Do You Have All Of Your Eggs In One Basket?

November 9th, 2009

I enjoy  doing this blog because it’s an opportunity to have diverse discussions with a wide variety of people around the world. One of the ways I decide to what to blog about is the subjects that come up while talking to readers. When several people I talk to bring up the same subject, it’s a good bet that a lot of other people are thinking about the same thing.

In the last few days several people I’ve talked to have brought up the issue of how to diversity, in the sense of what related fields can real estate photographers get into during these tough economic times to earn more income?

There are some diversification approaches that I run into all the time:

  1. Past reader polls show that around 8 to 10% of the readers of this blog are real estate agents that are using real estate photography to diversify. While it’s not a great time to become a real estate agent, it makes sense for existing real estate agents that have photographic skills to do real estate photography.
  2. Many real estate photographers also do portrait photography, wedding photography and event photography. Portrait photography is very complementary to real estate photography in that real estate agents need portrait photography services. It is very natural to establish yourself as a photographer by setting up discount portrait shoots in a real estate office. This is a great way to meet some agents and create a paycheck from the portrait shoot. Wedding and other types of photography is a way to diversify yourself outside the real estate industry.
  3. Another very common companion business to real estate photography is web design/development and graphic design. Real estate agents need websites, flyers and brochures.
  4. Since still photography and video have much in common learning to shoot and edit video is clearly a good diversifying move.
  5. Any aspect of internet marketing is a natural companion to real estate photography and every business on the planet needs internet marketing services.

So what are you doing to diversify during these difficult economic times?

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11 Responses to “Do You Have All Of Your Eggs In One Basket?”

  • All of the above! Diversity is definitely the key to successful (and consistent) business! I don’t do the portrait thing, but I do property video tours, community video tours, video agent profiles (although I despise them!), still photography of listings, online slideshows, web design, flyer creation and internet marketing – all for real estate. It’s a good, diverse tool bag, and although it’s all within the same industry, there is MORE than enough to keep me busy every day… in fact, I’ve been turning down most website business over the past year as I just don’t have the time anymore as the photography/ video takes up literally 7 days a week for me. But I do create a custom, branded web page for all my video and photography listings. I also do small business web videos for other industries, but the real estate thing has kept me so busy that I honestly haven’t had the time to promote the small business end of things….

    I’ve had some agents ask if I do floor plans. They wanted a “one stop shop” for their photos, videos AND floor plans. I’ve investigated it to some degree, but realized quickly that I would not enjoy that one bit! It’s just not MY thing. I like making picture and videos and websites – I do NOT enjoy measuring and drawing floor plans! So it definitely would not be a good fit, but when I get time I am going to investigate partnering with someone who DOES enjoy that type of thing (!) so I can offer the whole package to my clients.

  • Fred,

    Who’s the typical agent you’re getting most of your business from? The top 10%?

    I’ve been a graphic designer for nearly thirteen years and also have a fair amount of web design experience. I’ve decided to really make a push toward developing the photography end of my business and am trying to determine just the right mix of services that’ll will work in the current economy. I’ve done some verbal “test marketing”, which has basically consisted of bouncing ideas off of a few Realtor friends, and have received a fairly flat response.

    They agree that marketing and photo services are beneficial, but, if they have to pay more than a small amount for any of them, they’re willing to make do with what they can produce themselves in order to preserve their bottom lines. Which services in your mix are the most profitable and have kept you busiest? What has been the most successful way to market them?

    In advice you can give is greatly appreciated.

  • Larry is right on the money! My business partner and I fortunately learned to diversify a long time ago. Real Estate is an up and down business to be in. When we started our goal was and still is to target agents/brokers in the top 5-10%. Like Larry wrote about in a previous post these agents are actively producing and making money, they are willing to pay for good marketing materials. There is/was a lot of active competition in our area so we had to really stand out and SHOW these top producing agents why our company was the one they wanted to do business with, combine phenomenal photography with aggressively priced packages and we won them over time and time again. We taught our company as the one stop shop for ALL their photo and video needs. We regularly send out e-campaigns and we highlight a different complimentary service in each blast. We not only have been able to stay in business during this economic “downfall” but we have grown our company from the two of us to a staff of 10. One month we may be “slow” in the area of real estate photography, but we are “busy” with agent / team portraits etc. We offer a number of complimentary services such as real estate flyers, video AND virtual tours, portrait photography, low altitude aerial photography, in addition we have 2 photographers that have a background in weddings & 1 who photographs models. We market the wedding and modeling services and our company gets a percentage to book for these guys. its a win win!

    Rick, we get most of our work from the luxury real estate agents. A typical listing price for properties we work on are above the one million price tag. We don’t turn down work for homes/properties less than a million, but we not aggressively pursuing it either. I’ve been asked several times how we are able to “succeed” these days and truthfully it’s all about quality of service and realistic pricing. If you have a good product it’ll speak for itself. I would say 90% of our business is referral based. We actively market our company but our top producing sales reps are our existing clients, if their satisfied they’ll tell all their colleagues.

    I do want to mention, we have a large number of REO homes in the area and agents are reluctant to spend money on these homes. After several requests we recently decided to temporarily offer a “Budget” package that provides a client a limited number of high quality photos & a complimentary slideshow for $50. Our thoughts were we could get a large volume of work from this group. Some of these REO agents have 10+ REO listings. We also offer some “discounted” add-on’s such as flyers, post cards etc.

    I really enjoy Larry’s forums and find it remarkable we can come together and help each other grow!

  • Rick: It’s hard to tell… It’s less about the top 10% and more about the agents that just plain “get it”. I have some agents who don’t really do that much business, but they UNDERSTAND that a good web presentation is key, and that’s how they run their business.

    The best way to get business? Realtors are notoriously tight with a buck, but they are just as notoriously VERY competitive with each other. If I start working in an area with a particular agent, I gradually pickup LOTS of business in that area? Why? Because their competitors see how they are marketing property… their competitors see that they are stealing listings out from under them…. their competitors see they are selling properties! I work a lot about 2 hours from here… why? Because I have a dozen, VERY regular clients who use me for all of their listings? Why? Because I started out with ONE agent… who within a year went from a new office of one person to literally taking over the market share in that area! Heads turned… and now I work down there at least 1-2 days a week… or more. I work with ALL of the top producers down there!

    I just started doing work in an area I’ve never worked in about 6 months ago with a top producing agent, who uses me for all of her listings. She was the only one… for awhile! I just started working for her main competitor a few weeks ago… and just received a call from another top producer at a competitive office – am going out there today in fact! It all just builds up over time.

    Agents see their competitors and their competitor’s listings when they search the MLS. They see what they’re doing and they notice EVERYTHING, especially when they lose a listing to those people! Competition is wonderful!

    I say.. pick an area… find ONE good, top producing client (even if you have to cut them a discount or even for free) and get your work OUT THERE for their competitors to see! It works like a charm!

  • Expansion is always the name of the game. As an agent i can relate too having the need to do more when i can. You need too keep your mind open too new things, whatever they maybe.

  • Fred, that sounds like a very useful program to follow, but if all you are doing is relying on your work for one agent to expose yourself to a new market, I would link that you would have to be getting credit on the property websites. If you are doing your own websites that is one thing. Perhaps it is harder if you are not, unless that one realtor is going to tell the competitors about you, which is not likely.

  • I have to confirm the point above that Fred makes above about breaking into a area from the “other side of the fence”. Having spent 10 years in one of the largest offices on Seattle’s Eastside, Fred is right-on. Agents in a office all know who is the top producer and who is #2, #3, etc. right down to who is on the bottom. At the end of every year there is a awards ceremony where the top dogs are all celebrated. And all the agents carefully study every move the top dogs are making, from how they do their flyers, what kind of cellphone they use to what they say at their open houses. So if the top dogs start doing X or Y or hiring Fred Light everyone knows it and starts hiring Fred Light too.

    Personal referrals from the top dogs are very best marketing you can get!

  • Fred mentioned floor plans, which is a great way to diversify a real estate photography business. I started my current business by providing floor plans and diversified that business by adding photography. I am by no means a professional photographer, but we found over the years just how important good photographs are to marketing real estate. When you combine quality photography with floor plans at a reasonable price, you have a very marketable product. The following link is a sample Interactive floor plan with photo slide show:

    High end real estate is great, however, we have found that we are more successful targeting the average listing rather than just going after the high end. You may be able to charge more for high homes, but there is significantly more volume on the lower end and it takes less time in the field. The average list price of the homes we work on is less than $150,000 with average field time being around 40 minutes per home. We offer agents volume discounts if they make a 12 month volume commitment up front of at least 5 homes and a deeper discount if they commit to at least 10 homes in a year. Our average fee is around $135.00, but we do approximately 4,000 to 5,000 in any one year.

  • I had my website totally redesined to include three databases that are tied together for cross marketing pruposes. 1) Real Estate database- Realtors can create an unlimited amount of listings free of charge with all of the bells and whistles.
    2) Classified database- where local business owners can create full page ads and includes a feature that allows them to customize their own printable coupons. These ads are tied into the real estate databse.
    3) Using the classifieds database, we have added a section for gorups to blog.
    I am still offering the photography services as well. This may be too much for one site but I am trying to diversify our services. We have just launched the site and are starting to advertise, so I hope this works well for us.

  • I’m in the process of adding ground-bound real estate photography to my services; I’ve been doing aerial photography of real estate (primarily large construction projects) for about 10 years. I’m hoping to specialize in developing slide tour package. I just purchased Larry’s Real Estate Photographer Stimulus package this evening, and am looking to find some good ideas for putting some “additional eggs in the basket.”

    I have a question about voice-overs behind the real estate video tours. I was encouraged by Tony Meier’s posts (March 2009) in which he added narration to a video tour he captured with a Canon 5D. I’ve had some voice-over training and done some time in radio stations, so I’m not shy around microphones. I also have a small voice studio in the house.

    My question is this: is adding voice-overs to real estate slide tours a reasonable egg to add to the basket of offerings. I hear a number of sound tracks (often using some fairly cheesy music clips) behind video tours, but I don’t often hear well-produced narration that helps to to tell the story and sell the property. Is anyone out there offering narration as a value-added component to their photography, or is this just something most real estate agents aren’t going to want to pay for?

  • Gary- I think good voice overs are a real plus. Some brokers (John L Scott in the Seattle area) provides voice overs for all their agents listings but not all brokers do. I find most agents are a little lazy about writing good scripts but you could easily do a voice over based on the photos.

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