Given the circumstances, as we find ourselves several weeks into a lockdown with no clear end in sight, there’s a lot of anxiety and worry surrounding the photography industry (alongside most industries at the moment). “Will photographers have jobs after all of this?” “What if we can’t get back to a healthy state?” This situation is unprecedented in its scope, but it is not insurmountable. In other words, all is not lost for building or re-building your business in the middle of this pandemic-induced recession.

In this video, we’re going to give you some actionable steps to build your photography business and ensure that you land on your feet financially, regardless of the state of the industry.

Video: How to Build a Business in the Middle of a Recession

If you didn’t already know, SLR Lounge and Lin & Jirsa Photography were founded in the middle of the financial crash back in 2008 and they’ve both grown into seven-figure businesses. In fact, both businesses saw their biggest growth between 2009-2014. Again, that’s coming straight out of a recession. A lot of points that we’re discussing here are included in our Photography Business Training System.

1. Photography Is a Luxury Service

Your clients don’t need to hire you to take pictures for them. They have their own cameras and smartphones.   Even when it comes to wedding photography, there are plenty of options available that make paying for an expensive service unnecessary. Because photography is an inherently luxury service or product, business models that are tied to offering photography as a value-add service are not really sustainable. If your client base is mostly made up of bargain hunters, then your business is probably hurting the most in the industry at this time.

Positioning your product as a luxury product is not only advisable because the service itself is a luxury product, but also because doing so targets a clientele that will be less affected by recessions. These shoppers make up a more recession-resistant group of consumers in this luxury market.

Of course, you can’t just call your business a luxury service without designing a product that fits the description. You’ll also need to market specifically to your target clients. That brings us to our next point.

[Related Reading: Business Tips for Photographers | Task Management & Organization]

2. Identify Your Target Market

So you know you want to offer a luxury product, but who exactly is your audience and how do you reach them? You must first identify individuals that you’re trying to market your product to. It’s important to understand this step because the language you use in your messaging will depend on your target market and carry through all of your marketing touchpoints.

For example, imagine you’re trying to market to Orthodox Jewish clients. Such clients are going to expect to see certain images on your website that reflect your understanding of their culture and traditions. The same is true for South Asian brides and other clientele. Identifying your target market early on will help you hone in on your message and draw in the clients you’re after.

Client Personas

Identifying client personas to build your photography business in the middle of a recession
Client Persona slide from the Business 101 workshop

In our Business Training System, we talk about identifying client personas. You should actually build two to three fictional examples of clients who might purchase your product. See one of our examples below.

fictional example of a client persona for a luxury product
A fictional example of a client persona for target marketing a luxury product

Identify the persona and spell out who they are, what they like, what kind of personal decisions they make, etc. The answers to these questions will directly affect how you market your business and build your website.

3. Website & Portfolio Design

Once your client personas have been identified, it’s time to step into designing your website and portfolio. Now that we know who we’re targeting, we know exactly which images to include in each of these assets.

website and portfolio landing page design needs
Landing Page Requirements slide from the Business 201 workshop

If you’re marketing to a more traditional client, you’ll need to share more traditional imagery. On the flip side, if you’re marketing to a wanderlust type of client who values travel, adventure, and edgy photos, then that’s the type of imagery you’ll need to showcase. Your website should speak to your target client.

4. Build SEO, Messaging, and Content

We’ve built an entire course into our Photography Business Training System on the topic of marketing and SEO for photographers. In Business 301, we discuss how to find clients, grow your brand, and organically increase your leads. Once you’ve completed steps two and three above (identifying your target audience and designing your site & portfolio), you’ll want to make sure your website is rich in longterm marketing SEO assets that are targeted to your client personas, like blog entries on how to plan for a wedding (or whatever topics might interest your clients enough to put into a search engine). These assets will help bring people to your website and hopefully generate leads. One of the pluses for being in a recession, at least one of this scope, is that many of us generally have more time on our hands. Working to complete this step is a constructive way to use that time.

5. Vendor Relationships

When it comes to your vendor relationships, think about getting through the recession in terms of what you can do for all of the supportive businesses in the industry. On the wedding side, this includes coordinators, planners, florists, hairstylists, dress designers, and so on. Everyone is going to be struggling somewhat. It’s a good time to reach out to your fellow vendors and offer support to help them grow their businesses. For example, because we’re proficient in web design and SEO, one of our favorite things to do is reach out to vendors to consult with them on these topics.

[Related Reading: Tips on How to Retool Your Business During the Current Downtime]

6. Control Your Expenditures

Try this exercise on the topic of expenses. Imagine you have two buckets of expenditures. One will not help you make money, and the other one will. Things that won’t help you make money include buying new gear, like the latest camera or lens. Most of you already have decent enough gear to successfully deliver quality images that surpass your clients’ expectations. Most of them can’t tell the difference between f/2 and f/1.2. Buying new gear might feel necessary (or at the very least satisfy your gear acquisition wants), but they won’t make you money, so delay the purchase and save your cash. In terms of saving, you might also consider taking on tasks that you can complete yourselves to save a little extra capital, rather than outsourcing work to others.

Now, the bucket of expenditures worth spending money on includes, first and foremost, your life essentials, whatever you need to stay fed, clothed, sheltered, and healthy. If you’re struggling to meet these needs, don’t spend money on other investments. However, if you do have money to invest in your business, consider options like targeted marketing efforts that work well to generate leads, as well as educational resources, whether they be books, online courses, in-person workshops (which would now likely be online), or other means of educating yourself. Quality education will always help you grow personally and professionally. Just be sure to do your due diligence and ask around about the education you’re purchasing to ensure it’s top quality.

Additional Resources for Photographers

We’ve previously published content to help photographers navigate this pandemic and come out financially healthy on the other side. Please follow the links below to find additional resources.

You can also find more information to help your photography business in our Complete Photography Business Training System. It serves as an operating manual for our studio and includes everything you’ll need to know for building the business of your dreams in a step-by-step format that spells out exactly what to do, week by week.