4 Ways to Build Your Business Without Breaking the Bank | Mary Beth Morrissey

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Photographers tend to make a million excuses for not doing what we love.  We can’t find the right client, we don’t have enough time, we don’t have a studio, we don’t have expensive equipment…or maybe primates recently discovered how to use DSLRs and are taking business from you.  For all of those, “reasons” I say this: LET THAT SHIT GO.

So I want to share 4 ways to build your business without breaking the bank.

1. Stop Making Excuses
The number one thing you can do for yourself that won’t cost any money is to stop making excuses. There are people out there who have less than you who are doing more. Think about that. There are people with less time, less money, less paying work and they are still making it happen. So here are a few things I have done in the last 8 years to build a business from the ground up with no loans, no business partners, and no rules.

2. Invoke the Art of the Asking
First of all, stop being afraid to ask questions. There are more than enough opportunities out there for you, it’s just about taking the time to find them. Finding unique opportunities come with asking the not-so-tough questions. For example: I came across a studio that I fell in love with but could not afford. Without hesitation I offered the landlord half of the asking price. That’s right, half. Here’s the horrible thing that could have happened with this scenario, they could have said no. People who I never knew until I made that offer, people I have no emotional connection with, people who need money the same way I do could have simply said no. But guess what? They didn’t. They said yes and I became a studio owner.

How do people end up with these amazing opportunities? How are they landing the photographer’s dream job, getting the perfect client, or traveling the world? Most of the time it’s because they asked the right questions to the right people and, in turn, got the right answer. I recently wanted to go on a trip across the country but, with it being winter, the funds weren’t there. So you know what? I asked people to make a donation and in turn I would give them signature prints captured by me from across the United States. Because I asked for that I traveled the country for a month, lived out a life-long dream, and all on someone else’s dime.

3. Use Free Resources
The important thing to remember is that you have a ton of free resources at your fingertips, you just have to realize they are there. You have a lot of people that can help you and your business. Think about the schools you’ve attended, the jobs you’ve had, and the clubs you’ve been a part of. All of these things have one thing in common: they contain people who already know you. They contain people you don’t have to “sell” yourself to. These people already have a warm and fuzzy feeling about you (and if they don’t then try to be nicer, will ya?!) and gaining that warm and fuzzy feeling from potential clients is half the battle. I’ve reached out to a ton of people from my past in order to get work. For example I went back to my college as an alumni and offered a deal to other alumni for wedding photography. If someone has no connection to wedding photographers prior to booking one, then where’s a good place to start? How about with someone who spent their time at the same place you did for 4+ years making bad decisions and damaging their liver? Commonality: it’s for real and it sells.

So my next idea is a little crazy. Some people might have a real difficult time with it but I promise you, you can do this if you put your mind to it. It’s called “unplugging”. It’s called getting the f’ off Facebook, the internet, the blogs, and anything else that involves you being behind a screen. Go outside in a city where you’ve always wanted to work or to a place where you think your ideal client hangs out and explore. Go outside and be a goddamn human. What you are getting here that you can’t get behind a screen is a real life connection with folks you may never have otherwise met. You want high end clients? Go hang at the Ritz Carlton bar in NYC and order a drink or a coffee and see who you meet. Once again this gives you an upper hand with potential clients because if they meet you in person they can see what you look like,
what you act like, what your personality is like, and what you smell like (take a shower before attempting this task): all important things to a potential customer. These are the things that truly can’t be conveyed in any other way besides meeting someone in person. So stop waiting for your phone to ring or for that email to come in and go outside and make shit happen.

4. Focus on what you have
What other things are at your fingertips? Think outside the realm of time and money, the things we can’t always control and start focusing on the things you can. Do you have a special photography related talent that you could teach? Are you using your free social media to its full extent? Have you set up a styled shoot recently with the type of vendors your ideal client hires? Do you have something in mind you might want to barter your photographs for…something that could lead to potential business in the future? Have you contacted your local media to let them know what you are up to? Are you reading those emails from Brandsmash and other awesome online educational resources? Because if you haven’t noticed there are about a billion out there and they are all there to help you!

My final challenge to you is to create a list of all the reasons you CAN become a fulltime, professional photographer. Make that list accessible so that you can constantly see it and add to it. Fill your brain and your energy with non-stop reasons of why you can do this and do it well. The one reason why we work 15+ hour days, or why we deal with bridezillas, or maybe don’t have insurance or matching 401ks, or why our feet, back, and brains hurt by October yet we still shoot every weekend giving up time with family and friends…that reason is because photography is our passion. If we didn’t possess that, people would think we are even crazier than we are for doing what we do. That passion isn’t something that can have a monetary value. In fact it’s priceless and if you arereading this you already possess it and that…well…that’s pretty fucking awesome.


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Mary Beth Morrissey is the queen bee at Capture Photography in the tiny town of Essex, Ct. She digs shooting funky and lovable couples who appreciate sarcasm and good beer. She also takes serious pride in producing once in a lifetime bodacious boudoir photographs for extraordinary women with a story. She’s a travel junkie who loves to meet strangers. She’s a hair color aficionado and culinary idiot. Beyond any artsy awards that have come her way, her number one prize is her french bulldog, Pixel with her cherry themed beach cruiser coming in a close second.

Mary Beth travels, speaks and inspires photographers. Her favorite method of inspiration is questioning excuses and fears.  She loves sharing her favorite tools to kicking some serious ass.

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