This is probably the number one question I get asked by newer birth photographers or people looking to get into birth photography:
How Do I Book More Birth Photography Clients?
Isn’t this the Catch-22 of most new businesses? You want to book more clients, but you can’t get more clients without showing them a consistent body of work. What’s a birth photographer to do? Here are a couple of my suggestions.
Yes, you are providing a service, but that service is directly tied to who you are as a person. I am not saying that you need to be BFFs with everyone in the birth community but people refer to people, not services. If people in the community know and trust you they will be more likely to recommend you. Online groups are great but get togethers in person are more effective. These get togethers don’t even have to be birth community related, that can be parenting groups or business groups, ideally there will be some cross-over between their clients and your client base.
Another way to build connections in your community is becoming involved in groups that serve moms or families. One way that I’m able to serve locally and connect with new moms is by shooting for PBAP. Find something you really care about because it will show through, don’t just use it as a way to promote your business.
You may find yourself hitting it off with someone that is a complementary field to birth photography, maybe a doula, midwife, or childbirth educator. If you can honestly offer a reciprocal referral it could be a great way to build a base of potential clients. Make sure the partnership is fair for both parties. I have been offered “partnerships” that were completely one-sided and would have lost me money while making them more money. Don’t be afraid to step back and question if the partnership is fair to both sides. I personally only recommend or partner with people that I have no financial ties with, it feels more authentic to recommend people that I genuinely love, not because I am getting a kick-back or some other monetary compensations. Others may find a pay for referral system to be effective, but for me it doesn’t work. When you make a professional recommendation it can become a reflection on your business.
Discounts can be tricky. Offering portfolio-building discounts to help gain experience can be a great way to start getting your name out there. My biggest tip when it comes to discounts, is to not offer your services for free. If you offer your services for free it can convey that your services are worthless. I have read countless stories of birth photographers that had a free session and the parents never called. If you do offer discounted sessions be sure to you still convey the value of your services. Here is an example ad:
For a limited time only.
Have your birth photographed for $800, a 50% discount.
Special offer only available for the first three births booked!
By phrasing your ad like this you convey the value of what you are offering, the discount they are receiving and making it time sensitive. If you start by offering births for half of what you really want to charge right out of the gate you then run into the problem of any referrals they send you expecting the same pricing you offered their friend. It is much easier to start charging what you want if you started with a discount rather than a lower rate. When people have invested in having you at their birth they will also be much more likely to call you to have you there. Also be sure that they understand that the discount comes with a model release, allowing you to use the images to advertise. If they later want to keep the images private be sure to have something in your contract that will compensate you for the lost marketing opportunity.
Find a way to have your work stand out in print advertising. I love the magazines I created because I can fit so many more images and information than a standard postcard or business card. I have those placed in doctors’ offices, complimentary care providers, and as handouts for the companies that refer to me regularly. GotPrint.com and MagCloud are my favorite printers for this type of advertising.
Leilani Roger is offering a magazine template to get your going. It is easy to customize and can be printed in small runs at Magcloud, allowing you to update your images and info without investing a ton of money.
You could also place print ads in the local parenting magazines that always find their way into OB offices and grocery stores.
For online advertising I would look into Google Adwords, although, I have had little success with AdWords. Yelp might be another avenue but be prepared for an onslaught of sales reps to be calling you.
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is a way to improve how search engines rate your site for quality and quantiy. This is a huge topic that is complicated by the ever changing Google algorithm. There are courses on Lynda.com and you also check out the SEO tool kit from Highland and Pine. If you are using WordPress for your website you can also install the free Yoast plug in that will walk you through some basic SEO formatting for your posts!
Friends and Family
If you are lucky enough to be entering birth photography when your own circle of friends or family have started to become parents you can offer your services to them. I became a birth photographer after the birth of my second baby and had lots of opportunities to be welcomed into the births of several friends. Again, I didn’t photograph these births for free but at a discounted rate. For immediate family I would have photographed their births for free, but unfortunately my family lives 2000 miles away. 🙁 Again, be sure they know you will be using some of the images for advertising in exchange for your kick ass deal.
Ouch, this is a tough one. Starting a business isn’t for the feint of heart. There is a reason most small businesses fail in the first five years, and it isn’t because of a lack of talent. We live in a culture of immediate gratification, we want it now! I totally get it. You are passionate, talented, and want to be working. In Colorado, in 2015, there was over 60,000 births! Imagine if they all hired a birth photographer. But if you start implement networking, limited discounts, and some advertising you know you are on the right path.