The flaw in the plan here is that you can run the best ads in the world. You can take the best photos, you can edit them with the best presets in the most amazing trendy way, but at the end of the day, if you do not have a process in place to actually sell the product you create, you will fail.
Hey, Chris here. Today, we’re starting a quick three-part series I’m calling, ‘The Photo Business Refocus’ and my goal with this series is to help you shift your focus to the things that will make the biggest impact in your business and away from the things that are really just distracting. Now, today, we’re going to discuss the most pervasive issue that I see with photographers right now, other than COVID. That is, that they’re hustling to grow their business, but they’re not seeing any meaningful growth because they’re focusing their attention on the wrong problems.
I get it, all right? As business owners, we’re pulled in far too many directions. We’re expected to market our business, run our own ads, blog consistently, be active and engaged on social media, AND create our own branding. This is just a tiny piece and it doesn’t even touch our actual job of shooting sessions and editing and delivering products, and all of that fun stuff.
So, it’s easy to see why we’re overwhelmed and why we’re overworked—and honestly, underpaid. So what’s the answer then? Well, I can tell you what doesn’t work. What doesn’t work is what you’re doing right now. That’s multitasking, trying to balance everything, and do it ALL.
What works and what sure as hell doesn’t work
The truth is multitasking is a lie. What multitasking really is, is doing a lot of things, but doing them all really crappy. So, instead, we need to refocus our attention on the one thing that’s going to make the biggest impact, that’s going to make the most dramatic changes in our business with the least amount of time.
I’m going to say that again: We need to refocus our attention on the one thing that’s going to make the biggest, most dramatic impact on our business with the least amount of time to see results from it.
Until we’re running these multi-member teams, if it’s just you running this thing or you and your spouse, or you and a partner—then you have to focus on one thing. So, which one thing should you focus on? Well, I’d be willing to bet that I can guess what you think that one thing is: figuring out how to market your business.
Maybe you’re meeting with local businesses or vendors to establish co-marketing relationships or you’re learning about new advertising channels or maybe you’re taking a course on Facebook Ads or something like that. Or you’re just trying to figure out how to boost your social media following. In other words, your main focus right now—I would be willing to bet—is on bringing more clients into your business. More clients can’t be a bad thing, right? Right?
Well, let’s illustrate the flaw in that plan with just this little story. So, your new ad campaign, it’s a work of art in and of itself. It’s deserving of a Facebook Ad Pulitzer, if such a thing existed. You brought in dozens of new leads and you quickly filled your calendar to the brim with excited clients, the first of which had their session just yesterday.
That session, man, it was perfect. The beautiful golden hour light created this magical haze in your perfectly exposed, masterfully composed, wall-worthy photos. You edited those photos to pixel perfection. You posted a teaser, holding back from sharing everything right now, because they’re just that good. Now the time had come. It was finally time to…what? Send them an online gallery and hope that you hear something back or deliver the digital files and pray that they actually do something with these masterpieces that you created for them?
That’s where everything goes wrong.
Why you need a Sales Process
You see, the flaw in the plan, here, is that you can run the best ads in the world. You can take the best photos. You can edit them with the best presets in the most amazing, trendy way. You can have the most beautiful branding, but at the end of the day, if you do not have a process in place to actually sell the product you create, you will fail. Period. Full stop.
Without the ability to sell your work and make a profit in your business, nothing else matters.
Those fancy new ads could send thousands of new clients into your business. But if no money is coming out the other end, you’re either going to work yourself to death shooting for peanuts or you’re going to go out of business. Spoiler alert: 85% of your peers are going to do that within the next 12 to 24 months.
That’s a big problem guys. And, it’s because of this constant focus on getting more clients in the door. More clients don’t matter if you don’t have sales. Sales trumps everything. Now, if that’s you though, you’ve been focusing on attracting more clients instead of serving the clients you already have and making more money from each of them as a result of that, then I want you to stop beating yourself up right now, okay? Because, of course, that’s what you’ve been focusing on.
The Myth of More
You’re surrounded by an industry and a society, in general, that says more is better. Take a look around. You’re constantly pummelled with ads telling you that you need more clients, more sessions, more bookings, more leads. Why wouldn’t you be constantly chasing more new clients? It’s what everyone is telling you that you need, right? So, really, because you didn’t know any better, that was the most responsible thing you could do as a business owner. You were doing the thing that everyone was telling you that you need to do.
I call this The Myth of More and it drives me absolutely crazy. So, I’m going to make it my job right now to tell you not to do that anymore. Let’s look at this in a way that we’re familiar with, that has nothing to do with photography.
You have a cell phone, right? You’re probably listening to me on that cell phone right now. So, how does it make you feel when you see that the cell company that you’ve been paying thousands of dollars to every year puts out an offer for a free iPhone XR Two Pro Plus, or whatever we’re at now? They put in an offer for a free iPhone when you sign a two-year contract.
So, you call them up and you ask if you can get the same deal. After all, you’ve given them like six grand over the last eight years or something, right? BUT, they say: ‘No. It’s only for new contracts.’ They don’t care that you’ve been a loyal customer for six years. This is only for new people. How does that make you feel? It sucks, right? But how is your constant focus on attracting new clients, while not fully serving the clients that you already have, any different from that? How is your constant focus on attracting new clients instead of fully serving the clients you already have, how is that any different?
This focus on ‘more clients’ comes at the detriment to the people who have already trusted you. They’ve already told you they want your work and they’ve backed it up with dollars. They deserve better, and so do you. Okay, so you’re saying, “Yeah, I get it. I need to focus on selling instead of chasing new clients. That’s what you’re saying.” But then, you also say, “Well, I sell digital, so I’m good. Ha. Suck it, Chris.”
Well, no. No. Remember we’re looking for the one thing that we can focus on that will make the biggest impact with the least input and that is selling prints, not files. That’s selling physical printed products. Selling products, printed products is the single fastest and easiest way to quickly increase your income.
- You don’t have to go out and find new clients.
- You don’t have to spend a bunch of time and money learning how to run ads and putting ads together and putting them out there.
- You can take the clients you already have and increase your income right now by simply selling physical products.
Think about it this way. As photographers, our “raw materials” are the photo files. That’s kind of what we work in. Our cost to create those files is practically the same, no matter what we sell on the backend.
But your ability to turn a profit on those raw materials, those files, skyrockets as soon as you sell printed products. Your ability to turn a profit on those raw materials—you’re already creating them—so, let’s get the most out of them. Okay? Not to mention, this is actually better for your clients too, because they actually get something for their money and for the time that they spent with you. You’re not just handing them ones and zeros on a thumb drive.
You’re giving them an actual photo. And, at the end of the day, that’s what you are, right? A photographer. Not a fileographer. Your job is to create photos, not files.
We’re going to come back to that because I don’t want to get down into the weeds and you can tell that I’m about to jump on a soap box. So, we’re going to leave it and we’re going to revisit this whole prints versus files thing later. Let’s just zoom back out of that for right now.
So, I said, you need to be focusing on sales, but really it’s more than just sales. It’s a sales process and more specifically, it’s a system of processes in your business that will naturally lead clients from inquiry to purchasing products. Preferably, that system of processes will help you do all of this without feeling like a sleazy salesperson. We’re going to get into the nuts and bolts of what that system looks like in the next episode, but for now, you just need to know that with the right system in place, you’ll have consistent and predictable income.
What is that? What? Predictable income? What?
Yes, You Can Have a Predictable Income!
- You’re going to have more confidence in yourself and in your ability to run your business, and you’re going to have happier clients.
- You’ll have a reduced workload and you’ll have the ability to pick and choose the clients that you want to work with.
- You’ll also have clients who come to you for what you do, not for how little you cost.
- You’ll be regarded as a trusted expert in your market. Not as a hired gun.
- You’ll be the go-to photographer in your market for products and all of that will mean that you’ll be able to justify higher prices.
But wait, there’s more. No, really. There’s actually more because, remember, all of that stuff that I said you shouldn’t be focusing on right now, that doesn’t mean that those things aren’t important. It means that’s not what you should be focusing on right now.
Selling and the ability to create income in a consistent and predictable way puts its fingers into every other piece of your business. What that means is that everything else becomes easier.
- With consistent and predictable income, you’ll be naturally generating more word-of-mouth marketing from clients who are thrilled with their experience with you.
- You’ll be collecting amazing testimonials that you can use across all of your marketing channels and you’ll have more money to invest in those fancy pants ads of yours, leading to larger ad spends and faster results.
- You’ll have the money to spend on hiring or learning from experts in any domain that you’re not already proficient in.
So marketing, branding, advertising. You can either hire an expert or learn from an expert so you can quickly implement everything that you’re learning. You’ll have a framework for blogging with purpose rather than just blogging for the sake of blogging. We’re going to talk about this more in another episode and you’ll have money to hire a pro to fix that DIY branding and that website that we know you just kind of threw together and just been trying to kind of duct tape it together.
With consistent and predictable income, all of those other things that you need to be doing in your business will be easier. That’s why you need to focus first on setting up those processes and systems to consistently sell to every client who comes through your door, because you can take that money and make everything else easier.
Putting it ALL TOGETHER
So, let’s recap real quick. If you don’t have a well-defined process in place for attracting high-quality clients and then nurturing the sale, making consistent and predictable print sales from each client, then no amount of getting more clients is going to help you. If you don’t have that well-defined process for predictable and consistent income, then no amount of getting more clients is going to help. It’s just spending time and money hustling in the wrong direction.
If you think about it, if you’re hustling in the wrong direction, then you’d actually be better off standing completely still. That’s not what we want. So, to be successful, you must have a process in place to sell the product you create before you focus on getting more clients in the door. As we’ve said, that product should be printed products, not files.
I can hear you right now thinking, so I’m just going to go ahead and say it out loud: “Now, Chris, my clients only want the files and, yeah, you’re right. They do only want files.” So, that’s what we’re going to tackle in the next episode.
Today was all about refocusing your attention from the things that are just distracting you, and not actually growing your business, to the thing that you actually need to focus on. In the next episode, we’re going to talk about refocusing your audience from wanting files to wanting printed products. So, if you are in a market where everyone sells the files and you’re terrified to be the only sucker out there trying to sell prints, then you’re going to want to listen to the next episode. We’re going to discuss how the deal with those. ‘I only want files clients.’
Thanks for being here!
Jump straight to Part 2 & 3 in the ‘The Photo Business Refocus’:
Part 2: How To Deal With “My Clients Only Want The Files” Once And For All…