So right now during the making of this post it's December which is also typically the slowest month of the year for the real estate market and therefore can be slow for a lot of real estate photographers as well. Luckily I’ve grown to the point where I am busy enough during the slower months to sustain me but it wasn’t always that way. If you are newer to this business and haven’t quite built up a thriving business yet, you especially may be slow and hurting financially. If anyone asks my advice on the subject, I always recommend trying to put some money aside during the busier months of the spring and summer to help float you through the slower months of November through January if you don’t have enough work coming in during those months.
I know it's easy to get discouraged or scared or worried if your phone is not ringing with jobs coming in but down time is not necessarily a bad thing and can actually be advantageous to your business and its growth in the long run. These following suggestions that we are going to go over in this video may be good to keep in mind for those times that you may be experiencing a slump in business or if you are just not getting enough business in general and may be good ways to make the most of your time when things are slow.
REACH OUT TO PROSPECTIVE CLIENTS
This is probably an obvious one but when things are slow it's a great time to try to make connections with prospective new clients and grow your client roster. If you are busy shooting and running a business from spring to fall, you most likely don’t have much time to dedicate to this task but when things are on the slow side it's the perfect time to do it.
Sit down and do some research on agencies within a 30 minute radius from where you live. Which ones do you not work with yet? Maybe make a list of those agencies and plan a day or two to drive around and stop in to introduce yourself and leave a brochure and your card. If you can talk to the broker if they are in the office, that's the best possible scenario.
We just had a big real estate conference here in NJ. Keep your eyes peeled for things like that happening in your area and attend those events. You're talking hundreds or even thousands of agents all in one place. Do your best to strike up a conversation with as many of them as you can and tell them what you do and give them your card. Meeting these agents face to face I think can be much more effective than cold emailing or calling them. There is definitely an art to all this as well with trying not to come off as desperate or off putting. Before attempting these types of things, maybe write a couple of scripts of things to say or conversation starters.
If things are slow it can be a great idea to look into other local businesses other than real estate agencies may be interested in your services. Most businesses are always looking to up their social media game and a big part of that is photo and video content in which we are well equipped to create. Contact local restaurants and see if they are looking for some food photography of their dishes for their website or social media. Contact local medical or professional offices and offer headshots. Contact construction companies that have active construction sites that you pass by and see if they maybe want progress drone photos of the project that they are working on. Take note of any new businesses opening soon or ones that have opened recently and see if they are interested in creating any video content introducing their business to the community via their social media outlets. You could present some of these local businesses with package deals like producing 5 or 10 1 minute videos in order to provide content for them to release over the next 2 or 3 months. This is just the tip of the iceberg. There are many possible business opportunities that may be available to you in your local community if you just put yourself out there and look for them.
One other thing I will mention is of course related businesses to real estate such as stagers, designers and builders. Throughout the year I typically get requests for photos for those types of businesses and those are all great clients to have in addition to real estate agents and the work is more or less the same except they are using the photos for their portfolios instead of a real estate listing. You could try reaching out to these types of companies operating in your area and see if they could use some photos or videos of their work.
LEVERAGE YOUR CLIENTS
If you are slow then most likely your roster of real estate clients are also probably slow as well but that doesn’t mean they are just sitting around doing nothing. You can probably bet that they are most likely looking to strengthen their branding and up their game in their own downtime as well. Something I've done in the past when my schedule wasn’t as full as I would’ve liked was that I simply texted my clients and said that I’m booking headshot sessions for the following couple weeks and if they are interested please let me know. I usually got multiple replies from numerous people that wanted headshots done. The point is, you never know who might want something from you unless you ask and it helped fill up my schedule.
You could also approach your clients with some social media content creation services kind of like I was describing in the last section. Most agents are looking to strengthen their social media presence and providing them with some short professional quality videos or professional photos can certainly help with that. Again you could put some packages together to present to them such as creating a certain amount of Instagram reels for them or something of that nature. This type of thing also fortifies your relationship with your clients and illustrates the value you bring to them.
LEARN NEW SKILLS
If you find yourself with extra time on your hands then investing that time into educating yourself or sharpening your skills is always a good use for it. Experiment with different shooting or editing techniques. Try working with a flash if you’ve never tried that before. Get better at shooting video if its not a strong area for you. Not a drone pilot yet? Study for the part 107 exam and prepare to become one. These are all investments that will pay off down the road with increased revenue and making your business stronger and better.
You don’t have to just educate yourself about photography or video either. Read some books or listen to some content on building and running a successful business. There’s plenty of helpful resources out there in this arena to help encourage that entrepreneurial spirit. In all honesty, good business skills probably outweigh your skill as a photographer in the grand scheme of things.
Let’s face it, we all need to make ends meet and if your real estate photography business is not yet providing you with enough income to be full time you will need some sort of side hustle until that day comes when you have enough business to sustain you. This especially applies to people that are newer to the business or just starting out. It can take a few years to get a real estate photography business going. It could be faster but maybe not. You of course want to dedicate as much time as possible to building your business and getting it up and running as fast as possible but in the meantime you are going to need some income to float you through this stage.
If you are working Monday to Friday 9 to 5 its going to be very difficult to establish your business. You will need maximum flexibility during this stage in order to serve your clients when they need something done and provide the necessary customer service to gain a good reputation and word of mouth. Luckily we are living in this prevalent “gig economy” time where there is a lot of flexible work options out there to make extra money while you pursue your goals. Of course I’m referring to driving for Uber or Lyft, doing Doordash or instacart. These are just a few examples but you probably get the picture. The beauty of this is that these sort of jobs can be done whenever you want and provide maximum flexibility. You have shoots scheduled one day? you don’t do it. You have 3 or 4 days with no shoots scheduled? Might be smart to dedicate some hours to a side gig to make some money. I know this isn’t glamorous or something any of us may particularly want to do but its a means to end. Once upon a time, I delivered food in the early days when my business was getting off the ground. You have to pay the bills.
This is just something I thought was pertinent to this topic and was worth mentioning. The main point being, try to maintain as much flexibility as you possibly can while you establish your business in order to better serve your customers while also earning the necessary income you need to survive.
The last thing I’ll mention is, and it's an important one, and that is to take some time for yourself! I struggle with this myself. I feel like I need to be productive every minute of every day and if I’m not then I am failing. I’m working on getting better with this. As the saying goes “time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time”. It’s healthy to take breaks and have some downtime otherwise you burn out. I’ve definitely felt burned out quite frequently this past year. Spend some time with your family and friends, go on vacation or just do something you enjoy if you have some down time. It is important to work hard but its also important to have balance in your life.