If you’re a small business, most likely you’re bombarded with ads and emails promising easy ways to double your clients or customers. And I hate to say it, but if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. As a fellow creative and small business owner, I know that growth requires hard work, grit, and a willingness to learn. However, the hustle is worth it! And I’m happy to share a few things that have helped me grow a client base over the years.
5 Ways to Grow a Client Base as a Commercial Photographer
Sign up for portfolio reviews.
Make as many connections in the industry as possible. You want to “get in” with ad agencies, artist agents, art buyers, producers, creative directors, and more. One way to do that is by signing up for portfolio reviews.
I know it can feel very vulnerable and uncomfortable to share your work and get critical feedback. But portfolio reviews are instrumental to growth. You’ll learn how to communicate what you do, describe your work, and convey your strategy. The more you practice, the more comfortable you’ll be when you meet with inquiring clients.
In addition to networking opportunities and communication practice, the feedback from your review will provide insight on your strengths and weaknesses. You can learn what creative directors and ad agencies are looking for—and what they’re not. From there, you can fine-tune your specialties and strengthen your weaknesses.
If you want to grow as a food photographer, portfolio reviews are one the best things you can do! Plus, the marketing professionals you reviewed with are more likely to recommend your business to others since you’ve made a personal connection. Building a loyal client base starts with authentic connections.
Partner with stylists on test shoots.
It’s hard to go at it alone. Partner up! Get in touch with fellow food and prop stylists to expand your creativity and produce work that will build both of your portfolios. Even better, you can practice collaborating with other production members.
Many clients will want to know if you’re a team player, and they may ask about your experience working with a crew. Doing test shoots with other creatives will give you that opportunity. You can also share ideas and give each other feedback in a more laidback context. Don’t forget to share the work you did together for exposure across everyone’s social channels!
Note: It’s natural to collaborate better with some people more than others. The good news is that if you find someone you work well with—usually someone who produces a similar style—you can recommend each other for projects. That will give both of you more leads (and hopefully work).
Send cold emails.
Growing a client base doesn’t happen overnight. These emails may be “cold” in the sense that you’ve never met before—but that doesn’t mean they should feel cold. A cold email should be anything but! To really engage with new people, take time to write warm, authentic copy. (They’ll toss it before they open it if it seems too salesy.)
Start a conversation. A cold email shouldn’t feel spammy. Keep the message short, and let them know what attracts you to their brand and why you think you would be a good fit for capturing their brand. Or, you might even ask a question to get the conversation started.
Research brands you’d like to work with and reach out to people in marketing roles such as:
- Creative director
- Art director
- Chief marketing officer
- Marketing director
- Product marketing manager
- Communications manager
- Brand manager
- Web marketing manager / specialist
Get Connected on Social Media
You already know… You really can’t make it in the marketing work without social media. Putting quality over quantity and authenticity over automation, make connections with people who work at companies you’d like to shoot for. Thankfully, you don’t necessarily need to have a daily presence on every platform. Instagram and LinkedIn are the most vital for networking.
Content is king—if it’s done well. Keep it real and relevant, friends. (Also, be wary of questionable solicitors. You don’t need to respond to every DM or comment if they don’t seem reputable!)
Invest in SEO
Not in the SEO game yet? Trust me, it’s worth it to invest in a little education so you have a working knowledge of search engine optimization and how it can help your business. Ranking high for keywords that align with your specialty and location is underrated! Building your SEO takes some time to establish, but just imagine how helpful it would be if your business came up first on Google when people type in “[Your City] food photographer”! Before you spend more money and time on paid ads, consider upping your SEO game.
Tip: Blogging is an excellent way to build your on-page SEO over time. Need a bit of help? Connect with my girl Elise at ElisesEdits.com for blogging services.
Need More Photography Business Tips?
Hi! I’m Lindsay,
I’m a Los Angeles commercial photographer specializing in Product & Food Photography, Stop Motion, and Food Styling. Connect with me here for product marketing! Follow along on the blog for more photography business tips.
Be sure to follow me on Instagram @lindsaykphoto_ for more inspiration.