This post is sponsored by Staples #makemorehappen. When we discussed different services and supplies we use as small business, ink came up in the conversation. We thought back to this post where we talk about printing our portfolios at home. Yes, ink is a very important part of our small business. We share below how ink on paper and the right printer, can make a big impact for your photography business.
When it comes to ink consumption and printing our promos, we were ready to shout from the roof tops, “Let me tell you how we do this!” We’ve always worked on our promotions a very specific way, and are excited to share our take aways with you. After 10 years of trial and error we’ve learned a few things – we hope it helps you promote your photography and win at being a small business.
A quick note before we dive into our list. We’re small business with a speciality in commercial photography. This means we create imagery that other businesses use to promote and advertise their products or services. If you’re, say, a wedding photographer, you’re selling direct to consumer. No matter what type of imagery you’re selling, make sure the strategy makes sense for the type of consumer you’re approaching.
Here’s 5 take-aways we’ve learned over the past decade:
1. Outta sight, outta mind.
Seems obvious, right? It’s not. Everyone gets busy and promoting sounds like a lot of work when you’re bursting at the seams. Especially if you’re a one person, or like us, a two person business. After living in NYC for 10 years, I can’t tell you how true the ‘outta sight, outta mind’ saying is. You have to communicate with people you want to hire you. We have a few weeks where we are slow (around holidays for instance) and we try to make time to work on our promotions. We also try to use a work style called ‘batching’ where we work on one or two promos at a time, so we have a minimal time commitment later if we need to send someone a promotional package.
2. Respect thy time of the potential client.
We market ourselves to Art Directors, Photo Editors, Photo Directors, Magazine Editors and others who already have a busy day. The emails, the meetings! When I worked at an agency, I’d get over 100 emails a day, and sometimes I’d get resentful at the time it would take me to go through non-soliticed promotions. We tell our clients and future clients exactly what we plan on doing. We let them know we only send 6 emails a year. It also keeps us on schedule too. We try to keep our print promos varied. Some light and informative, and others more complex and conceptual. Either way, most people are okay with getting snail mail because it’s passive. We cross our fingers they like our promo and put it on their inspiration board.
3. We do our own printing 98% of the time.
We go through a lot of ink. And paper. The prints look SO good it’s worth it. Here is the part where we profess our undying love for Epson printers (we have a Sure Color P600, and Staples carries lots of Epson printers you can browse online). And by undying love, it’s a deep ‘I’d go outta my mind if you left me’ type love. We are on our third version of this printer cause we use them till we use it up. They normally last about 4 years, so it’s a pretty good investment. The niche of photography that we sell is considered a luxury product, and the prints that come out of this printer look luxury. We will warn against buying off brand inks, the ins matter and off brand inks can clog the printer.
We print everything: promos, portfolios and business stationery. People see our portfolios and ask where we get them printed, cause they look that good. This type of printer is worth the extra expense if you’re running a small business and need a high quality work horse. We shop online for all our supplies (who doesn’t like delivery) and keep them stocked just incase we have to print on short notice. Plan on bulk ordering ink!
We like producing our promos ourselves because we can hyper customize and target the type of imagery we are sending to specific people. So, if you’re shooting food, you may not want to send something to a home goods brand, because it’s probably not interesting to them. Make sure you connect the right imagery to the right type of potential client. In order to make offset printing mildly affordable, you have to print in quantity. (Offset printing is larger scale, large quantity printing, and the process and equipment are managed by a professional printer.) On our printer, we can print one or two specific images. Or do a targeted mailing to 50 individuals we’d like to get our work in front of without outsourcing the job. Once we start mailing in the thousands, we look at outsourcing.
4. Have a marketing strategy.
Even if you spend a day brain storming and make a quick plan for the next 6 months, it’s something. We like to look at a year, but we do so in a very loose way. Deadlines are important. I’d suggest making them, even if it’s just a ‘week of’ or ‘month of’ type of deadline. If we miss a deadline, we don’t beat ourselves up, we just move forward. No biggie, right? Acknowledging missed opportunities is key, and a great motivator to get more done.
5. Make templates.
These are such a life saver! Seriously! Figure out your key marketing components and make templates. Templates rock because they really cut down on excuses for why you can’t do something. It’s halfway done! To support the ‘no excuses’ policy, templates cut down on time by more than half. We design our templates in Adobe Illustrator and manage our brand collateral from just a few template files. After designing the templates in Illustrator, they are copied into Photoshop and images are added. Printing from Photoshop has worked best for us – the color is pretty spot on – which can be a major concern. Some items we make templates for are post cards, post card packs with a belly band, thank you cards, accordion folds, mailing labels and letter sized mailers. See how much we can get done?
Having a small business and the freedom to make your own job is challenging at times, but totally worth it. We hope this helps you on your marketing endeavors!