Jeff and I have had an “eventful” few years.
In October of 2012, Jeff and I launched a new wedding and portrait photography studio called Clove & Kin, and then in January of 2013, we purchased Bauman Photographers, a commercial studio in San Diego with a staff and multiple photographers.
We went from two people and a cat working out of our home office to a team of five photographers, two editors, a full time studio manager, a studio space that needed renovation and an infant brand that needed to get off the ground. (Check out the brands here.)
In the space of six months, we transitioned from one business to three.
From a partnership of two to a team of ten.
From being photographers to bosses.
So yeah. We’ve learned a lot.
In the middle of the crazy adjustments we were experiencing, we learned once again what it means to start a new photography business with the inception of Clove & Kin.
We had amazing wedding photographers trained to take on clients and a talented portrait photographer ready to fill her schedule with sessions.
So what was next?
In the time it took to get the ball rolling for Clove & Kin, Jeff and I learned a few invaluable lessons about starting a brand new business in photography.
And guess what?
There is no secret formula.
We haven’t unlocked a secret or discovered a brand new method when it comes to getting your first clients as a creative entrepreneur. All of the principles everybody teaches about how to get your first clients are true.
What I am going to tell you isn’t new or revolutionary. In fact, it might be so boring that you’ll roll your eyes at this post.
The biggest factor in getting your first clients is… waaaaait for it… NETWORKING.
I know right? Boring-sauce. With a side of BORING.
But it’s true! We’ve had great successes in our photography businesses, but we’ve also had our fair share of difficulties. There’s been slow starts and stalled engines. We’ve had to restart, rethink, and rebuild.
And the number one thing that always rings true is that networking with a side of good ‘ol hustle is simply the key that unlocks the door to building a solid client base.
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This means that you have to put yourself out there.
One of our friends, Dane Sanders, has said that when you’re launching your new business, the first thing you need to do is contact your ‘funeral list’.
What he means is that you need to write down everyone that would be at your funeral and let them know what you’re up to. Tell them that you’re getting started in photography and briefly describe what (or who) you’d ideally like to shoot. (Psssst… dream clients baby!)
Find people in your network that would be willing to let you photograph them in exchange for using them in your online portfolio and start creating work that you’re really excited about.
Major bonus points if you know people in your network that would be potential Dreamies!
Take great care of them, post your new awesome portfolio online, then go find more people.
You can build an amazing website with beautiful images, but until you get people to look at it, the website may as well not exist.
The biggest mistake I see new photographers make is they put up a website and then hope the business comes to them.
You have to be VOCAL, you have to be ACTIVE, and you have to make others AWARE of what you’re doing.
Also, keep in mind that the most powerful people in your network are the ones on the EDGE of your network. The people that are friends of friends and have entire networks that you haven’t met yet.
Those are the ones that will introduce you to a bigger audience.