Bill from Texas writes:
"I'm relatively new to real estate photography and I'm finding that the learning curve is very steep. I've been able to find plenty of information from numerous sources online, but there seems to be a lot of conflicting advice from what gear to use, to what technique is best, to how you should conduct yourself with clients, and what your terms of service should look like."
Thanks for reaching out, Bill. I would agree that the learning curve is quite steep and although there is new educational content popping up every day, it's hard to decipher the good from the bad. So, the best I can do for you is share the top six pieces of advice that I would offer myself, if I could go back in time:
- Don't waste money on gear: When I first started out, I wanted to make sure that if my images were no good, I would know that the problem was me, not the gear. So, I spent a small fortune buying one of the best cameras out there and four of the best flashes I could find. The total bill was between $6-7K. I had no business spending this much money and it hurt me early-on as I was starting out in the red. You do NOT need a super fancy full-frame camera and brand-name flashes. In fact, almost any mid-range DSLR or mirrorless camera with a decent wide angle zoom lens and a couple of off-brand flashes will do the trick. If you're going to spend money on gear, splurge on a good tripod with a geared head.
- Get a coach: It took me a few years to finally reach out for a coach but when I did, it was a game changer. Getting a coach earlier on could have saved me three years of fumbling around on my own. To this day, it is the single, best decision I've ever made for my business. There are some great coaches available on the PFRE coaching page.
- Trust your gut: Be humble, willing, and eager enough to learn but if you have a strong gut-feeling about something, the type of shooter you want to be, and the type of images you want to create, there’s probably a something to it; so stick to your guns and don’t be afraid to be you. The sooner you develop the confidence to follow this principle, the sooner you’ll find yourself doing what you love rather than what you think others think you should be doing. Please be mindful that this is much easier said than done, so patience and perseverance will be key.
- Implement invoicing software immediately: I'm not sure how many people will agree with me on this one but for me, not using software to manage and track my invoicing is one of my biggest regrets from early on in my career. Like many people starting out, I just used an excel spreadsheet to track my business and this works fine if you are super diligent and can keep it up to date. However, with all the great invoicing software that is available today, it's just not worth the risk of missing invoices, forgetting to follow-up on payment, etc.
- Run your business like a business: Even though many of us in our industry see ourselves as creatives, we always have to keep in mind that we also need to be business people. This isn't always the easiest thing to accomplish when most of us get more satisfaction from the creative side of things than we do from the business side. Be strategic in your approach, build out a thoughtful plan, create a solid budget with reasonable expectations, and put the work in every day.
- Create and foster long-term relationships: Like it or not, this is a relationship business so approach your clients in a way that ensures they'll want to do business with you for the long-term. This doesn't mean rolling over and becoming their doormat. It means having clearly defined expectations on both sides of the transaction and creating a relationship that is full of mutual benefit and respect. Treat your clients how you would like to be treated and make yourself indispensable. Early years might be tough but by building good relationships from the beginning, you will create a solid foundation upon which you can establish a long a prosperous career.