You just upgraded to a new DSLR and pro lenses. You're taking pretty good photos that everyone always compliments. You even had a few people ask you to shoot their events. Maybe you really can start to make some decent money with your camera, right?
Slow down. There's a difference between having your Mom like your photos on Facebook and creating a photo business that consistently attracts your ideal clients.
No matter what your best friend says, you'll never make any money taking pictures if you're committing one of these seven sins.
1. You don't have a niche or focus
If you're competing against everybody, you probably won't attract anybody. Business coaches will tell you to identify a specific customer. You have to know who this person is, what is important to him, and what makes her tick. You have to narrow your focus to be the photographer who understands their needs better than anyone else and is uniquely qualified to deliver on it.
If you don't have a specialty, you'll find yourself competing against every other GWC (guy or gal with camera) on Craigslist. With a well thought out and defined niche, you'll find few can compete with you on your turf.
2. You don't solve a problem
This is the foundation to all business. What problem can you solve?
I'm a big fan of ABC's Shark Tank. On the hit TV show, would-be entrepreneurs pitch their business ideas to celebrity investors in hopes of attracting money and strategic partnerships. The pitches always follow a specific formula -- how they came up with the idea and then, the all-important, what problem does it solve.
Your photography business is no different. Your client doesn't just want photos for his social media platforms, he wants to build his business by attracting new clients. How will you solve that problem better than his current solution? Your bride doesn't just want photos of her wedding, she wants to see and remember all the little details she planned. She wants to be able to share them with her daughter 20 years from now. She wants to remember how handsome her husband looked on that day. Be ready to explain how you will you solve those problems.
3. You don't know what makes you awesome
Here's the question every business person ought to be prepared to answer -- why you? With all the options I have these days, what makes you so awesome that I'd choose you over the others? You have to be prepared to tell the story of your background and interests in a way that makes you stand out from the sea of GWCs.
Simon Sinek's book suggests that you start with your why. What motivates you and makes you tick? Why are you a photographer? How does that make your vision different from everyone else's?
4. You haven't created products your clients want
I know you take pictures, but is your product really pictures? Or... is it a bride and groom's love story? Is it a entrepreneur's unique brand? Is it a nonprofit's way of saving the world?
Will it be photo books? Will it be individual images? Will it be a custom app? What are they really buying, and what will you deliver? Take your skill and turn it into a product.
5. You don't have a pricing system they understand
How often have you gone to the pricing page of a company's website and quickly clicked away because everything scared you? Worse yet, the products are in your price range, but you don't understand what you will get for your investment? Here's a favorite quote I read once: a confused mind says no.
Make sure it is crystal clear what you will do, what you will deliver, and what they will pay. It's not often shoppers will bother to ask for clarification.
6. You can't consistently produce great images
The lighting is awful. The location is cramped. The background is cluttered. Your client wants a cover photo for her Facebook page. You have an hour.
When she comes back to check on you in 30 minutes, will you be flustered or methodically shooting? The mark of a professional is you can predictably and consistently produce great images in any situation.
Trust me, your conditions will never be ideal, but your customer will always expect awesome images.
7. You don't have a compelling portfolio
I want to know how your photos are different from what my nephew creates with his new camera. That's what your client is thinking, and your portfolio better answer that question. If I'm not seduced by your portfolio, I'm going to keep flirting with other photographers. And no, it's not me, it's you.
Tally up your sins
How many of the seven sins did you recognize? One or two, and you might still be making money haphazardly. If you are committing three or four sins, you're probably struggling to sell photos with inconsistent results.
More than four sins? There's nothing wrong with having a photography hobby. You'll just never make any money from it.