When I first started my photography business, I knew I loved photographing people. It took me a few years to find my niche though. I honestly thought my thing would be newborns. I tried and tried to snuggle those sweet babies into perfect swaddles and sweated my way through numerous newborn sessions just to be somewhat disappointed in the end. Although I liked my end product, and I love snuggling sweet tiny babies, Newborns just didn’t bring me a ton of joy. I’ve never considered myself a person who loves teenagers. But after three years in business, I realized that teens were my thing. Specifically, High School Seniors are where I shine.
Once I figured out that High School Seniors are what I love photographing the most, I tried to focus my business model mainly on Senior photography. I tried everything. I hung flyers in the local high schools. I begged every twelfth grader at our church to let me do their senior portraits. I spent $1200 buying full page ads in the local schools’ yearbooks. I posted tons of photos with my watermark on my website as well as social media. I got a few extra seniors every year, but not many. Not nearly enough to take the sole focus of my business from families and newborns to High School Seniors only.
This year, I decided to do something different. I decided to start a Senior Rep Program again, and I decided that it WOULD be a success this time. (I tried this last year by giving away a few free shoots with a handful of free prints and asking the reps to spread the word, and it was a huge failure. ONE booking and that was it.) I also decided that my budget for my Senior Rep program would be VERY limited, and that I would start by focusing on just two area schools. A successful Senior Rep Program can be very hard to pull off. Here are a few things that made my rep program so successful:
CHOOSE YOUR REPS CAREFULLY
I posted info for my senior rep program on Facebook. I made it look very exclusive, and I required potential reps to fill out an application, and send me two recent photos of themselves—one head shot and one full body image. I was looking for reps with clear skin, a lovely face, and a fun fashion sense. On the application, I asked their name, age, extracurricular activities, and their email address. I wanted to find a female (mainly because boys don’t get crazy excited about Senior Portraits) with an active social life, who is well liked among her peers and is outgoing and willing to spread the word about her experience with me. I received over twenty applications from each of the two schools I asked for reps from. Of those twenty, I narrowed my choices down to 4. Then I conducted phone interviews with the 4 girls from each school, and after the phone interview, I decided on two girls from each school to be my Senior Reps. I sent coupons for 10% off a senior session to all the other applicants with a letter letting them know that I appreciated them applying to be a senior rep, however, the rep positions available had already been filled. Of the 39 rejected applicants, 12 booked with me. Not too bad!
MAKE IT WORTH THEIR WHILE
My mentor once told me, work for Free or work for what you’re worth, but never work for cheap. Working for cheap makes you feel cheated. I applied this awesome advice to my Senior Rep Program. I decided that the Senior Reps would receive a FREE Session, along with 25 rep cards to hand out to their friends. In addition to that, I gave them the chance earn product credit through referrals. The only catch was that they had to refer at least ONE senior from their school to me within 90 days, or they would be charged for their session. (I had their parents sign a contract stating that if they did not refer at least one person in 90 days, they would be responsible for paying the full session fee plus any applicable taxes.) I found in the past that most reps aren’t willing to book and do your dirty work for you for a discount or free products, but when I offered a Free session, they were knocking down my door.
GIVE REFERRAL INCENTIVES
Seniors love to pass out photos of themselves to their friends. I capitalized on this by giving each of my reps a set of Millers Rep Cards to pass out to their friends. I let each rep choose a few images from their gallery to be displayed on the front of the card, and one for the back. The front included their images, their name, their school, and their graduation year. The back included one more image, along with my Logo, studio info, and a coupon for $25 off a senior session. I wrapped them up, gave them to the reps, and asked them to hand them out to every senior they know. This also allowed me to keep track of their referrals. For every referral they give me, the Rep gets a $20 print credit.
HELP THEM ON SOCIAL MEDIA
In addition to a free session, free rep cards, and the opportunity to earn product credit, I also designed 5 Facebook profile pictures and one cover photo with my logo for them. They aren’t required to use them on their Facebook account, but they do. It gives them a chance to show off, and it shows all their Facebook friends how awesome their Senior Portraits are, and most importantly, who took them. Win-Win.
BOOK YOUR REPS EARLY
I asked for 2015 Senior Rep applicants in April of 2014. I allowed applications to pour in for the entire moth of April. On May 1st, I chose my reps. I booked their Senior Sessions During the months of June and July. By the time school started in August, they had their photos on Facebook, and their rep cards in hand, ready to pass out to their friends. Because I got everything to them by the time school started, in the first few weeks of the school year, my fall was halfway booked with Senior Portraits. By the third week of September, I was booking into December. Now I am booked through January.
So there you have it. By carefully choosing my reps, choosing them early, making it worth their while, giving them incentives for referrals, and helping them out on social media, I was able to create the most successful Senior Rep Program I’ve ever used, for the least amount of money. My initial out of pocket expense for each rep was $20 for the rep cards. Yes, I spent time during and after the session shooting and editing. Yes, I’m giving their referrals a small discount, and I’m giving the reps a print credit. However, the small discounts add up to HUGE profits when I can fill my entire schedule months in advance with the types of people I love to work with.
Atina King is the Owner of Atina King Photography. She resides in Fayetteville, Arkansas with her husband and two children, and specializes in Senior and Family Photography. You can view her work on her Website or on Facebook.
Looking for more information on photographing seniors? Check out our other blog posts and our posing guides:
How to Pose Senior Guys:
How to Pose Senior Girls:
How to Pose High School Seniors: