I often hear from other photographers that there is no need to have a personal website. They insist a Facebook profile or a page on 500px.com is the perfect portfolio for sharing with their clients. Some believe that an artist focused on marketing is in bad form.
“Let money hunt for geniuses, not geniuses hunt for money!” say my colleagues, feeding social networks with their latest masterpiece. Then they comfort themselves in a cosy recliner and celebrate each single “like” with a sip of wine.
Life would be totally different if they realized these things:
1. A Facebook profile cannot replace an entire website. It is the perfect platform for informal communication, but there are many clients who never use it and never will. Linkedin and Instagram is the same thing. A potential client opens a link to view a portfolio, but have no clue where to click and how to navigate. Additionally, to be able to contemplate the portfolio they have to sign up, leave their phone number, receive a message with a code… Unlike for us photographers Facebook, for many people, is a very intimate space and exists only for chatting with their closest friends. Many people might not think of using facebook to find something as specific as a professional photographer.
2. Flickr, 500px and other such services allow photographers to create a decent portfolio and furthermore they display uploaded photos to random people who use the same service. Chanсes of finding clients there are very low but it is still nice to receive likes and feedback. On top of that, these services make suggestions to viewers of beautiful pictures that other photographers have taken. The system deliberately shows your clients the most liked most stunning and breathtaking photos on the site. Because of this, offering a link to your portfolio on one of these services is the same thing as going to an interview and dumping hundreds other candidates’ resumes on HR’s desk. Is it really what you want to do?
3. Not only do your photos sell you, but also your personal achievements such as, exhibitions, degrees, contests you have won, touching reviews and your clients’ thank you letters are important. However, there is no suitable place for all this on your Facebook page. A Facebook feed is like an insatiable monster that gobbles all your great achievements, sweeping them to the depth of obsolescence and un-scrollablity. For example, the fact that you already have worked for Hyundai and Bentley can be a determining factor for a guy from Mercedes and is looking for a photographer to shoot a new CLA-class commercial. He needs someone who can work according to a brandbook and requirements specification. Your contracts with other automakers prove that at least you know what you will be dealing with.
4. Clients are lazy and I don’t blame them. Imagine how hard is it to spend many hours in front of a screen trying to find the perfect photographer. In the current era of Google-Adwords-economics and blinding pinky-black websites, it is so hard to find what you are looking for. Clients will be so thankful for someone who has not used red text on a blue background and did not create a quest-like page with an obscure picture which is actually a part of the menu but you have to figure it out for yourself. Instead, they are very pleased to see clear options:
-Portfolio; -Pricing; -Reviews; -The Brief Story of the Unique and Amazing Mr. Awesome Life and Achievements. -Contacts.
To be able to have such a clear and beautiful menu, you have to create your own personal website. There is no other way.
5. Help Google read your titles and headlines correctly. Write meta data and <h1>headlines. Sounds scary? Don’t worry. Nowadays, you do not have to create a script, just complete a relevant field with the text you want. Many handy web services allow you to create a decent webpage without using the left side of your brain. My favorite one is Wix.com, which is a perfect tool even for lazy people like me. It does have some flaws but advantages and usability outweigh them. I have already built three websites using this platform and many friends of mine followed the same path. Body painter Kate Balycheva was one of them, even though she still thinks that <html> and <img> are nasty swear words only to be used by IT guys.
Why do you need all this? To help Google put you in search results higher up than other photographers’ websites. It really works. I proved it myself boosting my website http://logra.ru to the first, second and third page of search engines. I stopped all active promotion in fall 2014, when I moved from Moscow to Los Angeles, but the website is still in the top positions.
Good position in search results is one of the major client supplier. World of mouse marketing also works great, but thanks to search engines I had a unique and very pleasant chance to work for Raiffeisen, KPMG and other well known and recognized companies. What is the first thing people do when they need to find a new specialist that they have never worked before? They google!
6. Even without headlines and html tags, your website can be on the first page of any search results, thanks for Goodle AdWord’s advertising system. With proper settings and just $30-$50 monthly budget, it brought me several clients a month. Would this system be so rewarding without having a website? Read point 1 and 2 again.
7. This paragraph is the most important. Your personal website is like your business card (which, by the way, is also important to have.) Before offering you a huge project, big corporations first will goggle all they can find about you and then make a decision.
Some clients came to me because they followed my blog, read article in Cosmopolitan magazine or were referenced by a friend. All these things happen from time to time, but almost every minute someone in your city is googling a photographer. Will you go to a lawyer or a dentist if they do not have a personal web page? Probably, only if your friend will highly recommended them. But photographic services are not as commonly needed as dental work. The average person needs a photographer only a few times in his or her life. Often he or she have nobody around to give advice except for the Internet.
Many of my colleagues are sitting in front of their laptop counting likes. Luckily, they have time to do it. Among them are some really talented artists. They could be working constantly, shooting paid projects every day, if only they had a website. But, probably I would have less work if this happened. So, dear photographers please do not create your own websites.
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