"Capturing the Butterfly Effect"
Capturing the Butterfly Effect
By Dan Francis, Dan Francis Photography
“If you spend your time chasing butterflies, they’ll fly away.
But if you spend your time making a beautiful garden,
the butterflies will come. Don’t chase, attract.”
- Mario Quintana
In the world of business, the "Butterfly Effect" opens doors, especially when it comes to client relationships and project opportunities. In business, a small action or decision can have far-reaching and sometimes unexpected consequences.
For the past 20 years, I have been a photographer of events, weddings, headshots, and now solely architecture photography, but in the past six years, something noticeably changed. I saw my smallest connections lead to my biggest clients. I leaned into the Butterfly Effect, stopped chasing, focused on honing my craft, and let nature take its course. Here are just a few of the ways butterflies can find their way to you:
- Initial Client Engagement: It all starts here with a seed. A small project or a single transaction with a client can seem insignificant at first, but it sets the stage for potential future developments for a series of events that lead to significant business growth. I found this really worked well with headshots for my business. In my studio, I have photographed many architects and interior designers; this gives me a chance to have a conversation and hand-deliver a leave behind booklet of my best work.
- Positive Experience: If you provide excellent service and create a positive experience for the initial client, they are more likely to return or refer you to others. In this line of work, repeat business is often more profitable than acquiring new clients. It can be hard to work your way into an architecture firm, especially if they already have a lead photographer. Landing on the backup list isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Scheduling conflicts happen often, and you’ll have your time to shine, eventually building a strong relationship.
- Word-of-Mouth: Satisfied clients can become your advocates. They may even recommend your services to their network of contacts, which can result in new clients and projects. Be patient – amplification happens gradually, with each new client bringing in more business. It might just be an “in” with a construction lead who worked with an interior designer who worked with an Architect who is looking for a new photographer.
- Portfolio & Reputation: As you complete more projects, your portfolio grows, and your reputation in your industry or niche improves. This can attract larger and more prestigious clients who might not have initially considered you. This is your chance to demonstrate what you want to capture and bring your portfolio down to a select few images that really showcase your “A” work.
- Specialization & Expertise: Over time, you may develop expertise in a particular area, driven by the types of projects you've taken on. This specialization can make you more appealing to clients looking for specific skills and expertise, further expanding your business opportunities. Show what you want to get paid to capture.
- Social Media & Online Presence: Be social on social media. Sharing your work on various platforms and building an online presence can help you reach a wider audience. If a particular photo or project goes viral or gets noticed by influencers or publications, it can lead to increased visibility and opportunities. Show your face and let people get to know you. Remember, it can take 4-7 contact points before a new client finally reaches out. Contact points are simply exposure, anything from an ad or networking event to word-of-mouth or visuals of you or your work.
- Networking & Partnerships: Engaging with one client can introduce you to other industry professionals, potential partners, or investors, opening up new avenues for collaboration and growth. These connections can result in more significant projects. If you enjoy certain podcasts (local or national), reach out to see if there's a way for you to share your story or work. If the people who are hiring you are primarily in an older demographic, a local newspaper or art gallery can be a great resource. Leverage every opportunity to expand your demographic, share your story, or simply get your name out there.
- Scale & Diversify: With a steady stream of business and a growing reputation, you can start to scale your operations or diversify into related areas, opening up new markets and revenue streams. A good first step is to try and build up Google ads in places outside your area, perhaps a larger city 4-8 hours away, or even further away if you’re ready to see the country. Another fast-track to diversification is to speak with local clients who have national companies, letting them know your services are willing to travel.
- Legacy & Reputation: Building a strong brand and reputation as a photographer can leave a legacy. It can also lead to opportunities for mentorship, speaking engagements, or teaching. Don’t be afraid to pass on your knowledge and experience to the next generation of photographers. I taught Photography and Photoshop for six years at a local college. Once those students graduated, they became employees of regional businesses; I’ve had the opportunity to work with several of my students over the years. I have also been able to speak about the creative and business side of architecture photography around the country. Photography conventions, my favorite write-off, is where I get to meet new people who are interested in this medium from places like Phoenix, San Antonio, Wichita, Atlanta, and D.C. Bringing well-traveled knowledge into your social media can show that you are not just a local photographer who does this on the weekends or as a part-time job. You are excelling and dedicated to your field!
- Long-Term Success: The Butterfly Effect only works if your actions are consistent. Small mistakes, mismanagement, and poor client interactions can lead to negative word-of-mouth, a damaged reputation, and lost opportunities. Therefore, it's crucial for businesses to prioritize quality, consistency, and professionalism in all interactions to ensure the "butterflies" that get released have positive, rather than detrimental effects on growth and success, leveraging opportunities as they arise.
The cumulative impact of these interconnected events has guided my photography business to long-term success. Twenty years ago and today, initial client engagement still serves as the catalyst for a series of positive developments that let the butterflies fly. Give it some time and allow your work to build because these seemingly small actions can have a profound impact on the trajectory of your business.
Thanks for reading!
Dan Francis, M. Photog., Cr., CPP
Dan Francis Photography
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