We've discussed this recently but it's so important, I'm repeating it. Howard in Pennsylvania asks:
I am an intermediate-level photographer and I want to enter the RE photography business ib my area (Lehigh Valley Pennsylvania). I have seen some great advice on building a business. I would like to hear stories about how the folks who have made it got their first paying RE photo job. How do you get your foot in the door - especially in a busy market like mine.
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:
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- Once you've gone through all the major offices in the area, sort the spreadsheet by number of listings and by listing price.
- 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:
- 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.
- Build a portfolio website of your very best work. Your marketing piece should refer to your portfolio site.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
What is your story in how you got your foot in the door?