Hello, friends! Can you believe that November is already halfway over? I’m pretty sure if I blink again, it’s going to be Thanksgiving, and then the holidays, and then …. 2016? What?!!? How does that even happen!??
A few days ago we got a message from a fellow photographer, who has followed our business for a long time. She wanted to know how in the world we have moved cross-country three times in the last five years, and have grown in success while starting (and re-starting… and re-starting again!) all over. And I thought … whoa, this would make a GREAT blog post!
So here we are, spilling our secrets on how to restart a photography business in a new area!
Our friend asked,
“Hey guys!!! My husband and I are moving from our current home to a new state in the next few months. I’m terrified!! I’ve spent so long building up my relationships and clientele here, and the thought of starting all the way over makes me sad … and scared. I know you guys have moved all over the place, but, it’s like you never dropped a beat and I have to know: what’s your secret??!”
First of all: there’s no actual secret. It’s just a lot of planning, hard work and hustle.
Each and every time we moved, we started with market research on our new area. We’d want to know questions like:
- How big is the city we’re moving to both in size and population?
- What’s the closest major city?
- What’s the median income?
- What’s the median house purchase amount?
- What are the top 10 careers in our new area?
Then, we’d take a look at the wedding industry. We’d ask questions like:
- Is there a group for local wedding industry professionals?
- How many venues are nearby?
- What are the most popular venues?
- What’s the average budget for weddings?
- Where are the other local photographers advertising?
- How many wedding planners?
- Who’s getting published locally?
- Who are the florists? Caterers? Bakers? DJs? Bands? Officiants?
And then, we’d friggin’ hustle.
We’d start reaching out to vendors (hair and makeup artists, planners, venues, etc.), simply to introduce ourselves. We’ll be honest – 9/10 times, they wouldn’t even write us back … but that’s okay, because they at least saw our names. We’re a big fan of the “water on a rock” business model – might not make a big crazy impression right away, but over time with constant drips of attention? Better believe we’ve left our mark!
We’d start working on SEO for the new area with blogging, image alt tags, and key words on our social media, website and blogs.
We’d blog about our move, and post about it on social media. Everyone knew we were moving to California months ahead of time in 2014, and we had a handful of weddings booked here before we even packed our first box in our Colorado home.
We had our friends and/or family in the new city tell their friends we were coming.
We got in contact with the local wedding association (which Ashley is now a board member of), who immediately made us feel welcome and invited us to mixers, so they could introduce us to everyone.
Just a side note on these types of advertising avenues … Because the area we live in (Joshua Tree/Palm Springs) actually doesn’t have a huge wedding community on these sites (literally less than 10 photographers locally listed) it made sense to join these sites. But! In Colorado Springs, there were literally 500+ photographers JUST in town on these types of wedding vendor sites, so it didn’t make sense for us to even bother there.
But most importantly – MOST IMPORTANTLY … we did NOT forget about the clients we’ve served over the last few months or years. We let them know with as much advanced warning as possible that we were moving. We did everything we could to remind them that their photos and their experiences with us mattered and they were always going to be taken care of – all of their images are still backed up online and in our external hard drives, that they can always call or email us with anything, and we can’t stress enough how much we are simply going to miss them and their families. We also make sure we do our best to make sure they are still being served by the best people possible, so we have a referral list handy for them with amazing photographers we loved in our old city – so even if we aren’t there to document their daughter’s senior session – we know just the right person to send them to. We don’t just pack up and leave the people who mattered so much to us in the dust.
We still have great relationships with our
clients friends all over the country now. We have excuses to make pit stops everywhere when we go on our road trips!! When we travel, we have people to grab coffee with and visit. We celebrate every happy occasion with them, even if it’s just an email, text or on social media. We share their grief. We share their excitement. We share their accomplishments. We share their struggles. And it’s not for any other reason than the fact these people are not just clients to us – but they are our friends. They are part of our extended family and guess what? Even though we may live hundreds of miles apart, these same friends are still cheering for us, still referring us to their friends and family getting married, and still booking with us whenever they get the chance!
So that’s the secret on how to start a photography business in a new area, really:
be genuine and true to your business, your clients and yourselves.
It’s not going to be easy, but it will be worth it … we believe in you!
We are Randy + Ashley Durham, a husband and wife wedding photography team located in Southern California, and available for travel nationwide. We specialize in intimate weddings for the joyful romantic.