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Photographer, will work for FREE … Really ?

How are you going to attract new clients without breaking the bank?

I hear it all the time, “I’m a new business and am willing to do free sessions in order to build my following and portfolio. I just want to be busy and have clients”.

To those photographers I say … does working for free and being ‘busy’ pay your bills ? Is working for free satisfying to you ? or leaving you feeling frustrated, overworked, and under paid ?

Here is a story about a student that I mentored a few years back. When she was starting out she decided to tap into her daughter’s play group by offering all the moms free sessions of their kids and nearly free prints in order to help her build her portfolio and to expand her client base.  Many of the mothers eagerly signed up, feeling like they were getting something great for nothing.

My student did many sessions and came to me complaining that she didn’t feel appreciated. The moms apparently were being very picky about what they would get for prints and were asking her to photograph other family members and making requests like ‘ oh can you just do this one more thing‘. They were less than appreciative throughout the process and she felt frustrated because she wasn’t being paid anything for her time and she wasn’t getting orders on her sessions in a timely fashion. In addition friends who were being referred to her business were expecting the same free sessions and nearly free prints that their friends had received.

By placing herself into a position of working for someone because she needed to build her portfolio, she gave away her control. She became the one that ‘needed’ something and she therefore devalued her work, her time, and her talent. She placed herself into the situation that made her feel under-appreciated and overworked.

So you’re reading this and thinking, well she has to build her portfolio somehow, what other way is there ?  My advice to my student was this.

Go back to the rest of your playgroup mothers and tell them

  • you have a few selective modeling spots open for toddler & families
  • you are taking applications for the spots and if any of them would like to submit their child’s photo and a short email application you will be happy to get them more information.
  • the chosen family will receive their session for $50 (or whatever you feel comfortable with) and they will get 30% off any prints they order, as long as the order is placed within two weeks from the session date.
  • you will be making your decision in one week

My student went back to play group and tried the above method with great success.  Not only were the families who came to her happy with their sessions, but she found them more appreciative and enthusiastic about purchasing prints in a timely fashion after the session.  It seems giving deadlines for discount is a great motivator to getting your clients to place their orders in a timely fashion.

Why was her offer so well received the second time around ?

  • because she placed her work, her talent and her time as a priority.
  • because she was offering her friends something exclusive while maintaining boundaries and integrity to herself and her business.
  • because she created a situation where her friends needed HER service, instead of her being in need of them.

We must be careful with the word NEED when presenting our services to others. We want to present them with opportunities to work with us, we never want to present them with a need we have that they can fill by simply showing up and gracing us with their presence. People in general are turned off by need. So instead empower yourself and your clients with positive promotions that move them to action and create stimulation in your business where you want it.

So while everyone has to start somewhere, remember that building a client base doesn’t have to be a giveaway service on your part.  It is possible to build your portfolio while offering a great service and generating an income.

When starting your photography business or when revamping pricing its important to maintain integrity to yourself, time, talent and workflow.  Doing so will ensure a strong, healthy business base while giving you reason to smile and enjoy the journey.

Written BY: Nikki-Lynn Bean
Founder: Bellies & Blessings Photography
Founder: Photographer’s BLING & Photographer’s BLING Action Boutique

email: bbphotos@me.com or photographersbling@me.com

Georgina BrumbyFebruary 12, 2013 - 1:22 am

Awesome read thanks.

Trio Photography and DesignFebruary 11, 2013 - 8:49 pm

Great article, thank you!

TaRhonda LayJuly 26, 2012 - 10:44 pm

I Love this article, I’m glad I was able to grab a hold of it after a year.

Kerrie MontiSeptember 9, 2011 - 10:46 am

This would be such a blessing to win!!! THANKS for the opportunity! And in the process I have found a new lab to use!!! I’m super excited!!! I’ve done everything asked to do for the contest!!!

MelanieSeptember 6, 2011 - 5:00 pm

that was alot of work ,but it was fun and informative. Thanks!

KeriSeptember 4, 2011 - 5:51 pm

I did all of the requirements, ready the articles and commented. I also already liked all three pages. THanks for putting this on!
kamphotography@live.com

KeriSeptember 4, 2011 - 5:50 pm

I read both articles, and commented. I also already liked all 3 business pages. :) Thanks Simply, Ashe, and Bling!
Kamphotography at live dot com

Jenni SpauldingSeptember 4, 2011 - 1:06 pm

This article is awesome!! I’m glad you wrote it! Very useful information!!

AvisSeptember 4, 2011 - 4:13 am

I did it! Read both articles and liked all 3 pages on fb. I enjoyed both articles and learned a couple of things along the way. What a fabulous journey a new business can be. I look forward to working with all of you in the future.

Sandy WhiskerSeptember 1, 2011 - 1:55 pm

Love this!! Helps to identify the use of your knowledge and time is valuable.

Bethany ShirkSeptember 1, 2011 - 1:37 pm

I sooo needed to read this … I’m tired of getting walked all over! Thanks loads!

SusanDSeptember 1, 2011 - 11:45 am

Great advice! Thank you so much for this valuable information.

JeannetteSeptember 1, 2011 - 11:20 am

I agree that this is a great article!!! Very important information for newbies!!!

Jacqueline LusbySeptember 1, 2011 - 8:14 am

This is a great article that really puts things into perspective for newbies :) thanks for sharing!

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tonyia karwanskiAugust 28, 2011 - 11:34 am

What a great piece! I made the same mistake when I first started and I too was taken advantage of. Believe me it didnt take me long to see the error of my ways! I wish I had seen an article like this when I first started out!

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