The slow season is technically over and with April and good weather in most of the country, sales are about to pick up. Yet, every year the doom and gloom crowd rallies and tries to convince us there's simply not enough business to go around.
There's no question it keeps getting tougher, not just for photographers, but any small business to survive, let alone grow. You have to work harder than ever to find your target audience. When you do find them the next challenge is getting them to spend money with you.
For years our industry has been caught in the perfect storm between the economy, technology and changes in consumer habits and spending. As an industry we've been split right down the middle. Put a hundred photographers in a room and ask them how business is and half will be optimistic. They’ll tell you business is terrific. The other half will be doom and gloom, with a few even deciding to step away from photography completely.
Business is out there. I went on a quest for a few updated numbers on potential business in the US market. Feel free to challenge any of my numbers for their accuracy, but for the most part they're right on the money. They all came from various sources using Google. And, if you're outside the US do a little research on your market.
- There are 2.5 million weddings each year in the US.
- Just under 4 million babies born were in the US in 2015.
- The average dollars being spent on a wedding has been on the rise from 25.2K in 2013 to 26.7K in 2016.
- The average number of guests at a wedding in 2014 was 132.
- 3.5 million students are expected to graduate from high school in 2016–17, including 3.2 million students from public high schools and 0.3 million students from private high schools
- In 2016/1017 there's an estimate of 1,018,000 associate's degrees; 1.9 million bachelor's degrees; 798,000 master's degrees; and 181,000 doctor's degrees.
- It's estimated that 78 million dogs and 85.8 million cats are owned in the United States.
Here's why I love all this data:
In the hierarchy of why people hire a professional photographer, and I’ve written about this before, the market goes brides, babies and pets – in that order. Brides and grooms get married and start families and somewhere in life, statistically the odds are very high they’ll get a dog or cat.
The 2.5 million wedding number has been relatively stable for many years along with the annual births. Again, opportunities are there, but you've got to focus your marketing efforts on the right target.
Let’s go to the high school and college numbers. It's April and next month across the country high schools and colleges will be presenting the graduating classes to the world. There's not only an opportunity for graduation portraits, but prom season is right around the corner. And, I didn't search out the underclass numbers, which are huge.
Last, in the top three reasons people hire a professional photographer, come the pet numbers and they're also rock solid. Plus, pet owners spend a lot of money on their four-legged family members!
Going beyond the top three, I believe it's children, seniors, family and boudoir. That makes seven different categories in the portrait/social categories all in need of professional photographers. And yes, Uncle Harry is out there competing with you, but only if you're a mediocre artist. No matter what gear Uncle Harry owns, the majority of serious hobbyists don't have your skill set or accessibility to the creative tools in your bag of tricks.
The bottom line is simple – there’s business out there, but you’ve got to be creative. You've got to work to educate your client on why you're work is valuable. You've got to build relationships with your target audience. You’ve got to make your work look better than Uncle Harry’s and utilize all the new products and services your vendors offer, especially your lab. You’ve got to utilize your marketing expertise and plant seeds to grow into future business.
Most important of all, you've got to make yourself habit-forming and exceed client expectations!