One of the biggest challenges on the way to become a professional photographer and start making money from doing what you love is figuring out how to get clients. If you’re just setting up your business, it may seem that you can’t get the message in front of the right people. However, marketing does not have to be time-consuming or expensive, but it does have to be creative and effective to get clients to choose you out of millions of fellow photographers.
If you’re strapped for cash and looking for good ways to create buzz around your photography brand, here are 9 proven ways to get free marketing for your business.
1. Build your online marketing toolkit
When it comes to showcasing and selling your work online, there are a lot of different choices out there. Most photographers end up using several online services and plugins to host, organize, sell their images and manage their businesses. Creating your own toolkit which would only consist of free marketing tools is definitely a budget-friendly option. However, managing a bunch of accounts can get pretty time-consuming and difficult to control at a certain point.
There are plenty of multifunctional platforms too, with such great solutions as Photoshelter, Zenfolio, and Smugmug leading the market. You can use free accounts or trial periods such service usually offer, but most of platforms require you to buy their middle or top-tier subscriptions in order to access the full-featured version. You can use a free account in combination with some other free tools, though.
Photo by Breather
Another option worth checking out is Defrozo, a free platform that aims to combine all the essential tools for photographers to manage their marketing efforts. It’s currently available in beta version offering tools for website management, organizing your photos in the cloud, and delivering your work via personalized client galleries. The best part is that you can actually influence the platform’s development, by providing your feedback to the developers and supporting the project on Kickstarter.
2. Get creative with print design
As a photographer, you can use your Photoshop skills not just for retouching, but for marketing too. For example, you can design a great business card using your own photos. Also, you may design a nice “thank you” card for your clients or a Christmas card to send to your most interested prospects. Custom prints are not just placeholders for your brand advertising, it’s a great way to show personalized approach to people you meet and work with.
3. Blog Regularly
Blogging is an effective way to share your photographic knowledge and bring people useful content using your own experience. Regular blog posts that are adjusted to your audience’s interests will reinforce your reputation as an expert and attract natural search traffic to your website.
Photo by splitshire
Systematic updates are also an important signal for search engines telling that your website is active and thus, there’s more likeliness it can provide up-to-date, relevant content to searchers.
If you’re worried you haven’t yet reached the level of expertise you think you need to write useful blog posts, don’t be. You can share the process of improving your photography skills and growing your business. If you’re a wedding photographer, you may share some bridal preparation tips, as well as recommend certain vendors you work with (don’t forget to let them know about it as they will likely want to share the link). You can give people ideas on what to wear for particular photo sessions taking into account time of the year. Or, you can hand-pick inspirational content written by others and re-post it on your blog providing your commentary. You got the idea.
There are many ways to make your blog interesting and useful – start with something and align your course as you go.
4. Use Cross-Marketing
Cross-marketing is when you promote someone to make them promote or help you with your brand. For example, you can approach a clothing store about offering them a photoset with their latest collection in exchange for giving your business card to every customer. Moreover, your watermark will be on the images with clothes which will also make people remember you.
Try to think outside the box and figure out where your clients are. This concept is applicable for any type of photography. As a wedding photographer, you can find vendors for cross-promo in your own location here: Little Black Book and Green Wedding Shoes.
Green Wedding Shoes
5. Take advantage of SEO
SEO (stands for search engine optimization) is not as difficult as it may seem at first. Just try to include keywords, relevant web page titles, descriptions and image ALT tags to give search engines a better idea of what your site / blog is about and therefore, help potential customers find you. A free tool that crawls your website (just like search engines do) and displays your SEO issues along with some tips on how to fix them is Screaming Frog SEO Spider.
One of the best resources you could use to learn more about SEO is The Beginner’s Guide to SEO by Moz. Once you understand the basics, it becomes easier to include SEO to your regular activities.
6. Grow Your Email List
A lot of people underestimate the value of email marketing. There are also many people confusing it with collecting or even buying emails and doing advertising blasts afterwards. It used to be email marketing back in the 90s but today this method is called in no other way than spam.
A legit mailing list only consists of people who opted in for it (subscribed via your website or gave you explicit permission to email them in any other way). The more people willing to receive your updates you have, the better for your business.
Photo by splitshire
MailChimp is a great tool you can use to get started with email marketing. Are going to organize a mini-session event soon? Let your email subscribers know about it. Did you just publish a new blog post that you think your audience shouldn’t miss? Create an email campaign and share the good with your crowd!
7. Use Visual Networks
Facebook, Pinterest and Tumblr are commonly referred to as visual networks. It means that images and videos receive more attention in these networks than other types of content. This gives you odds as you always have a lot of cool photos to share with people, right?
However, sharing content is not enough for effective social media marketing, even if the content is excellent. Don’t forget about the word “social” and pay attention to what your friends / followers are sharing. Create an engaging experience for your followers by organizing contests and giveaways (using your services as rewards).
Another thing to remember is that every pond has its own rules. Take some time to learn about each social network’s best practices, and invest most of your efforts into those that deliver the best results (traffic to your website, referrals, inquiries, etc).
Read my previous guide on visual storytelling for brands.
8. Grow on the Local Level
Make sure to use location targeted keywords (e.g. “Florida portrait photographer”) in your website’s meta title, description, and image tags. Google often puts Google Local listings higher that the organic listings in its search results pages. That’s a good way to improve your chances of being found on Google when people are searching for a photographer in your area.
Also, you can use a free service MOZ Local for updating listings online. This process won’t take more than 10 minutes of your time.
9. Shoot for Charity Cause
Doing something pro bono is a wonderful and refreshing experience. Self promotion should by no means be the central reason for you to do charity work, but once you decided to help make this world better, your photography business will feel the positive effect of it too.
Photo by Jackie Meredith
Photography is a critical medium for any charity or non-profit organization. So by googling some fund-raising, charity events you’ll most likely find many opportunities to help out.
Hopefully, these marketing ideas will come in handy and enable you to make the most out of what you get. Share your own suggestions and experience with us in the comments.