Once you’ve started to build a portfolio, it’s time to select images that best demonstrate the brand that you’re hoping to build and that represent the style of wedding photography you aspire to. While this doesn’t necessarily arrive on day one, it’s always important to bear in mind that the work you share will likely attract further work of a similar nature. Sharing just your best work, shot in a style you like and with couples who share your vision for how a wedding day will be captured will help ensure that, as quickly as possible, your business attracts the right customers to your door.
The next step is possibly one of the hardest and remains a challenge that never goes away – how do we get our work seen by the right people and reach our target audience? Well here are a few steps to help get things underway – it’s by no means an exhaustive list, but certainly a good starting point:
Start ‘broadcasting’ on social media – an ever-changing playing field but a great, potentially free, way of finding your audience is via social media. Establishing Instagram, Facebook and Google Business Pages along with a presence on other sites such as Twitter, Pinterest and Linkedin are quick and effective ways of starting to build an online presence and to eventually grow a ‘following’.
Get some branding – there are so many ways to approach this but you’ll need to decide on a business name and logo/look pretty early on. I’m not a fan of business cards but having a logo to put on your website header and on image watermarks etc will help to start to build your brand locally. There are many ways of getting a logo designed online and that’s probably the cheapest route. Of course, a local graphic designer may be able to do something more bespoke and comprehensive, but likely at much greater expense. You have to consider whether that would be money well-spent in the early days of your business. Something like Etsy might do for now. In terms of a business name, I think your own name works well in most cases – after all, it’s you who you are ‘selling’.
Build a Website – as soon as possible, start work on a website. It takes a lot of work to create a website and a lot of time to climb the Google search rankings for your chosen keywords. The earlier you start the better. Rather than opt for a quick and cheap solution such as a Wix site, consider going straight to a platform that will allow you to grow your business and that will be future-proof. Starting out with a WordPress or Squarespace website and a nice contemporary clean ‘theme’ will allow you to periodically update your site as styles change and the simplicity of their rear-end will make updating quick and easy without incurring the considerable costs of a web designer. This website is a WordPress site. There are a plethora of other options available but putting the work in at the outset with the right platform will save considerable time, money and stress down-track.
Network, Network, Network Some More – building a network of friends within the wedding industry is important not just for your business but for your sanity. Particularly in the early days, it can be a daunting and quite lonely existence. Establishing trust and rapport with other photographers, venues and other wedding suppliers will help in many ways beyond hopefully one day sharing referrals. Sharing your images for free with venues and suppliers, sharing your time and knoweledge with other photographers helps build trust and community and that is good for business and life in general. Here in Norfolk we are hugely fortunate to be a part of a very generous and friendly wedding photography community. Forming groups with like-minded photographers who inspire you and share a similar vision to you will help in many ways beyond merely establishing a successful business. There are some great Facebook Groups out there – the one below of Norfolk Wedding Photographers at play being a great example – it’s not all work!
Paid Advertising and Wedding Fairs – I’m no expert on either of these as the limit of my paid advertising has been occasional ‘sponsored posts’ on social media. The subject of paid advertising and wedding fairs is very much the call of individual photographers. While you work on gaining a high Google position, paying for sponsored links on Page 1 for your chosen search terms can of course be hugely useful. Similarly, if you’re struggling to reach your audience, wedding fairs can be another useful way of becoming known, and of course networking. I think choosing the right wedding fair for you and your brand is crucial though. Of course, you also need to be the right sort of person to work at a wedding fair. If you are a confident and outgoing person who relishes the idea of selling from your own ‘booth’ it could work very well for you. If you struggle a little with the idea of ‘selling’ and have a more introvert personality, there may be better ways to spend your money. Finally, I don’t believe that there is much to be gained from paid print advertising today. That’s just a personal view based on my own experiences but, if you use social media and your own website effectively, I don’t think that print advertising is going to be a worthwhile or necessary investment.
SEO – Search Engine Optimisation is black magic to me but I did invest in a couple of days of SEO training when I first started my business. Unless you want to rely on paid advertising, referrals and wedding fairs, a knowledge of SEO, no matter how deep, is potentially going to be an important skill to develop. If you know enough to gradually move your website up the search rankings for the keywords you consider important in your area, you are potentially opening up a reliable and profitable stream of enquiries. Without that knowledge you may have to spend your money getting someone else to do that work for you.
‘Jack of All Trades’ – if you look at this list and think “why is so little of this about taking photographs?”, well that is because the reality of running a successful wedding photography business is that you need to be so much more than a photographer. Whether you’re a sole trader or limited company (both have their merits and this is something you need to research as you start your business), you’re going to find that you need to build skillsets that go way beyond your photography know-how. Similar I’m sure to many other small businesses, you’re likely going to be head of marketing, head of sales, accountant, secretary, web designer, SEO specialist, social media guru, graphic designer and editor to name just a few roles. For me, this is where community becomes so important – no one can hope to be good at all of these things from day one and discussing how other people cope in similar circumstances in the same industry can be invaluable and help avoid a lot of frustrations and expensive mistakes.