I kind of feel like a celebrity is guest blogging for me today!!! (well 'cuz she kinda is!) My friend Katelyn James has graciously agreed to take the reigns for me today, to end a week long series of guest bloggers as I sunburn in the Caribbean!
Katelyn stole what I was going to write, almost word for word in her introduction! But what she didn't tell you is that I first saw her on the WPPI trade show floor earlier that week and I was too shy to say hi. When it was time for Jasmine Star's platform talk and I slyly noticed that Katelyn was sitting behind me, I remembered the advice my friend Shyla had given me. "Don't be shy, Debbie."
So I mustered up all the courage I could find and tried to play it cool. "So...ah...you're Katelyn James, right?" HA! And that is the story of how two redheads became friends:).
Katelyn is just one of those people who immediately makes you feel at ease. There are just people that exude joy, confidence, character and love. Katelyn is one of those people, and like a magnet she draws others in. Being around people like Katelyn truly makes me want to not only be a better photographer, but heck, a better person! I'm grateful that I turned around and said hello because this girl has been such an inspiration to me and I'm so thankful to be able to call her a friend!:)
Let me first start this post by explaining just how SMALL this world is! Debbie and I are friends because of one random interaction in LAS VEGAS 3 years ago!!! Crazy right?! I met her right before Jasmine star's presentation at WPPI! It was my first year and I just knew that no one knew who I was..... not a soul. For the most part this was pretty accurate. I walked the halls and knew no one.....I was so overwhelmed just like every other newbie photographer out there! So when this curly haired, super spunky redhead turned around and said "um, are you Katelyn James?".... I was speechless. "uhh, Yesssss" I replied. Debbie introduced herself and explained that she checked my blog.... and we have been friends ever since! Just like that! People can come into your life in such a subtle way and yet have a huge impact. I LOVED getting to travel up to Boston this past fall and shoot an anniversary shoot for David and Debbie! We've formed a friendship over the years and I'm SO honored that Debbie asked me to GUEST BLOG!! And to make it even better... I get to talk about BRANDING! Woohoo!! I love this stuff!
Basically, I started my business as a college student. I didn't have money to allocate to marketing or advertising so I had to figure out a NEW way to put myself out there. So I started blogging..... a lot. I also started to form my brand around who I WAS because that was all I HAD! And now, after 3 and a half years, I'm looking back and realizing that that was a REALLY great approach. Here's the issue in today's photography industry. Professional grade DSLR cameras are becoming affordable... professionalism is easy through the web and anyone came get a facebook fanpage and start a business.... instantly. I mean, lets be honest, I started that way. My facebook fanpage is still the number one way I connect and announce blog posts to fans. So how do we market ourselves when the industry is becoming saturated with people trying to do the same thing?! Welp, anyone can shoot with a MarkII and a 50mm lens and create images just like me so I can't promote myself with my IMAGES...I have to promote the only thing that sets me apart... and that's ME! My brand is built upon three things... my STYLE, my PERSONALITY, and my STORY. No one can copy that and it allows me to be GENUINE in the way I market myself! Another cool aspect to this approach is that when your brand is wrapped around who you are, you automatically become easier to relate to. People love CONNECTING with other people and that is what keeps them coming back for more!
For example... I love Jasmine Star. Why? Well, I don't really know how it happened but I started following her blog and eventually, I felt like a KNEW her! ... and I loved her! She has a brand built around her style and her LIFE. She shares stories of struggle and people CONNECT with that. She also shares her stories of victory and overcoming obstacles in the photography industry and people connect with that too! Jasmine is untouchable and it's not because she has 50,000 followers on twitter...it's because NO ONE else can be Jasmine Star... not even her identical twin sister.
I wanted that. I wanted my business to be built around KATELYN JAMES. I want people to see TEAL shoes and immediately think of me! I want people to see pictures of my puppy and watch him grow up! I want people to know that I'm a redhead who's from the south and LOVES diet mountain dew! I want my website to EXUDE who I am and what I love so that people that love the same things will become attracted to my brand! ALL of these wishes became reality when I started forming my brand around ME! It's a crazy concept... but it works!
So, in a nutshell, that is my approach to branding... there's no 5 step program or "How to create a brand" kit that you can download.... branding is such an individual, personal part of one's business. However, I do have a few tips for ya when it comes to marketing YOU! :
1. Stop comparing yourself to others. You will NEVER be able to build a brand around YOU if you're constantly looking to others to be inspired. (I should know.... I'm guilty of this!!)
2. Start thinking about your style and what makes you unique. What do you do when you're NOT working or shooting? What do you love to wear? How would you decorate your dream home? What are your favorite stores? All of these things can help you think outside of the box when it comes to the visual part of your branding! (Color, theme, colors)
3. Decide to put yourself out there. Share your story, share your struggles, share about why you ADORE your clients and eventually, people will start to notice that there is MORE to your business than just pretty pictures and they will connect with that!
4. Be consistent! If you have a blog... blog regularly. There are photographers that I LOVE but they only blog once in a blue moon and quite honestly, I forget to check up on them because I know that there isn't going to be any new material on their site. Consistency = Commitment! When people KNOW that you will have something new up everyday, they will remember to come back to your site!
5. Take risks. When I started blogging, I had NO IDEA how people would respond to "Wedding Wednesday" posts or posts about my family vacations..... but people loved them. Don't be afraid to take risks and try something completely new and different from others in the industry!
Whew! That's a lot of info! I feel like a just crammed 2 hours of workshop material into one blog post!! I hope you enjoyed this and were able to take away some insight and ideas about branding!! This approach to branding isn't JUST for photographers... I think any small business should focus on connecting with clients personally!! It works! I promise!
Thanks so much for stopping by Debbie's blog today! I'm honored to be able to write a guest post for this amazing girl!!! Have a fabulous day!!