At the start of a business, it seems a little ironic that you need to make money, but have no money to spend on marketing in order to advertise the services of the business… It can be frustrating and leave you back at square one when it comes to brainstorming marketing tactics. Fear no more! There are some great free marketing tactics that I used to get the word out about my business at its very start.
Passion Projects. A passion project is a project that embodies something you truly care about, that ideally, your ideal client also cares about. This seems a little obscure without an example, so let me tell you about the passion project I completed back in 2017 when starting my business. It was “Despite the Distance.” It was a photography series where I showcased military spouses and the struggles and triumphs they have endured while in the military lifestyle. At that point in my business, most of my income came from portraits–maternity, family, newborn, couples, etc. Many of my ideal clients were military spouses looking to document their time in their current duty station, so this project was perfect for me to get my name out to those that could potentially turn into paying clients. Plus, I was getting to know them and their struggles on a personal level so that I could alleviate those as a business owner. It was a great networking and marketing opportunity!
Instagram. How awesome is it that Instagram (even a business account) is totally free?! You can use hashtags for targeted marketing (your ideal client, your geographical area, your type of photography, etc.). You can showcase all of your best work in one place. You can create a personal brand using Instagram stories so that clients feel like they know the real you. Seriously, such a resource that comes at NO COST other than the time it takes to plan your posts.
Word of Mouth. Once you gain your first few clients, LOVE ON THEM. Love on them hard. Think about what issues they may have before they have them (What do I wear? How do I pick a location? How do I print my images?) and answer them. They will tell others about your services, and those others will want to be part of your business family as well! This may sound a little bold, but you can always give them your card and ask them to tell any of their friends about the experience if they enjoyed it. Sometimes it takes a little prompting, and that’s not skeezy…it’s okay! When I turn the tables and think about myself as a consumer, a business owner that actively advocates for his/her business, is the one that will most likely get my return business because I know they have confidence in what they’re offering and that they’ll be offering it for years to come.
Networking with other Vendors. In the wedding world, networking is key. As a photographer you have such power to network. You can provide other vendors with images of their work and them working behind the scenes of a wedding day. That alone is an opportunity to talk, get to know, and network with other vendors! Put yourself out there; introduce yourself; collaborate on a project; go out to coffee; send a handwritten card like it’s the Stone Age. At the end of each year, I always send a handwritten note to the vendors that have positively impacted my business and have always received great feedback from that! Not many people take the time to do that and that makes everyone feel special to get some snail mail that’s not a bill! 🙂
None of these marketing tactics cost anything other than your time. My only caveat: Don’t expect these marketing tactics to work overnight. Just like anything that’s worth having–it will take time for the word of mouth to spread, for the passion project to pay off, for the networking to see returns. That’s okay!You are in this for the long run and these will help you sustain the life of your business. I kid you not, I am still in touch with a few of my clients that I gained from Despite the Distance, having done five or six sessions each for them! While I was a waitress at a restaurant during the start of my business, I mentioned my photography business to a patron at the restaurant–still great friends and one of my most loyal clients three years later!
Have faith that your efforts will pay off eventually, and keep going. Don’t be discouraged. And remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day, but they were laying bricks every hour.