How Photographers Can Make More Money When Leads Are Low

How photographers can make more money when leads are low
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The biggest struggle I hear from photographers right now is needing to make more money when leads are low. It’s no surprise, that this year many photographers are seeing fewer leads come in. It’s all over the Facebook forums! Some photographers have had to close their doors and others are looking for creative ways to stay afloat. If this is you – please know you’re not alone. Slow periods are inevitable in business.

We’re used to only seeing the highlight reel of people making more and more money each year. The truth is, that’s not reality for 99% of businesses (and most of the people telling you it’s their reality). That’s why it’s important to embrace proactive strategies to get more money, even when leads are low.

Now, I’m no MBA but I have been able to make my money goals every year. (Not necessarily an increase, but always the goal.) I wish it were luck – but it wasn’t. It was hard work, long nights, and some creativity that kept cash flowing in. I’m going to share my secrets with you, so grab a pen!

Managing Finances During Lean Periods

how to get more photography clients in 2024

Look at the backend of your business

When leads dwindle, the first step is to audit your photography business backend. It may be hard to make yourself pause to do this when you’re desperately refreshing your inbox but don’t skip this step. Evaluate everything from your current offerings to your marketing to your expenses. 

Ask yourself these questions: 

  • Why are leads low?
  • Are my offers structured for what people are looking for in today’s market/economy?
  • How can I cut expenses?

Look critically at your business. We’ll often find things that we’ve let slide in during a busy season. (Don’t even get me started on the subscriptions I was able to cut last year doing this!) If you want more ideas on what to audit, read my blog here, which goes into more detail. 

When and How to Adjust Your Pricing

We all want to raise prices. It’s the #1 advice people give online when you’re not making enough. Raise, raise, raise! Here’s the thing – there’s a season to raise and a season to stay put.

When your leads are low – that’s usually not an indicator that you’re not charging enough. Analyze your current photography package prices and collections, and compare them with industry standards RIGHT NOW in your area. Sometimes, adjusting prices to what they were last year is the right way to go. You may find that you’re priced fairly for your market and want to stay put. (That’s what I’ve done for the past two years.) And if you’re really lucky and you find leads aren’t your problem, it’s the prices and packages you’re offering – fix it.  You can confidently raise your prices without pushing away repeat clients by using a few good strategies. Just know that if the economy in your area is the reason why people aren’t buying, it may not be the time to raise prices, even if leads aren’t your problem. (Because it quickly can be your problem!) Use your best judgment or seek an outside look.

Getting More Photography Client Leads

marketing tips for photographers

Spice Up Your Marketing to Boost Leads

Let’s imagine that your marketing has been serving you leads up until now. That’s great! However, ask any marketing professional and they’ll tell you what worked last year won’t work this year. So if leads are low it’s time to take a hard look at your marketing. 

Evaluate your current social media platforms. See if you’re using all the latest features and popular tips from Instagram experts. Look into local Facebook groups (yes, those still exist and thrive). Look into trying new platforms, like TikTok that you haven’t explored yet. Attend networking events and get your name out there. For common pitfalls to avoid and what’s working for me now, check out my blog post on 5 marketing mistakes photographers make.

Diversify Your Income Streams as a Photographer

It can be hard to step out of the box when you’ve never struggled in business before. You work so hard to build your reputation as an XYZ photographer and craft your offers that the idea of offering anything else feels like you’re back in year one again. Taking on anything that comes your way. I want you to lose that mindset. That is your pride talking and pride doesn’t pay the bills. So, when you need a cash injection here are some ideas I’ve tried that work great.

Mini Sessions

Mini sessions are a quick and effective way to boost income. They are shorter photo shoots that are typically themed around holidays or seasons, such as fall colors or Christmas. They offer a low-cost option for clients to get photos and a great way to serve past clients and get discovered by new clients. You can host 2-3 a year and still make them feel exclusive, walking away with anywhere from $5,000 – $15,000 in a day or two. They’re just a win-win.

Model Calls

Hosting model calls can be great for many reasons. They help build your portfolio, give you a chance to sell whole galleries and collections for quick cash, and attract new clients who might book full sessions later. Most model calls offer a free or discounted session to people in exchange for their time and use of their images in your marketing. This approach can introduce your work to new circles, potentially leading to more paid gigs. Plus, it makes you look booked and busy. (And there’s a whole psychology around why people want photographers who are booked and busy.)

Offering Complementary Services

Complimentary services are another great way to get more money from your past and current clients. For example, if you specialize in wedding photography, consider offering family portrait sessions. If you’re a brand photographer, you may offer a subscription package where your client gets 3 mini sessions a year to get more photos for social media. Brainstorm what services complement your current services first. Then, let your existing clients know about your new offers. Past clients already trust your work and might be interested in different types of photography sessions. As someone who has a whole secret menu of offers for past clients – I can tell you this works. 

Local Income Streams

Tapping into local events can create substantial income opportunities. For instance, offering Santa mini sessions for a neighborhood HOA during the holidays, or school graduation minis can capture moments that are highly valued by your community. These events are often highly needed and can lead to a steady stream of clients.

Look into Local Business Needs

Many local businesses periodically update their websites and often realize too late that they need professional photos. Offering your services for website image updates, promotional materials, or professional headshots can fill a gap in your area. Reach out to local businesses, introduce your services, and highlight how high-quality images can enhance their online presence. Be open to offering one-time packages and subscriptions for more socially savvy businesses who want to keep their feeds fresh.

By exploring these diversified avenues, you not only buffer your income during lean periods but also broaden your client base and enhance your portfolio.

Overcoming Mental Barriers and Financial Fears

Running a photography business comes with its stressors, just like any other business. Experiencing financial slumps can also create mental barriers, which are often tougher to overcome than the slump itself. I want you to adopt a mindset shift: view slow periods as opportunities to refine your business rather than as failures or setbacks. 

If the stress becomes overwhelming, get help. You can consult with a business coach, like myself, to look at your offers and work through marketing blocks. You can also seek a professional therapist to help navigate through these fears in a healthy way. What I’m trying to say is that we all face ups and downs, so there is no reason to go through it alone.

I hope these tips help you bring back your leads, and allow you to thrive again!

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