Creating Your Ideal Photography Business

 

Lesson Info

How to Start a Partner Business Relationship

So, finding the right partner is tricky, getting in with the right partner is really tricky. So, typically, I mean, I talked about the perfect business, right, hard working, ambitious, generous, high quality, high service, all of that, so, every photographer probably wants to get in that door as well, and so once you've identified who it is, knocking on the door and saying hey, would you put me on your preferred vendor list is probably not going to get the job done, because there were probably six other people that called that day, asking the same question. So, when you think about marketing, you have to think about really setting yourself apart, and it goes back to the same question that we talked about when you were talking about your products, what can you do that nobody else can do, and how can you make it easy for people? I mean, that's how you build a relationship with anybody, right? What can you do to help other people? And so, we did a lot of calling in the beginning and sayin...

g, in high end venues and Aspen and Vale and places that we really wanted to work, hey, can we be on your preferred vendor list? And they were like, no, sorry, we're full, we have people we like already that are already on there, and so, it took a couple of years of beating our head against a wall like that, particularly for weddings, and so we came up with an idea for a marketing campaign, and this was the first actual campaign we had ever done. I'm going to tell you all the steps that we did, you probably don't want to use this exact campaign, but the ideas are really good behind it. So, I don't know if you guys are familiar with this soda company, but they allow you to put your own pictures on the bottle, and when we discovered that, we were like, perfect, we're photographers, we can put our picture on the label, and we can make something really cool and crafty, and so we put wedding images on the label, we ordered a whole 18 cases of soda, and we put little expressions on them that said Holcome Photography: refreshingly unique! And Don't trust your wedding photography to the bland, call Holcolme Photography and call us for full-flavored images and service, which are kind of goofy and kind of silly, but it's kind of us. And so, the way we executed this campaign, is we bottled up four different bottles with different images on each one, we put hang tags on them that had some of our favorite pictures on them, and we Fedex'd them to wedding venues in Aspen and Vale, people that we had been calling for years. We tracked the packages, inside we put a little note that said take a five minute break on Holcome Photography, we just wanted to let you know that we appreciate what you do, and we want to make your life easy, we will talk soon, the Holcomes. Fedex'd it to them, tracked it. As soon as it arrived, I gave them a call. And I said, hey, this is Kathy with Holcolme Photography, I just sent you a little happy in the mail and I just wanted to make sure it got to the right person, how are you? And often times, they didn't answer the phone, and by the time I could get to somebody in person, I had thank you notes in the mail sent to me that said, oh my gosh! We would love to meet you, when can you meet? I'd love to take you out for lunch. These are venues we had been calling for years, and they had just sent us a thank you note, because we took the time to be different, we took the time to say hey, we know what you do is hard, take a break on us, and it was so different from everything else they had experienced, that they were like, wow, who are these guys? So, my goal in sending that whole thing, It cost us $18 a box to send up to them, it was expensive, but, it was worth it because they wanted to take us out to lunch I mean, we would have gladly taken them out to lunch, we got our first meeting with them, and that was the opportunity to say we are here for you, we want to make your job easy, and so we went up and we met with them, we brought an album with us, and we showed them just a quick snippet of what we do to let them know we were competent, and we said, you know, we really want you to be able to see how we work before you invest in putting us on your preferred photographer list, and so what we would like to do is assemble a team. We would love to bring up our favorite florist, we would love to come to your venue, we would love to meet your coordinators that you like to work with, and we would like to do a mock photo shoot at your venue and create images for you that you can use in your marketing campaign. And they said, oh my gosh! That would be great, but how much is that going to cost? We said, my goodness, nothing, we're here to make your life easy, let us do this for you. And so we called some of our favorite past brides and grooms, and said, hey, would you guys be willing to model for us? We put them up in a hotel, we did a photo shoot with them, we created extraordinary images in this new venue where we wanted to work, and you know what happened? All of the marketing materials for the next year had our name all over them. Every single couple that inquired at that venue saw our logo. Huge, that was when our weddings went crazy, so we took the lead and we set ourselves as experts, we set ourselves as the leader in the industry to bring this great team of people together, we were generous with our time and our resources, we asked what they needed, do you need something for the wall? Do you need digitals, do you need an album on display? How can we help you? Do you want us to design a promotional piece for you? We'd be happy to do that, all we ask is that you put our logo on it. We were easy to work with, they saw how we were in the field, they saw us working with our clients that we loved, they were able to see us in action, essentially, we created an interview for ourselves, and then, we followed through with everything we did it really quickly and really well. So, the first year we sent out 16 bottle campaigns. And we were on the preferred vendor list for 12 of those venues, the very first year. It's powerful when you're generous, when you ask people how you can help them, when you build relationships, and so they still send us clients all the time, we still have relationships with those venues, it's been the best investment we've ever made. Less than $1000. Now, ten years later, still going strong. Okay? So be creative, you guys are all creative. Get creative with your marketing, go out there and do something really extraordinary. Alright, so, and the big thing is follow through. Now with these same venues, ten years later, we go in and talk to the coordinators, they say oh my gosh, thank you guys so much whenever we need a new album, we just call you and one arrives right away, and they talk about other photographers, where they have had the same album on display at that venue for ten, fifteen years, and it's tattered and worn, and while they like working with that photographer, they're not keeping things fresh and updated and they're not following through with what that venue needs. So the follow through is so critical to keep that relationship going.

"If you're struggling to figure out the business process of photography, this class is one of the clearest and most concise I've ever seen. If you're experienced but the business side and pricing are eluding you, you will find clarity here. I own at least twenty CreativeLive courses and hands down, this one explains pricing and strategy better than any others I've purchased or watched live." - Julie, CreativeLive Student 
 
Join Kathy Holcombe as she shares techniques and strategies to develop the photography business you desire. Whether you’re making the leap from part-time to full-time or starting your very first business, the amount of work can be overwhelming. From what products to offer, how much to charge, how to pay yourself or the legal considerations - start ups often sink before clients are even booked. Kathy will show you the ways to grow your business from the start. This class will cover: 

  • Defining what product you are selling and how much you should charge to make a living 
  • Photography business basics and how to track your income compared to other businesses 
  • How to write and create your business plan 
Kathy Holcombe and her husband Peter built one of the top wedding portrait studios in Colorado, then jumped in an RV with the entire family and began traveling the country full-time, and added a successful commercial division. Together they have built multiple successful businesses and have honed in on the important factors that every photographer should consider when building a business. 

 
 
 
 

Reviews

  • I started my business a year ago with little formal technical photography education. It's hard to admit but I've been winging it, figuring out each small task that goes with photographing a session, editing one, and working with clients as I go. I may be doing things backwards, but now that I feel like I'm more comfortable in those small, specific parts of business, I need to figure out how to make this business sustainable and profitable. Kathy's class felt perfect for this time in my business to take a step back and look at the bigger picture of what I want to focus on and where I want to go (and how much I want to pay myself!). She uses realistic, specific numbers: something that's SO helpful and I feel like I rarely see in the photography community. And she breaks everything down in an organized and easy to understand way. The classes were easy to follow along with and Kathy's positivity and patient manner is inspiring and motivating. The fact that she used to be a school teacher is clear. Thank you so much Kathy (and the rest of the Holcombes)!
  • I am so glad I was able to attend this course in person and receive all the wonderful and practical information Kathy shared with us. I also really enjoyed the connections with other audience members and side conversations with Creative Live peeps as well as the Holcombe family. What an inspiration this family is--lots of practical info, but also a great pep talk to not sell yourself short and get out there and do what you love, but use sound business practice while doing it. Thanks so much for these incredible two days.
  • Fantastic course! Very helpful instruction and how-to guide for anyone considering starting up a photography business. Kathy was an excellent instructor, with a wealth of knowledge and experience. I gained a good understanding of the practical everyday aspects of running this kind of business, and how to create my own vision.