- Find your voice, this is the first step. As artists our work/craft is what sets us apart from others. This is true at any level from the JC Penny studios, weddings, products, whatever - we all have our looks, it's what sets us apart from one another.
Although we may want to do everything, it really is best to focus on (at least publicly on a website or main book) a few things. If you want to do babies then focus on them and family - there is no need at all to show product pics. If you want to do weddings then create a site around them and don't show product work or much else. If you want to shoot products then no real need to show fashion/lifestyle unless a product is featured. I'm sure you get the idea.
I know sometimes we think that having more of a range means we will pick up more clients, but in the end all we do is confuse people and get confused ourselves. However, on the flip side having a blog is a great place to show other work, talk about other interests, and post random stuff that doesn't fit in with our core products.
- Find your brand. This is a business, and like any other business we all need to have our own brand, logo, style, and name. Yes, our work does speak for it's self, but we need to have some kind of identity that will stick in our customers minds. It should also be standard and consistent from business cards, fliers, websites, flickr, facebook, etc - everything done is a reflection of the business and the brand. Also remember that consumers only know what you tell them, they can't read minds.
- Find your market. Look up the 4 P's of marketing, and then apply that to your business. Who is your market, who do you want to be your market, how do those people find people like you, how can you target ads to this market, how can you price to this market, etc. From there it's easy.
Let's say I wanted to do headshots for Doctors, and Dentists, well, there are tons of places online I can go to for a mailing list of every dentist and dental clinic in the county/city. There are also professional sites for them, publications, etc... Or, if my market is people between the ages of 30-55, women, who make over $150k a year, and who spend over $1500 a year on makeup, who live in the area - you can find mailing lists for that!
Also know what that market wants’ to see as far as branding. Some will want to visit a studio and see a book (any size), some will be happy with a website, some will want a bigger book, some you may need a few good suits for when visiting them. It all depends, but you need to know who is viewing your work to decide how you want them to view it. Another example, b2b clients may not care to see a really solid SEO'd site, but rather just something with work on it like livebooks or another image based website, so no need to spend a lot of money on someone to create this great wordpress based awesome text heavy website when all you need is simple basic and standard.
Then look at places like ASMP, PPA, mncreative, workbook, livebooks, etc. Not only look at them but see if you can find out if people listed in those places are getting work or if it's a waste of money. Just because something seems like a great idea to us and looks like a great idea to us doesn't mean it's a great idea for us (the Duck Test doesn't apply to marketing). A lot of b2b clients don't really look on google, they don't go on mncreative, and they have internal lists of supported vendors. So the $500 spent on mncreative (for example) may be better spent on a direct mail campaign.
- Find your location. I know I get by cheap, but that's because I'm a bit lazy and don't need to do photos for money. But a studio needs to cater to it's market. This may be having a studio like mine in more of a industrial building, which is fine/great for commercial work or less public work, or, it may be having a store front off of a street. There are costs/benefits to each, and it depends what the studio is meant for. Example, I wouldn't do baby portraits out of my space, I'd go find a location in the burbs where babies are and set-up a shop in an affordable strip mall or affordable location.
- Find your metrics. Running a business or doing anything rarely is a "set it up and leave it alone" type of thing. So finding out if your marketing works, pricing works, and/or general idea works is key. This can be as simple as keeping track of who views a website vs how many calls you get, and how many calls/emails to how many turn into clients. Or how much you're charging vs how much time you're putting into it, vs how much you can charge in that market. But keeping track of numbers, or at least paying attention is key. If changes need to be made it doesn't mean that what was done failed, it just means that what was done didn't work, the results didn't warrant going in that direction, and a new course should be looked at. Even highly planned and detailed airplane flights need to go around storms or work around changing conditions - business is the same.
- Find some help. There are reasons we have, in this world, people who do graphic design, websites, marketing, sales, accounting, etc. The reason is that one person really can't be an expert at everything, and sometimes it's best to hire something out and do it really well then try to limp though it on your own. Sure it costs money, but in the end it's worth it.