The benefits of working for free when you do it strategically

Feb 27, 2012

Topic: Business, Marketing
Time Investment: 5 Minutes
Suggested Product:  Model Call Contract


You're probably thinking: “Do what? Work for free?! NO way!”  Stick with me on this!!  I have found that this is one of the best things that has worked for myself in the course of my business.  This is especially true when times are slow. You want to keep your presence known on the web and active in your client's lives.

I personally have found this to be a great way to also get over feeling creatively dry.  This allows me to get out there with my camera, practice, and have no pressure of delivering a certain type product. I find that these type of sessions are best suited during slower times that come after very busy times (i.e. January/February after Christmas portrait season has come and gone).

Also, one of my biggest things is the pride I have in starting my business from the ground up on pennies. I was forced to find myself ways of inexpensive or FREE (I prefer free) marketing as I wasn't sure I'd be successful at this "picture-tography" thing (as my son calls it).  This developed out of my portfolio building, and I still utilize it as a foundation of my business model.


Here are some steps to show how “working for free” *can* result in acquiring business:

Brain storm – Come up with a fun idea or an aspect of photography you've been wanting to work on (i.e. off camera flash, etc.). Now is the perfect time to practice without pressure!

Solicit clients  - Don't advertise a free session on your page! I personally prefer to contact them directly (especially if I have a certain visual image in mind) or put out a “casting call”.  Remember, you don't want to set the precedent as being the free photographer!

Share on the web - Share as though you would a normal session! (Don't forget the model release!)

Thank your “freebie” client – This is a personal decision but figure out how you're going to thank and repay your client.  I personally give files of the session to them; I don't want it to be viewed as a gimmick to get them in the door then sock it to them with print prices. But that is MY personal opinion.


Benefits of doing this

Keeps the demand going - Followers have no idea which sessions posted are "creative freedom" ones and which ones are paid.  Utilize down time to keep your demand going.

Creative juices get flowing - Allows us to get out of a rut of hammering out the same sessions over and over and allows you to be creatively free without pressure of a consumer product.

More practice is always better! - Utilize this time to practice techniques you've never used before!

Exposure through client sharing of their photos! –Letting your clients market FOR you! How awesome is that??


How do I go about doing this?

So of course the response probably is..."But I don't want to be known as the photographer who gives things away for FREE".  This is where being strategic comes into play.

Casting or Model Call - Post a casting/model call but don't specify it is free until people individually contact you.

Make it seem individualized - Let your special client know you're doing this just for them. People don't want to give away a secret key once they have it.

Pair up with another photographer - See if they want to get in on the action too. Feed on each other's creativity and step outside of the box.

Same as any other session - You still need a model release! Having them sign a contract with the release and expectations is the safest way to protect yourself from headache!


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