How to Identify Schools to Work With
Why should we get into schools at all? Why is that even a role, something we want to do in photography? To be honest with you, a 450-kid elementary school, like right around there, you're gonna be able to grow. Depending on where you are in the country, you should be able to pull in about 20 grand a year off of one elementary school. Now that might not be enough money to live off of on its own, but by spreading it out and doing it right, adding those $20,000 accounts to your bottom line make your business much more sustainable, make this a much easier process to get through. A lot of times, school photography's kinda been seen as this very, very, very seasonal business. You're gonna get in and have a spike of work in the fall, and then you do nothing for a year. It's not really true anymore. In a lot of the schools that we work with, not only do we do their fall portraits, which is a large spike, but we also do spring portraits, cap and gown photos, band and choir images. We'll work sp...
orts accounts into it. Becomes a job that we're working with them throughout the year as a provider for all of their photographic needs. So it's not nearly as much of a seasonal job as people think it was. And now's the time to pounce. I swear my business would be three times bigger if I was anywhere but Minneapolis. Anywhere but Minneapolis. There are software solutions out there. The technology is accessible to you. The labs are partnering with these companies. People are frustrated with lack of empathy from large companies. They are pushing back to supporting small local business. There's never been a better time to start to go after these accounts. Bring back old school business mentalities. Start to learn who's in your community and what you can do for them. Start talking to people. Know their names. Know their preferences. Know what they like. Integrate that into your photography. Integrate that into client acquisition. Steer that towards schools. Right? Clients want better portraits. We know that. Everyone's heard of the junk that some companies produce. And you're never gonna have 100% success rate of everybody loving their kid's picture anyways out of 20,000 kids in a district. All the clients want is better pictures. But to be honest with you, that's such a small segment of what will get you the job. Although that might be the most important thing to parents, it's actually not that important to the schools. What's important to the schools is that the transition is seamless, that the work that they get works with what they need, that they can go through and guarantee that you're gonna show up, that packages are gonna get delivered, that you're gonna be a customer service-based business. These things are much, much, much more important to the schools than if you're running a five-light setup and making sure that you meet their needs. Yeah I'd say that actually probably the biggest thing too that I see a lot of businesses struggle with and fail on is turnaround time. Getting stuff out on time is massively important. So having all of these things in place is needed. So if you're gonna get into schools, you have to have a great product. You do. Parents want it. And I said it's not that important to schools, but you have to have it. They aren't gonna hire you just because you're mediocre. Start focusing on a great product, really, really great. 'Cause you're going up against entrenched companies. Some of the accounts we go up against, they've worked with their provider for 20 years. That's a long relationship. And if I think I have a shot just going in and saying like and saying I can get you better pictures, they don't care. That's not gonna work. You have to have the great pictures but also be a trusted brand and execute on more than just that. So let's talk about finding the right schools. We do not go after the big massive huge districts. There's a school district in Minnesota. They have 34 elementary schools. Not my desire to go after districts that big. We like to find smaller, nicer schools with great kids who are trying to find that 500 to 1500-kid interaction per school. That's our numbers that we like, that we like to keep. So how do you find them and how do you prepare to meet with these schools if they might work with you? Two great websites PUBLICSCHOOLREVIEW.COM and PRIVATESCHOOLREVIEW.COM. These websites will give you a ton of census data on different schools. So for example, there's a school in St. Croix, Stillwater. Tells you what their enrollment is, how many kids are what's the student to teacher ratio, how many schools are in the system. It'll tell me how many kids are in each school. It'll tell me percentage of males to females, what the state average is. It walks me through the number of kids in each grade. You'll see that they're pretty big on they have three classes per grade, 30 kids a class, 90, 90, 90, 90. So find that data. Find out. Start looking at the schools and what they are doing and which ones might be good to work with. We've worked with some schools that we have kinda done a one and done. Didn't work out. We move on. But we found that looking at these demographics, we're able to target the ones that are really, really good. One of the things that we'll look at is what percentage of kids are on free and reduced lunch? And the state average I think is 30%. And a lot of the schools we work with are under 10%. Why do we do that? It's not because we wanna get rich families. It's probably what a lot of people think is you're going after schools that are gonna have higher income levels, so you're gonna hit higher averages. It's actually kinda counterintuitive. Lower-income schools you can pull better averages out of. Lower-income schools, that picture of that child is probably the only professional portrait they are going to have that year. A lower-income school, that family may not have a family photographer. So, it's not a money game for me. But the schools that we work with that fit into our demographics are really great cultures. We walk in we get yes sir, no sir, please, thank you. We're building it based on the people, that we're interacting with the cultures of the charter schools and the private schools. It's just a nice and easier place for us to work. And those are some of the demographics that we see. So you start picking out schools. Now you have to figure out when you're gonna call. Schools make their decision on whose gonna do photography like a year out. It's at least nine months to a year out. So the chances of right now in July you landing a school this fall is slim to none. Be really, really, really unique. You need to start playing the long game on this. Getting into school photography is an absolute marathon, and you need to start practicing the art of patience. We start looking at building the relationships though-- You gotta start building that foundation way way out. When you call, it's three weeks after picture day. Three weeks after picture day is when all the orders from the current provider are either not in yet, so they're late, or they are in and the parents are the most angry, the most vocal about any issues that may have come up during shooting. Three weeks after picture day, how the shoot went is in the principal's mind, and all the complaints are in his ear. So that's when you start talking, and that's when the pain is gonna be the most present. That will give you an opportunity to start talking about the options that you have for them and the things that you can do.