One huge mistake that I made when I first started out was just assuming people will reach out to me. “When my instagram gets big I’ll just sit back and watch all the clients roll in.” That doesn't really work. Even accounts with 100k followers have had to approach clients, and build relationships with them to get work. There are other ways to get clients, social media is important. However it's not the most important factor in getting paid work.
One of the best ways you can get clients, is by working for free. I know it sounds crazy but in order to break into any market in photography, this is the quickest way to do it. It gets your name out there. It will build up a rapport with the client you are working with, and if they like you then you have a great chance of getting work from them in the future. Don't over do this or you will kill the industry. Just enough to get the ball rolling. Getting the ball rolling isn't easy. But once it's rolling, all the hard work will be worth it.
Look at it from a potential clients perspective- they haven’t heard of you and have no record to see of you working with clients in the past. This means they’re taking a big risk in hiring you for a job, and are much more likely to go with someone else that has worked with other people before. They will also want to see a portfolio of images, similar to what they want. So if your prospective clients are people getting married. They are unlikely to hire you without any wedding photos in your portfolio.
You have to be proactive and make contact with potential clients. What I suggest you do is select a type of photography you want to specialise in- if you are too general this will deter people more than draw them in. Then note down potential brands/ companies etc you could work with that are inline with this niche of photography. Start with smaller brands, and working your way up. You are unlikely to land a role with a big brand straight away, that’s not to say don’t contact them. I’m just saying to concentrate on smaller brands first.
So you’re probably wondering how you can now build these relationships, and offer your services or what the best way to that is. I found that simply emailing the firstname.lastname@example.org type emails is practically pointless. This will have little to no impact at all. You will fare much better by finding out who is personally responsible for the marketing and contacting them (somewhat counter to what I just said you can find that out by emailing that sort of address).
So for me I’d go and have a look on the website. If I can find the email for that person and they’re name is on the email, I’m usually happy with that and will send an email with something like “Hey, *whatever their name is* I have been researching the awesome brand you work for and believe our values are in line. *pitch*. Have a fantastic day, kind regards, Joe. Get crafty, ring up the company and ask. That is likely to impress them doing some of your own investigating, and shows you are very interested in working with them.
Its so important to find out the person you are contacting's name and personalise the email, phonemail or however you want to get hold of them. The best way to grab their attention is to use their name. They will be scrolling through their emails for example - Dear Sir/Madam, Dear Valued Client, Dear Sir/ Madam, Hey Mary! You have a significant advantage over others.
You will usually at least get a response to this. If it is negative wait and follow up in a few months. Persistence is the key here. I actually have a spreadsheet marking all the potential clients I’m reaching out to, and keep tabs on when I last contacted them so I can wait a reasonable amount of time to contact them again.
This is a very competitive market and don’t let that put you off because that shows that there’s money in it. But that means that you will have to use persistence and initiative to achieve in it. Once you have clients scaling up and building momentum behind your career is much easier. It’s like pushing a snowball up a hill; once you get to the top and it starts rolling down its way easier. Its just getting it to the top that’s the hard part!.
Another important element to getting clients, for people to really take you seriously is to make your own website. Even if it’s just your portfolio. It makes you look way more professional and people will take you a lot more seriously. You need to link this in your emails. Even make business cards, and approach in person. Websites for me are the most important thing, I would spend more time on my website than on social media for example.
Having a media kit will help you immensely. A media kit is basically a CV that is much more visual and all fits into one page. So it will have like pictures you’ve taken, info about yourself, social media stats etc. My blog on Media Kits here will show you everything. I’d advise you to make one on photoshop! You can check out my latest media kit on my home page if you want some inspiration
With all of the above and persistence - one way or another you will get clients. Keep shooting and keep updating your portfolio! Good luck!