Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Growing Pains: Referring Other Photographers For a Job

Last night, I attended a meeting set up by fellow photog and business management specialist Jim Turley. Jim wants to form a network of photographers who will refer business to each other when they can't do the assignments. In return, if a photographer in the network books the assignment, then he/she must give a 10 percent commission fee to the referrer up to $300. That takes into account that the profits might be higher if you are taking 10 percent off a $3,000 wedding than it would be if you were getting 10 percent off of a family portrait session (which I sell for $150)

I think it's a great idea, and I'm very pleased that Jim thought I had something to offer this group of talented photographers, including Richard Peterson, Brian Walski and Jason Hayes. This way, even if you can't take the assignment because you are already booked, you can still make a small profit. Plus, the client will hopefully be endeared to you, knowing that you helped them out instead of just sending them away empty handed. The next time they need some photographic services, they will think of you and remember the excellent customer service you gave them.

But I couldn't stop some old insecurities from rearing their ugly heads during the meeting. In April, I would have been shooting semi-professionally for two years, but Brian, for example, has been shooting for 20 years and can ask for and get $5,000 for a wedding assignment! Jason has secured destination weddings where clients will fly him to cool places and pay for his hotel fees just to get him to shoot their wedding. And Richard has been shooting major rock bands since he was 16 and he is now in his 50s!

I don't know how I fit into this group, and while I'm willing to work with them, I fear that I will be gaining more from the arrangement than giving. I think it's important for me to have this discussion with myself (and consequently with you, my readers, too) because it's important for us as professionals to honor and value ourselves without being arrogant. I don't know what I can bring to the table just yet, but being able to figure it out will be beneficial to my own growth and confidence as a professional photographer.

Jim says he thinks my boudoir photography could be an asset, especially since some clients may feel more comfortable working with a female photographer versus a male. Plus, the other photogs will possibly allow me be a 2nd shooter/assistant for them, which will help me improve. I need to be able to tell my clients exactly how I stand out from others and what I offer versus someone else. Once I figure it out, I need to start believing that too instead of allowing doubt to cloud my thoughts. Plus, networking is key to a successful business, and you can learn and lean on each other photographers too! Jason knows I've fallen in love with Photoshop actions, so he sent me some to play with. That will give me more opportunities to be creative in my post processing.

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