Today we're going to try another approach on a question that we get over and over again. Because the hands down, far and away number one question we get from up and coming photographers is: How do you even get your name out there when you're first getting started?
Ohhhh and every time we get that question, I get a little pit in the bottom of my stomach. Because the fact is, it's such a hard question to answer. That's because so MUCH of it is just good old fashioned hard work & time. There's this quote from Thomas Edison that I go back to over and over again when I'm wishing for something to happen faster in our business or lives. It says, "Opportunity is missed by most people because it comes dressed in overalls and looks like work." Ahh, isn't that so true?
The first part is the hard work: it's working on your craft to try to get better, even just a little bit, every single day, it's building a brand, getting the images to those vendors, creating a workflow, making time to send boxes with ribbons and bows, it's blogging and tweeting and facebooking daily, it's reaching out to the locations, the vendors, and the other photographers in your area. And...it's a lot. And if that's the first part...the second part is just giving all of that time to have an effect. Which, like we've talked about before, is just not something I'm good at. I always joke that I would be an absolutely terrible farmer, because I would be really good at doing the hard work to plant the seeds...but I would go out of my mind waiting the six months before I could see the harvest. We want it & we want it now, right?
So even though I know from experience that so much of it is just hard work & time, I also knew I needed to come up with something a little more concrete-something with some specific, actionable steps- if we were going to help anybody. So we decided to sit down and think, really think, about how we got our start with those first few bookings....and how that has built into the business we have today. Not to go all Pit Bull about the situation on you, but in other words: to understand the future baby, we gotta go back in time!
At our WPPI Platform this year, we talked about the difference between "seedless watermelons" (bookings that might be really sweet & juicy when you get them, but once they're gone they don't turn into any new watermelons) and instead investing in your time & energy into fruit that is, well, fruitful. For today, we thought we'd take a look back at some of the most fruitful branches of our client tree (yes, I know watermelons grow on vines....go with me here, I'm trying to make something happen!!) and see how that came to be. We're going to focus in on three original couples: Irena & Danny who stumbled upon our blog, Tiffany & David who were a couple we knew from church, and Alana & Dan who were referred to us from another photographer. All of these couples are from three or more years ago (2009, 2006 and 2007 respectively), and all of them have a direct path leading from them to one of our current 2012/2013 couples. Let's take a look!
Irena & Danny Irena stumbled upon us when she was doing an internet search for photographers. She had just moved from California to Massachusetts, and was trying to plan her Miami wedding remotely. In one of her searches, our page came up. We did a phone meeting with her while we were out in Vegas for our second WPPI & she hired us to come to Florida with her. It was when we were down there, that we were first introduced to event planner Tamara Cohen of TC Event Design. But because it was sort of a fly in, fly out trip we didn't really get to spend a lot of time with her. And to be completely honest, I'm not even sure that we followed up and got her images after the fact. It could have been a totally wasted opportunity for us, but as luck would have it two of our branches were about to overlap (more on that to come) and we got the chance to work with her a second time on Sonia & Pankit's wedding at the Eden Roc Hotel back in Miami the following year. That was the wedding where we really clicked with Tamara & her team, and because they had done so many of the flowers & details we were sure to get them images and a set of our "vendor cards" (pearl paper post cards from WHCC that we had made up with their color & logo and an image from the wedding that best represents their work). From that relationship and referrals from the TC Event Design team (Tamara, Robyn & Michelle), we have since booked Lauren & Mathias, Jill & Russ, Beryl & Michael, and the forthcoming 2012 weddings: Tessa & Mathias & the Gomez wedding. As the final piece of this branch (so far!), Nicole was a bridesmaid at Jill & Russ's wedding and got to see us work. And she & her fiancÚ Scott have now hired us to shoot their 2013 wedding in Key West.
Tiffany & David Tiffany & David were a new couple at our church when we first really getting started. Our first conversation went a little something like this "you're getting married & need a wedding photographer? WE are wedding photographers. What a coincidence!" These guys didn't have a huge budget for photography, but that's ok because we were just getting started and weren't charging very much. But what they did have going for them was an absolutely beautiful location (The Branford House, where Justin & I would have our wedding the following year after seeing it at their wedding), a friend who was an event designer and was doing a lot of stuff for them at cost, and the fact that they were just a happy, beautifully in love couple. After their wedding, we took a big leap of faith and spent the money to have a sample album made that we could leave at the Branford House. It was such a big leap of faith because a) that was a lot of money for us to be spending and b) we weren't even sure if the Branford House people would show it since we weren't on any of their lists. But we made the leap, dropped it off and kept our fingers crossed. It turns out that they did put out the book, and that one act of faith turned into: Abby & Ryan, Katie & Joseph, Suzanne & Justin, Sarah & Mike, and our 2012 wedding this coming Friday: Jaime & Dan.
That book also got us Tiffany & Dan who saw the book at The Branford House, but brought us down for their wedding at Cairnwood Estate outside of Philadelphia. From their wedding, we got four more branches. The first two are that from their referrals, we were able to get Kim & Steve Slaton's wedding and our upcoming 2012 wedding Jen & Eian near Cape Cod. The third is that we sent images & another set of our "vendor cards" to Cairnwood directly. From that & from labeling our blog posts "Cairnwood Weddings: Tiffany & Dan" to get SEO we were able to get Jennifer & Eddy and Janki & Amit (who we just shot this past weekend). And at Jennifer & Eddy's wedding we were able to meet & work with the fabulous event planner Erin Proud , who got us Kelly & Paul (the gorgeous pink Cairnwood wedding we just blogged). The final branch from Tiffany & Dan is that one of Dan's cousins who was at the wedding, saw the pictures and started referring us to her friends. She got us Tiffany & Frank last year, who just got us Francie & Chris (June 16th) and Nathalie & Tim (October 6th) of this year. When we were at Francie & Chris's wedding, we grabbed a quick picture of me and the J&M brides in that branch.
Alana & Dan Alana & Dan found us when the advertising photographer Justin worked for back in 2006 told them he didn't do weddings, but that they should really check out Justin. We absolutely adore these guys and are still friends with them today. At their wedding, the best man was Kartik and he had his girlfriend (soon to be fiancÚ) Tina with him. When it came time for their wedding, these guys really went to bat for us and had to fight to hire us because a) we had never done an Indian wedding before and b) we, in case you haven't noticed, are not in fact Indian :) so we weren't familiar with any of the cultures or traditions. But like I said, they really fought for us, and as a result we got our very first Indian wedding as a four day jaw-dropping event, concluding at the Boston Intercontinental Hotel Boston Intercontinental Hotel. From Tina & Kartik, their friends Jaclyn & Dan also found & hired us and it also opened up a whole new Indian wedding market for us. One of the groomsmen from T&K's wedding posted some pictures on his Facebook feed, and from that Malika & Vinay found us and brought us to California. Sonia (of Sonia & Pankit) was a friend of a friend of Tina's, saw the pictures and hired us for their Miami wedding (that fateful wedding where we got to work with TC Events again). And similarly from friends of friends seeing pictures, from Sonia & Pankit's wedding we were able to book Malika & Arjun, Kavi & David, and Janki & Amit (who also had the connection with us that we had shot at Cairnwood before).
That was a LOT of information. And I think a lot of different points could be drawn from all of that. But here are a few of the main things I think you should take away:
*Start with whatever opportunities & jobs you are given. Don't be too proud to get a wedding because you know the couple from church or another photographer didn't want the job . And then make the ABSOLUTE most out of them you can.
*Follow up with your creative team & get them images and prints/cards!!
*Invest in sample albums for your favorite weddings/locations
*SEO your posts "Wedding Location: Couple's Names" so that people searching for photographers at their location can stumble upon you.
*Be nice to the wedding party & guests. They can easily become your future clients or even your biggest cheerleaders without you even knowing it.
*Do the hard work & give it time. Some of the seeds that were planted as far back as 2006 are still reaping a harvest for us in 2012.
And, if you want to learn more about how we grew our business and how we filter out the seedless watermelons from couples we love who keep getting us more couples just like them, we would LOVE to have you join us for the Joy of Marketing Sales Summit: Selling Secrets of the Photography Masters on Wednesday, July 11th. We are beyond thrilled & honored to be included as part of this line up. The event is absolutely FREE for anyone to watch while it's live and there will be presentations from seven other speakers that I know I can't wait to listen to! Or if you can't tune in that day/would just like to have a copy to reference later, you can buy the whole broadcast for only $49 as long as you grab it at some point before the event. You can sign up & find out more by going HERE.
Happy Pancake Day y'all!
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