I wasn’t always a marketing educator for photographers, speaking at conferences such as Wedding and Portrait Photographers International, having advice featured in Layer Magazine, and being hired for assignments from The Wall Street Journal, The Grammy Foundation, and various regional and national magazines.
In fact, I was just a small-town portrait photographer struggling with how I could make enough to just pay the bills, wondering if I could truly ever make a living at being creative, and feeling hopeless about how anyone would ever pay me more than what the cheap photographers down the road were charging.
She said, “I LOVE your work, I mean it really speaks for itself. How much do you charge?”
I had just raised my prices from the most insanely low price ever, to the most insanely low price ever +10%. Dancing the line of to make less than a burger flipper, or to NOT make less than a burger flipper, quite frankly.
“Oh, wow, sorry, we can get cheaper from another photographer. Can you match that price?”
I was FLOORED! Obviously, I said no (though in the past I might have thought about it).
At that point, I realized one big, elephant-with-the-trunk-extended-size thing that forever changed the course of my business and life:
And so I went on a journey of figuring out how to SPEAK for my work, so that potential clients could see the value in it.
I brainstormed. I read books. I studied copywriters, advertising legends and modern-day luxury companies.
I flipped my “boring” past of living in a small town and loving history and daydreaming, into something interesting, intriguing, and of huge value to my potential clients.
I showed people with words why the intangible things I do are of great value to them, and why they can’t get that anywhere else.
That while photos are great, professional photos are much better. And while professional photos are great? The way I do it is the only way they’ll get what they truly desire and value.
The very first time I finally SPOKE for my work, I sent out a single email to a tiny list, and ended up with more than 12 leads within a few hours…IN JANUARY! January is usually my slowest time of year.
Then a few months later, I wrote a short social media post that sent people to a blog post. I told a compelling story about myself (without over sharing) and garnered 7 leads that day!
And, each image was very basic…nothing crazy, no model-ish woman in a red dress with fabric being thrown in the air…no image with 10 flashes going off on an old barn and high school senior with the northern lights in the background…and certainly no fancy behind the scenes video…
Just some nice, solid photos with WORDS that speak for my work…that show the value for what I do…
And the same works for any photographer.
The REAL issue is that we have been “white-elephant-lied” to by the conglomerates in the photography industry.
We’re being told (and sometimes suggested) that the true way to making a living wage and get more clients?
Is just “upping our game.”
That we JUST need to get better at our craft by upgrading our software and equipment so that we can be the best.
That it’s “us” and our art that need to be fixed…
The “Build it and they will come” Mentality.
Nothing is FURTHER from the truth.
Now, of course photographers need to be at a certain level of their craft to charge professional prices. I mean if all of my images are blurry and underexposed I can’t reasonably charge pro prices. And, there’s nothing wrong with getting better at what you do, and becoming more creative.
That’s all fine and dand-er-ific….. and we all strive to do that, myself included.
But it does NOT MEAN people will automatically understand WHY you are charging more (aka a living wage) or WHY that means better results for them.
Because even when you improve your work…
It STILL doesn’t speak for itself (in most cases).
Nobody will notice but you, and maybe a few other photographers.
You still MUST “speak for your work.”
Your website, social media, about page, EVERYTHING must convey the value of what you do as a photographer, and why YOU specifically do it that way.
You must show people with words…
You’ll master The Big 4 Belief Systems and the Certain 7 Hooks so that you have a complete roadmap to creating leads that flock to you like snow geese to Niagara Falls.