For a lot of photographers starting out, we’re balancing a million things: whether that’s a full time job, a full-time school load, being a full-time mama, or whatever full-time obligation. We’ve got a lot of things going on in our lives that make it harder to go to networking events, workshops, and meeting up with photographers.
I still encourage connecting with people, because that’s super important for growing your business and community! But our time is limited, so we may not be able do it ALL the time.
Fortunately, the internet allows us to connect with tons of people with a post or a blog and we don’t have to be physically present. This is super time-efficient and can be really powerful for our business.
So here are 4 powerful ways to boost your inquiries online without paid advertising.
I get it. They look gross. They look tacky. But the truth is that hashtags are really powerful. Tons of people use hashtags as a way to research, get inspiration or get more information on a brand or service. It’s almost like a search engine.
This means hashtags are a huge opportunity for you to gain exposure, especially within your local community. Over a quarter of my inquiries come from Instagram and I attribute it to hashtags. In fact, when I was stuck at less than 400 followers, I had NO idea how to book with such a tiny following. So, I started adding more (and relevant) hashtags to my posts, and the inquiries started pouring in.
SEO stands for search engine optimization. In a nutshell SEO is about optimizing your website so that it’s crawlable and is pulled up in search engines. When you optimize your website for certain longtail keywords (in others words, search keywords that are at least longer than two words), you have the potential to get discovered by your ideal clients.
Optimizing your website can feel overwhelming, especially if you’re not tech inclined. But no worries – I’ve got a free resource for you that can help you optimize your website and get discovered. You can grab it here.
Pinterest is argued to be a visual search engine, rather than a social media platform. When you think about it, there really isn’t much socializing going on. It’s a place where people find inspiration and search for information. When you look at feeds, you COULD see your friends pins, but you’re not seeing them. You’re also not really engaging with them.
Instead, Pinterest is a place to search for content and consume content. This means this is an opportunity to be found, just like in search engines and hashtags. The trick is to create boards that cater to your local community and think about things that your ideal client would look for as it relates to your service.
Encourage your visitors to take action – whether that’s on social or on your website. CTAs (calls to action) are usually text or buttons that encourage visitors to take a certain action. For example, “Book Now” or “Learn More” are call to actions.
These are really important because people are typically scanning information really quickly. And because photographers are usually a new thing for most people to book (like for newborns, senior portraits, weddings, etcetera), they need help understanding the next steps.
By making those next steps easier to do, you’ll increase the likelihood of you seeing more inquiries. So to increase your online inquiries you want to TASTEFULLY sprinkle around buttons that encourage the visitor to send an inquiry. Some example CTAs include, “Learn More”, “Send a Message”, “Connect Now”, “Book Now”, “Find Out Pricing”, “Get Availability” etcetera.
If you’re interested in learning more on how to get more inquiries and get booked, make sure to grab my freebie,
So, you’ve got your website up online. You’ve got your account active. You’re pulling all the strings to bring in the traffic. And then bam.
When I started out, I looked at every single inquiry as a potential shoot. I was always SO excited to finally have gotten the attention of one potential client. Every e-mail got me full with excitement.
Unfortunately, my excitement was only followed up with disappointing silence.
Yup, ghosted. And devastation. Confusion. All kind of feels. After a few ghosted inquiries, I was determined to figure out how to get people to respond back.
After a ton of tests, research and playing around with responses of different kinds, I systematized a few key strategies to get people to respond to inquiries.
Eagerness gets the best of us, and we overshare. We want to share how much we love photography, how excited we are to hear from them, and then we share boat loads of information in our first response.
Couples are inundated with new information from different directions when they’re planning their wedding. We don’t want to be lost in the weeds of this, by making a long e-mail they skip over. The same thing applies to folks inquiring about family photos or portraits, they’ve got busy lives.
So, what does this mean for our response?
A recent Litmus Email Analytic revealed that the average time spent reading an e-mail was 11.1 seconds. Granted, your e-mail is something they WANT to read because they’re expecting a response. But this study still reveals that attention is a currency this day and age, and we want to value every second we have by making the first few words and seconds count.
In other words, keep your first inquiry response short, yet engaging. I’ve found that a 5-7 sentence response has been the sweet spot for me.
In the previous point, I mentioned that 5-7 sentences seem to be sweet spot. And separating 5-7 sentences into multiple paragraphs feel ridiculous. But this helps people maintain their attention and continue reading.
Copywriters suggest that short blocks of text are easily skimmed, so breaking some paragraphs into one to two sentences helps the speed reader actually read through your e-mail.
For example, I have one section that congratulates and says thanks. The next section is my availability. The next section is my pricing, then my final paragraph is an invitation to a consultation.
Whatever 5-7 sentences you write out should earn its place and attention in the e-mail. Anything extra should be saved in the consultation. Of course you want to share about your experience, the special features you offer and learn more about them. But doing this ALL in an e-mail is overwhelming.
So, cover the basics. You want to write an e-mail that is personal so you can connect with the potential client. Next, you want to share something that attracts interest, whether that’s your limited spots, a base price (and not yet listing the rest of the prices), a special that’s going on, or your availability.
Finally, you want to open curiosity. This is SUPER important because you want them to stay engaged with you and ask for more. How do you do that? That’s the next point.
Typically, clients may have an inbox of inquiry responses or may be awaiting responses. Not only should you be the quickest to respond, but you should have next steps ready.
Some folks are afraid to add a call to action because they don’t want to put any pressure on anyone. But calls to action are more like invitations. They either respond or they don’t. Having the call to action helps guide the potential client to the next, logical course of action.
I’ve tried three different ways to do calls to action and found one that worked best. I tried the passive approach: “If you’re available, let’s schedule a coffee date.” I also tried the very direct approach, “Just hit reply and let me know a date works best for you.” But I’ve found the best results by simply asking, “Would you like to schedule a consultation to chat more about how my services may fit what you’re looking for?”
The open-ended question isn’t pushy, and it’s not indirect. It’s an invitation to continue the conversation.
We live in an accelerated culture, thanks to laptops, mobile devices, smart watches and all kinds of ways to connect with the world. There have been several surveys asking customers how quickly they expect a response from customer service. Some studies have said 2 minutes, some say within 4 hours, some say within 10 hours. Whatever the survey, it’s clear that a response is expected within 24 hours.
For some people, especially folks that don’t do photography as a full-time job, this might feel ridiculous. So, if you can’t respond within 24 hours, have an auto-reply acknowledging the e-mail saying you’ll respond within a certain time. Then, fulfill that response! Auto-responses and quick e-mails earn SO much trust with potential clients.
So, what are some action steps you can take?
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Why deal with SEO when there’s more attractive solutions, like Instagram and Pinterest? Not only do you get to promote your work, but you can consume content also. Win, win. Plus, SEO is challenging. From meta tags, Google Analytics, keywords, plug-ins, and all kinds of tech, it can so overwhelming that you don’t even want to try it at all.
But in this blog, I’ll talk about 5 reasons why SEO matters to your local photography business. By the end of it, you’ll definitely want to give this powerful strategy a try to grow your own business.
When you optimize your website and blog posts for search engines, you’ll organically be discovered by your targeted keywords. If you’re able to rank well and maintain a high position for your keywords, you can regularly get discovered by your ideal clients without paying for advertising.
In 2018, Google’s search and ad tools helped with close to $3 billion of economic activity. In other words – Google is a powerful search engine that has the potential to boost your exposure and bring in profits. Naturally, being able to be seen on the first page of Google is worth a lot, especially in terms of ad spend.
If you’re able to rank well in search engines, you can build regular traffic. And when you have regular traffic, you have the opportunity to turn those visitors into people that send inquiries.
To optimize your page on Google, you’ll need to optimize your main page and you’ll also need to have all your blog pages optimized. To have your pages optimized, this usually means you’ll need to create quality content for your visitors, which helps build trust with visitors and bring in inquiries.
When you create content for your website you have the ability to control what information is shared and in what order. You organize and feature special blog content the way you want visitors to see it. Social media, on the other hand, you’re at the mercy of algorithm changes with only 30% of your followers actually viewing your posts.
This doesn’t mean you abandon social. This just means you need to diversify your marketing channels so you have multiple places to share your content consistently.
When you curate content for your blog post, you’re ideally creating content that caters to your ideal client. And when you’re able to rank well and get found by them, you’ll be able to attract the right clients to your business. This is powerful!
To help you get started, here’s a freebie to help you identify 3 common mistakes photographers make that prevent them from having their pages optimized.
If you don’t have a portfolio, you’ll want to practice with light. You want to practice in both natural and unnatural lighting circumstances. Practice, practice, practice and get familiar with settings. You don’t want to show up to a portfolio building shoot (free or paid) without having practiced. You want to put your best foot forward so you have plenty of choices for your portfolio. So, here’s how to build a photography portfolio when you have no clients to get you started.
Feeling comfortable with your camera is SO important before showing up to a shoot, because getting frazzled by settings can truly cramp on your creativity.
Invite a friend or family member you trust to a session and say you’d just like to practice and build your portfolio. This is a great way to ease into photography, because it should hopefully relieve any stress or expectation to “perform” so that you can photograph freely and creatively.
Learn from someone with experience, while also building your portfolio. When I was starting out and I couldn’t afford to go to workshops, I made friends with other photographers and offered to assist or second shoot. These were incredible learning experiences because I saw behind the scenes how they posed, how they played with light, made compositional choices and managed shoots.
Just keep in mind that every primary photographer has a different protocol for second shooters and portfolios. Not every primary allows second shooters to post photos they’ve taken. Some might allow photos to be shared on portfolios, but not social. Everyone is different. So make sure to clarify first before sharing any photos. Maintaining a good relationship with photographers is important for community, business and friendship.
If you’ve got your ideal client down and you know what kind of shoots you’d like to do, connect with vendors and share a vision of what you’d like to accomplish. Leave room to collaborate and invite professional stylistic opinion. But before going to vendors, you want to be specific with a clear vision, letting them know why you’re connecting with them, share what unique qualities you value in them that are also relevant to the styled session, and also share your goals. Goals include things like, “I want to reach this type of client by doing this type of shoot. I hope to get this featured on XYZ blogs so that we can expand our reach. This is why I think you’d be a great fit for this styled shoot…”
A styled shoot is a great opportunity to network, but also create a stunning shoot for your portfolio, market your work, and help other vendors with their own marketing material.
This is similar to inviting friends and family, but now you’re practicing with maybe not-so familiar people. You want to get into the groove of working with different people and different personalities.
Shoots aren’t just about creating beautiful images, but it’s about creating a positive experience. Plus, if you’re an introvert like me, getting experience with different people will help you shake away nervous jitters, especially when it comes to getting to paid experiences. You might still be nervous with paid experiences, because now they’re paid, but having more and more experience will help you feel more settled into the position as a professional photographer.
On another note, you should only do free shoots for a season. My recommendation is to do maybe 4-5 shoots for perhaps 3 months because you want to eventually make money. Be intentional about learning from each shoot, by asking yourself, “What could’ve been better?” Think about posing, lighting, composition, direction, location and more. This way you’re maximizing your “intern” time by investing in your learning.
Photography workshops are an incredible way to learn how to grow your business, network with other growing photographers AND grow your portfolio. Usually at a workshop there is some kind of styled shoot or posing session. This is a great way to grow your portfolio and learn from other photographers.
The key takeaway here is that even though you might not have clients now, there is still a HUGE opportunity to learn and develop your skill. This stage of business is still crucial and important, even if you’re not seeing revenue right away. This investment of time will pay off well in attracting your ideal clients, getting inquiries and establishing your brand – all of which are crucial to your growing business.
If you’re curious about how to book clients while building your portfolio, make sure to check out my freebie where I talk about how I went from no clients to 22 paying wedding clients in a year.