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5 Tips to Creating A Profitable and Sustainable Portrait Photography Business | TKP Education

Jessica Hendricks, Jessica Green Photography

Hey friends! I’m Jessica, and I am so excited to have you here today! I’m a maternity, newborn/baby, and family photographer based in the DC and Northern Virginia area. Before I was a newborn/family photographer, I started my business photographing weddings. However, we finally got to a point in our lives where we knew we wanted to grow our family. Once I was pregnant with my first child, I knew I wanted to be able to have my weekends back. That was the only time I could spend time with my husband and children at the same time, so it was extremely important to me to make this happen. Transitioning to families & newborn photography allowed me to have a much better work/life balance, and it also gave me the time I needed to be able to homeschool my children… But it definitely didn’t start out like that.

Transitioning from weddings to portraits was like starting a new business from scratch. I said yes to nearly every inquiry I got and was working myself to death. I spent years of late nights editing after the kids went to bed, or working as soon as my husband got home… And I knew something needed to change. So I did the hard work and dug down deep to figure out what I was doing wrong. After years of trying different things, I finally was able to run a profitable business without having to work all hours of the night. When I finally realized I had it all figured out, I started teaching other portrait photographers how they could run sustainable and profitable businesses too (and have the work/life balance of their dreams)! You may be a seasoned photographer, you may be new, or you might be somewhere in between… If there’s something that I’ve learned in business, it’s that you need to be profitable in order to be sustainable. I’d love to share 5 easy tips with you to implement in your business today:

1. Run Your Numbers

This may sound obvious, but many photographers have never formally done their cost of doing business. A lot of photographers (including myself in the beginning) pick up a camera, learn how to use it, start a business, and then realize they should probably start charging for their photos… So they go look at their competition and low ball them. Or they just pull a number out of thin air that sounds reasonable…. Sound familiar? Yep, I know - I’ve been there.

There are many cost-of-doing-business calculators out there, so I highly recommend grabbing one and filling it out correctly. You need to ensure that you’re covering your costs, paying your taxes, saving, and actually making some money after it’s all been said and done. You’re a business owner, not a non-profit. I know many people don’t like talking about money, but I’m here to tell you this: making a profit through your business is not a bad thing. If you aren’t making a profit (bringing money home after all of your expenses and taxes are paid), you might as well be working for free. Seriously. So if there’s anything you take from this article, please stop what you’re doing now, and go do the hard work - run your numbers to see how much you need to charge per session to make a profit.

2. Have A Successful Business Model

“Okay, Jessica. I ran my numbers. I know what I need to charge per session now. Do I just slap that up on my website and call it a day?” Great question! In short, no. Once you’ve run your numbers, those numbers are likely much higher than you’re currently charging and comfortable with. It’s okay. I promise. Take a deep breath and think about it. If you need to charge more for your sessions, you need a business model that clients will see the value in (and easily pay those prices). Put yourself in your clients shoes: If you were going to hire a photographer for that price point, what would you expect out of that experience? How can you set yourself apart from the rest of the photographers in your area? What can you take off your clients’ plates when it comes to their photography experience with you? If you’re wanting to level-up your client experience but don’t know where to start, check out my free resource and get started today!

3. Set Boundaries (and stick to them!)

This is something I wish I would’ve implemented from day one. If you downloaded my free guide from Tip #2, you will have learned that I offer a pretty unique client experience that a lot of photographers don’t. Because of this, it requires a lot more one-on-one time with each client so you can easily get burned out if you don’t set clear boundaries for yourself (and your clients) from the beginning. I only photograph 4-6 sessions (max) per month. This is because I meet with my clients 3-4 times at least per session. I’m also a full time homeschooling mama and I do enjoy seeing my family. ;)

After you’ve run your numbers and introduced your new business model, take into account how much time you’ll be spending with each client for this new experience. Is it more than before? Less? Determine how much time you have to dedicate per client and what your limit is per month. If this number differs from what you initially forecasted in your CODB calculator, you’ll want to re-run those numbers and adjust accordingly. I know it’s hard to say no to every inquiry that comes your way, but if you’re running your business profitably, you won’t need to say yes every single time.

Side note: If you have kids or other obligations, make sure you are clear with your clients with your availability. More often than not, my clients will take a half day/vacation day the day of their photo sessions, but not everyone is willing to do that. And you don’t want that to be a big surprise after they’ve already booked a session with you.

4. Build A Business That Grows

A really helpful tip that I learned early on is to build a business that grows. I know what you’re thinking - “Well, that’s super vague. Thanks Jess”. You’re welcome. Just kidding! When I say build a business that grows, I’m talking about a business model that allows your clients to return to you year after year. Many of my clients started with me back when I was a wedding photographer, and now I’m photographing their 2nd and 3rd children. Not all of you were wedding photographers, and that’s okay! It is still very possible to ensure that your clients return to you year after year. Most of my current clients initially sign on with me through my membership. I’m able to document their baby bumps, newborn photos, and their itty bitty babies growing through their first years of life. However, when that chapter comes to a close, most of my clients are so obsessed with the experience itself that they’re booking their annual family portraits before that final membership session has ended. The majority of my clients create artwork with me as well, so they love being able to add onto their artwork as their family grows either in number or over time.

In order to build a business that grows, you need to create a client experience that serves your clients so well that they can’t imagine life without you (and your photos). Many of my clients have become lifelong friends and I adore watching their children grow up. I get teary-eyed every single time a membership client graduates even though they aren’t even MY children! So this is something I want you to think about: How can you create a client experience that keeps them coming back for more? Let me let you in on a little secret: It starts from before they ever even fill out your contact form. Communication throughout the language on your website, social media, blog, etc. is extremely important when it comes to conveying the value you’re providing your clients. When they inquire, this is your next chance to leave an impression and create that value. While you’re planning their session, how are you going to serve your clients as the months/days lead up to photo day? What about on the day of the session? How can you ensure that their session goes as smoothly as possible?

This part is where a lot of photographers end and that’s where you need to be different. The session is not the final step of their journey. HOW you deliver their images is just as important as the images themselves. What special touches can you add that would make you stand out from the rest and leave a lasting impression with your clients? Are you willing to offer products and solve artwork problems for your clients? If so, how can you make that as easy as possible for them so it doesn’t come off as just another item on their to-do list?

5. Offer Products

I briefly touched on this in my last tip, but this is one of the biggest tips in this post (in my opinion). Now, there are going to be a few different crowds reading this and you’ll probably fall into one of these three statements:

  1. “If I want to offer products, that means I’ll have to do IPS and I don’t want to come off as salesy”

  2. “I just don’t have time to offer products properly”

  3. “No one in my town is willing to invest in luxury products”

Now, let me tell you why you’re wrong. I was ALL THREE of those statements before running my business the way I do now. And would I ever go back? No. Before I completely revamped my businesses, I was charging $450 for a 3 hour newborn session. 😅Yikes. Now, I average a minimum of $2450+ per client. If you resonated with statement #1, let me tell you: I don’t do in person sales at all anymore. The majority of my clients are VERY busy and do not have time to make an additional trip to my studio. So our appointments are virtual! If you resonated with #2, it truly does not take as much time as you think. My artwork ordering appointments typically last about an hour long and then it takes me 10-15 minutes to place the artwork order.

Okay, #3… SO many people feel this way and I get it. I felt that way too. Seriously - I was charging so little for newborn sessions and no one ever bought prints through me back then, so why in the world would people spend MORE money on artwork with me if they had to spend more money on the session itself too? I could go deep into this specific topic for hours, but it really comes down to marketing and mindset. Mindset: When I was charging much less for my sessions, I did not see the value in my work myself… so how could my clients? I was convinced that no one out there valued what I had to offer, so I was attracting clients that lived up to that expectation. Marketing: Before I changed my business model and prices, I never posted about the luxury products I offered, you couldn't find anything about them on my website, and I never brought it up to my clients… So how in the world would they know I even offered them?

Hopefully by talking that out with you, I was able to help you realize that offering products to your clients isn’t sales-y, IS possible, and helps you run a more profitable business! Offering beautiful heirloom quality artwork has completely changed my business and my clients’ lives for the better, and I truly hope it helps you too!

Are You Ready For Change?

Have I left you feeling inspired and itching for a change in your business? Are you ready to finally see your business flourish and attain the beautiful life you’ve always dreamed of? I’d love to help you! If you are serious about making big changes in your business and want to consistently book 4-figure portrait sessions, work with the BEST clients, and spend more time with your family, I’d love to invite you to my 14 week group coaching program, The Luxury Portrait Photographer Mastermind, where you will change your business (and life) for good!

Jessica Hendricks, Jessica Green Photography


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Thank you SO much for sharing this with your readers. It was such an honor to create this article for them, and I truly hope everyone finds it helpful and encouraging! 💕🎉

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