How to Develop and Market your Brand

Lesson 1/6 - Class Introduction


How to Develop and Market your Brand


Lesson Info

Class Introduction

I'm Sandra Coan, and I am a Seattle-based newborn, family, classic portraiture photographer. That's what I do. And I specialize in film photography, so I shoot all in film, and it's pretty niche. About as niche as they come. That's a little bit of my work. I have been a professional photographer for what feels like a really long time. This is actually my 17th year in business. So a long time. And in this point in my business, in this point in my career, I can get up here in front of you all and say that I've got a pretty sweet thing going. I've got a really good job that I love. First of all, I have adorable little clients that I get to work with all the time. I love their parents too. I have the kind of clients that feel like friends, that I'm excited to see when they come into the studio. I shoot exactly how I want to, the subject I want to, I shoot all in film in the studio. It's totally my voice. And I support my family doing it. So I feel really lucky that all of that is now in pl...

ace and I can say that to you 17 years in. But I also want you do know that it wasn't always that way. When I started out, I had no idea what I was doing. Like zero. I had never taken a business class, I had never read a business book, I knew I was a good photographer and I was good at my art, and I kinda started there. And I think that that is what a lot of people do in this industry. We know that we're good photographers, we know we're good artists, and so we think, "Well great! "I'll just start a business, "and I'll turn this into a business." But the truth is that being good at your art just really isn't enough. You can be the best photographer out there, and if you don't understand business and how to do it, you're not gonna make it. And, not to bring the room down first thing, but that's just the truth. It is absolutely possible to take your art, whatever it is that you do, and turn it into an amazing career. Completely possible. But in order to do that, you must learn about business. You must. So that's why I'm here today. So, why are we talking about branding specifically? Well, we're talking about branding, and I'm focusing on that today because I believe and I know that having a solid brand is absolutely essential to having a solid business. It just is. They're hand in hand. You can't have one without the other. Your brand is your foundation for everything. And I wanna come in and talk to you about this today because I want you to be successful. I want you to make money. I want you to be able to take your art and turn it into a career, and so 17 years from now you can stand up in front of a roomful of people and be like, "I've got a killer thing going. It's amazing." I want that for you. So that's why I'm here. So this is what we're gonna talk about today. Today we're going to learn what a brand is, as well as what a brand isn't. There's a lot of misconceptions about those things, about what branding even means, and what it is and what it's not, so I wanna break that down for you. Then I wanna talk to you about what I believe to be the one thing that you need to know to build a rock-solid brand. Just one thing, okay? So that's good news, right? It's not so hard. And then I'm gonna show you how you take that one thing and combine it with some information about your ideal client, what you know about your client, and you can turn that into a really solid fail-proof marketing plan that works. And not only that works, but works without you having to spend tons of money on ads and all that. We're talking about organic marketing. That is really the best way to do it. Okay, I'm so excited! I'm talking really fast 'cause I wanna get through all of this today, but listen. Before we dive into that, I do wanna talk a little bit about the benefits of being in business for yourself. Because I think sometimes when people start going into business for themselves, it can feel daunting and stressful. So I just wanna break it down and tell you yes, it's hard, yes, you have to put in the work, yes, there's a lot that you have to learn, but it's totally worth it, okay? 'Cause when you are in business for yourself, you get to write your own job description, and that's kind of awesome. It really is. So first you get to set your own hours. You decide when you work. I'm a mom now. I wasn't when I started my business, but I am now, and the fact that I get to set my own hours means that I can still be there for my kids. I can pick them up from school, I can volunteer, I can do all those things that I wanna do that make my life better. I can take myself out to lunch sometimes or take a nap when I need it. You know, it's great, it's a wonderful thing. You also get to decide who you work with, and I know sometimes when you're first starting, it doesn't feel like this is true, but it is and I'm gonna show you in a minute. But deciding who you get to work with, you guys, it feels so good, because you're excited to go into work, you're excited to see the people that you're working with, and it's an amazing feeling. But here's the biggest benefit to being in business for yourself. You get to set your own rates. You get to decide how much money you make. You get to decide how much people are gonna pay you. And you guys, that makes us some of the luckiest people in the world. Like really. If you're an entrepreneur, if you're an artist, if you're working for yourself, you are privileged, and I am too, and it's great. (laughs) So there's a lot, a lot of benefits into doing this. But, dot, dot, dot. (audience laughs) I know it doesn't always feel this way, right? Running a business is hard. It is. I mentor other photographers. I also teach an online business class. I'm talking to other photographers all the time. And I hear you, I know what you're struggling with, I get it. I don't wanna stand up here and sound all sunshine and roses and be like, this is totally awesome for everybody else. 'Cause I know it's hard. So what I hear from other photographers is this. And I'm asking you to raise your hand, just like, I just wanna see if you resonate with any of these as I go through it. If you're watching online, please type in "Yes, I'm there too." Just because I think it's helpful to know that we are all in the same place, okay? So raise your hands if you feel frustrated by clients who don't seem to value what you do. I hear this a lot. "They don't get me, "they don't wanna pay me what I'm worth, "they show up to the session with a printout "from a Pinterest page and none of the photos are yours." That always feels good. Raise your hand if you feel like it's hard to stand out because we're in such a saturated industry. Yeah. Raise your hand if you feel concerned that lower-price competition is going to affect your business, that you can't charge what you need to or what you want to because somebody else is doing the same thing for $50. Yeah, I hear that one a lot. Raise your hand if you feel like marketing seems hard and confusing and overwhelming, and you just don't even know where to start with all of that. Okay, if you raised your hand, if you answered yes to any of this, I want you to know that, A, I get it. I hear this a lot, I understand. And I also want you to know that I have been there too. I really have. The first eight years of my business, eight years, was a disaster. I struggled hard, I made all the mistakes, and it even got to the point when I thought I was going to quit. I was like, "I can't do this anymore." I would walk into a room and I'd see my camera, and I felt sick to my stomach. I didn't wanna pick it up, didn't wanna go to work. It was excruciating. And I got to the point where I was like, "Okay, I'm either gonna quit, "and I'm not gonna do this anymore, "or I am going to dive in "and actually learn how to do it the right way." I was tired of just trying to be good at my art, and feeling like, "I'm so good at what I do. "Why doesn't anybody notice? "Why isn't this happening?" So what I did at that time is I started actively studying business for the first time in my life. And again, I had been in business for eight years, you guys. So apparently I am a slow learner. But I started actively studying business at that time, and what I did was I actually went outside of our industry, so I didn't go and study business classes that are specifically made for photographers. I went and I studied really successful brands. I wanted to see how are the biggest names out there, how did they do it? What is their story? What do they know that I don't know? And what I discovered doing that, that more I read, the more classes I took, the more I really got into this, I realized that all of those really successful brands that we see that blow us away, they were all built from a place of creativity. And I learned that building a brand is really just another creative endeavor. And that mind shift is what changed it for me personally, because I thought, "Okay, I know I'm a creative person, "so if I can do this and use that part of my brain "to take a photo and to do that, "I can use that part of my brain to do this. "It's the same thing." And I also learned, and I know, that a strong brand is key to having a strong business. All right? So that's important. So if you're nervous about branding, if you're nervous about business, all of that, this is what I want you to know. A, it's a creative endeavor. B, you've totally got this, and C, once you get this stuff going, all those things that you were worried about before that we just raised our hand to, they really do go away. So what you discover is when you have a really strong brand that's super solid, that you stop attracting clients who do not value what you do. They just go away, and I'm gonna teach you a little bit on how to really target the people you want and how to bring them into your business with your brand, but that's huge. When you have a really strong brand, you realize that it is absolutely possible to stand out in a saturated market. It really is, and actually it's not that hard. I'm newborn photographer. There's like 8,000 other newborn photographers in Seattle, and it totally doesn't bother me. When you have a strong brand, you realize that you are no longer concerned about what your competition does. It doesn't matter. Your competition has nothing to do with your business. You could have a photographer move in right next door to you charging $50 for what you charge $1,500 for, and it's not gonna affect your business. Promise. And when you have a strong brand, you discover that marketing is not only easy, but it's kinda fun. Now I know you think I'm crazy, but I actually think marketing's super fun, (laughs) and I hope that by the end of this class, you do too. All right? So let's get started.

Class Description

There is no denying that a strong brand is key to building a strong business. But developing a brand is often confusing and hard. And knowing how to use it in your marketing is trickier still.

In this class, Sandra Coan will break it all down and show you how easy and powerful brand building can be. You will learn:

  • What a brand is and what a brand isn’t
  • The one thing you need to know to build a unique and instantly recognizable brand
  • How to use your brand to connect to clients, establish trust and build loyalty
  • How to build a solid marketing strategy that will set you apart


Sarit Krupka

Marketing and so much more! Sandra is an exceptionally talented and inspirational photographer. She puts herself and her experience out there to truly help you understand the market and succeed. In 90 minutes, she took me on a journey. I had a few "aha" moments. Thank you!

a Creativelive Student

This is one of my favourite classes of PhotoWeek 2017 where Sandra gives the reason 'why' we should pursue our passion, photography in this case, but otherwise too, a well-presented, highly motivating class that would leave most wanting to go out and do it.