One of the biggest hurdles that emerging professional photographers need to clear is that of getting a proper online presence, specifically by having and managing their own website on their own domain name.
So often these days I see photographers using Facebook pages or public gallery services like 500px to showcase their work and sell their services. Or even worse, those “free” Wix sites. While there’s nothing wrong with having a Facebook page for sharing your stuff and engaging social media, do you really want to be sending your clients to Facebook or some other company’s free website to see your best work?
When you get your own website you are doing two things at the same time. Firstly you are showing that you are professional enough to have your own domain name. This inspires confidence in would be customers. Secondly, if you do it right you are giving yourself the opportunity of finding customers by means of organic web searches. I have never paid to advertise my photography business anywhere. 100% of my clients have come from Google searches where specific keywords for the specialised work I do have put me on page 1 of the search results. You won’t ever see any individual Facebook pages popping up on page 1 of Google when you search for “Durban event photographers”. Also, sending prospective customers to a Facebook page (with all its other distractions) will not get you into the upper echelons of the market you are trying to capture. While I have a Facebook page for all my online activities (and there are a few of them) I have never received a single shred of business from any of them directly. They are there more to serve as a communications channel for those websites than anything else. I get all my photography business from my personal website that runs on WordPress.
Your photography website should be an extension of your brand, or a portal to discovering what it is you do, how you do it and why you do it. It is there as a digital brochure for you to showcase those things. However, just having a website is not the only thing you should be focusing on when it comes to marketing yourself. That is an entirely different animal altogether and the website plays only one part of your marketing mix. If you think about the sheer number of photographers in any given geographic area and the fact that probably less than 1% of people ever look at page 2 of Google’s search results, you will need to do some other marketing or a LOT of work to get on page 1 of Google. It’s not impossible, but it doesn’t happen overnight, so don’t rely on this as your only calling card, but at the same time don’t think that having a Wix site or a Facebook page is going to win the hearts and minds of your prospective customers. It won’t. You still need to be able to send customers to a slick, well laid out website that will show those potential customers what you can do for them.
Getting your own website can be a daunting task at first because it involves a lot of talk about things that initially make no sense. You’ll will hear words like “content management system”, “SEO”, “bandwidth”, “disk quota”, “cloud server”, etc, and not knowing what those things are could send you down the path towards being seriously ripped off by unscrupulous web developers. Happens all the time. My approach to working with people who need websites has always been one of complete transparency. I go to great lengths to ensure that my customers understand everything about their sites, the way they should be using email to avoid the spam traps and also how they should be presenting their work. These days you can have your own slick looking website up and running in a matter of minutes and at a much lower cost than you would ever have believed possible. None of the WordPress sites I have helped people create in the past couple of years have cost them more than $300 including hosting and domain name for a whole year. Many of them are even cheaper than that if you need less hand holding and can do your own configurations.
Over the next few months I will share some of my secrets to having a great website and getting yourself on page one for the things that matter to your business. If you Google “durban event photographer” or “durban product photographer” you will see where my site pitches (www.dallasdahms.com). These articles will give you a proper grounding in getting yourself aux fait with everything related to your own site, from choosing a domain name to hosting, optimising your content for search, getting your images to display at their best and proper content management using the systems I have used myself over the years. Keep a lookout for those.
Edited by DDFZ