Mailbag: First steps to learning marketing

by Outlaw Photographer James Michael Taylor on February 8, 2015

in This is Business

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Would you like to read more Reader Q&A posts? Leave a comment below or drop me an e-mail to let me know!


I ran across your blog and it’s inspired me to dust off an old dream of mine of being a pro photographer. I’m a newb when it comes to marketing however. Most of my advertising efforts and marketing would be through social media. Do you have any pointers or tips, or references to books or articles that would help me figure out where to get started?

Thanks in advance,

Marketing 101


Thank you so much for your e-mail and your readership! Excited to hear you’re going to make a go at the dream of being a pro photographer. It’s never too late – my ‘most experienced’ reader is 88 years old and still learning and hustling!

The best books I know on advertising and marketing for part time photographers are:

Duct Tape Marketing

Duct Tape Selling

Book Yourself Solid

And specific to social media:

Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook

Combine books like these with this process, and you will learn more faster than you could have imagined.

Not just learn it, but put that learning into action and see real-world results.

Don’t limit yourself to just social media, especially unpaid social. Facebook has all but killed the value of having a business page for the purpose of generating leads without paid promotion.

Any good marketing campaign is going to earn you multiples of what you spend on it, from newspaper to Facebook ads to business cards, but I’m all about bootstrapping: make your business pay for itself. If your art or your message isn’t strong enough for you to earn someone’s business with a handshake and asking for it, then the more time and money you put into marketing is just echoing an ineffective pitch.

Most artists are introverts, and it’s super challenging for us to show people our art and ask for their business – hard enough online, even harder in person, but the latter is where you really get early traction; you have to F8 and Be There, to be where your clients are. Building up a great web site, photo blog and social media channels is useless if you’re shouting at an empty room.

Nobody wants to hear, but I have to tell the truth: cold calling and in-person networking (not the smarmy kind, but the F8 and Be There kind, like volunteering and co-op marketing campaigns, always focused on connecting your art with your people out there waiting to be blessed by it) are by far the best way to get paying clients early on.

So many PTPs get discouraged after putting in hours and hours of work marketing online without earning a single paying client because they’re missing the basics of in-person, old-fashioned handshake marketing.

I hope this helps W.K.! Thank you again for your readership!


Next Steps

  • Brainstorm Session: Get out your pen and paper. Are you shouting at an empty room online because it’s easier and less risky than getting offline and meeting your target market face to face? Who is your target market? Where do they hang out? Do you know someone who knows someone you’d like to work with? Whose business could you ask for, either directly or with the introduction by a friend? Who do you do business with as a consumer? What vendors, salesmen, stores, shops, schools, service providers do you patronize? You’re doing business with them – start your cold calling practice by asking them to do business with you. Schedule actions on your calendar based on this list, then file it away in your Brainstorms folder.
  • My writing at exists to serve your needs as an amateur photographer making the transition to paid professional. I appreciate and welcome your readership, and invite you to subscribe to my e-mail newsletter at the top of any page of this site.
  • What’s the biggest struggle holding you back right now? E-mail me your answer (yes, right now!), and let’s make a breakthrough today.
  • If anything in this post has spoken to and inspired you, please comment below, drop me an e-mail, or call or text me at 830-688-1564 and let me know. I’d love to hear how you use these ideas to better your part time photography business!

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