after establishing Rachel Joyce Photography, I was in the position to be able to leave work. Walking out of the office that last day was quite literally the most exhilarating feeling I have ever experienced. That feeling didn’t last very long. The realities of being self employed and solely responsible for finding my own income soon hit home. I was photographing a lot of weddings – but they weren’t all necessarily the type of weddings I wanted to shoot. I was often booked based on my low price rather than my own particular style or approach. Whenever I did photograph a wedding where the couple really trusted me and my approach, where are the details of the day got me excited, where I was allowed the time to produce good images – it just hit home how much I wanted to do this all the time.
The solution? Increase my prices. I was in a lot of photography forums on Facebook – a silent lurker in the background, not confident enough to chip in with my opinions. The answer to almost every single question or mini-rant was to increase your prices. Apparently this was the magical way to suddenly get customers who truly valued what you do. This was the way you would start to book those epic mountain top, elopement weddings. Easy right? No actually. I increased my prices and of course, you guessed it. Nobody booked. My enquiries dried up, people stopped responding to my Facebook ads, no one was visiting my website. It was a dire situation. Back to the Facebook groups of wisdom and what was their solution? Hold out for 3 months. People need 3 months to come to terms with your new pricing and then they will book. What absolute bullshit is that I thought? No they wont – this is the wedding industry, they’ll go and find someone cheaper and book them immediately.
Me. Crossroads. Drop prices and be unhappy? Keep prices where they and potentially be poor? Can I choose neither? I looked around me – there were lots of photographers charging more than me and surviving – flourishing even. Why couldn’t I? I knew it was time to take control of who I was targetting. My first foray into the world of marketing.
What I realise now – that I didn’t realise then – was that I had already been marketing. I’d just been doing it really really (really really really) terribly. I’d been marketing without focus, marketing without intention and basically marketing without a bloody clue what I was doing. All I needed was a little help and direction. Thankfully I’ve always been capable of finding and taking on board information, it’s the history student in me. So before long I’d signed up to numerous marketing courses, devoured books and blog posts and tried and tested many of the hints and tips I read on the online groups. It all started to come together.
Marketing was the magic that helped my business become enjoyable. And profitable of course. But most importantly enjoyable. I love how it permeates every aspect of my business – how I present my work, where I advertise, which social media platforms I use – marketing comes into everything.
Marketing with intention made all the difference to my business and I know it can do the same for yours. If you’re struggling with your business becoming more intentional with your marketing will help. There’s some help and advise on this blog about perfecting your marketing. Or you can get in touch to arrange a mentoring session so we can really get to the bottom of what you need.