What if the image above was a bridal portrait instead of a side project?
I recently received an email from an aspiring creative entrepreneur, a photographer to be exact, asking me how she can do what she loves and get paid for it. Her fear is that the “bread & butter” paying clients, might not “get” her offbeat aesthetic when it comes to her passion projects. Sound familiar? Read on.
Here’s her letter to me:
I've been following your blog for a few years now, so I know you are one busy lady, but I was wondering if I could ask you a quick question that I've been struggling with lately. I've been honing my skills in photography, graphic design, and illustration over the past few years and I'm hoping to start a successful sidebusiness within the year. However, my true passion is coming up with offbeat and weird photos and illustrations... but I don't think I can make money from this.
I struggle with presenting these strange pieces of work in my portfolio, because on the surface I know it doesn't appeal to conservative or "conventional" potential clients. For example, I don't want a picture of a guy holding sparklers in his underwear, wearing a monkey mask, scaring away a potential wedding or family portrait client. However, it seems like more people get a response out of my off-kilter work, as opposed to my standard portraits. Do you have any suggestions on how to attract the bread-and- butter clients for weddings and family portraits, while still being able to show off my "abstract" art?
I appreciate anything you can think of on this subject.
Thank you so much!
Photos by Brady Kennedy
My response boiled down to two pieces of advice:
1. BE BRAVE ABOUT WHO YOU ARE (an anecdote):
When I decided to fashion my hair in dreadlocks my most "conservative" client thought it was rad - I was surprised to not be fired. I also had this irrational fear that we may never get hired again and Tara’s children would starve through the cold winter. But guess what? Braid continues to get hired by people who love us for who we are – funky locs and all. It turns out my hair has become something that sets me apart. It makes our even more seemingly conventional clients proud to say "I work with those weirdos." I just had to be brave and put it out there. It turns out I wasn't giving my clients enough credit.
But this isn’t limited to who you are... this also applies to the work you do.
2. FIND THE OVERLAP BETWEEN YOUR PASSION PROJECTS AND YOUR PAYING CLIENTS:
Stop compartmentalizing your side projects and start getting paid for them. Start by thinking of ways you could incorporate more of what you love into what you’re already getting paid for. For example, Brady Kennedy could ask a bride to humor her by putting a disco ball on her head or she could ask to take her bridal portraits submerged in a lake. If the bride is game, which photo do you think she's going to share with her Facebook friends? Probably the fun disco ball head image or the super editorial, high-fashion lake shot.
So this is the question to ask yourself: can you be brave enough to give your “meh” clients more credit and turn them into a dream customer? Perhaps you're putting yourself in a box more than they are.