For those of you who are full time and at this point starting to get irritated with me for even talking about this group, the industry, long before digital, has been at least 50% part time photographers, especially in the wedding/portrait segments. In fact, WPPI got started over 35 years ago, because the other associations wouldn't recognize or support part time photographers.
I'm not talking about the no-talent shortcut crowd, who shoot a wedding for minimal cost and then hand a bride a disc of mediocre/bad images. I'm talking about artists who are well motivated, believe in quality and are looking to establish themselves in their communities.
And, to that point - whether you have a business address or work out of your home, these next couple of months are the perfect time for you to host an open house. You don't have to have a studio...
Where: If you have a studio then there's the obvious answer, but for those of you working out of your homes...
Consider a restaurant in your community or one of the venues that hosts the various events. If you're worried about costs, then bring in a co-host like another photographer and share the expense. Another possibility is one of the vendors you work with or would like to. For example, a florist, spa, bridal salon...any business going after similar demographics for their target audience.
How: Once you've figured out the cost, set it up like you would an artist's show at a gallery. You don't have to go overboard, but can focus on a wine and cheese kind of event. You're going to spend a little on a classy invitation to elevate the event and bring in some close friends to help you host. Your goal is going to meet every person who comes through the door and get them to know a little about you.
Who: Pay attention to your target demographics. First, you want to invite people in the demographics of your target audience. That means you're going to buy a list by zipcode and then plug into the profile the various characteristics of your audience. Remember to focus on "Mom", since women make 98% of the purchase decisions to hire a professional photographer in the wedding/portrait specialties.
Also include on the list businesses in your area who might be connected to your audience or have their own photographic needs to call you about from time to time. Don't forget the Chamber of Commerce and community leaders. You're looking for the opinion leaders at the various companies and organizations. Don't forget editorial staff at any local magazines, newspapers or websites/blogs.
What: Besides hosting the event, your goal is to show your very best images. That means you're going to be very selective in what images you show. You're also going to want to print them big and have them framed, on easels or hung on the walls of your location. You really want it to feel like a gallery opening.
When: It depends on what's normally going on in your community. You don't need to battle it out with everyone's normal entertainment schedule, Friday night football games etc. It also doesn't have to be a late night - you can go for a Sunday afternoon to an early evening event, giving people time to head out to dinner afterwards.
Why: This isn't just about getting your community to know who you are, but also a way to thank them for their support. Even a brand new business, just getting started, can position an open house as showing appreciation for the people who have helped make it happen.
Partnerships: I mentioned bringing in some partners in the "Where" category, but let's go a little deeper. A partner, who's chasing the same audience you are, is ideal. You not only can split the cost, but share in all the promotional efforts and combining both of your data bases. You're going to work together as co-hosts. This is another reason why I like hearing about photographers who team up to host an event. It's especially effective if you each have a slightly different specialty.
Cause-related Marketing: If you can tie the whole event to a non-profit it's going to be even more effective. I remember Bambi Cantrell tying in an evening event with a salon/spa. She had photographed all of the staff of the salon and then co-hosted the event with wine and cheese, creating a truly upscale evening, complete with all the portraits she had previously created.
Spreading the Word: There are so many opportunities here for press releases before and after the event, blog posts and some good hits in social media. This is where you can share images from the event and talk about your love for photography. Done right, you can get several good stories out of the event and you never know when the local paper just might run something about your evening.
Whether you have a studio, full time business address or not isn't important. What is important is getting people to know who you are and understand your love for the craft.