Your Questions Answered: "How did you market your work and get started in the beginning?"
A few weeks ago I reached out on stories to see what you wanted to know about running a biz. I’m so glad I did because I got enough questions to keep this blog going for years! It was also great to hear from you guys too because a lot of the time, the questions you ask aren’t necessarily things I think you want to know! So keep them coming, we have a running list and I will try to get to as many as I can!
One thing I hear a lot is that people just don’t know how to get started. They don’t know what steps to take first, how to market their work, if they should be giving discounts or working for free, and how to get their work in front of potential clients. So, these are the questions we’re going to tackle today.
Getting your first client
Let’s start from the beginning… how I began. We work in the wedding industry DID start with a friend of a friend. At the time I had just been doing small stuff for my Etsy shop, blog, or local events. Mostly I would apply my calligraphy to signs. This was back in the day that candy buffets were huge and labeling EVERYTHING was a must (you know… “Sweets!”, “Take one!”, “Favors!”, etc). One of my friends recommended I take on her friend’s wedding stationery and the rest is history.
From there, I was referred by her to a few other people. This was a great time to learn and be able to work with people that were flexible. I was figuring out how to price my work and decide how much I could take on. Once I tackled a few referrals, I started to shoot and promote the items I created. For example, I had never done place cards. So I took pictures of what I did for the friend of a friend and put it in my Etsy shop. And along came an actual paying strangers that loved it and wanted it for their own event. At this time I didn’t have a photographer and my photos weren’t cohesive. I was doing what I could with what I had. After a few months of this I was able to create a cohesive “line” in a color palette and shoot it all together so that my shop on Etsy looked nice.
My point is, it doesn’t all happen at once and it definitely doesn’t look perfect on your first shot. I think this is why so many people get stuck or fail. They are trying way too hard to make things perfect for a launch instead of putting themselves out there. My recommendation is start small. Put your work on your website or on Etsy. Take on an order or two and then tweak where needed (pricing, printers, process, timelines, etc.). This is the only way that you will truly figure out what works for you and your business. You just have to DO IT.
Marketing your work
So you have some cool work you are proud of. Now what? People may hate on instagram, a lot. But it has been the one tool I have used consistently to get my work out there and share it with the world. I’ve never paid for advertising in any form and I feel like this let my business grow organically and attract my ideal clients.
Yes, there is the algorithm. And people think that is what is making it impossible for anyone to grow on instagram. Believe what you want, but if you are consistent and engage with your audience, no matter how small, you can and will grow and more people will see your work. Sure there are weeks when engagement or views dip. But keep at it and it will level out. I’m saying this because if you aren’t using insta, you’re are missing a huge, FREE opportunity.
You can also reach out to others in the industry to partner with. Ask them if they’d like to exchange product and share photos to promote each other. For example, if you are a stationer, reach out to a ribbon supplier. Use their ribbon in your photos and tag them, asking for the same in exchange. It’s a great way to reach new people in your industry, build partnerships and help each other grow.
Other ways you can get in front of more people:
art/industry shows or pop up shops
submit photos to wedding specific blogs or instagram accounts asking if they’d like to share
Moral of the story, it will likely take months or years to get to a consistent level of work flowing in. This is why many people start as a hobby until they can make the leap to full time in their business. When I left my corporate job, I did not have a steady flow of incoming clients. So while I worked on that, I created other items to sell in my Etsy shop, I did a little freelance work that was related to my prior corporate job, and when I wasn’t working I was creating content for marketing on instagram.
I’m looking forward to answering more of your questions!