Do you dream of being a successful photographer? Do you feel stressed-out and inadequate instead? It’s time to define success on your own terms! (Photos: CHRISTINA RAMIREZ)
You’re working your butt off. Between honing your craft and caring for clients, you’re also staying on top of your bills, making time for family and friends, and trying to get a few hours of shut-eye each night. You feel like you’re nailing it! Then you check in on social media and –
Everywhere you look, another photographer seems to be making more money, booking more clients, making cooler photos, or getting more attention. If this is your competition, how will you ever become a successful photographer?
Fact: There Is No One Way To Be A Successful Photographer
Do a Google image search for “successful photographer” and you’ll find images like these in the top results:
Who are these guys? Is this what success looks like? More importantly: is this what you imagine when you think of success?
We’re guessing your answer is a big, bold, NOPE.
If the almighty Google can’t get “successful photographer” right, maybe it’s time to stop looking out there to discover who you should be.
Maybe it’s time to define success on your own terms.
San Antonio photographer CHRISTINA RAMIREZ is one entrepreneur who isn’t distracted by what every other so-called “successful photographer” is doing. Instead, she’s forging her own path and proving that amazing things are possible when you define success on your own terms.
Look within and evaluate what matters most to YOU. You’ll begin to develop a vision of success that integrates seamlessly with your dreams and talents.
And, as Christina demonstrates, your business – and life – will change in these five amazing ways:
#1: You’ll Build A Business You’re Truly Proud Of
Ask yourself this question:
- If I had to model MY business after a business I’ve worked with in the past, what would that look like?
Don’t fixate on what other photographers are doing. Instead, reflect on your own experiences with customer service and sales – in any industry. Where have you shopped, eaten, or lodged that made you feel incredible? What elements of these experiences can you incorporate into your own business?
Christina weaves the word “boutique” into the description of her photography business – but it’s more than a buzzword! It’s rooted in her desire to deliver the top-notch service, high-end products, and unbeatable experience a boutique clothier would offer.
Christina’s “Boutique” Business Model
“When I think of a high-end boutique versus a regular retail store, I think of a personalized experience. The staff takes care of you, bringing you outfits to try on, running off to find a dress size that may fit you better, and adding accessories to complete your outfit. There’s a sofa in the dressing room to kick back and take a break; they offer you wine; and they make you feel like you’re the only one shopping with them.
That’s my goal for my clients. I cater to them; I guide them; and in the end they are excited about the whole experience – regardless of the cost.” – CHRISTINA RAMIREZ
From Beginner To Boutique
Once you’ve identified the kind of experience you want your clients to have, you can design your business around that service style. It may take some time to achieve the full effect, but with purpose-driven planning, you’ll soon find yourself running a photography business that makes you proud – and makes you money!
“I only accept six to eight sessions per month, which allows me to spend a lot of time with each client. Along with the information emails I send leading up to their shoot, we talk on the phone, plan their session, and I guide them toward the right wardrobe. After their shoot, the experience continues when I customize their products, graduation cards, and albums.
“They come to me for photos. But they leave with so much more!” – CHRISTINA RAMIREZ
What’s YOUR Ideal Business Model?
You don’t have to target a limited market with well-padded wallets. Maybe you’d prefer to thrive on a multitude of mini sessions, or specialize in high-quantity weekday elopements. Or perhaps you dream of photographing one elite event per month.
Decide what works for YOU, and outline the steps you’ll need to take to get there!
#2: Your Pricing Will WORK – For You AND Your Clients
When you define your own success, you’re rewarded with a sense of FOCUS. It’s like planning a road trip. Once you know where you’re headed, you can pull out a map and plan your route.
This is never more important than when you’re establishing your pricing.
Just as in the road trip analogy, you can’t point at your destination then instantly arrive there. Every journey takes time, effort, and patience. But it will be worth it.
Christina’s Data-Driven Pricing Approach
Photographers are notoriously guilty of setting their prices based solely on what their competition is charging. And while it’s a great idea to know your competition, that’s not the only data you need to create smart pricing!
“My average client invests $3K on their portrait order in addition to their $400 session fee. However, before I charged the prices I charge, I did my research. I looked up the income data for my county and saw what people earned and where they lived. – CHRISTINA RAMIREZ
If a $3400 sales average sound impossible to achieve, well – maybe it is. As Christina notes, it’s critical that you know your unique market.
“Research is important because, truthfully, not everyone can charge what I charge. It depends on where your business is based. Some photographers can charge more than me, while others need to charge less. Find out what the demographics look like in your area, then use your marketing to target the clients you want.” – CHRISTINA RAMIREZ
Once you’ve identified your ideal clients, get to know that community: what appeals to them, what they buy, what trends they follow, and what they’re attracted to; then customize your branding to speak directly to that market!
You Can’t Win Them All – And You Don’t Want To
Don’t let fear of rejection influence your pricing structure. You don’t become a successful photographer because you book ALL THE CLIENTS. What matters is that you book the RIGHT clients.
“I get more rejections than signed contracts – but that’s okay! I’m priced for that. With my price point, I don’t need 20 clients a month in order to earn the income I need.” – CHRISTINA RAMIREZ
Take Care Of Your Business, And Your Business Will Take Care Of You
Smart business decisions are the foundation of your reputation. And your reputation has a value all of its own.
“The personalized experience I offer my clients adds so much value to what they receive. And since they’re thrilled with the overall experience, they never make a big deal about my pricing.” – CHRISTINA RAMIREZ
Invest into your business by establishing intelligent pricing and providing great service to your clients, and you’ll reap big returns as the community hears about your talent, your service, and your ethics.
Even A Successful Photographer Has To Face the Music
It make not look that way on Instagram, but every successful photographer you follow faces the same challenges and responsibilities as you. Don’t beat yourself up for having a rough day or feeling overwhelmed. Instead, keep your eyes on the prize and continue to define success on your own terms.
“It’s SUPER important to take into account your own personal expenses, finances, and overhead. It would be great to say that I pocket all of my income, but this is real life, so that’s not the case! I have two studios, a mortgage, a family, a car, plus (most importantly) the products my clients purchase, sales tax, federal tax, etc. It all has to be considered and paid for in order for me to stay in business.” – CHRISTINA RAMIREZ
Start Small To Grow Big
Whatever your goals, you’re bound to face moments of stress as you build your business. When everything seems complicated and unachievable, remember: do the next thing.
“Take it one step at a time, and make an adjustment every three to six months. As my business grew and I learned more, I adjusted my pricing and products to match.
“Charging what you feel you are worth is totally possible!” – CHRISTINA RAMIREZ
#3: You’ll Embrace Your Story & Be Proud Of Your Journey
If you’re under the impression that you need to go to art school to be a successful photographer, you couldn’t be more wrong. Access to education has never been easier for photographers – and it doesn’t have to be formal! The Internet is a treasure-trove of training resources, and on-the-job experience is always a plus.
“When I started seven years ago, I worked at Target Portrait Studio – and I am never embarrassed to admit it! During my nine months working there, I learned which print collections and portrait sizes people were most interested in, which helped me tremendously when I went off on my own!” – CHRISTINA RAMIREZ
Christina’s “Learn By Doing” Experience
It’s great to watch tutorials, attend workshops, and read blogs. But the day comes when you have to close your laptop and simply get to work. Use the demographic data you’ve collected to create some simple marketing materials, establish a basic price sheet, and start promoting yourself!
“I began by offering only three print collections: just different combinations of 11X14’s, 8X10’s and 5X7’s. About six months later, as I gained more clients and experience, I added digital files and increased my prices. Another six months later, I added canvases to my top collection, then began offering albums as an à la carte item. My sales were all online, and I averaged $800 per client in addition to my $150 session fee.” – CHRISTINA RAMIREZ
Slow & Steady Makes Your Clients Happy
If you’re still new(ish) to photography, you may not feel qualified to raise your rates or pursue a new demographic. “That’s okay!” Christina says, and points back to her step-by-step approach to slow growth.
“Take your time. It’s okay to allow your client list, photography skill, and business to grow at a slow-but-steady pace. Don’t be afraid, and I promise: before you know it, your sales average, photographic abilities, and bookings will all line up!” – CHRISTINA RAMIREZ
Allow your skill level to evolve along with your business acumen, and you’ll avoid client complaints that you overcharged and underdelivered.
#4: You’ll Quit Obsessing Over Rockstars & Find Meaningful Mentorships
The photography industry has its “rockstars” just like any other, and it’s easy to believe that these public figures are your only true resource for learning.
The great news is that quality mentors can be found ANYWHERE. They don’t even have to be photographers!
“My stepmom, Kathy Alfaro, is my biggest mentor and business resource. She is not a photographer, but she is an absolutely phenomenal business woman. She helped me become fearless to charge what I’m worth, and encouraged me to quickly turn my hobby into a business. Because of her, I wasted no time and I had no room for excuses!” – CHRISTINA RAMIREZ
(Some Of) the Best Things In Life Are Free!
If your in-person advisor doesn’t have the photographic knowledge you need, there are numerous free (or affordable) resources available to you online:
“For my photography, CreativeLive was a hugely important resource, along with digital-photography-school.com, and various books, blogs, and online articles. If you truly want to learn, all the resources you want are out there. You just have to look, practice A LOT, and not be afraid to fail!” – CHRISTINA RAMIREZ
#5: You’ll Let Go of Your Fear of the Future
Fear of failure grips us all at different times. It’s especially intense when you’ve invested your all into something – like building your own business. Many photographers struggle with the myriad unknowns of entrepreneurship:
- Will I book enough clients this year?
- Am I going to make enough money?
- Are my clients going to leave me good reviews?
- What if I get sick on the day of an important shoot?
- Will I ever learn how to do THIS or THAT better?
The beauty of self employment, however, should be FREEDOM from those fears, because you’re now in control. You decide when to offer special discounts or sales, when to raise your prices or introduce new products, and when to quit your day job – or keep it!
When you define success on your own terms, you aren’t confined to the expectations of others. You aren’t bound to the rules others must follow, and you have full permission to take detours, enjoy pit stops, or hit the gas whenever you feel the urge.
“For me, it’s not about being well known; that really doesn’t matter to me. It’s about filling my cup and inspiring others!” – CHRISTINA RAMIREZ
Success: It’s What Fulfills YOU
Maybe you knew that all along. Maybe you just needed a little reminder. Or maybe you got so caught up in the myth of the “successful photographer,” you forgot: YOU define success on your own terms!
Now tell us:
What fulfills YOU? Comment below!