Book more photography clients with this step-by-step framework.
Hi, I'm Brooke! I'm a believer, wife, mama to two, Oklahoma photographer, and photography business coach.
I help photographers grow profitable full-time businesses from home.
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I am so glad that you are here to let me walk you through the phases of building a profitable photography business! This article will be breaking down the 5 phases of building a profitable photography business. It is taken from the Building Your Business Workshop Podcast Series.
This workshop is for you if you have been struggling with starting your photography business for some time now and you just can’t seem to figure out your next steps. Or, if you have already started your photography business but, you are now understanding that it takes more than pretty pictures to become profitable in your business. You may be beginning to experience the overwhelm that comes with having missing pieces in your business foundation.
Struggle no more! In this series and corresponding workbook I will be breaking down the 5 phases of a successful photography business. To give you a visual representation, I am going to be comparing the phases of building your photography business to constructing and building a hotel. The phases are The Groundwork Phase, The Framing Phase, The Building Phase, The Furnishing Phase, and The Booking Phase.
In this phase we are going to set the vision and mission behind your photography business and craft your business blueprint. We are also going to tackle your mindset and declare your niche.
When you are building a home or a hotel the first thing you will need is a blueprint. Your vision is like that blueprint. This vision or “blueprint” is going to help you see where you are heading, what is the end goal, and what YOU want your business to become and provide.
Your vision is important because it helps you know what you are working towards. If you don’t know where you’re going and you don’t know why you’re doing this, you’re going to get lost. You’re going to give up in the process. And then you’re not ever going to see that success that you want so badly!
II am going to walk you through casting your vision with a few simple questions: Why did you become a photographer? Why do I value photography? Please take some time to really dive deep and journal about these questions. Keep digging deeper until you really connect with your “Why”. This will really help you serve your clients even more.
Once you have that answer, really consider: What do I want my business to look like? This is your blank canvas. Don’t hold anything back. Really try to paint the picture of your business and truly give yourself the time needed to ponder this question. After you have the vision for your business, that’s really where we can take apart that vision piece by piece and put it all together into a business.
A good question to ask yourself next is: Where do you want your photography business to be one year from today? Imagine one year from now, you and I were sitting across the table from one another, and we’re looking back at what you were able to do in a year. What does that look like? How much revenue are you bringing in? How many sessions are you booking per month? What are you accomplishing with the profit? Do you have all of these answers confidently decided? This is your business blueprint!
Mindset is such an important topic for not just photographers or business owners but, for everyone. Mindset impacts your decision making. It can effect whether or not you believe in yourselfw or even whether or not you have a certain type of personality! Everything we go through evolves and affects our mindset.
To really stress the importance of your mindset I want you to answer this question: What does it take for someone to be successful? What do you think? I can tell you it takes a lot of things but, most importantly it takes a positive mindset.
Here’s the thing, I have not always had the best mindset. I’ve always been a type a person and a very competitive person. I can tell you that I have had to really work on my mindset over the years. As a teenager I used to complain about the simplest things. I found myself consumed by drama and stuck in a poverty mindset.
What changed for me? In 2016, I walked through one of the lowest points of my life. We were broke. I had both a toddler and a newborn at the time. It was really difficult. I needed a change. I ended up having the opportunity to join a network marketing company put in front of me. Now, I had a lot of limiting beliefs left in me. I wondered: Is this really going to work? Am I just going to be a Spammy marketer? Do I really want this? But, something had to change so I went for it!
Let me tell you that even though I’m not involved with that company at all anymore, that experience gave me back my mindset, and it was amazing. I learned a lot of why we have a negative mindset is because we’re putting our ego first. It’s your ego that’s getting in your way, your ego is screaming at you on the inside saying ” Don’t do it! Stay Safe!” So you’ve got to let down the ego push it aside and say no that is not going to be my mindset, I’m going to the next level.
That’s when you start seeing strides and waves change in your business and your life. So if I haven’t made it clear enough, your mindset is so crucial. Here are some tips on improving your mindset. #1 Eliminate or pray for the strength to ignore the negative people and influences around you. #2 Unfollow people on social media that trigger you. #3 Read your Bible or devotional every single day. Those are three tactical things that you can do to improve your mindset.
I hear it all the time. “I’m am in a saturated market.” “There are so many photographers here!” ‘I don’t know how to stand out!” Here’s what I want to tell you, Being in a saturated market is a good thing. Ask yourself: How many doctors offices, gas stations or grocery stores are in your town? There is a need for what you have. There is no way you could serve your entire community by yourself! If God has called you to this, he will absolutely help give you the clients you’re meant to serve.
Here are three ways how you can stand out in your “Saturated market”. #1 You have to niche down #2 You have to have some sort of special X-factor if you will. #3 You have to great an amazing client experience. The key to all of the above is to actually choose and commit to your niche.
How can you decide your niche? Ask yourself: What is the one photography niche that if you absolutely had to choose one, this would be it hands down? Not the niche you think would make you more money. Not the niche you think there is the most popular in your area. Dig deep into your heart and choose the niche that will truly light you up!
I want you to understand, if you will commit to our niche you will be known as the go to expert. People will have more trust for you. And not only that, but you’ll give back to the industry as a whole. If everyone would commit to this strategy everybody would be seeing thriving business sooner and for longer.
Lets recap what we have learned and what questions you need to be asking yourself today! Remember if you are a pen and paper girl, you can find my accompanying workbook here.
Now that you have a solid foundation to build your business on, it’s time to start framing your business. We are covering the legalities of owning a business, business models, and pricing yourself. You could say you have the foundation. You have the concrete set. Now we are framing out your business. Please remember to take everything I say and consult with a CPA a tax expert or lawyer before taking any actions.
Whether you want a full time photography career or a side hustle, you must set up your business as a legal one from the start. This is the first step you should take. It does not have to be complicated. When I first started my business I set myself up as a sole-proprietor. And I made sure to claim m income on m taxes. It can be as simple as this when you are starting. Not everyone needs to set up an LLC but, everyone needs to be legal.
At the end of every single month I want you to be sitting down and tracking how much income you made. I also want you to keep track of how much your expenses that were directly related to our business. Subtract your expenses from your profits and depending un what your CPA suggest, you will be taking out around 30% for your taxes. Keep all of this documented. It can be as simple as a spreadsheet to get started. This is what you will be giving you tax consultant at the end of every year at tax time.
Here is one thing about getting paid. Here’s the thing, if you’re committed to running a legal business, part of that is you’re going to have to go through payment processors. Whatever payment processor you choose, you will have fees involved. Remember, we can’t cut corners anymore, we are legal business owners who are trying to scale our businesses. And one more thing, I’ve never seen more than about a 3.5% fee on any system. And all can be counted as a business expense at the end of the year!
Lets talk about business models and how to price yourself.
When it comes to business models, a lot of photographers don’t even realize there are multiple kinds to choose from. There are 3 main business models for a photographer. I break them down in greater detail inside of my From Broke to Booked Blueprint Program. But, today I want to give you a basic overview.
This is the most common I see today. It is where all of the client’s digital files are included in their package. They are able to take their print release and get their photos and product where they choose.
This is the original photography business model. The premise is your clients pay for their session fee and then pay for their chosen prints and products through you. A lot of photographers believe this is the only way to go. What they overlook is there is also a third option.
This is where you offer the all inclusive session as well as options for purchase. For example, Your clients can receive a certain amount of digitals with their session. After which, you can present them with your prints and products as a way to serve them further.
No matter what business model you choose, your income is not limited by your business model. Your profit is determined by how you are pricing yourself. You will have to take into consideration where you live and offer services. Your location does matter! You can either out price your market or underprice your services where you lose the trust of your local community. You will have to consider your experience level. If you desire to offer those higher priced offers you will have to be able to deliver on the quality and level of experience that they demand. This takes time. We all have to start somewhere and work our way up. These are two important factors to consider.
One last pricing piece of advise, Stop overwhelming your clients! If you are a photographer and I go to your website to see tons of different options, I will be clicking off. When you are the Jill of all trades you won’t be consistently booked. If you have 24 different package options you are in the same situation.
Here is your checklist for for this phase.
1. Commit to running a legal business.
2. Start tracking your income and expenses every single month.
3. Get a separate checking account for your business.
4. Choose your business model.
5. Price yourself for profit.
6. Only use payment processors for business.
You’ve got your vision and mission, you can see that blueprint of your photography business, you know where it’s going, you know what your goals are, and you have declared your niche. You also decided that you are going to run your business as a legal business where you will be tracking your income and expenses, as well as using payment processors for business and keeping a separate bank account. We also decided yesterday what your business model is going to be. Now it’s time to start building your business.
We will be going over Branding, Client Experience, Workflows. If you are having any trouble keeping track. I suggest you download our workbook here.
In this phase we are going beyond your niche and diving into branding. We are covering who your ideal client is and what your brand identity is going to be. Your brand Identity is going to be that thing that makes you recognizable to your community. It goes beyond your logo or your colors. It’s your presence and your reputation. This is the missing piece for a lot of photographers.
Why is it important to have an exceptional client experience? People may not really rave about and okay or even a good experience but, an exceptional one is a different story. If you are not seeing reviews or referrals this might be why you are missing out.
What I want you to do is map out your client journey. Write out every step that a client will go through and everything that would be included for them to fee like they were given an exceptional experience. Focus on how you can keep your clients informed and excited before and after their session. How can you make sure that their questions are answered before they even ask?
The 3 most important things in your clients experience communication, trust and expectations. Ask yourself: How are you going to be communicating with your clients? How does your client prefer to communicate & when? And then how do you get your client to trust you? Once you have the answer to these questions you can begin to automate the steps needed so that nothing is ever left out!
I recommend Iris works to start automating your workflows. If you want to look into Iris Works to run your business smoother, smarter, and faster use my code BROOKE to save you 20% off your subscription!
Photography Business Management Software | Iris Works
Here is your checklist for this phase.
1. Start developing a brand for yourself
2. Determine your x factor
3. Write out every single step in your client’s journey
4. Craft a client experience
5. Determine what you can automate, outsource, eliminate, or create a process for in your business. We are going over Experience, Education, and Roles of a Business Owner.
If you’re here on day four, you’re committed to your business, we’ve set up the groundwork, the framework, and we have a beautiful business from the outside. Now it’s time to furnish the inside and make sure we have all our bases covered. We going to go over Experience, Education, and the Roles of a Business Owner.
To gain experience and be ready to start getting consistent bookings you need to have a few sessions under your belt. Gaining experience helps you to choose your niche, build a portfolio as well as build your confidence. The best way to gain this experience is to do some portfolio work. This is a perfect method if you are just starting out or if you are deciding to pivot your direction and get into a new niche or market. I suggest running a model call. I have an entire model call episode where I dive deeper into how to do this successfully.
I don’t think that there is a photographer under the sun that would be excluded from benefiting from more education. This might be anything from business to editing skills to shooting skills. Here’s the good thing, you’re getting photography business education right now by reading this and completing the checklists. However, there is so much more you can learn.
I recommend always investing in your education. And I practice what I preach. I’ve never stopped investing in my education. Now, I realize some of you are in the beginning, I know that you are wanting to hold tight to every dollar because you’re still you’re unsure. I have been there and done that. And it is a horrible feeling. But, I want you guys to get past that. And I want you to understand that the more you invest, the faster you learn.
You are here so you’ve already taken step one. Your investment at the free level is simply you’re investing your time and you’re committed to what you’re learning. Your next steps could include up leveling into the paid stuff. So for instance, those of you that are wanting to master manual mode, I have a $97 course that you can get right now! It will walk you through camera settings. This will also take you through how to shoot correctly with your camera and what times of day are actually best how to achieve certain editing styles. It includes an intro into editing and so much more. It’s called Manual Mode Mama and it could be just what you need right now!
In your business, you have a service department. ( Don’t forget the hotel illustration) When I say service, this is you being face to face with your clients like actually performing the session, editing, and then anything else that you include behind the scenes. We’re just going to call this the shooting and editing department. What you need to know about your service department is this is where the majority of your one on one contact happens. For a lot of you, this is where you thrive. You thrive in the service portion of your business.
The second department that you play a role in is the client experience. And so I want you to picture the gift shop in the hotel. With client experience, you’re in charge of this too. Do you want to send handwritten cards? Do you want to send gifts to your clients every year? If the answer is yes, then you’re going to be in charge of ordering them, writing out the cards, ordering the gifts, mailing them, packaging and shipping, everything. That’s a whole other job description for you.
So right now we’ve got you in two departments, plus CEO and manager! When you’re a manager, you’re taking on all of these extra responsibilities. These might include renewing your LLC, paying your taxes, doing your bookkeeping, etc. I want you guys to understand that when you commit to a photography business, you didn’t just sign up to be a photographer but, a business owner.
It’s totally, totally possible for you to have a beautiful, profitable and sustainable business. I want you to wake up every single day, living a life that you’re proud of that you’re excited about a business that has boundaries that is well managed, and it has clients who adore you, who will rave about you, and who will be loyal to you. I think there’s some of you right now that have that stirring in your heart. If that is you I would like to invite you into my Blueprint program!
Is the Blueprint program for you? The answer is yes if you’re struggling to book clients consistently because you’re afraid to put yourself and your work out there. If you are feeling overwhelmed by all the back-end responsibilities of running a business and not sure how to balance all of your to-dos.
What is the Blueprint program? The From Broke to Booked Blueprint is both a self-paced course and hands-on program that will transform your photography business from the inside out. From the invaluable digital learning to the hands-on coaching from Brooke every month, you will see your business scale and thrive when implementing all that this course has to offer.
If you are thinking, “That’s Me!” I could not be more excited to walk alongside you as you thrive inside this life-changing program. If you want to read some of the testimonials from some of the hundreds of other photographers like you who have come out of this program you can go to Brookejefferson.com/blueprintprogram to learn more.
Phase 4 Checklist:
1. Gain more experience by attending a workshop or styled shoot or host your own model call
2. Invest in your education by listening to podcast and applying what you’ve learned or investing in a resource that is going to help you grow your photography business
3. List out all of the roles you will be responsible for fulfilling and decide if any of those can be automated or outsourced.
Invest in your education with these resources:
Book More Clients Youtube Channel
Book More Clients Photography Podcast
Manual Mode Mama (link to come!!)
1:1 Business Mentorship with Brooke
Work With Brooke
From Broke to Booked Blueprint
From Broke to Booked Blueprint – Photography Framework
Today, we’re going to dive into the phase that we all want, that we all anticipate. And that is the booking phase. So with the same metaphor that I’ve used all week long, we have this hotel, it started from groundwork, right? Then we framed it, and then we built it. We furnished it. And now we’re ready for all the people to start coming to do business with us, we are ready to fill our calendars. But how do we do that? What is marketing look like? How do you get the bookings in your business?
The first question that I always get is, where should I be marketing? I’m going to give you the three things I should say that you need to market with. The three things that I think every photographer needs is #1 A website #2 One social media platform #3 Google My Business.
Websites matter more than they ever have before. Social media just isn’t enough. If you build your entire client base, your entire portfolio, all of your reviews and testimonials on one platform, and it goes down one day, your whole business is gone. ( Remember MySpace? ) You need one place online with a domain that you own so that you can have your corner of the internet. I like to call it your home base. Your website’s important because people can find you. Through SEO, people can accidentally stumble upon your website. It also is very professional.
Don’t overwhelm yourself in having multiple social media platforms for your business. Choose the one that you are most comfortable and capable of truly going all in with. For the majority of us, we’re looking at choosing between Facebook, and Instagram. Then you’re going to learn that social media platform, you’re not going to give up. It’s consistency that wins every time. This just takes time. I started with one client who happened to be my friend. And then word spread and I had 10 clients, 20 clients and so forth. I’m telling you, what a lot of you are going to find is in that first year, you’re gonna see the consistency start to build up. Momentum is built step by step by step.
Google My business is an absolute game changer. We just had a podcast episode with Danielle Gagnon all about how to set up and profit from Google My Business. This is totally free to do and allows you to be found by your ideal client’s anytime they are searching for a photographer in your area. Google My Business is where you are going to be sending your clients to leave all of their reviews. But, just be ready because it really does amazing things for your business.
If you truly want any marketing to be successful It takes a daily commitment. How can you actually make sure you can follow through on that commitment? Boundaries. Consistency and boundaries go hand in hand. The best way that you can actually prevent burnout is by having boundaries. I recommend showing up on whatever social media platform you have decided, maybe three to four days out of the week. Keep at least three grace days to focus on other things.
Here’s the key to being consistent with your online marketing, you need to batch. That means instead of working on your content week by week, or every single day, I want you to sit down and do at least two weeks at a time. And I know a lot of you are like I have I suffer from blinking cursor syndrome, I don’t know what to say. So, if you are looking for some Ideas on what to post, I want to give you a resource to find five social media prompts that you can use today to write your next five captions!
I want you to also always be creating relationships, and expanding who you know, I want you to get involved in your community. And this is as simple as start shopping local and start having conversations with the business owners and the employees. If you truly want to know how to make connections, it’s the same way you would make friendships. First show interest in them, you discover common ground and then you find you do become friends. This is literally how I built myself up in my local community. It started with one business and one business owner. This built until I realized one day I am tied to almost every local business that we have in my town!
Phase 5 Checklist:
Bonus step: Decide if the From Broke to Booked Blueprint is right for you!