Getting Headshot Clients
So I'm gonna go right into it, getting clients. Honestly, when I consider everything else, getting clients is the easy part. The reason getting clients is easy is because of the world that we live in now. Everybody needs a headshot. Everybody. How many times have you driven by a billboard, and the headshot is awful? You know what I mean? It's like, you know how much a billboard costs? Thousands of dollars a month. A month. How much does a good headshot cost? You can get a really good headshot for like 200 bucks, anywhere pretty much. And yet you see guys that look like they took a selfie with their phone and put it on a billboard. I don't understand it. But you have every building, every small business, all those people could benefit from a great headshot. So literally, instead of going, "I'm gonna shoot pregnant mommies," which is a great business. That's a much smaller demographic. When you go, "I'm gonna shoot people who need a headshot "for professional reasons," that opens up a hu...
ge market to you. It's one of the reasons why, I remember my Dad told me this when I was too young to understand what it meant. And he said, "Rich people make things for poor people, "and poor people make things for rich people." And think about what that means. That's talking about a business model that means, you can think about like, in the Hills of Tuscany, there's this old cobbler in a little shack, and he makes shoes for the king. And then you think about Walmart, because they make stuff for everybody, and that's the biggest retail store on the planet. And they make potato chips that cost a dollar. And tennis balls for 50 cents. So when you talk about creating your business model, and you can make whatever business model you want. I'm not telling you what to do here, but getting clients, when you're gonna open up an area of your business that you haven't been into before, as a specifically to create revenue, you're way better off going to a market that reaches a lot more people. Does that make sense? Cool, all right. So everybody pretty much needs a headshot. All right, so there's two different strategies for getting clients. And some of this stuff is gonna seem like face palm, but I want you to resist the urge to face palm, and think about it. Because in the short term, what's the first thing you have to do? You want to create a portfolio of professional headshots with which to market, all right? So when I first started my photography business with my wife, Julie, back in whatever year that was, we didn't have any portfolio. So you're gonna put up a website and you have nothing. How do you market to something when you don't have any pictures of that thing? You get people you know to sit for you, right? I think my first website, it was just everybody I knew, I got to sit for me. (audience laughs) But my website was just this hodgepodge of just different people. You couldn't even tell what I shoot for a living. It's just different groupings of humans, and there was no specific reason for it. But I just needed warm bodies. So develop the strategy for professional headshots at whatever stage you are in life. You know people that, in your circle of friends, that work in professional places, right? So if you have to build a portfolio of people and do a bunch of free pictures to do that, how beneficial is it to take somebody that you know that works in a law office or real estate agency, or something of that nature, and they, all of a sudden, on their LinkedIn profile, their Facebook page, whatever, and on all their emails, they have a killer headshot. And all of a sudden the person sitting in the next cubicle may want to know where that came from. So if you're gonna give your work away to build a portfolio, you wanna give smart to the point where it might come back to you. So this is a great portfolio. Start at the start, what was that? Sound of music, start at the start? (audience laughs) Start with your friends, but your professional friends. All your lazy, unemployed, good-for-nothing friends, don't take their picture. They're a complete waste of time. But your friends who have jobs and make money, you want them, because it's all about the demographic that you're reaching. So find people that you know in that demographic, and build your portfolio that way. That's the easiest way to start. Word of mouth is gonna be huge when you're talking about individual headshots, individual people. When you're talking about large-scale corporate stuff, it comes from a completely different place mostly. Marketing materials. Now this is one thing that, in the digital age now, I sound like I'm a thousand years old. "In the digital age," no. We have such a lack sometimes of actually stuff to put in people's hands. And you will see a huge increase. Let me give you an example of marketing materials. Anytime anybody comes into my studio and we do a session, I have a headshot thank you card, and it says thank you on it, and it's a tri-fold. And on the inside, it's got three coupons for, not coupons, like gift cards that they can give to friends, to give them 25% off a session. And then, on the other side, it's got all my social media links and places where they can leave a review. And if they leave me a review, I give them an additional retouched image as a thank you. So they have an incentive to actually do it. That's a physical thing that I put in somebody's hand, every time they leave my studio. And I went from zero Google reviews, I think we're like 15 or 18 now, but they're huge in your online placement, is user experience, right? So when somebody looks, if somebody's searching the internet for a photographer to do their headshots, and they see all these listings, but one's got a bunch of five star reviews and really great comments, that's gonna be good for you. But that's an example of putting a marketing material in somebody's hand that has developed more and more and more business for me. Because I get so many people that come into the studio, and they go, "Oh I saw how many good reviews you had." And maybe not in other types of businesses. But in the headshot business, in professional headshots, it's huge. Whereas, if you're shooting babies, or families or weddings, a lot of that stuff's gonna be personal referral, or referrals from other vendors, stuff like that. Professional headshots, those referrals, are coming from individual referrals. But largely, more than half of what I do comes from the internet. And that's bolstered by the marketing materials that I put in people's hands. So you can take something that's paper and turn it into something that actually will make you money, does that make sense? So I actually know a photographer that, she goes out, into her neighborhood, door to door with marketing materials, walks in a small business and talks to business owners. So here's my other strategy. Find a building (laughs). Every building has the thousand people inside of it that could use a headshot. Everything's a potential market. So when I say find a building, go into a neighborhood and find the stationery store. And find the real estate office, and find the restaurant. All of these business owners could benefit from a terrific photo. And if you walk in and meet people using those marketing materials, you'll be shocked at how much business you can drum up. If you're way too cool to do that yourself, get yourself an intern, and you will, intern, intern, get yourself an intern, and have them do it for you. Just get out there and start drumming up business for yourself. The grassroots is one of the most effective ways to start starting a business. You want to take over your own neighborhood. Where is your studio? Where is your home? Where are your stomping grounds? Because it is an absolutely invaluable thing for people to know you. And it is a thing that is so disconnected from the world right now. People largely interact online. I have relatives that I haven't seen, except on Facebook, in like 10 years. You know? Although, at the same time, my fifth grade teacher's on Facebook, and I chat back and forth with her here and there. So it's a great way to stay interconnected. But if you get out there and talk to people in a non-threatening way like, "Hey, we're in the neighborhood." Because here's what you're doing. You're not trying to build your business based on your neighbors. You're trying to create word of mouth, because it's not them that you want. It's the 200 people that they know that they will refer you to. So even though we're talking about short term, don't be short-sighted. Your main business isn't gonna come from those people in your neighborhood. Because if you have a hundred businesses in your neighborhood, that's not enough headshots to get you through the next five years. But the 200 people that those 100 people know, is enough people to get you through the next five years. Do you understand what I mean? So you're using short term marketing to create a long term business. Those relationships are gonna keep coming back to you because one person giving you 50 bucks or 100 bucks, or 200 bucks for a headshot, whatever you want to charge, is gonna be great for today. But that person referring everybody they ever meet and know to you is gonna be way better. I work with people in my own area all the time, and do stuff for them for nothing. Because when somebody needs something, when somebody needs a photographer for anything, I'm gonna be the photographer that they know. Does that make sense? And I haven't muddied the waters of neighborliness and friendship by taking a bunch of money from my neighbors, either. So whatever you want to use that strategy, that is extremely powerful for me, and it's a great way to start short term marketing. Long term. We talked about a little bit on the long term, but here's one thing that is not done. Networking groups. Anybody been to a BNI or anything like that? Do those networking groups? One, one out of eight people have done that. So people do this wrong. They go to a, you ever see the crazy desperation in the eyes of everybody looking at everybody else in networking group like, "Let me sell you a house, let me sell you a house." But if you're in a networking group with a real estate agent, they would be so short-sighted to try and make you their client, and you're in the same networking group. They don't want you, don't try to sell me a house. They want me to tell other people about them. So when you go to a networking group, don't try to sell what you're doing to the people in the networking group. Do as much as you can for them. And this is, creating those relationships is an incredible long term strategy. And again, I want to get back to the point of standing in the shallow end of the pool, away from the dog pile. Most photographers in the industry nowadays. It's getting younger, and younger, and younger. People who grew up in my generation, and the generations coming after, they don't know how to talk to people sometimes. You know, their interactions are different. But here's the thing about networking groups. Somebody got out of bed, put on their big boy pants, got dressed and went into a meeting that they go to weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, whatever your networking group is, and paid money to be there, to sit in a room with other professional people. Basically the bar for entry is higher than just somebody you would randomly meet. So you know that this person that you meet is serious about doing business, and potentially has tons of contacts for you to deal with. Your goal is not to sell to them, it's to relationship market with them. Does that make sense? And this creates a huge snowball effect for business. And again, most people in the photography business are not doing this, at all. Does that make sense? Cool, moving forward. You guys are smart, dig it. (audience laughs) Hotels and convention centers. Now this is not specific necessarily to everybody, because if you're in Westchestersonfieldville Iowa, you may not have an convention centers, and I get that. But if you are in Atlanta, or if you're in Vancouver, or if you're in Colorado Springs, or wherever you happen to be, there are places there, people come there, to do business. If you're in a big business center or near one, most people are within an hour of a major metropolitan area, this is a huge, huge opportunity for business. You can create a relationship with every hotel and convention center that does events has a person who is in charge, or multiple people who are in charge of putting on those events, of selling those to businesses. Putting on conventions, all that type of stuff. When somebody comes in from out of town, and they book a convention somewhere, they very much rely on those people. So if you're the concierge slash corporate event person for a hotel convention center, you want to be a problem solver for your client, the person who's putting on the convention. So when they need a photographer, and you've got that answer, that makes you look good to them. That's where you come in. You can make them look good, and create a relationship where they're funneling you to their corporate clients. Does that make sense? You can create long term business by creating relationships with these hotels and convention centers. And I will tell you this. The people who put those events on, very often are part of these networking groups and stuff. These are a great way to meet these people in a professional capacity. Although, you can have success just walking in there and begging them for business. That works sometimes too. But find yourself giving something before you ask for something. If they have a cool event coming up with great decorations, it's gonna make their place look good, offer to show up and take pictures just for them. Do it for nothing. If their staff needs headshots, do headshots for their staff. All the stuff that you can do for them, so that they can see that your work is good, and they can see that you're willing to work with them also. And that can create a huge, huge benefit for you later on, because these things is where the big money comes in, and we'll talk about that. Here's one that was just pointed out to me recently. Schools and MBA programs. You have a lot of people going through graduate school. They're putting out hundreds of graduates every semester at these MBA programs. So if you have a school or anything nearby, a fantastic place to mine for professional clients. These people coming out with an MBA, these are movers and shakers, people that are really achieving to the highest levels of business a lot of times. Some of them are bums, but mostly, those are hardworking, professional people. And this is a great way to get with the teachers, instructors, and even student counselors in these schools and MBA programs, because it's a really good thing to have a great headshot for a resume going out. I get that all the time. So why isn't this a great place to mine clients? You could even create a relationship, if fact, with one of these schools to where you show up one day, and anybody who needs a headshot, you could just do a volume, bam, run through like 200 students. And that's a real, and you could do that every semester. That's an awesome recurring bit of business for you. Does that make sense? Cool with that? All right. You guys can ask any questions as we go. We got any questions, Kenna?
Yes, we do, and thanks for folks who are asking questions in the chatrooms. I have one question from boozler@gmail.
Boxer briefs, if anybody wanted to know. (audience laughs) Nobody asked about my underwear? Not one person person asked about my underwear?
Not yet, but we haven't even gotten into talking about Star Wars yet, so...
I'm trying to keep Star Wars out of it this time.
(laughs) I don't think that's possible, Gary.
No, it's not, all right.
Okay, so a question had come in about, where would people find networking groups? And I just want to reclarify. The one that you were referring to is BNI.
That is just a national organization. You can find your local chapters. But what other tips might you have?
Actually, you know, there's chambers of commerce are a really good place to start. Sometimes to get something done, you gotta go back to sort of the old school ways of doing things, because you're gonna circumvent a lot of marketing efforts that other people are making. Chambers of Commerce are a really good thing. Usually any neighborhood has an association. Like we have neighborhoods and districts all over Orlando, so we got Mills 50, and College Park, and all these areas, International Drive, which is, if you've ever been down there, that's where all the tourists are. All these different neighborhoods have their own professional associations, networking groups, chamber of commerces. And you can be a part of those things. And so, you don't want to join 3, chamber of commerce in your city because, you know, you would go broke doing that. But this is a great place to start on those. But BNI is a great place to start. That's where I would go first because, start with one, because they do meet pretty much, a lot of them meet every week, and you don't want to spent maybe every morning of your life going to a networking group. But it's a great way to start building business. But BNI is probably where I would start.
Somebody in the chat rooms was talking about the chamber of commerce, that that has been very successful for her as well. And maybe you guys can share. Do you guys have any other tips?
Meetup groups, meetup.com. And I normally go. It's about 10 bucks or something per class, and they normally have like at least one every month, so that's been good.
There are also vendor exclusivity in a lot of these groups.
So if there's one photographer, you'll be the only photographer, and they won't let a bunch in. Like if you go to a bridal show, anybody ever done a bridal show as a wedding photographer? And there's like 400 other photographers at every bridal show? This, a lot of the networking groups are specific for each, one real estate agent, one photographer, and that gives you a really cool ability to create a relationship that they maynot have with somebody else in your business.
Do have one more question, and that is, what types of industries, when you said, "Go to a building and just go crazy there." What are some of the industries that you've found are most looking for professional headshots? Is is people who do services with other people?
Some things are a tough sell. It's hard to walk into a restaurant and go talk to the owner-operator who's also the chef, you know, because they'll be busy. But you're gonna find that, if you're gonna do the walk-in, cold, "Hey, how you doins," small businesses, mom and pop establishments, at times when they're not that busy, would be great. Real estate agents, real estate offices are huge. Law offices, look for the small, it's gotta be the right size business. You're not gonna walk into a skyscraper, and go into a law firm with 400 attorneys and walk into the security guard slash you know, secretary, and go, "Hey, can I talk to somebody about doing headshots? They're gonna send you outside or call the police, which they probably should. There are different ways to market to those businesses. But you really can just have walk-in relationship marketing with small businesses. It's gotta be the right size. I've found that any small mom and pop business, retail stores are great. Clothing stores, stationary places, I'm just thinking of what's around me in my neighborhood. Law offices, there's computer repair places. I mean, there's tons of stuff. Anything that's small where you can walk in and pretty much talk to the person in charge, and be non-threatening. Don't be like a used-car salesman, you know that feeling, when you get out of your car at the car lot, and the guy sees you, and then your heart just goes (groans), because you know you're gonna get sold to? You have a question? Don't forget the mike Sheldon.
So how far would you go with offering a free service to get more work? Like there was a dentist that approached me, and he wanted me to do his whole staff, which is like five of them, and him, and he just wanted to test my work out? It's like--
Yeah, you don't audition. No, I don't believe that. It depends on if you're established or not. If you already have a portfolio, and you've got good working relationships. Typically, if somebody comes to me, and asks me for something for free, I kind of say no. Because that's sort of the person that, you know that you're gonna continue to get nothing out of that relationship. I don't go to somebody and ask them for something for free. I go to them and offer them something. Do you know what I mean? So if somebody comes to you and says, "Hey, come and shoot my staff, "and I got lots of friends I could refer you to," that has never, ever, worked out for me, ever. Not ever, not ever. And the, "Oh, will you give me a discount? "And I'll hire you for this. "And I got more jobs coming your way, sport." Like, never works, never happens. You have to be, control those points of contact, and be the one to initiate those relationships. Now if a dentist comes to you and says, well, you're in Canada, you have universal healthcare. But if you were in America, and a dentist were to come to you and say, "Hey, I got an idea. "Why don't I give you free cleanings? "And we could start a barter relationship or something?" And that's totally different. But if somebody comes to you and asks you something for free, I immediately say no. And there's very rarely been a time where that has ended up being a missed opportunity for me. It's almost always a relationship that you regret having. Because it's not, I have a friend once, who hired me when I first started my business, to come and do stuff. And this is a good friend of mine. We've played in an adult soccer league together. We ate over at each others' houses, and he needed something done. And so I did it for him. And I was fully intending to do it for nothing. And then, he goes to pay me, I say, "Hey man, don't worry about it." I said, "We're friends." He goes, "I'm paying you because we're friends. "Because I believe in your business. "I believe in what you're doing. "And I want to support you." So if you have people that, "Oh, I met you one time at the Shoney's buffet, "And now I expect to get everything from you for free," you know, there's a fine line there. So you want to give stuff away, but you want it to also be self-serving. You want it to give back to you. And if your friends are really your friends, they'll put into your business, and they'll spend money with you if you want. Give intelligently, and don't, when somebody asks you for free, I wouldn't go that way.
Thank you, Gary. I just have one more follow-up question with regard to doing this outreach. What do you bring with you? And what do you leave behind?
Good question. Depends on who you're going for. But bring a marketing material, something that's over a little, slightly oversized, like a five by seven that won't get stuck into a wallet. But something that has a sampling of your work, and something that has a call to action on it. And your contact information. Something that you specifically made for vendors that you want to create relationships with, say. So if you live in, there's a neighborhood in Orlando called College Park that's really close to my neighborhood. Lots of local businesses there. So if you wanted to go into one of the stores in College Park and you would be like, College Park neighbors, blah, blah, blah. This is, I'm doing this for just College Park businesses, because I'm a business in College Park. And this is what I'm gonna do for everybody, because I want everybody to have awesome headshots here. I want to be the photographer for you in College Park. Events are huge. You can work into a neighborhood. You can take another local business that has a space, if you don't have a studio, and you could put on an event where other neighborhood businesses can come in. And you can set up a little photo booth, and do headshots for people, and then you could give them a low-res file for social media. You don't have to give it all away. Say, just doing a headshot party, giving everybody a new social media headshot. And then, you can make that whatever you want. There's a friend of mine in Orlando who does this. He is like the Orlando photographer. He's photographed the mayor and the soccer team, and all this stuff, and he started out with this business model where there first Friday of every month, he throws a big headshot party, where it's like, 20 bucks, and you can come and get a new headshot. And it's just, people just come in, bam, bam, and everyone's got a new theme. Sometimes you bring your pets. Sometimes it's like James Bond theme, and sometimes it's like, a big chalkboard, with a map on it of the city, and all this cool stuff. And he's creating those relationships because he gets to touch a person, and meet them, and say hi, and then they go out knowing him. Because everybody you've ever met will have to hire a photographer at some point in their life, and that should be you. Why not you? You should just be on the top of their minds. Does that make sense? So that's what these things are about. So if you want to be the photographer for your neighborhood, that's where I would start. Events are huge, and make sure there's booze at these events. (audience laughs) Lots and lots of booze, it'll be great. Fantastic, loosens people up. Also, in the long term, the most business I get comes from search engine optimization. And Kenna reminded me yesterday that there's a great Creative Live class on search engine optimization by a devilishly handsome guy that you can get. Where, they can find that on my course page on Creative Live's website?
That's right. So Gary was here, was part of our photo week last year, and taught a fabulous class on SEO. So when you search for Gary Hughes, or you just go to his page on our website, you can find that class.
For other areas of your business, if you're a boutique wedding photography business, you're gonna get a lot of inquiries if your SEO is good. If you're an expensive wedding photographer, and you have a good wedding business, you're gonna get a lot of inquiries through the internet, but it's gonna be a lot of people who can't afford you. And it's the same with your portrait business. It's the same with any other boutique area of your business. SEO is good to generate traffic, but the large majority of those inquiries, at least in my experience, you're gonna be filtering out a lot of people who aren't going to be able to afford you. However, when it comes to professional headshots and corporate work, SEO is almost all of it for me. It accounts for more than half of my business every year. Because of that search engine placement. And so I can't teach you that in this short amount of time, because everything else would have had to get thrown out the window, but there is a really awesome 90 minute class that I did last year on Creative, and most of it's still relevant, which is very shocking when it comes to search engine optimization.
Another question is, if you're approaching schools and MBA programs, who exactly are you approaching? Is it the instructor or the student?
It depends. I don't know the, each, in our area, our big MBA program is Rollins College, and they have, oftentimes they have a student advisor who is in charge of stuff like that, and they gather stuff too. Because you're talking about a bunch of adults. You're not talking about a bunch of 18 year old college kids. You're talking about people that are in their late 20s, early 30s, and sometimes even older, who've gone back to school to get their MBA. And these are largely self-governing. So oftentimes there's a faculty advisor for the MBA program, or there's a student advisor who is the facilitator for a lot of this stuff. You need to find that out. I don't know who that is at whatever school happens to be near you. In fact, I haven't even done this. I know someone who has done this, who just told me about it, and I said, "Ooh, I'm gonna put that in my program, "because that sounds really smart." So vaya con Dios, good luck, I don't know. But in theory, it's a good idea (laughs) no. It will really work, but it depends on the school, and how they're structured. Okay, cool. All right so, oh yeah, go ahead, Lenna.
How would you get into the entertainment business? Who would you approach in that?
Entertainment, which is another area of headshots, and we can brush on that briefly. You're in Atlanta which is a huge entertainment business. The biggest, the easiest way to get into the entertainment business is, for me, is to create a relationship with agencies. Because we do a lot of entertainment headshots. So you can market to as many individual people as you want, but when you're going for a very niche group, like actors and performers, there are places where they congregate, just like anybody else. Where do the people I want to photograph hang out? What do they do? What do they think about? Where do they go? So if you are photographing babies, you're gonna want to probably get involved with some obstetricians, and go and have your work hanging in the OBGYN's office, does that make sense? So if you are looking to photograph actors, acting schools, and not necessarily colleges. There are lots of little small like, in Atlanta, there's plenty. And places where actors go for workshops and stuff like that. So we have a couple in Orlando, Art's Sake and Class Act, and there's all these places where actors to go to workshops with each other. Also, agencies. So that's where we go. That's where we mine a lot of business. And those are also professional people that need headshots, just sort of in a different way. Okay, cool. Ready to keep going?
Let's keep going.
So follow the link in the chat room to the SEO class. But I will tell you that it is critical to long term success when you're doing professional headshots. Cool? All right. Reviews and social media. We talked about this. I've had really, really good results with advertising on Facebook and Google Adwords, for professional headshots. If your SEO isn't great when you start out, spend a little money and get the Adwords. People do sometimes still click on them. They're mostly in their 80s, but people do click on those ads sometimes, which is pretty cool. You were supposed to laugh there. (audience laughs) And again, we talked about the reviews. It is the thing that's gonna skyrocket you up in the rankings is, the quality of your business can be determined by user interaction as far as all the Google machines are concerned, so ask for those, solicit those, and create a little marketing material. We had zero, and now we have a bunch on Facebook and on Google because of that. So that's really cool. Very powerful, long term.