Real estate photographers: Do you want more commercial clients?

In Build A Photography Business Show, Real estate photography marketing by Build A Photography Business

If you typically shoot real estate but you'd like to be doing more photo shoots for builders, architects, hotels and interior designers, then I'd like to share eight things you can do to bring more diversity to your client mix.

Here's what we covered in this episode (you can jump to the different sections in the video timeline):
0:00 - Intro
3:08 - 8 things you can do to get commercial clients
12:34 - Summary of everything
14:35 - Q & A

Video transcript:
Real estate photographers - Do you want more commercial clients

I know a lot of real estate photographers want to be doing more commercial shoots for builders, architects, interior designers, hotels, restaurants and things like that, and I think that’s really smart – I’ve said it before that having a diverse client base where you work with different industries makes a lot of sense from a business-growth perspective. It brings diversity to what you shoot so it can keep you on your toes, and it helps you to avoid slumps in one industry while you pickup work in another industry.

So I know a lot of real estate photographers want to go that way, although a lot that I’ve spoken to see it as something they’ll get around to doing one day, but they either don’t know what to do or they don’t have time to work on it. I've spoken previously about managing your time, but today we're going to lay out a process so you know what you need to do to get those particular clients.

Now one thing I think a lot of photographers get wrong is they’re looking for a silver bullet that will fix everything and get them those commercial clients, but unfortunately there is no single thing that you can do that will magically change everything for you.

It's like trying to make a great pizza with just one topping. If you only put mozzarella on your pizza then it'll taste a bit one-dimensional. But when you put mozzarella together with a tasty sauce and some pepperoni and oregano then you get the different flavors working together and you’ve got a great pizza. It’s the same with trying to get clients - you need a company-wide approach where all of the flavours combine and support each other so those commercial clients actually want to work with you.

So, here's what you could be doing if you want to get more commercial clients:

Step 1. Position your business for what you want to charge

First of all, you need to position your business for what you want to charge. A lot of photographers look at this the wrong way, because they just want to know, like, what should I charge? To answer that I’d say that some photographers can charge $5,000 for a photo shoot and others would struggle to get $200 for the same thing, and the difference comes down to positioning.

So if you look like a $200 photographer then you’ll only be able to charge $200. If everything about you and how you present your business and how you respond to the client aligns with a $200 photographer, then that’ll be what you charge.

But if you want to be doing $5000 shoots then you need to look like a $5000 photographer. So before you start quoting those kind of rates, you need to make sure that everything about your business says that you’re a $5000 photographer.

That client should not be surprised by that price because it should be entirely consistent with the way you present your business, the quality of your marketing material and communication, the conversation you had with the client about business growth which showed them that you really know marketing and what will help them, the testimonials you share with them – everything about the quality of your business and the benefits that you bring to your client needs to say that you’re a $5000 photographer if that’s what you want to be charging.

Step 2. Consider your business name

The second thing to work on is part of positioning as well, and that is your business name. Now if your business is called "Mary Smith Real Estate Photography" and if you’re trying to work with a large architectural firm that has completed a project in your city, then unless they’re looking for a cheap photographer then they probably won’t want to work with you because your business name has locked you in as a real estate photographer.

Now that’s not to say that you can’t get commercial clients when you’re called something something Real Estate Photographer, but there is a perception that a real estate photographer is the poor man’s architectural photographer, and so clients will expect to pay lower prices just because of your business name. Rightly or wrongly, that’s the perception they’ll often have.

So what I’d recommend is to either change your business name to something that doesn’t mention real estate, or you could do what they do in the publishing industry where companies will create kind of a separate division of the business that they call an ‘imprint’ which they’ll use to target a certain demographic.

So maybe you would want to create another division called something Architectural Photography or something Media, and you might find that makes it a little easier to get the kind of commercial clients you want.

Having said that, if you go down that path then there is a lot of work involved because you would need a new website and probably new social media channels as well, you’d need a new logo, new email address – but if it helps you to start getting those clients then it’s probably worth it.

Step 3. Be confident in how you'll shoot

The third thing you’ll need to do is be confident in how you will shoot for those commercial clients.

Doing a photo shoot with a client is not the place to experiment, so it’s not the time to bring out those big softboxes for the first time ever and try shooting 20 exposures instead of 3. You’ll want to do the experimenting before the shoot, and be intentional about practising by yourself away from your clients.

Step 4. Build a portfolio

Once you've decided on how you will shoot, it’s time to move onto the fourth thing on our list, and that is you need to build a portfolio that displays your commercial style so that you have something to show your dream clients.

Now some of you will want to take shortcuts, and you’re going to tell me that you’re too busy to do this, but if you want those commercial clients then it's really not enough to show them your real estate shots. That approach isn’t good for them because they can’t see your work, at least not the standard of work you’ll deliver to them, and it’s not good for your confidence either because you're probably going to feel like an imposter who is in over their head, all because you’re trying to fake it with your portfolio.

So my tip is that you don’t try and cut corners with this stuff – do it properly, and make sure you have something to show those commercial clients before they hire you.

Now one way to do that is to shoot a couple of commercial portfolio-worthy images when you’re on a real estate shoot that has something special about it. So look for some compositions that would fit in a commercial portfolio, and light it as if you were doing it for a commercial client. Then even if you don’t give that shot to your real estate client, you’ve still got something that you can use in that portfolio.

Step 5. Share appropriate content on social media

So moving on to the fifth thing you’ll want to be doing, and that is you’ll want to share content on social media that positions you as a photographer that works with the industries you'll be targeting.

You don’t want to just share photos of houses you've done for real estate clients, but what you want to do is share work that looks like it was for your dream clients in those industries, and showcase the kind of stuff those clients are looking for. That way any client that comes across you on social media can see that you have the ability to deliver work for businesses in their particular industry.

Step 6. Have a professional website

Number six on our list if you want more commercial clients is you need to have a professional website that aligns with what you want to charge.

So as I mentioned earlier, if you want to be charging high prices then everything you do needs to align with what we would expect from a photographer charging those kind of rates, and that includes your website.

So we’re looking at your website design to make sure it looks professional, and you’ll want to ask yourself - Is the user interface simple and intuitive?

Is the content high-quality?

Do you show your visitors that you understand their industry?

All of that needs to work together so that you look like someone that those dream clients would be crazy to not want to work with.

Step 7. Rank on page 1 in a Google search

Once you’ve done that, then you need to work on the seventh thing on our list, and that is you need to make sure your website and any other content you’ve put out there shows up on page 1 for a Google search for your keywords.

The reason why we do that is that a lot of your potential clients out there will go to Google when they want to find a photographer. And what they’ll do is they’ll probably type in their industry and then they’ll type in ‘photographer’.

So if they’re an architect, then they’ll type in ‘architectural’ and ‘photographer’. They’ll get a bunch of results that come from photographers all over the country, so then they realise that they need to search for someone local, so they’ll add their city or town to their search term. So if they are in Indianapolis, then they’ll type in Indianapolis architectural photographer. Then they’ll scroll through the list, but they probably won’t look at page 2, so you need to make sure you’re on page 1 and preferably near the top of the list, because those top 2 or top 3 businesses in that Google search are going to get the vast majority of clicks.

Step 8. Go through my marketing process

The eighth and final thing on our list if you want more commercial clients is you’ll want to go through my marketing process that I went through in episode 20 of this show. What that looks like is you’ll start by identifying your prospects, you’ll connect with them so they’re aware of who you are, you’ll follow-up with them repeatedly so they trust you and become familiar with you, and eventually you’ll make an offer for them to work with you.

So this is a very intentional process and it works well because you’re no longer making offers to cold prospects but instead you’re only ever making offers to warm prospects who already know you, and the rest of the time you’re just trying to be as helpful as you possibly can.

When you focus on being helpful and not pushy then it feels good to you, like it feels authentic, and it’s good for the prospect because even if they never hire you at least they’ve been helped and benefited in some way and that’s going to leave a positive taste in their mouth. So maybe they don’t hire you, but maybe because of the way you’ve helped them they might actually recommend you to another business, so that’s why we stay away from being pushy and salesy, but focus on being genuinely helpful instead.


So let’s go through this list again, and let me know if you’re unsure about any of this, and feel free to leave a comment or ask me a question if you are watching live right now.

So the eight things we said you could work on to get more commercial clients are:

1. Position your business for what you want to charge.
2. Use an appropriate business name.
3. Be absolutely clear about how you will shoot for those commercial clients, so get the right gear and get your technique right.
4. Build a portfolio.
5. Share the right content on social media.
6. Setup your website so it aligns with your fee.
7. Make sure you’re on page 1 for a Google search.
8. Use the marketing process I outlined in episode 20 where you connect, follow-up and then make an offer to your ideal prospects.

If you do all of those things, and if all of that aligns with your fee, and of course this assumes that your fee is high enough that the client assumes you can deliver the results they are looking for, then if you do all of that you’re giving yourself a great chance at getting some work with those commercial clients.

Now it might start slowly for you so be patient with it – don’t assume that this is going to open the floodgates. I think that will come in time as you work with more people and they’ll start telling others about you, and you’ll naturally start building connections as well as you meet people through different projects.

But this is a process I would recommend to any real estate photographers out there who want to start working with a more diverse mix of clients and want to start charging much higher rates for photos and videos and anything else you can deliver for builders and designers and others in your area.