Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Finding Business in a New Location

Last week I had a friend of mine ask me for some advice on how to get business going for her. She had just relocated from her college town in Laie, Hawaii (where I had also started my photography journey) and was now living in Real World, Colorado. I say 'Real World' because college campus life is a very different life than non-college campus, especially when it comes to finding photography business! I am not an expert, but I know what helped me get the wheels turning once again after moving from Hawaii to the East Coast. It actually took me quite a few years to figure out what was working and what wasn't working for me, but I also like to throw the "baby" excuse into there: I REALLY had to figure out the rhythm of running a business after a baby joined the family (and pretty soon I am going to have to start all over when we add baby number TWO to the mix). After moving to Maryland, we lived in Glen Burnie for 2 1/2 years, and then we relocated to another small town, about 20 minutes away. And while we weren't moving across the continent like our last move (or like my previously mentioned photographer friend), changing towns is still an adjustment and a GREAT opportunity to expand your business. And just this week we are going to be moving once AGAIN to the new home we bought (so hopefully it's our last move for awhile). Here are a few things I have done as we have been shifting locations in the past few years!
1) Get out of the house! My greatest resource has been the church I got to. Since I am a stay at home mom, this is really the only time I interact with a large number of people. The best thing I did for myself when going to a new church was introducing myself in Sunday school as "My name is Meghan, and I'm a photographer." This was a big step for me, to claim that title of being a photographer and announcing it to people, but the truth is, people won't know if you don't tell them. So I made it a point to get the word out as soon as I met someone new. To be honest, it was actually Adam, my husband, who started this for me. We were asked to stand up and introduce ourselves at church and when he introduced me he said, "And this is my wife, Meghan. She's a photographer." In that moment, I could feel my cheeks burning red with embarrassment. I'm not good enough to be calling myself a real photographer! I remember thinking to myself. But that was ridiculous! I have learned embrace myself as a photographer, and that has brought confidence in myself. And if I have confidence in myself, than others have confidence in me as their photographer! If you aren't a church-goer, find somewhere else to make and meet new friends! If you're a mom, join a Mom's Play Group. Find other moms at the library, introduce yourself to them, and right away mention that you're a photographer. If you want to switch phone numbers for a play date, give them a business card! You will have a new friend and a new client.
2) Never stop shooting and posting. Even when business wasn't coming, I forced myself to have a goal of blogging and doing sessions X amount of times a week or a month, and then I would post them to Facebook frequently. All the new friends I had just made at church (and added as a friend on Facebook) were now seeing that I wasn't kidding when I said I was a photographer. This is also a great way to make sure they see your work and see that you are good! Even if it was just a walk outside and some pictures of nature, at least I was still practicing my art and at least people were seeing my work. If they see how big a part of your life photography is, they will catch on.
3) Don't wait for them to come to you. Another thing that grew my business HUGE was seeking out people to photograph. If people weren't going to come to me, I was going to come to them. There was a pregnant lady in my church, and so I approached her and asked if I could practice a maternity, birth AND newborn session on her -- for completely free. Of course she agreed and it was enough to set the wheels in motion. Sure, I did a lot of work but it wasn't without pay if I consider the business it brought me in the long run. If you don't want to do work for completely free, then tell people you are charging a special low rate while you establish a clientele base in your area. After doing my free sessions, then I would approach people with a really cheap rate. I would send messages to people in my church who I knew were expecting and say, "Hey I just wanted to let you know I would love to do a newborn session for you and right now I am charging such and such!"
4) Flyers/Posters/Business Cards. I did hand out and leave fliers/posters in areas where my target audience were, such as senior fliers and maternity/family fliers but they haven't gotten me much business. But it's still worth a shot. I talked to the volleyball coach at a high school who handed out fliers to seniors, I talked to the store owner of a baby consignment shop, and I talked to a birth center about putting fliers up. When you have to talk to the store owner or someone like that, then you are letting them know you are looking for business and they can be great resources.
5) Follow other local photographers' blogs and Facebook pages. I looked up online and then started to follow other local photographers in the area. They became a great resource to me - when I was new to the area, I didn't have any idea where good shooting locations were. This is one way to find them (though of course it shouldn't be the only way you find shooting locations, since you don't want to be a copy-cat!). Seeing other local photographers be successful in their work was also an inspiration to me! It wasn't discouraging in any means; to me, it showed that this was a thriving area and that photography was a busy business! If they could find a place, then so could I!
6) Join Photography Forums. Similar to above, I also joined local photography forums on Facebook. Rather than treating other photographers as my "competition," I have come to learn it is much better to use them to my advantage. We build each other up! We ask each other questions and refer our clients to each other when we can't do the job, and they are just a great resource for a lot of different things - again, especially when you are new to the area. We have questions asked about taxes, permission to shoot in certain locations, scouting out a new location, great vendors to work with in the area, borrowing/buying/selling lenses and equipment, and so on.
7) Take a class. I also took a class at my local community college. Again, this opens up the doorway to good connections and local resources. If there is an area of photography you have always wanted to learn about, find out if your community college offers any classes about it! Not only will you be expanding your skill set and refining your expertise, but you will make friends with other photographers (and probably meet other non-photographer friends who would love photos from you, too!)
8) No matter what, love what you do. I honestly think the biggest leap in my photography came when I gave up caring about making money and realized I was doing this because I loved it. I stopped doing it for other people or for certain expectations or a certain wage and I started putting my heart and soul into it. I started doing this for ME. Especially after my first baby was born, and I really needed to make sure I didn't completely lose myself to Mommy Insanity, photography was my best outlet and relief. Photography started out as a way for me to find myself, and has since become a way for me to help others find their self. I think once I got real with my business, my photography, and myself, then people started to get real with me.


  1. It also doesn't hurt that you are cute as heck and incredibly talented!