A couple weeks ago, we discussed pricing and how important setting appropriate pricing is not only necessary to the success of your business but also to the industry’s health. Now, I’m going to take a step back and introduce a realistic conundrum:
What happens when you are starting out and you want to build your portfolio?
Ahhhhh yes… it’s a true challenge. And, I want to be realistic with you that are entering the industry. The value of your education, expertise, and knowledge, along with market tolerance should define your pricing, but you may just need to do some jobs to get yourself “out there”. This may be the case if you are a wedding planner and wants to have weddings featured in your online gallery. (Having your own wedding on there is a big no-no! It’s the first thing I look to see if someone is a rookie or not.) If you are an invite designer, you may want to have styles in your showcase book. If you are a photographer, you’ll want to have images of a few weddings. How to do that? And, how to do it in a way that’s fair to you and doesn’t mislead the customer?
These are my suggestions for building your portfolio and gaining solid experience:
- Establish your pricing and have that available to share with people. You may have this on a rate card, in a brochure, or providing it verbally with a range. For example, “Photography commissions begin at $3000.” Don’t forget the rules we talked about pricing last week. Don’t short-sell yourself!
- Let friends and friends of friends know that you are growing your portfolio and would like to do some cheapies or freebies. The first part of this message is REALLY important. It’s difficult to admit to people that you are new, but it’s important in communicating the message that “hey, I don’t normally do things like this, but you can help me build my business.” This will let them know that a.) it’s a treat to have your services for a discount, and b.) they shouldn’t get used to it. People are also more apt to support a new growing business… they’ll often send more business your way.
- Offer to assist other people in the industry. This is the BEST way to get experience and have something to show for it. Some professionals may be a bit resistant to support a future competitor, but you’ll be surprised how open people in the industry are! Photographers often need a second shooter… get your name out to a few photographers and let them know you are up to help them out. And, planners can always use an extra hand… attend an ABC meeting and find some planners that are willing to help you grow your business. ONE word of CAUTION: before you post anything on your site or in your brochure, please make sure to get permission from the person you assisted. They own the job and it would be wrong for you to take credit without permission.
- If you have goods, make samples to pass out. This can be cake bites at a not-for profit event or stationery sets for swag bags at a fashion event. Think of great places to expose your work and go for it! Charity events are a great place to start because they are often looking for donations. Not only are they good for exposure, but also for the soul.
- If you are a photographer, ask everyone in the wedding industry if they want free headshots. (Thanks to Whitney Elizabeth for that recommendation!) Who doesn’t want an updated headshot?! It’s a great way to meet wedding professionals. Your photos make them look good and it makes you look good. I know I ALWAYS refer the awesome photographers who’ve taken photos of me and my family.
- If you are a planner, talk to your local churches. Kelly Simants of Sage Wedding Pros was working a “day job” years ago when she saw in ad for a wedding coordinator at a church. This was a GREAT way to get experience working in the industry, meeting other professionals, and working with engaged couples. She got her feet wet, got exposure, and added weddings to her portfolio.
Experience is a huge part of the pricing equation. Build your experience. Build your portfolio. And, do it smartly! Be strategic about how this plays into your pricing equation. Catching up to where you should be pricing yourself is much harder to do later.
What are your tips for professionals who want to grow their portfolio? (Post a comment below, please!)