It’s an ongoing joke with my friends and I that I am really not a fan on the current marketing messaging that the “universe has my back” and that the success of my business is down to my “mindset”.
Annoyingly, now that I’ve mentioned the “universe” on my Facebook page, it seems I cannot escape it and am inundated with advertising from mindset mentors, success coaches, and photography success mentors.
My Facebook feed is constantly filled with videos explaining how a positive mindset will “guarantee me a 6-figure income” if I just sign up to their program.
Last week was probably one of my favorite posts ever, in which (I kid you not!) a video suggested opening a bank account (check!) and then the universe knows I am ready for more money to show up! It turns out I am still waiting…..
So, I have decided its time for me to stand up and officially say that the universe has nothing to do with the success of my photography business.
I want to cut through some of the preconceptions and be clear that this is a marketing strategy targeted at professional and aspiring photographers, and the end goal is that you invest your hard-earned money into their program.
So Why is This Kind of Marketing Gaining So Much Traction?
In today’s instant, get-rich-quick world, promises of being told the “secret to becoming rich” seems very enticing! I have two kids approaching their teenage years and I can tell you how much I can see this in their life goals already (they want to be YouTubers and spend days opening boxes of slime).
Stories of how people who have come from major debt, had incredibly hard times in their lives, and turned it around with these mindset programs seem compelling. Some photographers are investing thousands into these schemes without proper research into what they are actually getting for their money.
What I want to explain is that this is a marketing strategy (in fact, one that I studied in my Marketing & Business degree). The intention is to:
Step 1: Connect with you by tapping into your need and wants and in the worst case tapping into your insecurities. How often have you seen questions like the ones below?
“Are you sick and tired of struggling to find photography clients?”
“Are you fed up of being negotiated down on price and working with people who don’t respect you, or value your work?”
Step 2: The second tier of the marketing strategy is then to present themselves as a success with beautiful branding pictures of themselves on planes, working from home in a stunning open plan kitchen or in front of a swimming pool (which they probably hired for the shoot)
This cements the thinking that you are not as successful as them and need their help to live a life as wonderful as theirs leading you to purchase their product or scheme.
But Aren’t They Right? Running a Photography Business is Tough!
Yes! A lot of photographers are finding it incredibly challenging to sustain a photography business. There is a constant influx of new photographers to the market but this is just like any other industry – so no complaining please as it’s not just our industry.
Running any business can take years to build your skills, save up for all the equipment you need, understand your brand and gain a loyal group of clients.
It is also no coincidence that photography training is growing at its fastest rate in recent years and this is because it’s so hard to find a constant flow of clients to guarantee the target income you need to reach. Many trainers come to the market because they have months throughout the year where they have less business and are looking to plug those financial gaps.
I have no shame in saying I do exactly this as my background in Business & Marketing (a degree and 15 years practical brand management experience) plus 10 years experience of running a photography business makes me believe I can add real value.
Am I Saying All Mindset and Success Coaches Are Bad?
No! This article is not a takedown — it’s not intended to bad mouth these coaches but is instead intended to help educate. I want to give you some tools so you know how to separate the good from the bad. Before you commit to ANY training, I want you to gain as much information about the program before you buy into it.
Questions to ask include:
- What is included in the program in detail? Is it built on email marketing, network marketing, or SEO, for example
- Is the mentoring in person or is it pre-recorded content? How long are the sessions, how flexible are they and how long can you access them for if it is recorded?
- If the sessions are in person and the focus is growing your photography business how successful was their photography business in terms of client volume and income? Are they still working as a photographer?
- If they have not run a photography business but are a coach or mentor what training have, they had or what other business might they have run that proves that they can help you to grow yours?
- Can you get real references? I would ask for details of people that have completed the programme so you can speak to them about how it impacted their business? Website testimonials should be properly investigated.
- If they promise/ guarantee a certain income then read their terms and conditions IN DETAIL to see the rules around this guarantee. One I read recently stated that if the mentoree had completed EVERY task presented to them and it did not work then they could receive a refund. This is quite a vague statement and could include you agreeing to spend money on paid advertising, for example.
Having a positive mindset is certainly a good attribute when it comes to running your own business and I have always been a half glass full kind of girl. I also really do believe in karma and that if you put good out into the world it does come back. The issue is that this is being used out of context to sell products to people — a positive mindset is no use without clear objectives and a plan to back it up.
How I’ve Built My Photography Business
As I have spent the first half of this blog expressing what I think photographers shouldn’t do, I thought I should also add some balance and spend some time sharing what I have done that has helped to grow my business. I am just about to come into my 10th year and run my 100th workshop — major milestones for me — and I wanted to highlight what I consider to be the major projects which have been the pillars of my success.
- I write a plan at the start of every year that sets my goals — I don’t tell the universe, but it’s up on my wall so that’s a start.
- I studied photography online and joined organizations that would help me grow. I also entered competitions to help grow my technical ability and really listened to the feedback (I mean REALLY listened even when they were critiquing images of my beloved children!)
- I always make time to shoot for myself to continue to grow my personal style
- I keep a really close eye on my finances including my incoming and outgoings on a monthly basis. I buy secondhand when I can and try not to purchase things that I don’t need (this took me a few years to get good at this!)
- I created a community of local families and photographers who are interested in what I am up to on my socials. This means I have people to launch new products to and conversion is always very good.
- I worked on my brand visuals with a designer so I have a consistent style across all my platforms.
- I built (and constantly maintain and update) a website which works for my clients
- I have created a brand position which is focused around being supportive, open, and honest
- I surround myself with other photographers and business people who are supportive and have the same view on collaborating as me.
- I have multiple sources of income from family photography, commercial shoots, and training (with not a mention of the universe in any of my sessions)
- Finally, I am never arrogant enough to think I have this in the bag! I assume I will try things that won’t work, I will make mistakes and my list of things to learn is never ending! I can always get better in EVERY area of my business
About the author: Nina Mace is coming into her 10th year running a UK family photography business. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. Before she became a professional photographer, Mace was a brand and marketing manager for 15 years. She was awarded Children, family & lifestyle photographer of the year by the Guild of professional photographers and was also voted professional trainer of the year by SWPP members in 2017. She offers group and 1-2-1 training for photographers of all levels and not once does she ask the universe to help – sadly, its all hard graft and practice. You can find more of Mace’s work on her website and Facebook. This article was also published here.