How to Get Photography Leads In A New Market
You've plastered all over the internet that you've recently moved. Updated your website, blog and marketing materials. Sat across the table, hands wrapped around countless Starbucks cups as you met local Creatives in your industry practically proclaiming "I'm HEREEEEE!". You've exercised your generosity and worked on several free shoots. You've even slyly left stacks of business cards at every cafe/boutique/coffee shop you step foot in. My heavens cut your prices in HALF! And...so far...crickets. Just when you feel you've put every single marketing idea into motion and shed a virtual tear in ALL your Facebook groups, don't quit. Hold out hope, keep making strides and be freaking patient. And in the meantime: second shoot.
[BTS sneaky photo by Kayleen T, a GENIUS photographer who so kindly second shot for me recently]
When I first moved to Hawai'i I did all of the above. I hustled, posted and blogged every minuscule thought in my brain, started up personal projects (that didn't last long) and picked up film. I even (tearfully) got a job as a server for a few months. But nothing, and I mean nothing, paid off more than second shooting. Being a helping hand for another Photographer on a wedding day was almost like paying my dues, even though no photographer really ever has any dues to pay. I had never shot in Hawai'i before, I hardly knew a soul, and I certainly was unfamiliar with the market. Having the opportunity to be a little beam of bag-carrying light on a wedding day for another thriving creative was truly an honor which paved the way for tremendous working and life-long friendships. It was a win-win for both involved. I got to help out, be a team-mate and supportive shooter for someone else, alleviating stress wherever I could and in-turn learned the 'local ropes' (and some pidgin), shot at popular hotels, and encountered traditional hawaiian style ceremonies without the pressure of being a main shooter. And in the end, I walked away with a trusted friend in the industry. Lots of my sincere friendships on O'ahu have flourished from working alongside like-minded peers, and thankfully have blossomed into extraordinary business relationships as well. Plus, it helped me to stay creative and on my technical game even when I wasn't booking weddings on my own just yet.
The bonus? Majority of my referrals come from other photographers. Second to that are local vendors who I consider dear friends, and third are a few online features. Google sometimes comes up in there, and when it does I hoot and holler and high-five, "You found me on GOOGLE?!?!?!", but truthfully scoring via Google juice is rare, so when it happens we POP CHAMPAGNE ("oooooo, we pop champagne..." You know that song?!? 'Cause I love you if you do).
Second shooting allows for creativity, an opportunity to spread the love to Photographers in your industry, can be humbling (those bags ain't light), and adds to the experience of learning, something we all are always doing. Personally I want to see those around me that I love, appreciate and see ambition in succeed, so whenever there's someone I connect with who is a hustler, works hard to help others and is sincerely grateful (and shows it!), I will HAPPILY pay it forward and send business their way whenever I can because someone, somewhere, once did it for me.
I second shot, I humbly toted bags and supplied water, and I am appreciative of every. single. minute. I have to give a giant shoutout to one photographer in particular, Malia Cano (who has excitingly ventured on to owning an events rental company Chair Cover Express!), who was so kind, loving and down-right freaking awesome to me when we moved. When I saw Malia's personal style I knew she and I could be great friends and as our relationship grew she generously invited me along to some fabulous weddings to shoot. Soon after she began sending referrals my way, and I recognize that if it weren't for her straight up LOVE and support that my business possibly wouldn't have taken off as quickly as it did. Thank you, Malia, for treating me like ohana, sister! :) And to every single photographer both in Hawai'i + on the mainland who have sent clients or potentials my way--I know you, recognize you (have hopefully personally thanked you!), and really really appreciate you.
So help one another out. Make genuine friends, truly invest in one another's businesses and blessings will surely come your way. And when it does, don't forget to show gratitude, share the love, and keep passing kindness along! A thank you card never hurts, either. :)