In building my photography business, I have had lots of wonderful referrals from past clients. But my biggest source of referrals might surprise you.
It’s other photographers!
colleagues, not competitors
I have made a conscious decision to contact other photographers and network within the industry. Instead of looking at other photographers as competitors, many, many of them are friends, colleagues and sources of information about business strategies and photography techniques.
The “referral network” as a result now generate the majority my bookings.
That other photographers can be sources of referrals might come as a surprise to some who are used to seeing other professionals as competitors.
A photographer who works alone has a finite number of hours in a day and days in a week that they can accept bookings and may receive many more enquiries than that each year.
They might also receive those enquiries at inconvenient times: when you’re already booked or cannot take liens for other reasons.
Many photographers are also focussed on a niche market and prefer to work in a particular genre or with a particular type of client. For example, I specialise in child photography (6 months – 16 years) in Sydney’s northern beaches but that doesn’t mean I don’t get enquiries for weddings, events, corporate etc. and for jobs outside of Sydney. These I choose to pass on to my referral network who, most often, return the favour.
There is an opportunity for smart photographers to become sociable, to get to know other photographers in their area — and their work — and to create a professional network in which support is provided and excess work is shared.
building your network
Like any form of social interaction, making first contact with a photographer you don’t know might be a little tricky — especially for shy photographers more comfortable shooting parties than attending them. But a quick email that contains three kinds of information should be enough to begin forging a relationship:
- a note saying you admire their work;
- a question about technique;
- and a mention that you’re looking for a way to help your leads when your schedule is full
All of those things help to warm the photographer to you and convince him or her to write back. Other photographers will appreciate someone telling them that they admire their photography — as you would — and genuine respect is a foundation of any kind of relationship.
Asking them about technique gives the photographer an opportunity to talk more about their work, something most photographers enjoy doing and rarely get the chance to do — at least unless they’re in the company of other photographers.
And saying that you’re looking for a place to send your overflow enquiries makes your approach a valuable offer with no obligations but plenty of possible rewards. It also makes it very likely that the person you’re contacting will reciprocate, opening up a series of potential channels to good quality clients.
Most importantly be friendly and genuine!
Online contact is a good first step, but real relationships need to be built in the real world. They can make you part of a community of photographers that is rich in support, information — and referrals.
are you in Sydney?
I have recently decided to try an experiment: a meetup for Sydney photographers with part of the aim being to encourage reciprocal referrals but also to share ideas, support each other, find new business opportunities and collaborations and to just connect with others with the same challenges (and joy) that a photography business can bring.
If you’re in Sydney feel free to RSVP meetup and come along, and if you’re not, have a think about whether you could try something like this in your town.