What compelled me to write this blog? It was a client I coached who is a professional makeup artist. She was struggling to understand how to deal with the massive competition that is out there among makeup artists. Now a days there is more of everything! More supermarkets, more pubs, more houses, more people, more on line presence, more photographers, florists, accountants, doctors, cafes…. the list is endless. We have so much choice. So how does a new business set itself up in the marketplace? What does it take to beat the competition? How do we get the client to choose us?
For the giants like the supermarket chains and the well known brands it’s all massive marketing and advertising campaigns on TV, radio, and magazines. Millions of euro is spent on market research and advertising to stand out in the very busy crowd. But how does the self employed creative manage in a similar busy marketplace?
For me it was simple. Every decision I made as a photographer was one that was emotionally made. Not the norm you may say. But when I chose to work as a photographer again after moving to the UK, I knew I’d be up against well known photographers who had fancy studios and an established business with a successful history. But none of that mattered to me. I wanted to do what made my heart sing and that was a simple decision. I had a six month old baby and worked part time as a cleaner. A merry maid! The cleaning job was to earn extra money. I actually enjoyed it as I had experience coming from a house that kept guests and a mother that taught me to clean properly. I loved leaving a home clean and organised for the client. I loved the idea of before and after. So the job was fun for me. Being with my young baby was also fun but I’m by no means a yummy mummy and I have to admit it was difficult. I decided to wipe the dust from my camera and photograph my daughter for fun and that changed everything.
Seeing my beautiful baby through the lens of a camera brought me closer to her. Everything else in the world was wiped out. I could only see her. Her tiny fingers, her amazing watery blue eyes, her soft downy skin. I was mesmerised! Gerry and I created this little miracle. I couldn’t stop photographing her! I fell totally in love with my daughter through the lens of my camera. It was magical. I realised that I had the ability to capture the most important moments of a child’s life for the beloved parents. I wanted to. My first business was called :
“That’s my Baby”. My motto was ” There is only one beautiful child in the world , every mother has one “ I subscribed to “creative image” magazine that I read from cover to cover and worked on improving my technical skills as a photographer.
There was no you tube tutorials then so all was learned from magazines, books, and fellow photographers who were willing to share their expertise. I found the technical side rather boring and my interest in cameras and equipment also boring. The only interest I had been in my subject and the finished captured image. But like most crafts you have to learn what’s necessary to get the result you want. I choose a camera that gave me the results I needed and very early in my career I realised natural light was my favourite as opposed to flash. My images were whimsical, grainy mainly black and white. I loved the mystery I could create with observing children at play and capturing the moment. Most of my time was spent observing my subject and engaging with them. The camera came out once my subject was comfortable with me. Time was irrelevant. My subject was my life.
Once you find your niche, competition goes out the window! Your uniqueness and passion is what sells! If you genuinely love your client and want to solve their problem, they will be willing to pay you. Concentrate on doing an amazing job and leave your “competitors” to get on with their life. Keep your attention on your own business, your personal talent, skill, and nurturing your client. Concentrate on top class work and the money will follow.
I went from selling a desk portrait for 35 pounds to 150 pounds overnight. My biggest commission earned me in excess of 20,000 euro! It came easily and naturally because I was passionate about my craft and was not deterred by competition. In fact I was amused as to how my colleagues spent so much time trying to outdo each other and win awards that were chosen by the industry as opposed to by the most important critic, the customer! So if you really love your job, and you are passionate about it, concentrate on improving your skills and satisfying your client. Build your confidence by practicing and offer your services for free to build your portfolio.
Ask your clients how you can solve their problem and learn to do so. The money will then flow! Leave the competition where it belongs, minding its own business!