This is a Guest Post courtesy of marketing and business veteran Brendan Hufford. In 2016, he founded Photo MBA, where he teaches photographers how to charge more, land better clients, eliminate business headaches, and bridge the gap between their current reality and photography business goals.
The most frustrating thing in the world of any creative is when people don’t value their work.
There is nothing quite like the rage you feel when a potential client asks you:
“Why should I pay $3500 for pictures when my cousin just got a DSLR and can do it for $100?”
If you’re like me, just reading that makes your blood pressure go up.
If you’re tired of:
Clients not paying you what you know you’re worth
Not being able to get enough clients
Having clients that are total nightmares
Then fear not, photographer. I have the answer for you.
Early on in my business, I learned from Michael Port that you have to make an offer equal to the amount of trust that you’ve built. If my offers were getting turned down, it was simply because I needed to build more trust.
If you want to get the a large number of your ideal clients that pay you what you’re worth, you need to build trust.
If you want there to be a line out the door of clients waiting to pay you whatever you want to charge, you need to start writing.
2 Reasons Why Most Photographers Don’t Write
1. What Could I Possibly Have to Say?
I first started writing online in 2011 and after five years and over 500 articles, I’ve learned something incredibly important:
You don’t always write because you have something to say. You write to find out what you have to say.
I have infinitely more to say now than I did when I started and that’s because I spent time on my craft. When I started podcasting, I had something to say, but only for the first twenty episodes. After those episodes, it was what I developed in that time that carried me for the next twenty and the twenty after that.
At the end of this article is a simple formula you can follow to create incredible articles about your work that build trust and land you your dream clients.
2. My Writing is Terrible. I’m a Photographer, Not a Writer!
In a moment, I’ll explain why writing is essential if you want to build long-lasting career as a photographer. But, this hurdle is important.
Somehow, photographers think that the process they’ve used to becoming awesome at photography can’t be applied to anything else.
I’m here to tell you that you’re wrong.
If you look back at any of your early photos, they’re terrible!
But, you loved photography and wanted to make it a major part of your future, so you were willing for it to be bad for a while because you knew you’d be better some day.
Even once people started paying you for your photos, I bet you still think your early work was bad compared to what you produce today.
My early photos? Awful.
My first podcasts? Ew.
My early writing? The worst.
Everything gets better over time when you’re willing to be imperfect.
Be willing to improve over time. You were willing to take bad pictures in order to take great ones in the future.
Writing is the exact same way.
Luckily, you have the formula at the end of this article to help. Here’s why every photographer absolutely must start writing today…
2 Reasons Why Photographers Must Start Writing
1. Writing Builds Immense Trust
Every single photographer I’ve ever met assumes that the reason that people hire them is based on their photos. Getting hired should be as simple as showing somebody my portfolio.
Unfortunately, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
While most potential clients can tell our work apart from a total amateur, or see important stylistic differences, 99% of them have no idea all of the nuances that we put into our work that makes them like what they see.
So if our photos can get them in the door, it will be our words (our voice) that turns a website visitor into a lead.
But we have to use the right words, words that provide value to the reader and build their trust in us.
When visitors come to your website, you earn permission to sell by providing value. When you front-load the relationship with a potential client, you build the kind of trust it takes to get paid the money you deserve.
2. Writing = Revenue
Every month, hundreds of people are searching for the major keywords around your service.
According to Ahrefs (a tool that I daily with my photographer clients) every month:
- 350 people are searching for wedding photographers in Chicago
- 200 people are searching for wedding photographers in San Francisco
- 60 people are searching for portrait photographers in New York
- 500 people are searching for surf photographers in the US
No matter what type of photography you specialize in, you should be getting website traffic and free leads from Google.
There are ways we can optimize our images to tell Google what our articles are about, but Google primarily searches words to see what we specialize in.
This is a HUGE opportunity right now for photographers.
In analyzing the competition of my clients, I’ve only found 2% of photographers are seriously writing on their website in a way that will bring in new clients.
Here’s what we need to write to bring those clients in…
Building Trust Through Writing
Immediately, when I talk about writing as a photographer, people think that I mean writing about photography and gear.
This couldn’t be further from the truth.
For the most part, your potential clients don’t care about your gear or the photoshop actions that you use. They just care about how well those things turn into the final product.
As a photographer, you have to build trust with your potential clients by writing about things they care about.
This means writing about them, not yourself.
This means writing about the things that they’ll get if they hire you: an amazing experience, incredible photos, memories that last, etc.
The best way to get started building that trust and positioning yourself is by using the following article formula and then customizing it over time to make it your own…
The Easy Article Formula for Photographers
I know that it’s a lot to add writing articles on your website to your already full plate, so let’s stay focused on our goals for writing:
Be found in Google thanks to some solid photography SEO practices
Build trust, position ourselves as the expert, and convert visitors into leads
If we want potential clients to find us in Google, there’s two things we have to look at before we even start writing:
URL – A website’s URL is the web address that you type in and often see along the top of your internet browser window. Google, and other search engines, check this to see if it contains words or phrases that might be relevant to what you’re writing about. It used to put a lot more weight on this, and while it matters less now than it used to, it still matters.
Tip: Make sure that it contains the key words we want to target, but not any extraneous words.
Title – The title can have a few extra words so that it reads well, but we need to make sure that it tastefully contains the markers we want Google to pick up on.
Tip: Include the type of photography that you’re targeting (wedding/portrait/ski/etc.) and the location that you worked in or want to work in. Google is made up of the people who use it to search. If you were marketing to a person, telling them the type of photography you do and where you do it would make sense. Since our blog posts and articles will read by amazing readers (like you!), then this makes sense.
Google also checks our images to see if they align with what we’re talking about in our article. This is why it makes serious sense to not use default titles for our images.
File Name – Before you even upload the image, make sure to use relevant keywords in the file name. These changes can be easily made on your computer in your photo editor.
Title – Once you’ve uploaded your image, you’ll be given the chance to title the image as you insert it into your article. Choose an alternate phrasing on your file name using similar keywords.
Alt tag – This is a third place to insert keywords, but we want to make sure not to stuff too many in here. Treat Google like a person and use a few more alternative keywords or phrases that are aligned with, but not the same as, your file name and title.
Since Google primarily searches words, this will be the most important part of your article. By following the formula below, you’ll be set up for success right for the start.
At the end of this short section, I’ll show you a few images of photographers that do this REALLY well.
Over time, you’ll find your own voice and style, but until then, this will get your really far.
Type of Session – Super briefly mention the kind of session that took place and where it was located.
Client – Discuss your clients and your relationship. If you’ve known them for years, say that. If you just met them and they had some sort of hilarious quirk, don’t leave that out! This humanizes you and your subject and puts your potential client at ease knowing that they’ll probably get along with you should they choose to hire you.
This can also have an additional effect of letting potential nightmare clients to stay away. I’m sure you’ve had a client in the past that you wish had never hired you, and the more you write, the more those kind of clients will know to stay away.
Disasters and Problems – “Oh no, Brendan! I don’t want to tell people what went wrong! I want to pretend that nothing ever goes wrong on my shoots and I’m a perfect photographer.”
In the back of their mind, every potential client knows that isn’t true. I see nearly ZERO photographers writing with this level of transparency and if you’re one of the first to do it in your area (you will be), you’ll stand out.
Write about what went wrong during the shoot and how you used your professional skills to overcome it.
Super cold out? Write about that. They’ll be amazed at how warm the photos look since you’re a pro.
Horse kicked mud up on the groom’s suit and you had to take off your jacket to wipe it off? That’s hilarious.
The people you hire want to know you can handle anything that can go wrong. Explaining to them over and over how things do go wrong, but you always handle it like a pro REALLY matters.
Best Part of the Day – Now that you’ve taken a potential client through the journey of how you build relationships with clients and handle disasters, we need to share the best part of the session. What’s one memory that you and the client you’re writing about will never forget?
By ending the article with a success story, the potential client can start to see themselves in that position as well, but only if they hire YOU.
“Learn More” Link – Once they’ve read through that entire journey, lots of people will be ready to learn more about your and your work. Put a link here to learn more about your services, sign up for your mailing list, call you, or link to your contact page to send you an email.
Photos – If the few images you sprinkled through your article weren’t enough, putting a short gallery of 5-7 photos at the end will do the trick. Some photographers like to include 50+ photos, but there’s no reason. If you can’t convince a potential client by showing them 5-10 photos, adding in another 40 isn’t going to do it, either.
I advise all of my clients use WordPress and it’s super easy to put in a small gallery here.
Another Link – YES, another link. But, Brendan, can’t they just scroll back up? Maybe. But they can also click back to Facebook or whatever else they were doing when they found your website.
The less decisions a website visitor has to make, the more likely they are to make the decision you want them to. Now they’ve seen your photos, your relationship with your clients, and what a pro you are, they’ll want to get in touch.
Phrase this link a little differently than the one before the gallery, but feel free to link to the best way to get in touch with you, just like you did above.
Here’s a few photographers that do this really well:
Does This Really Work, Brendan?
Yes, yes it does. So well in fact, that I know photographers that have added over $40k in revenue for the next year just from making these changes across their website.
Let’s say you’re a newborn photographer in New York and for every single session you do, you follow the formula that I gave you above. Over the course of 2017, you do 75 sessions.
Who do you think Google is going to show when they’re looking for a newborn photographer in Brooklyn and you have 19 articles about that?
Let’s Do This!
Comment below (I read every one!) and link to an article where you used the formula above. It can even be an older post that you’ve changed around. No need to reinvent the wheel!
I can’t wait to see how you implement this writing in your own photography business.