Yes, things have changed in different areas: You have to work harder today to get through the noise, build brand awareness and establish your reputation. Technology, the Internet, social media have changed the way we market ourselves. New gear, pushing you to expand our skill set, is being introduced regularly. But at the same time, your reach is the strongest it's ever been and you have the most creative tools in the history of photography!
While certain aspects of photography have changed, the principles behind a successful business haven't moved an inch! A new photographer starting out today has the same challenges as if they started twenty years ago. The questions are the same...How do I close the sale? Should I advertise my prices? How do I get people to know I'm here? Then there are questions on insurance, promotions and the importance of never compromising on quality.
My point is, the foundation of a strong business as a photographer NEVER changes:
- You still need to produce a quality product! While there are those who will argue most consumers don't know and don't care, I'm convinced that's a cop-out. Every time I hear a photographer say that I can trace back his/her actions to missing something in customer service in their own business. Consumers do want quality and when you take the time to show them the difference the majority of the time they understand. It's all in your presentation, and how you educate your client is an important key to success.
- You still have to provide a respectable level of Customer Service! Customer Service is your secret weapon. You've got be accessible, build relationships and be listening more than talking!
- You have to anticipate your customer's needs. Pay attention to your target demographics and see the world through their eyes, NOT yours.
- You have to listen to your clients. Most important of all, you need to meet their mindset and exceed expectations. You've got two ears and one mouth - listen twice as much as you talk.
- You still have to provide a pleasing representation of the client, the products, whatever it is you've been hired to photograph.
- You still have to exceed client expectations and make yourself habit-forming! This is still a strong word-of-mouth business, and you need to get your clients excited and talking about you!
- You still have to market yourself to get through the noise. I'll admit it's harder than ever to build brand awareness, but the necessity to do it is still there. And, with a good website, blog and presence in social media as well as some great old standards, like direct mail, community involvement and partnerships, the tools are at your fingertips!
Last but no least, your work still requires a passionate eye, a great heart and a quest to always look for that decisive moment. Ansel Adams once said,
"Sometimes I do get to places just when God's ready to have somebody click the shutter."
And that's one more thing that hasn't changed - as a professional photographer you're still part of an incredible legacy of creative spirits like Ansel, Avedon, Scavullo, Karsh, Eddie Adams, Herb Ritts, Mary Ellen Mark, Arnold Newman, Dean Collins, Don Blair and Monte Zucker, just to name a few. They may have passed away, but the legacy they left behind hasn't changed. It might sometimes be challenged by technology, and even the economy, but it remains a powerful tribute to pride, quality, creativity and art.
So, that old quote still applies...as much as things change, some things never change!