As a member of many forums for established and aspiring birth photographers, I often see posts regarding how to ‘break into’ birth photography or how to find clients, especially those who will pay for a professional birth photographer.
What we need to remember is that ANY business takes time. Look outside this industry and you will see that the average business takes 3-5 years to turn any kind of a profit. We seem to have a ‘get rich quick’ type attitude about photography nowadays. There is no route to success quickly. Most birth photographers who are booked solid have been doing it for at least three years, if not more. And those three years are not busy – they are slow. So, how do you build a successful birth photography business from scratch? Here are some of my tips:
1. Do not rely on Facebook for your advertising/marketing. You MUST have a real website with decent SEO. If you don’t know what SEO is, start googling. You need a website with a custom URL (not a free site from one of the many sites that you can set up without paying, but they have advertising or their site name in your URL.) If you have a blog and keep it active, that will go a long way. Flash is dead – be sure your site can be seen on mobile devices!
2. Spread the word about your business to OB/GYN offices, ultrasound offices, birth centers, baby boutiques, etc. Even if all you do is get people to recognize birth photography in your area or recognize your photography business name, it is worth it.
3. Offer similar types of sessions while you wait for birth clients to come. Fresh48, herbal baths, maternity, nursing, mommy & me mini-sessions, etc. These will get your business into the birthing and expectant mother communities. Happy customers talk about their experiences. They share their photos on social media. Your name will spread organically in the community.
4. Make friends with doulas, midwives, birth workers. Attend events in the community and meet people. Do NOT use these events to pass out business cards, but use them to make relationships with people. They will be much more likely to pass your name on if they are FRIENDS with you than if you look like you are just trying to get more business.
5. Post purposefully on FB, Google+, etc. Keep an online presence up even if it means sharing from other birth photographers occasionally (making sure you are using the SHARE button on FB) to get the word out about what it is you are offering – especially if birth photography is something new to your area.
6. That first birth client? USE them. Treat them fabulously – over deliver! Then, get testimonials from them, their husband, & any birth worker that was in attendance. Give extra incentives for them to pass along your name, etc. I can trace my business back to TWO clients in the beginning. Seriously! If you get a few over-excited clients who tag everything you post and talk about how great you are, you will get much more business than any type of paid advertising you can imagine!
7. VALUE the industry. VALUE yourself. VALUE your time, effort, energy, and costs of business. If you don’t, no one will. Don’t do more than three ‘portfolio building’ births. After two, I realized I had to majorly change my pricing. I am constantly re-evaluating my pricing. I’ve attended quite a few 15+ hour births. Take the fee you are thinking of charging and divide it between 15 hours. Do it now. I’ll wait.
Then, think of how many hours it will take you to edit the images from the birth. Add those hours to the 15 hours you attended the birth and now divide your fee by that total. Realize that this per hour number is without taking into account your COGS (cost of goods sold), as well as your basic equipment and business expenses (organization fees, taxes, insurance, childcare, etc.) Are you making less than you would working for $10/hour at the mall? Is it worth it? Don’t sell yourself short. Don’t work for free. Don’t devalue all of us by working for cheap. Protect your long-term business even if it means taking longer to get where you want to go.
Above all, remember that it takes TIME, but it is worth it to do it the right way!