For those of you who don’t know me, I was a pro soccer player in Europe, who turned into a corporate exec and then took a full 180 (not talking darts here) on his life to become a professional portrait photographer and videographer. I was fairly successful in all of those things, until the drive and motivation went away.
I have learned early on in life some important lessons about running a business. I had no idea how that whole routine back then was shaping my personality and the way I look at things today.
One of the things I recently discovered is that I don’t have hobbies. I believe I’ve never had a hobby. I’ve only had passions with goals. I’m wired in a way that things should lead to something, and the things I do, I do wholeheartedly.
Thinking back, I believe always having goals and passions is what wired me in a way that now I can’t do anything without a purpose, a goal and I am okay with that.
What I did discover is that there is a lot of metaphoric wisdom between different careers. I recently made these realizations and I would love others to benefit, bare with me here.. ;-)
Playing on a team, whether it’s sports or otherwise, you’re being positioned in a way that makes you excel most. A coach sets you up to be successful and thus, make the team more successful. The same goes for corporations. People are hired to do the things they know how to do best. Plain and simple, right?
So why are we as photographers trying to be one that wants to do it all?
Finding your niche is about nobody else but you…
.. but is important for everyone.
Personally, I’ve always run my photography business based on my passion for a single goal. But I do see a lot of photographers trying to do it all.
That’s why the three musketeers are wrong with their: “All for one and one for all.”
Being just a photographer isn’t enough for me. I want to be the best photographer. You can’t serve them all, I realize that. Let’s be more specific here; I want to be seen as the best by the people I serve, which brings me to a very important point.
You are the coach of your own team. Your business. You want to position yourself in a way that YOU can become the most successful, and by extension, your clients. The easiest way to get that accomplished is by doing what you love.
There’s a ton of people saying you should find your niche. And they’re right. However, I believe the approach is reversed. They make it about a group of people who you serve and developing a service they need. Which at the end of the day, has the potential of putting you in a position that you hate what you’re doing.
One eighty comin’ up!
If you figure out what it is you love doing most in your business, you take yourself from being the slave of your clients and run-of-the-mill photographer to expert.
Being an expert isn’t all about the level of service and knowledge, but is also a perception. I’d honestly say it’s 50/50.
No one can be an expert in everything.
If you communicate with the passion and heart that arises from you doing what you love, then that energy is contagious and people will see you differently. I experience this every single day, either in person or online like on a platform like LinkedIn.
So let’s make a move here to achieve this
I would love to invite you to look at all the things you offer for your clients.
Heck, write them down on a piece of paper. Be specific. The more specific, the better. A list with high-level photography areas isn’t going to cut it.
Portrait vs real-estate isn’t a good list.
What kinds of portraits? What kinds of people? What kinds of environments?
What kinds of real-estate? What’s the price point level of the homes? Mansions or condos?
Specific, specific, specific people!
Everything you do today should be on that list.
Go through your client list, remember what you did and how much (or less) you enjoyed it.
Yeah, think again. Don’t drop that pen yet, you’re not done!
Now go over that list and strike everything that makes you feel not wanna get out of bed in the morning.
Now you’ve found what makes your eyes spark.
A niche is not a niche without actual people you can help, right? So here comes the task of finding the people that either need what you offer or who align with your passion and don’t necessarily know they need your services yet.
That distinction is important!
Some people have no idea about the existence of your service yet, and that’s okay.
When you know exactly what raises your heart rate in a good way, you can now start finding those people. Perhaps you’ve selected a group of people you’ve shot a bunch in the past.
Those people are your ideal clients for the future.
So let’s find more of those, right?
Building your niche
Another fun fact about me is that I’m fairly religious when it comes to using LinkedIn to grow my business.
The level of filtering through the humongous amount of data, people and content is nothing short of amazing. At SCREW THE METADATA, we even devoted a ton of our time to create a LinkedIn for Photographers Workshop if you want to start leveraging LinkedIn more.
So let’s start there without dropping a buck first.
The way I’d approach this is by finding your ideal clients on LinkedIn first.
If you’re working business-to-business, this should be fairly easy as LinkedIn has been on fire the last year or so. If you work business-to-consumer, you might want to take this tactic over to Facebook. (Sidenote: I’ve never personally have done this on Facebook, since I’m b2b focussed and not too passionate about the way Facebook treats business owners, to say the least ;-) )
If you’re not already connected with them, do so and attach a little note to the invite talking about how you loved working with them and want to (re)connect.
The cheap way of finding these people
Now go into their profile and see which groups they hangout in. Given that your clients are human, they flock together. Yes, like minded people usually hang out in the same places.
Go into those groups and see who’s in your area, see what they share on the activity tab in their LinkedIn profile and see if they talk about things that get you excited. If so, reach out to them and make some friends.
Clicking the link you see in the screenshot above takes you to the page I screenshot below.
You can see exactly which conversations they have, what kind of stories they share and what interests them.
The one thing you should never do here is sell, unless you’re passionate about selling people sh*t. Just kidding!
Don’t ever sell when introducing yourself!
Focus on the common ground and see how you can become part of that group. See if you can become welcomed in their flock, if you will, and hit gold when that happens.
The fast way of finding these people
If you are the ‘time is money’, ‘let’s G.S.D.’- kinda person, you’ll love this.
If you’ve been a LinkedIn member for some time, I’m sure you’ve heard about Sales Navigator. They even offer you a free month to give it a spin.
Sales Navigator is geared towards sales professionals, people who need to find leads and all of that salesy stuff they do. But, there’s a way that it makes sense for you, as a freelance photographer too.
You can either filter people on LinkedIn to your hearts contempt, or you can also leverage a specific ideal client and hit a magic button.
This will open you up to a ton of people who are similar to your ideal client based on past experiences, interactions and all other data LinkedIn collects on these people. Now, it’s a simple matter of clicking their profiles and going to their activity tabs to see what they talk about, and you can either insert yourself into their conversations by adding a meaningful comment or message them with a personalized invite and start building your niche.
Talk passion, not shop.
I believe that running a business shouldn’t have its absolute focus on doing whatever makes the cash register ring.
Personally, I got burned-out by simply typing that!
I believe when you shift your approach from doing what people expect you to do to doing what you love, you’ll propel your business forward because you love to serve the people that need what you’re offering.
I get that this can’t happen overnight, but getting that transition started and shifting your focus to your passion and goal will naturally move your business in a direction where YOU want it to be.
I am curious to learn what your passion in photography is and whether you’re already 100% focussed on this.