How I Booked 14 Weddings in 9 Months as a New Business
Ok y’all, this post is by request! I have a wedding photography business, and I shares on my blog Instagram that I recently booked my 10th wedding for 2019, which was a huge goal of mine!
In addition to those 10 weddings, I booked 4 of my own weddings this year (2018), and y’all. I just started my business in January. I know this is what they term a “humble brag”, but I think it’s a good thing to be proud of yourself when you’ve achieved a goal you’ve worked hard to accomplish!
After sharing that, though, I had some messages asking to write a post about how I started my business and how I booked 10 weddings within such a short time frame of starting my business.
I’m gunna disclaim here that I am not a business expert. This is my first and only business, so I’m just going to share what I did and what I think worked well for me. Hopefully this is helpful to any of you on an entrepreneurial journey!
I think this is something I did really well. I educated myself. Y’all. There is so much free education out there nowadays. I taught myself manual mode through YouTube. The light and airy style I like is taught in free resources from photographers all over. How to create an amazing client experience is talked about in so many blog posts and podcast. There is so much free information, and I think it’s in your best interest to take advantage of it!
The amazing thing about this, too, is that you can learn from people who have been in business for a long time! And they freely share what they learned. It’s like skipping ahead! It would have been easy for me to say, “oh, I’ll offer a style guide when I get more experience,” but if I know that it’s useful and my clients would find value in it? Why would I not offer it right off the bat so I can have increased value immediately? So not only should you educate yourself, but you should implement it! Don’t wait until you’re farther in business or more experienced. Having things like questionnaires make you seem more knowledgeable and experienced. Potential clients won’t even question if you know what you’re doing if you tell them what you offer.
Start Your Business
Not to steal Nike’s thunder or anything, but JUST DO IT! This is for two reasons. First of all- I’m a massive rule follower, so I wanted to make sure I had everything in order before I started. It’s a little bit of a financial investment, but not as much as I thought! I did a website, filed for an LLC, got insurance, and figured out my contracts.
If you start the business, you have to do it! It provides incentive because you actually started something. If you never fully and legitimately start your business, you’ll constantly be tip toeing the line of truly starting it, because there’s no real investment made. There’s not much to motivate you to make it work. If you want to keep it as an occasional thing, that’s totally fine. But if you actually want to make income and grow your business? You need to be legit, and I recommend making that happen ASAP.
I hate saying this one because I think it has such a negative connotation. But y’all, it is NECESSARY! Out of the 10 weddings I have booked for next year, at least 4 of them care from referrals from other industry vendors. You HAVE to get to know people! There are so many opportunities for this now thanks to industry leading communities like The Rising Tide Society. It’s not always comfortable, but go and connect! Instagram is a great way to make this happen, too!
And y’all- if you want to be a photographer, connect with other photographers! The Community Over Competition movement is real, y’all. And there are so many different kinds of photographers- budget, style, subject matter- a fellow photographer can be a great source of inquiries and leads!
For weddings, for instance, if I get an inquiry for a date I’m already booked, I want another photographer to recommend to them! My good friend is a more established wedding photographer, so if she gets an inquiry who’s budget is below her cost, she has referred them to me. And that’s been invaluable. If you’re a family photographer, maybe there’s a wedding photographer who would send family inquiries your way.
Let me disclaim with this, though- do not get to know people with the sole intent of gaining something from them. People will see right through that and will not be interested in you. Form genuine connections with people, and create real friendships.
Work for Free
I know this one is pretty controversial among people, especially photographers. We’re inundated with charging your worth and not letting people take advantage of you. And I absolutely think that if someone is reaching out asking you to do work for them, you charge. But to start a business, you need a portfolio. You need experience. You need people to learn you as a photographer. So set up shoots. Ask friends if you can do a session for them. Pick the location and the time, make it look like what you want to advertise, and do it for free. Experience is invaluable when you’re starting out. You will be learning something on every single shoot that you can improve. And when you give people images they love, you’ve just gained word of mouth referrals.
When I was first starting, I wanted to do something really nice. It was right around the holidays, and I really wanted to do something meaningful with this new skill. My church connected me to a nonprofit that I love, and I spent two afternoons photographing kids and their families for free. So later, when one of the directors got engaged and was looking for a wedding photographer? She was sold on me even after I told her I had never done a wedding before.
Share What You Want to Do
If I want to be a wedding photographer and I want to advertise myself as a wedding photographer, potential brides don’t want to go to my Instagram and see nothing but family and maternity shoots. It will show them that I’m not experienced with weddings. Of course you can have different things peppered in, but they need to be able to find photos that show that you know how to shoot what you’re advertising.
This also goes back to working for free. When I knew I wanted to advertise myself as a wedding photographer, I realized I had no portfolio. So I connected with a wedding planner (re: networking), and we set up a styled shoot. This gave me so many images for my website and social media, and it was also able to be published which is an amazing thing I can now put on my website! All of this goes towards lending you more credibility with your potential client.
This one will also be a little controversial. We’re in a huge “rest, self-care, balance” time, and don’t get me wrong, I think that’s all important. But the people who are preaching all of that are also the people who have hustled for years to build a business that gives them that space.
With having two kids, I definitely understand the need to build my business around my life, not building my life around my business. But that also means that I’m up late at night editing and coming up with marketing strategies, and my husband has given me time to work on blog posts and respond to emails. It’s for sure important to take a day and recover and relax. Just don’t expect to make a website and get inquiries. You can start a business relatively cheap monetarily, but there’s a lot of time and sweat equity that go into it. Being aware of that reality and being prepared to put in the work is going to make a big difference.
Building a business is really hard work. So much goes into the success of failure of a business. I was terrified, and still am. There’s nothing that guarantees constant or consistent bookings. I have no background in business. But I’ve loved every moment of it, and I’m so excited to see where this goes.
If you have any questions or want to talk about anything more in depth, feel free to email me or send me a message on Instagram! I LOVE chatting all things business and photography!
Have a phenomenal day!