by Bitsa Bernard

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3 low-cost marketing strategies to getting dogs through the door as a pet photographer

We all know that sitting by the phone and waiting for it to ring is not helping our business.. but knowing what to do can be a little over whelming. Here's my favourite three marketing strategies that I use for Bitsa Bernard Photography to ensure my calendar is full, and my bank balance is happy.

 

1. Third Party Marketing

Most of my clients come from a voucher system with third party businesses. I have found that building relationships with those businesses around you can be so super helpful.. especially for ensuring you have a steady income year round. This May, for example, I was a little bit quite.. and as I was about to leave the country for four months I really needed to be busy. I simply reached out to two businesses who I have formed relationships, and we actioned a plan. May became my biggest month EVER, with our revenue over $20,000.

Instead of asking a vet to hang your work, why not give them vouchers to gift their clients a session, so that the art can be of their own clients? Not sure how to go about it? Check out my guide under e-books.

 

2. Competitions

Competitions can be ran in many ways as a marketing strategy. Through Bitsa Bernard I've successfully booked shoots through competition boxes at events, in other business and through social media, but my all time favourite competition strategy is a Dog of the Year (or month) competition.

Dog of the Year competitions give your clients an excuse to brag about their photo shoot, shows them you’re grateful by giving away a prize, and gives their friends (and your other followers) a reason to book now! My first 35 bookings for 2018 were all as a result of a Dog of the Year competition. I offered vouchers to eligible voters who went on to place orders.

You can replicate my competition strategy, with the use of my step-by-step guide to running a competition as a $0 marketing strategy. Included in the guide is the steps, phone call scripts, text and email templates, social media post samples, voting page samples and more.

 

3. HoST a FUNDRAISER

Fundraisers are super popular ways to book portraits, but don't forget they don't have to be fundraiser photo shoots, they can be other events too.

I recently hosted a fundraiser workshop, "Instagram Photography for Pet-Parents". The workshop was a great way to raise funds for a local family and their son's assistance dog, share some of my knowledge so their photography improves and of course, get people talking about Bitsa Bernard. Sharing my knowledge also led to the attendees seeing me as an expert in pets and pet photography which helped to build trust. At the end of the workshop I had a special offer for attendees who booked a photoshoot on the day which proved popular. 

If you're interested in hosting an event, I would recommend working with another business or someone with a following to help spread the word. I worked wth two local businesses and a "social media influencer" to make this event successful. 


There's a common theme that you might be noticing throughout all my marketing strategies- I never go it alone. I have spent time building strong relationships with my clients, other local businesses and the wider community, all whom want to see my successful and as such, are happy to help if I ask for it. In asking for help though- I am always ensuring that I give back. Give, give, give, take, give, give give.

I absolutely love sharing what I've learned through my experience, so that other photographers can get to where I am sooner which is why I offer mentoring. I have a monthly marketing group of pet photographers which is exclusively for my mentor students. After your 3 hour intensive, or 6 week program, during which time we ensure your pricing is right, your systems are streamlined, your message is clear and your sales techniques are rocking.. you can join us each month to discuss a new strategy each month. Sound like something you'd benefit from? Schedule a free chat!

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How to prioritise your money when starting a pet photography business

You need money to make money, which is often a frustrating barrier for any one starting a business, and photographers are no different in that regard. The important thing is to make sure you're investing the money you do have wisely and in a way that will get you the fastest return. 
 

Insurances, Business Registration and all those unavoidable costs

There are some expenses that you just can't avoid and they absolutely must be paid for first. 
Required insurance and registrations will vary state to state and country to country. To give you an idea, for business and gear insurance I pay approximately $60 per month.
You will also most likely need to register your business name and obtain other business licences. Check the website of your local professional photography body for advice in your area.
 

Gear

It's easy to get carried away with the latest and greatest gear, but before splurging all your start up budget on gear, consider what is actually required. Do you need brand new or do you know someone who looks after their gear who may be looking to upgrade? If a camera was "the best" two years ago, and is still working perfectly, why is it that it's suddenly not up to standard anymore? Before making any gear purchase, really consider if the client will see the difference and if it will make a different to your profit margin.

This is what's in my bag for every shoot:
Nikon D800
Nikon 85mm 1.8 (used 80% of each dog shoot!)
Nikon 70-200 2.8 V1 (used for action and horses)
Sigma Art 35mm 1.4 (used only to add variety- okay so I did buy this one new!)

I also have the following lenses that are in a cupboard unless required:
Nikon 50mm 1.8D (yeah that old school one! Purchased new in 2012 for $150)
Nikon 24-85mm 2.8-4 (not even used in last 2 years!)

My body and those first two lenses were purchased Second Hand and I hardly ever upgrade gear.. clearly from the age of my camera body! 
 

Websites

As a photographer, you need a professional online space to present your work and ideally to take bookings too, so a website is a necessity for professionals. It's never been easier to create your own website and doing so, allows you to avoid designer and developer fees. Platforms such as Squarespace (which I use) are subscription based and available from as low as $16 per month.


Studio Samples

If you plan on selling product, which is highly recommended, you will only sell what you show, making studio samples a must.
The good news is suppliers offer a hefty discount for studio samples.
There's no need to stock every single product in every single size (and you definitely shouldn't have too many product lines anyway). Start with the product you want to sell most (hint: Canvas are cheaper than frames and can be sold for the same price) but get a size that you want to sell, not just the smallest because it's cheaper- because remember, you sell what you show. My lab (Australian supplier Bpro) even have an option to pay after the product arrives.. which will give you an extra month to find that cash.
Recommended samples: You could start with just one large wall piece in your favourite finish
Initial Cost: Less than $100 including studio discount


Education

To be able to turn a profit you will need to be confident in your work and selling abilities and often that means spending time (and money) on education. Keep an eye out for free tutorials, sales, affiliate links, and resources that provide bang-for-buck (like The Pet Photographers Podcast I host with Caitlin). Most importantly, really prioritise what areas you need help in first (hint: this is probably something about how to make money!). Should you need a more personal approach, most mentors (me included) offer payment plans. 
 

Shiny Object Syndrome

We are constantly surrounded by fantastic resources, education, software, presets, exciting product ranges, and so many other things that we might be tempted to spend money on, but usually don't need! But like with your camera gear, before buying anything, ask yourself "how will this make me more money?". If you can not answer that question, perhaps you don't need it right now (or ever).


Funding the start-up

Often when starting out we don't have the required cash and are not in a position to obtain a bank loan, even with a business plan. Putting it on credit card puts you under a lot of pressure so make sure you know your numbers before doing that. Would a friend or family member be able to provide you with a small loan? Could you have a garage sale? Or is there something else you could do or sell to raise capital? I sold fairy floss at children's fetes to save for the gear and set up costs of establishing a business. You're a creative- get creative!

That's a pretty comprehensive list, but if there's something you think is missing, be sure to let me know in the comments below!

How to prioritise your money when starting a pet photography business