Whether you're just starting your photography business, or have been in business for years - your sales are the foundation of your business.
My title may be a bit misleading because without sales a business isn't a business at all, it's a hobby. Seeing as business owners are a profit seeking bunch one would suspect that the owner's of photography businesses (photographers) would want to make money, however artists (which photographers are) are a different breed of business person usually drawn to working in the arts for the very fact that is not about the money, but rather the ART. From early centuries to modern times, the mindsets of artists have acted as an opposing forces to their own monetary gain. This inverted relationship dating back to paintings like that of the Mona Lisa, which was not sold by Da Vinci, but found in his studio after he died, is there and always has been. This inversion is fundamental to the true nature of the arts for a number of reasons.
The first reason comes down to a simple concept, the purpose of art in regard to the consumer is different than any other product. The relationship with traditional products/services and the consumer is - the consumer purchases product/service desiring expected experience - if provided the customer is happy. The consumer's relationship with art however is as complex as the art itself. The reason - from art, photos, to full on productions more often than not the artists' are producing a completely new experience for their consumer. They are quite literally on a journey with the client (the consumer) to understand, develop, and produce their vision, or to sell their own through their creative pieces. Whether the artist is selling their photography services, lessons, or prints each consumer requires a unique and often brand new experience with regards to working with the artists or photographer.
The second reason is all about art itself, and what it stands for. Monetary gain plays very little role in the mindset of an artist. Most artists are more concerned with the bigger picture, the value their art offers to society. Artists know the true measure of an objects cultural and historical value to society is not realized in dollars or any currency but rather in the spirit and soul of society. This is why art unlike currency usually appreciates over time. Art is not profit seeking, it is value seeking and value isn't always appreciated in dollars.
So now back to the point of this post..
Being the amazing photographer, and artist you are it may not always be easy to do the thing that is most important in any business, Sell! It may seem tough but that is literally the ONLY thing that you must do in order to have a photography business, because without sales there is no business. That's where I want to help, as I too have struggled with the concept of "selling" my work. The following list is here to help you make selling easy fun and painless. After all selling is just providing someone with something they didn't know they wanted. It's a good thing for everybody when done right.
1. Sell your skills by collaborating with other artists.
This is probably my personal favorite, because its fun. Find a shooting partner (who maybe has a different niche than you or decide mutually before hand to split leads) and hit the streets with your camera's. You should know the busy spots in your area, simply go shoot and bring plenty of business cards. I have picked up numerous leads just from going out and shooting on the street with friends. People love to see the action, and it gets them thinking about where they could use a photoshoot in their life. Coming from retail I always alike this to letting your client "try it on" because they get to see what you do without buying it first.
2. Make it a game
This one is great also because it will get the competitive juices going. Find your favorite shooting partner again and work out a challenge as to who can gather the most leads. From gas stations, to Walmart, to the carwash there are endless opportunities to network and far classier ones than I chose but the point is anywhere you are - you're networking. Whoever can get the most leads in a month has to assist the other with a shoot of their choice ;still a win - experience ;).
3. Show off your photos
This one you should be doing already. From your new Apple Watch to your screensaver on your laptop, every photo should be yours. You never know who might be sitting behind you at Panera wondering who got that beautiful shot. Already doing this? Great! Now go and order some Fractureme panels to show off when people ask to see your prints.This will not only provide intrinsic inspiration seeing your work around you in various settings and mediums, but more importantly it will inspire potential clients. These are conversation pieces so try to choose your best and those you are ready to sell.
4. Rep your brand
Whether a generic photography shirt or your very own branded hats & polos make sure to wear something that let's people see what you do. If you're into landscapes wear something highlighting that, if you do portraits, you guessed it! Rep that... Whatever you do the more you show it off while shooting the more traction you will get with potential customers honing your illustration skills in the process.
5. Make your current customers happy
Saving the best for last here we have the most obvious, least accomplished, non-selling, selling-action - pleasing your current customers. Your customers are going to be your best friends when growing your business. When you give clients exactly what they want and go above the call of duty for them, they will be sure to tell their friends. In a world full of service-industry horror stories people love to brag about the WIN.
Now that you have some ammunition for your sales arsenal you can go out and sell your photography skills more confidently than ever. Just remember there is value in what you do and you are the first to see that through the lens. For more advice on driving your sales, specifically with more traditional sales marketing techniques be sure read this article from PHLearn laying out some great tactics for driving your sales.