One of the most common emails we get from photographers sounds something like this: Amy and Jordan, I live in _______________ so there’s no way I can make it because there are already too many photographers here. A lot of them are new, and just got a camera, so their prices are so cheap that I can’t compete. That market is just too saturated here.
We understand how you feel, because we used to think the same thing, too.
But it’s just not true.
Something we learned early on in our career is that most markets (everywhere) feel saturated — and not just in photography. In every industry! Hair stylists feel like their market is oversaturated. So do nail salons. And restaurant owners. Everyone who owns their own business feels that way at the beginning. We did, too. But here’s what we’ve learned about saturated markets:
First, when you’re in a specific industry, and you know everyone else in your industry and follow them on social media, it makes it feel like “everyone” is doing what you’re doing, when the reality is that most people aren’t. In truth, most people aren’t eating at restaurants every night, or getting weekly pedicures, just like most people aren’t investing in professional photos every year. Which means the challenge is as much about finding new people to invest (with you) who’ve never invested in photography before as it is competing directly with the other businesses in your area.
Second, and this is the more important point, the best businesses don’t start with the most clients, but they end up with the most clients — because the truth is, the market is never too saturated for the best. The stylist who does the best hair will always have clients in her chair. The restaurant with the best food will always require reservations and have a long waiting list. That doesn’t mean those businesses had that kind of demand at the beginning. At the beginning, the market probably did feel saturated to them… just like it did to us… just like it does to you. In that stage, in that moment, people/businesses make one of two choices: They either decide the market is too saturated… or they decide to be the best. They either decide the game is rigged and the cards are stacked against them… or they decide to scramble the board and reshuffle the deck. They either believe they control their own destiny… or they don’t.
We remember how disappointing it was when we’d get an inquiry, and later discover they went with a less expensive photographer instead. It felt defeating. It felt deflating. But we also had to remember it wasn’t a sign to give up. It was a sign that we needed to do a better job demonstrating our value to our potential clients. People make their purchasing decisions based on trust, consistency, experience and value. If you think about the restaurant industry, there are plenty of restaurants that charge premium prices. Restaurants that sell $15 burgers don’t go out of business because cheap fast food chains sell burgers for $1, even though it’s FIFTEEN TIMES more expensive. The high end restaurant’s quality and consistency is such a cut above the cheaper options that people trust it and can really see the value in paying more.
That’s what we need to do in our photography businesses. When we can demonstrate consistency, high quality work and an unbelievable client experience, the right people will see the value. The longer we’ve been in the industry, the more we’ve realized that high quality, consistent work is something people want to invest in –– and it’s something that’s missing from a lot of photographers’ businesses.
That’s one of the reasons we created the Shooting & Editing Course! We have so many students enrolled who were having trouble booking clients a year ago, and assumed it was because they were too new or the market was too saturated with photographers charging less than them. After taking our course and seeing the dramatic change in their work in such a short period of time, they realized that the quality and consistency of their work was actually the thing holding them back. Once they corrected that, they started booking a lot more clients and making way more money. On average, in the year after enrolling, our Shooting & Editing Course students booked three times as many portrait sessions, four times as many weddings, doubled their prices and made an extra $10,000!
And they didn’t change markets.
We hope this is an encouragement to you that you CAN do this! We were in your shoes and remember feeling exactly the same way you do now. We’re so glad we didn’t give up even when we were tempted to, because now our life has been changed forever in the best way. Keep working hard to make your dreams a reality! But also have the courage (and self-awareness) to take an honest look at your work, and take personal responsibility if you’re not booking. Because as long as you believe that something (or someone) has the power to keep you from being successful, you won’t be; but as soon as you start believing that your success is in your control, and you’re willing to make sacrifices to win, you’ll be on your way to a lifetime of success — not just in photography.
If you think we can help with that, we’d love to come alongside you, have you join one of our courses, and help you get there. But either way, we hope this is an encouragement. You CAN build and sustain a successful business in a saturated market. We know because we’ve done it, and thousands of our students are doing it too. We’re cheering for you, friend!