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Beginners Guide To Finding Real Estate Photography Clients

Published: 07/10/2015
By: larry


Domineka recently asked:

How do you find real estate photography jobs. I have e-mailed every real estate company in my area and when I ask if their looking for a real estate photographer, I don't get a response, I love homes and I love photography and I want to make this my career but how do I start

E-mail is not the most effective way to make initial contact with real estate photography clients. Also, real estate companies don't usually hire real estate photographers, listing agents that help home sellers sell their home hire them. To find listing agents in your area that are potential clients  you have to do some online research.

There are very few businesses where you can make a list of names, phone numbers, email addresses of all your potential customers, but you can in real estate photography since real estate agents are listed on their company website along with all their listed properties.

I recommend that every beginning real estate photographer make a spreadsheet that lists all the listing agents in all the major real estate offices in their area. Here's how do that:

  1. You need to understand that agents tend to specialize in who they work with. Some agents specialize in working with buyers (call buyers agents), and some specialize in working with home sellers (called listing agents).
  2. Don't waste your time  and money marketing buyers agents because they don't need real estate photographers. Only listing agents need photographers. Buyers agents typically don't have any listings. A few agents work with buyers and sellers but it's the agents that specialize in listing homes that you want to connect with. They are the ones that need your services the most.
  3. Every real estate office on the planet has a website that lists all the agents in the office, and it lists all the listings that each agent has. Well, there may be a hand full of rural offices that don't have a website but you can probably count those on your left hand.
  4. Go through the list of agents for each office that have listings. For each listing agent put office name, agent name, agent phone #, email address, number of listings and listing price of the highest price listing in your spreadsheet.
  5. As you proceed through each office the agents that are the top listing agents will immediately stand out. A hand full of agents in each office with have 10, 20, 30 or more listings. Others with have just a handful. You'll see the pattern emerge quickly. All this will take some time but it's well worth the time!
  6. Once you've gone through all the major offices in the area, sort the spreadsheet by number of listings and by listing price.
  7. This agent list is a list of who's who in real estate listing agents in your area. It shows you who to focus your marketing on. During the rest of your marketing when you meet an agent at an open house or at an office or wherever you'll have a way to focus on potential clients.

Once you have the list you need to focus your marketing on those agents. Here are some standard ways of marketing them:

  1. Make a marketing piece. This can either be a 8.5 x 11" brochure or even better a jumbo glossy post card (8.5 x 5.5: that shows some of your best work and has the URL of your portfolio site and your contact info on it.
  2. Get this marketing piece to your potential clients. In person if possible or personally deliver it to their mail slot at their office. Be prepared to talk about why professional photography is important.
  3. Open houses are a great way to meet listing agents. Be careful, the listing agent doesn't always hold their own listings open. Many times buyers agents will be holding open houses to meet buyers. Verify the agent at the open house is the listing agent.
  4. Short office presentations are possible in some locations. Call the managing broker for the office and ask to make a short presentation. This works better in smaller markets. I know of some real estate offices that don't allow this any more because there are so many photographers wanting to do it.

As a real estate photographer, you need to know the names of all the top listing agents in your area. During this process, you can easily check to see if an agent with lots of listings and already using a professional photographer. This will tell you exactly who to focus your marketing efforts on by name. Be persistent. Building a large group of clients will take a year or more depending on your marketing skills and the market you are working in.


11 comments on “Beginners Guide To Finding Real Estate Photography Clients”

  1. Hi Domineka:

    Hope you find this Forum that Larry has put together useful. There is plenty of great advice on this forum and I wish you the best of luck!

    I wrote up something a few months ago and posted it to this forum. The link is below. Worked magic for me and I still practice what I preach; I still follow my own recipe and continue to do what I wrote. Take a peek! Hope it helps!

  2. Open houses are a great way to get your business card and (more importantly) your face in front of agents.
    However, for me that was not as effective as social media.

    When I started out, it was at the request of a couple friends who are also agents.
    I went through their "friend" list on Facebook and sent them a "friend request". I also sent a message to each one introducing myself (including a link to my website).
    Each time, I got a friend confirmation, I went through my new friends list of friends to "mine" new agents, and did the same routine.
    Much like a snowball, very soon I had hundreds of real estate friends.

    Each time I would get a job, I would pick out my best images and include them in a post thanking them for the call "BY NAME". This part is very important because naming them will post your post to their page, and all their friends can now see your work and feel confident that someone they know is using you.

    One word of caution.
    Until you can hold your work up to others in your area and feel confident, don't start any of this.
    This will insure there are no roadblocks in your way as you build your clientele.

  3. I agree with everything posted above but would like to throw out one more thing. It is true that 90% of your work will come from your top 10% of clients but don't forget to treat the "little guys" with that same respect and provide them with the same quality of work. Little guys "come up" all the time and when they do, they will remember your past transactions and bring you with them! I work with numerous agents now that two years ago would get a couple listings a year and now I'm getting 3-4 a month from them.

  4. Nice article! I love this website as it has helped me greatly. I am also struggling to gain more real estate clients as I only have two. I did want to add this aspect of my research acquired through marketing. Currently, in Columbus, Ohio, 99% of real estate brokers do not list their agents emails on their website. Instead, they use a standard contact form to obtain potential buyers and sellers information. I found using this contact form about as pointless as contacting the broker, as Larry stated, it is the agent who hires photographers and videographers.

    So my solution for getting emails was to head to my local board of realtors website where every current realtor is listed. That worked like a charm. I hope this helps!

  5. I'm 100% with Dan B. The newcomers or newer, younger agents should be in your cross-hairs too. They come up. Some are very hungry and want to make a name for themselves and they will remember you when you too were starting off. They will keep you when they were a "nothing" and you stuck with them. Very, very good point Dan.

    I also can't stress to be careful too...respect your competition - even if their photo chops are lame. No trash talking. Just say you photograph differently.

    Good luck!

  6. As usual Larry you provide information, guidance and inspiration to all of us - beginners through expert. This particular post is great as it gives what I call the technical side of getting new clients (agents). You can't move forward or expand without the information provided in today's post.

    However, recently I have found through my business coaching - of both real estate photographers and small business owners (or what we now call vsbo - very small business owners) that social selling is a major requirement to bring on new clients. What this means is not so much posting your photos and what you are doing to linked in or facebook or twitter or any other media, but rather using the data that these social platforms can provide for narrowing the search for the exact match of clients that would be interested in our real estate photography. Targeted sponsored ads work very well. For every $0.25 you spend, you should see a return of $1.00 of income. I have a course designed specifically for my clients teaching how to target in each of the platforms.

    Another method of social selling involves becoming an expert on the social platform. For example, without becoming an expert in a forum on linked in (could be as narrow as Real Estate Listing Agents in Phoenix) to as wide as Active Rain Ariziona Agents - our names will not be in front of the right people. It takes at least 3-4 contact sightings for someone to recognize your name and expertise and this then makes it much easier to contact and sell. In Mail or other social media communications get more positive responses than email. Agents are hit with hundreds of vendors selling them on regular email - but if you share a group, you can send a message to someone with some well intentioned information. It could be as simple as a statistic, an infographic or image. After they respond to you (usually to say thank you or find out more about you which you should encourage in the in mail), you then can move into the sell.

    Finally, in addition to social selling there is the concept that people don't like to be sold anymore. This is where addressing pain, process, and possiblity come into play.

    You can't do it all so you need to do it smart. These agents are usually well trained but have little expertise in implementing what they learn. Why don't you become the expert that helps them to implement better marketing tools? Why don't you become the expert and go-to person that helps them to understand new technology. Investing your time in a real relationship will organically generate both sales of your photography and of course referrals.

    P.S. Don't forget the most important thing to keeping a new client or an existing client - send a hand written thank you note!

  7. I think it is a mistake to focus exclusively on the “top 10% of the listing agents” because: 1) so few agents are strictly listing agents, and 2) they already are being serviced by the elite few photographers in their market. The only thing you could offer is lower prices and that could come back to bite you. That leaves the other 99%. I would browse through Zillow, Trulia and looking for listings that need photographic help. It will probably be too late for those properties but work on developing a relationship with the agent, educate them on the importance of building a professional quality brand that will gain more listings. I would also market to builders, investors, and stagers.

  8. Taking what Aaron said above a step further... joining your local Board of REALTORS® as an affiliate member is a great way to develop leads/market your business! I have access to the current broker/agent member list with emails and cell phone numbers (updated regularly with their new members), and the local BOR has a brochure rack right outside their door where I'm able to place a stack of the jumbo, glossy post cards for agents to see.

    I also get to set up a vendor booth at the Board's annual continuing education event, that nearly all of the agents attend. As the agents walk by on their way to the CE classes, they pass by the booth, where they can't help but see my portfolio playing on a big screen TV, grab some trade show-style giveaway items, and have a chance to talk with me about how using professional photography can improve their business! Almost all of my clients (repeat and potential) come to the Education Fair... so it's a very effective way to be seen by the exact demo group that I'm targeting to do business with!

  9. @Suzanne

    "the most important thing to keeping a new client or an existing client – send a hand written thank you note!".....not likely.

    Providing great customer service and quality services are the most important things for all clients.

    You can send all the hand written notes you want, but if the above 2 items have not met (or exceeded) your clients expectations... those notes are going straight to the garbage.

  10. Trulia seems to have the best info mix on the listing pages to find agents. Often times you can click on an agents name and it will bring up a page with all of their current listings and their sales over the last year. I look at their current listings to see if they work predominately in my service area. Sometimes agents will list a property for a client far from their office. Start a spreadsheet and fill it in when you find information for an agent/broker. Trulia isn't perfect and may not have accurately tracked all of an agent's activity. Some brokerages place all of their listings under the broker's name and a good agent might not get the credit. Some offices are even worse and don't even list agents on their website. Information is where you find it, so be looking at Zillow, Redfin and too. If you can get an agent's name, email address and cell phone number all in one spot, you've found a good resource. If they have their own web site, that's a bonus.

    Make notes on your spreadsheet about your impressions of an agent. On mine, a top agent will get a "T" in a column. You may want to put down the year they were licensed if that's disclosed. I also type in a code if they already use professional quality images on their listings. It's rare to see high quality photos in my area. It can be very hard to get those agents to switch if they are getting good service from the photographer they are using. Other agents in their office are likely to notice and marketing to them might be a good idea.

    Finding the best agents is a long process as most areas do not have a listing of how many properties agents are selling and the total prices. Some agents/offices will show awards that an agent has won, but I've never been able to find a key to what the awards signify. For all I know, an award might be for correct spelling on listing descriptions.

    Face to face meetings work very well for me in gaining new customers. I also get some from email and a few from word of mouth. I've even gained one strictly from my web site. I feel that I need to be doing all of these on a regular basis to keep my name and the idea of using professional photography in an agent's mind. I want them to think of me when a seller demands top quality photos or the agent knows that the only way they are going to get million dollar listings is for their average listings to look like a million bucks. I'm not a fan of "Social Media" and don't (and will never have) a Facebook account. Most people don't know how that business works and it's as bad as the NSA except that the NSA doesn't sell the information they harvest.

  11. What I did was get the app for my iPad. I drew a circle with a diameter of three miles around my house and searched for homes for sale over $350k. If I felt I could do better than the photos being used on a listing, I found the realtor's e-mail and sent an e-mail message outlining how I could help him (or her) sell a listing faster and for more money. The first time I got three replies out of about 40 message sent. One said "Stop spamming me" - the next said "Photographs don't mean s**t - it's price that sells the house" and the third said, "My photographer is retiring in a month - I'll give you a call and you can shoot my next listing".

    So when he called a couple weeks later, I made sure to be on time, dressed decently and did the absolutely best job I knew how and got the photos to him in 12 hours after promising 24. He was impressed and scheduled me for several more shoots over the next couple weeks. Some of the other agents in his office noticed the photos he was using and asked for my number. I treated them exactly the same and did the absolute best I could and tried each time to exceed their expectations. Within three months I was shooting for several agents in that office. The first agent just happened to be the number 2 agent in town (my dumb luck) and there are a lot of folks that want to emulate him, so over the past 4 or 5 years I have accumulated so many clients that I can't service them all in a timely fashion. Many are willing to wait three weeks to be on my schedule now. I try to give each and every one of them the best possible service I can, no matter if it is a 1500 sf house or a 5000 sf McMansion. I figure you can't go wrong if you shoot every house like it's a palace.

    I think the key is to get a couple good clients and kill them with your service - they will talk about you and word of mouth will take you where you need to be. It helps to keep trying to improve your craft, too, and to price your work accordingly. I have raised my prices three times and no one has blinked an eye at any time.

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