Finding new clients is an integral part of growing your photography business from side hustle to full-time — and in sustaining your income after the fact. It’s also one of the most difficult aspects of owning your own business.
Before the advent and popularity of technology, photographers had to rely on methods such as:
- Seconding postcards to prospective clients
- Advertising through snail mail
- Leaving business cards at local businesses
While outbound marketing (and old-school methods of such) isn’t necessarily bad, it tends to have a high cost and low yield compared to inbound or referral marketing alternatives — alternatives that you, as a photographer, should take advantage of.
The Power of Referral Marketing
Referral marketing taps into your existing client base to expand upon it. How often have you given a friend or family member the name of a professional whose work you appreciated?
It happens all the time. Friends give one another referrals to their accountants, tax professionals, landscapers, photographers…
The true power in referral marketing comes from the credibility given to you by the referring individual. Someone’s not going to refer their friend to someone whose work isn’t up to snuff.
What this means for you, then, is that a client who’s been referred to you converts 30 percent better than a prospect gained through any other marketing channel.
With referral marketing, not only can you be largely hands-off when it comes to the actual marketing, but you face less resistance converting a lead to a client. The referring party has already laid most of the groundwork on your behalf.
How Do You Get Referrals?
The most effective method of garnering referrals is to do good work. Your clients need to be happy with your work if they’re going to recommend your services.
At the conclusion of a photoshoot or upon delivery of photos, ask your client to recommend your work to family and friends. Give them something to keep you in mind after you’ve gone. Business cards, branded goodies, or a thank you card all go a long way toward keeping you in your clients’ minds.
You should also consider creating a referral program. This is a codified process where you ask your existing clients to refer you to friends, family, and colleagues. In return, you’ll provide them with some sort of incentive or reward.
Common incentives you might consider offering are:
- A discount for future services
- Free or discounted photography products (prints, calendars, photo books)
- Gift cards or passes to local businesses or attractions
Track your clients in a spreadsheet or CRM. When a new client gets in touch with you, ask them how they heard about you. If they mention the name of an existing client, make note of it and be sure to contact them to let them know and to provide them with their reward — and a sincere thank you.
Tap Into Your Network
Your personal and professional networks are another goldmine for referrals. As a photographer, you likely work with plenty of fellow professionals, such as:
- Bookkeepers and accountants
- Tax preparers
- Real estate agents
- Local charities
- And small businesses
On top of that, you have friends, family members, and colleagues.
All these connections have networks of their own. Even if someone in your network doesn’t have a current need for your services, they may know someone who does.
Let those in your network know what you do. Offer them the same or similar referral rewards you provide your clients. Tell them you’ll refer their businesses to those in your network.
You could even partner with other businesses and local organizations. If a business is holding a raffle, offer your services as a prize. Support a local charity with free or discounted services in exchange for space to display your business name or work.
Tapping into your network is a surefire way to find new clients as a photographer.
Use Referrals and Networking to Grow Your Photography Business
Social media and computers in general have made it easier than ever to track, grow, and stay in touch with your clients and network. But your network is useful for more than just sending Christmas cards once a year.
Leverage your existing client base and personal and professional network to attract new business. Not only is asking for referrals a win-win for everyone involved, but it’s one of the most affordable, effective, and least time-consuming methods to grow your photography business.