Even if you are brand new to the photography industry, you can greatly benefit from joining professional photography organizations. My husband Charles and myself are both members of Professional Photographers of America, Southwest Professional Photographer of America, Texas Professional Photographers of America and Austin Professional Photographers of America. And that doesn’t include memberships that we have held throughout the years with the National Association of Catering Executives, The Austin Chamber of Commerce, The Austin Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, The International Special Events Society and The Better Business Bureau. (Ok… that last one doesn’t really count. If you have been in business for any length of time you have probably already figured out that the Better Business Bureau is mostly just an organization that charges you to say that you are a member. There are not really any other real benefits to paying your dues. Don’t get me wrong… having an A+ rating with the BBB is a good thing to have, but when you first get into business, you usually don’t realize that you don’t need to pay the BBB membership dues to be listed with a rating. They have to rate the businesses fairly, and just because you aren’t a member doesn’t mean you don’t run a reputable business. I am proud of my A+ rating, but I no longer pay dues to the BBB) But I digress.
Being members of professional organizations, not just in photography, but in other areas of business like the chamber of commerce and networking groups, can really help build your business. Why? Because people don’t really trust easily these days. Marketing and advertising has many folks feeling leery. Most everyone has been burned at one time or another, and many of us don’t make decisions like choosing a photographer lightly. When you join an organization you get the opportunity to meet people and get to know them. You have a chance to build trust inside in a safe environment, where you aren’t trying to sell them anything. You get to know who people really are, and if they are the type of people that you want to do business with. Building relationships in these types of groups will help increase your referrals. Referrals from people who know, and like you are hugely powerful, and they will trump an ad or a social media post any day of the week.
As for the photographic organizations, well, you would think that you would never receive a referral from another photographer. But that simply isn’t true. Because photographers have their specialties, and because they want to take good care of their clients, if someone needs a photographer for a job they don’t feel comfortable with, it’s great to be the name on their lips. Building relationships with other photographers can be very rewarding, not just for referrals, but for many other reasons as well. Charles and I are both serving on the Austin Professional Photographers of America Board of Directors this year. The insights that you can gain from other pros are invaluable. And, the camaraderie can be especially powerful when times are tough. Serving on a board of directors in photography can open doors and opportunities for you, and it’s a great thing to put on your web site. Potential clients will view your serving on a photography board as a sign that you are a true professional. Plus it’s exciting to be a part of directing where your local photographic association is headed. I highly recommend it!
I know, as photography business owners, that we have a TON of things we have to handle on a daily basis. And, it may seem like there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to get out there and build relationships. But I promise you won’t be sorry if you do. Making money and running a business doing what you love is great, but you’ve got to remember to connect with people. At the end of the day, relationships are really what it’s all about.