$20 for a stack of 50 business cards. $9.99 per month for graphic design tools for social media, plus $13 for a social media planning tool. $39 for client management software, and $79 for search engine optimization (SEO) tools. The costs of freelance life and marketing your photography business are real—and they can add up quickly. But there are some simple steps you can take to expand your reach while staying within your budget. From taking full advantage of social media to cultivating the perfect email list, here are five free (or almost free) ideas to help entrepreneurial creatives promote their photography businesses in 2022.
Refine and update your website
A professional website is the cornerstone of your online presence, so curate your portfolio with potential clients in mind. It’s okay to be ruthless in your editing process; only include work that represents who you are at this stage in your career—and where you want to go in the future. It’s also worth brushing up on the basics of search engine optimization (SEO) and including keywords that could help you rank higher in search results.
One way to improve your SEO and market your photography is through a blog, where you can share recent shoots, behind-the-scenes stories, and tips and tricks for other photographers. This kind of content not only drives traffic to your site but also creates value in the long term, building trust and establishing an ongoing relationship with your audience. A website itself might not be free, but it’s affordable, and keeping it updated doesn’t cost a thing.
It might go without saying, but make sure your contact information is clearly and prominently displayed so that potential clients can easily get in touch. Having an email form is okay, but also have an email address available so that people can reach out quickly.
Use social media wisely
Whether you’re a family photographer or a commercial product photographer, chances are many of your new clients will find you through social media. The first step toward building a presence online is determining where your audience is; for example, if you’re interested in finding a collector base for your photography NFTs, you’ll want to start with Twitter. If, on the other hand, you want to connect with trendy brands, you might choose to grow your brand on TikTok.
From there, it’s a matter of posting consistently, sharing information, and engaging with your followers. Create content with your audience in mind; if you’re a wedding photographer, maybe you share a slideshow of tips for couples on choosing the right venue. If you’re a still-life photographer, you could post some simple food styling tricks for people to try at home.
You can also open the floor by hosting AMAs (ask me anything) or live audio discussions through Twitter Spaces. Another creative way to use social media would be to host contests or giveaways; for example, followers who comment on your post and tag a friend get entered into a raffle to win a copy of your photobook or a limited edition print.
Seek out networking opportunities (online and IRL)
Attending events, online and in-person, not only raises awareness about your brand but also helps you connect with others in the industry. Some photographers’ organizations that regularly host events, seminars, and workshops include the American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP) and American Photographic Artists (APA) in the US and the Association of Photographers (AOP) in the UK. While these professional organizations usually require membership fees/dues, they regularly offer free events and resources for existing members throughout the year.
Of course, you can also reach out directly to local businesses that could become partners and collaborators down the road, from shops to restaurants to event spaces. “As a wedding photographer, look for opportunities at vendor events for the industry,” the 500px team suggests.
“As a fashion photographer, maybe you can leave your card at boutiques you can see yourself shooting for. Or you can send them an email with a pitch. Often, as a freelance photographer, you have to do the heavy lifting, and networking makes all the difference.” For a straightforward primer on networking and more free photography marketing ideas, check out our guide, Seven networking tips for the introverted photographer.
Pitch a story
Art and photography websites such as PetaPixel, In Sight by The Washington Post, Colossal, My Modern Met, and IGNANT all accept submissions from photographers, so do some research to see if there’s a magazine or website out there that suits your vision and aesthetic. Most of these sites look for existing bodies of work with a clear statement and intention, so be sure to follow their instructions.
It can also help to be selective about what you submit; only send your best work, and send it only to publications that are likely to have an interest in the project, based on what they’ve featured previously. The right feature can lead to unexpected opportunities, including collaborations with brands and other publishers down the line.
Launch an email newsletter
A great email list is a photographer’s greatest resource, and it can be built and nurtured over time. Make it easy for visitors to your site and social channels to subscribe and follow along (put that link in your bio!). From there, the key is providing consistently informative and helpful content, so consider your audience and their feedback. Once you’ve built a following, you can even create a survey to determine what kinds of stories/photos/articles they like the most.
In email marketing, remember that quality is just as important as quantity. A relatively short list full of engaged and invested followers and repeat clients is far more valuable than a massive list of random people whose interests aren’t relevant to what you do. Take the time to create a meaningful experience for them, whether that means teasing an upcoming project, offering advice for their next session or project, or gifting them with an exclusive discount code. Email services like Substack and MailChimp offer free and paid options depending on your needs.
Finally, add a call to action at the end of your emails, and direct readers to follow you elsewhere online (your social media pages, main website, or booking page). “Don’t underestimate the value of a professional email signature with links to your website and socials,” the 500px team advises. “This simple addition adds polish and provides an easy one-stop-shop for people to find all your work.”
Ultimately, your marketing plan can and should be suited to you and your individual goals, and there’s no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to marketing tips. By understanding your followers and client base, you can tailor your marketing to them, without spending too much money or giving up too much of your workday.
One easy place to start is by setting up a daily or weekly time for self-promotion; during this time (maybe 30 minutes or an hour), you plan your social media, work on blog posts, or upload new photos to your site—without any outside distractions. In the end, marketing should be fun—not stressful—and breaking these tasks down into easy and manageable time slots will help you stay on track.
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