To be honest, when I started my photography business in 2010 (oh my gosh, nine years!) I had no idea about marketing, advertising, networking, or anything to do with building a business.
I literally bought my camera and said, “I’m a photographer!” and posted ads on Craigslist.
Yup. I totally did that.
Now, I am not saying this didn’t work, kind of. I got clients, I shot weddings and families. I built my portfolio and got experience. However, I went about this all wrong.
Photography isn’t just pretty pictures and likes on Facebook.
If I only knew then what I know now!
Let’s rewind a bit here. I have moved my business four times. It hasn’t been easy, and I learned from each move.
The first time we moved to Nebraska I had wonderful neighbors that hired me to shoot their family photos. I booked a handful of weddings. I actually made a profit. Not a lot, but I was in the black! This was year three of my business.
When we moved to Minnesota I hit the ground running. I knew a few people already in the area and did some model sessions. I posted on Facebook, I paid for ads, I did it all. Just to get my name out there.
It took three years, but I eventually became a name in my area in Minnesota. I booked nine to ten weddings a year (which isn’t a lot for some, but it was perfect for me), I had senior sessions booked each summer, and families booked with me year after year. I loved it. I had made my dream come true, and worked hard for it.
Through these years I made friends with other photographers. I made relationships with them and bounced ideas and stresses with them.
In my other areas, I didn’t do this. It was a fear.
What if they steal my ideas?
What if they think I will steal theirs?
What if they view me as -gasp- competition?!
I told myself to knock it off. And just jumped. I made a really great friend Heather of Red Barn Photography and feel so blessed that I took that leap of faith and reached out to her. I also met Brittany of Brittany Maasch Photography and she is So. Much. Fun. We second shoot for each other and have a blast. Among many other shutter bug friends.
Lesson #1~ Make friends with other photographers. It’s ok. We are all different and have different goals. We have different visions. Embrace each other and help lift each other up. Community over competition.
When we moved to Tracy, I went into Summit Place. This cute little boutique and met Jen and her mom Linda. We quickly became friends and they became some of my most loyal clients. I also fell in love with their building.
Fast forward three years and they were ready to close their doors. I was able to rent the building for a year and it was an amazing experience. I wouldn’t trade that relationship for anything.
I wish I had reached out to more businesses in Minnesota. So, when we moved (again) I knew what I had to do.
When I got excited about my personal brand photography, I knew I had to make some business relationships. I joined the local chamber and reached out to fellow members. I now have a few new networking relationships blooming and it is amazing.
Lesson #2~ Join your local chamber of commerce. Some don’t feel this is necessary, I fully believe in it. Join your community. Help make it amazing and get involved.
Lesson #3~ Reach out to other business owners, ask how you can help THEM. Offer a trade in services. Build relationships and put your heart into it. It makes all the difference.
Now, I just moved here, so I am still working on these relationships and networking constantly. However, I am light years ahead of where I was with all our other moves. I feel like I am on the right path and it can only get better from here.
So, don’t do it like I have in the past. Even if you have been in your town for years, reach out to your favorite boutique, your hair dresser, or resturant and ask how you can help them. Make friends, build relationships. It is a great feeling to know you are supporting others and they are supporting you.
Remember Community over Competition. Build each other up.