"Entrepreneurs must learn to be like bloodhounds. Except instead of sniffing out escaped convicts, lost children, or perhaps drugs in the handbag of a little old lady from Pasadena, they must learn how to sniff out the unmet needs of the people they wish to serve. To win new customers, ask the golden question: "What's the unmet want and how can we meet this unmet want before anybody else does?" Peter Pastula
Every year around this time I publish a post on the same topic, where's the biz? There's no question it's out there, but you have to work harder than ever to find it. In fact, every time I hear a photographer say they had a good year in 2012 they add, "But I never worked so #$%@$ hard in my life!"
For the last few 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 has been terrific. The other half will be doom and gloom, with a few even deciding to step away from photography as a career.
The sad thing is, this isn’t hypothetical. I actually did a workshop once in a room full of photographers with the optimists and pessimists sitting on opposite sides of the room.
Business is out there, but you have to really work to find it and you’ve got to be creative. Here's a big reason why I'm such a cheerleader in this industry. I went on a quest for a few updated numbers on potential business in the US. Feel free to challenge any of my numbers for their accuracy. I didn't want to spend hours chasing the analysts. Surfing through various sites on the Internet, here’s what I found for the US market:
· 4.3 million babies were born in 2010
· 2.3 million weddings take place each year
· The average number of guests at a wedding in 2011 was 138
· Over 3.0 million kids graduated high school last year
· Over 3.0 million kids are estimated to be seniors in 2013
· Over 3.0 million advanced degrees were handed out in 2012
· There are almost 80 million owned dogs
· There are 75-80 million owned cats
Now here’s how I look at the data:
Let’s go to the high school and college numbers first. With over three million kids graduating each year, there’s solid business for senior photographers. Let’s assume the number of high school juniors is about the same. Put the juniors and seniors together and you’ve got a powerful base for junior/senior proms and homecoming events with over six million kids.
Then there’s the advanced degree number. It’s another opportunity for portrait work along with event photography.
The 2.3 million wedding number has been relatively stable for many years along with the annual births. Births actually dropped a little because of the tougher economy, but it's still a huge number!
And, catch the statistics on pet ownership in the US according to the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association 2009-2010 National Pet Owners Survey. (I saw no reason to even do the research to update my numbers to last year...it's simply a big number with a lot of opportunities.)
· Thirty-nine percent of U.S. households own at least one dog
· Most owners (67 percent) own one dog
· Twenty-four percent of owners own two dogs
· Nine percent of owners own three or more dogs
Then you’ve got the cat side of life with an estimated 75-80 million cat owners. Sorry, the stats were a little harder to mine for than dogs, but it doesn’t change the fact that there are at least 140-160 million households with a pet! And here’s one more stat: Dog owners spend an average of $225 a year on veterinary bills – sure sounds like an opportunity to work with your local vet on a pet portrait promotion.
So, 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 that they’ll get a dog or cat.
The bottom line – there’s business out there, but you’ve got to be creative. You’ve got to make your work look better than Uncle Harry’s and utilize all the new products and services your vendors offer. You’ve got to utilize your marketing expertise and plant the seeds that will grow into future business.
Illustration credit: © Akakiy | Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock Photos