When all else fails, would or should you work for free? If so, use sparingly…
We touched on this before but it is worth expanding on if you are new to this business or even trying to start up from scratch in a new town/city.
Now, if you are already an established and experienced photographer, you may want to skip this method or adapt it slightly for your own needs.
For most people starting out it can be a bit of a catch 22 situation. You have no relevant portfolio to show people in order to get work but the only way to get a portfolio is to get some work!
This is why, on occasion, I suggest doing some work for free and there are many ways to do this and a simple adaptation of these may well work for the more experienced too:
- Make a list of all the suppliers that you may want to work with in your area and set up a meeting. Offer to shoot one job for one of their clients or even the supplier for nothing in order to create a portfolio. Show them some recent work so that they know you are not going to completely screw things up for their client.
These suppliers could be from the wedding industry (cakes, dresses, suits etc), pet shops, commercial enterprises, real estate agents, sports venues, schools and so on all depending on what you intend to shoot for a living. If you do one for each supplier you will soon have a varied and diverse portfolio put together.
- Get in touch with similar businesses such as videographers and ask for their help. For instance, just explain that you are a photographer looking to expand your portfolio and need some work to get you started. They may well pass your details on to one of their clients but again, show your work to offer credibility as any second parties will be putting their own reputation on the line by promoting you. They may well tell you where to go so be prepared for that…nothing ventured, nothing gained.
- Offer your services on Facebook, Twitter or any other social media website you are part of but remember to explain that this is a limited offer.
- Online advertising. Try out Google Adwords if you are familiar with it (if not, we go into this in more detail later) and place some targeted ads for your area with the title saying something like “Free Wedding Photography…Very Limited Offer”. That should get some attention but make sure the landing page is absolutely genuine and not “salesy” looking.
- Charity Events. Offer a prize for any local charity events. Not only will this get you a portfolio shoot, but it will also get you a ton of free advertising on banners, leaflets, newspapers and how ever else the event is advertised. If a few people bid for your offer, say to shoot a wedding for free, this will create a buzz and get your name known and you never know, those people that lose the bid may well book you anyway (paid and not free) especially if you offer a small discount.
Once you have completed the free job, depending on what you gave as part of the deal, you could always do some aftermarket sales.
Even if you gave all the digital files away, you can still offer discounts on items such as professional Photobooks, large reprints, canvas prints and so on. Even though people have the files and can do it all themselves, many don’t have the time, inclination, experience or knowledge to do it so you could make some money this way.
You could also try another special offer such as giving away all of the above at cost for each new client they bring you.
For example, when you make a booking for a wedding that you intend to shoot for free, explain to the client that for every person they bring you as a new client, offer something in return. If it is a wedding (paid), offer them a free extra photobook or framed print. If it is a portrait client, offer them a free enlargement or reprints.
Remember to factor in the cost of giving away such items and make sure it is financially viable for you to do so.
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