I’m making a pretty bold promise here, How to run a successful model call and book your first 5 birth photography clients in 30 days. I believe it can happen and you can do it!!
Why a Model Call?
A model call is really good for getting those first few births that you need to fill up your portfolio, getting experience doing different kinds of births, and it’s a quick way to get out there and see if birth photography is really something you want to pursue in your business.
Birth photography isn’t going away. It’s been around for a while and it’s just growing in popularity. If it’s something you want to add to your business, a model call—for lack of a better word, because obviously they aren’t models—is a really good way to get those first few births under your belt.
Make sure you’re comfortable shooting in birth situations. What does that look like?
1) You’re really comfortable shooting in manual
2) You are comfortable shooting in any lighting situations
3) You have backup equipment
4) You have backup photographers
It’s like a wedding; you don’t get a do-over. You don’t get a second chance to shoot somebody’s birth.
Set Your Pricing
Look at all of your ANNUAL expenses (overhead, your salary, etc). Take that large number, and divide it by the # of births you can take/want to take per year. This is the price that you need to charge per birth.
$50,000 annual expenses / 25 births = $2000 per birth
But, you’re not comfortable with that price yet because you’ve never shot a birth.
So, what I want you to do is take that price, and take a percentage off of that price. That is your portfolio-building price per birth.
If it’s $2000, and you’re discounting it 80% off, so $400 for your first 2 births.
Then, you are discounting your next 2 births 70% off.
Your next 2 births are 60% off, etc.
Now, people know they’re getting a deal and you are working towards the price you NEED to charge for births while getting experience.
Set Your Policies
Sadly, I’ve heard horror stories about photographers who shoot births for free and then the mom doesn’t call them to come to the birth. The mom changes her mind at the last minute because honestly she doesn’t have much stake in the game. She didn’t pay anything, so if she changes her mind at the last minute, what does she have to lose? Nothing, right? But you’ve been on call, and you’ve been waiting for this birth and somebody else could’ve taken her spot.
Before anything else, the first thing is making sure you have your contract and policies and pricing all in place.
I highly recommend that you don’t shoot for free.
That way that person is invested and you know you’re going to get something out of your time on call.
Create a start date and an end date for applications. A start and end date gives people a reason to jump on it right then. They understand that this offer is going away. (I highly recommend you take applications because this is going to give you the opportunity to go through and choose the births you do at that discounted rate.)
When you just put out there that you’re offering 80% off birth photography indefinitely, people have no reason to jump on it, but if you say for the next 3 days I’m offering 80% off, they’re much more likely to stop what they’re doing and go ahead and apply!
Also, you’ll definitely want to make sure that the mom is due soon (within the next 30 to 90 days, probably closer to 30).
You want to book these births quickly. You’re offering at such a steep discount, you want to get them in sooner rather than later.
Write a Blog Post
This one is a big one. It’s all the marketing things you can do to get this out there. Market your little booty off.
I made a big, bold promise in the title of this message.
I said, “run a successful model call and get five births in 30 days.” In order to do that, you need to really put yourself out there and hustle hard. You aren’t going to take every application that comes in, so if you want five births, you really need more like 10 or 20 applicants.
So the first thing I want you to do is create a blog post that lays out everything. Instead of focusing on the discount, I want you to really play up the value. Why does somebody want to hire a birth photographer? So instead of playing on, “you’re saving X dollars,” play on…
- “These are moments you’re never going to get back.”
- “See your toddler meeting your baby.”
- “See your parents meeting the new baby.”
Play on all those emotional things that are so true about birth photography. Remind people how valuable birth photography is. Then, when you tell them the price—especially now that it’s really discounted—they’re going to be like, “Well, yeah, sign me up.”
In the blog post, use any birth images or Fresh 48 images you have.
People book birth photography based on EMOTION. So, maybe mom seeing baby and the look on her face, even if it’s not right at birth.
I want to see emotion because that’s what really sells birth photography: emotion. It’s so emotional, and people want to remember that emotion. So make sure you don’t only photograph that emotion, but whenever you’re marketing birth photography, show that emotion in your promotional images.
Share the Post
Now you’ve created your blog post, but just posting it on Facebook isn’t the only thing to do.
Yes, I want you to post it on Facebook, but I don’t want you to just drop it on Facebook and expect your phone to be ringing off the hook or for your email to be blowing up.
Send it out to your email list (if you have one).
If you have a small list of client emails that you’ve gathered, go ahead and send it out to those clients and just say, “Hey, if you know anybody who’s expecting soon, I’m getting into birth photography, here’s the info…” and send them to the blog post.
When you’re sending out an email, make sure the email has value. Don’t send out an email that’s trying to sell something, or an email with only a discount code. I want to give value so that when somebody sees my name in their inbox they think, “Well, I need to open that because every time she sends me an email I’m happy I opened it.” So, I include some kind of value.
When you’re giving and giving and giving, people feel like they need to reciprocate. Every time I send someone an email, even if they’re not interested in purchasing from me, I want them to get some kind of value.
In your email, include an old blog post that’s applicable to pregnant moms, or a fun pregnancy tip, or some kind of download, or birth affirmations, or a link to something that you thought was funny or interesting.
Put something else in there besides your marketing post promoting your model call.
Use Your Connections
After all of this, I want you to think back to any birth workers you know. Maybe you know a labor and delivery nurse, maybe you’ve worked with a midwife before, maybe your own OBGYN, maybe you know a massage therapist who does prenatal massage, birth class instructors, anybody you know personally in the community who knows pregnant people. Make a little list of people who you know personally and you can reach out to and just say, “Hey, I’m getting into birth photography and I’m running this promotion. Would you be interested in letting your audience know about this? I’m happy to give the photos to you to use on your website or promotional materials.”
This is a model call, the clients are signing a model release, they’re getting a discount because you’re allowed to use the images. Make sure to include that in your contract. That’s super, super important.
So when you’re connecting with these doulas, midwives, birth class instructors, and other birth workers, let them know that they’re welcome to use the images from the birth as well. They are not photographers and they struggle to know what to post on social media. If they have a birth image from one of their clients, that is gold to them.
When you’re connecting with these people, make sure you’re thinking about what is in it for them. Don’t go into it thinking, “What’s in it for me? I need them to send me clients.” I want you to think about how you work together and how you can benefit them as well.
If you’re thinking, “I don’t know any birth workers. I don’t know people who know pregnant people.” Check out your area for networking events. These don’t have to be just birth networking events, but if you have specific birth worker—for lack of a better term—meetups, that is gold.
That’s actually how I started out. My first birth was a cousin and I did it for free or really, really cheap. The second was a friend and I did it for like 150 bucks. The third was an unknown woman who heard about me because I connected with birth workers at this birth event that we had in my city. I just went there and met people and introduced myself and she heard about me through that group. So that’s a really good way to get yourself out there when you’ve just started.
Expand Your Reach
Another idea when marketing a model call on Facebook is to create an event. I have noticed when I create events they get a lot more attraction. People can click if they’re interested or going, and I would encourage people to click “interested” or “going”. Just make it your model call event, link to your blog post, have some basic information in there.
When someone clicks “interested” or “going” it shows up in a lot more people’s news feeds, I’ve noticed. Also, make sure you’re including those start and end dates so that people have a sense of urgency.
Understand that you’re going to have to share this information multiple times. So let’s say that you send out an email to your list to say the model call is coming, then you email them when it actually is starting, and then you email them again when applications are almost closed. You cannot make one post or one email and expect people to take action. They might, but—in a kind way—you almost have to beat people over the head with it.
Moms are busy, moms are just like you and me, they have a ton of stuff going on and they get an email and they think, “Oh yeah, birth photography, I’ve been thinking about that. I should jump on that.” Then they forget and if you never email them again, they’re going to forget and the expiration’s going to pass and they’re not going to do it. So you’re actually doing them a service by sending them at least 2 emails about it or posting about it more than one time on social media. You’re reminding them that you’re there and that this is for them.
Create Enthusiastic Advocates
The last thing that I wanted to say about model calls is, treat this client like a full-price client. Treat this client like the cream of the crop. They have your full attention. Every step of the way I want you to hold their hand and really explain everything that’s going on. Have a birth consultation or two just like you would with a normal client.
Of course, you’ve got your contracts, everything all laid out. Give them their photos really, really quickly and give them a sneak peek if they want one. I want you to just blow these moms away because they’re going to be your advocates. After the model call is over they’re going to be the ones promoting you and telling people about their experience with you. Spoil these clients and do everything you possibly can to make sure their experience is fantastic.
Finally, get testimonials from them.
After their birth is over and they’ve received their images, probably about two weeks later, send a short form for them to fill out and ask them about their experience. Ask them how they felt the first time they saw their images, ask them if what they paid was a good investment, ask them if they would recommend their friends.
I have gotten really great responses from testimonials and I strategically use them on my website. On my investment page I have the quote, “Tavia was absolutely worth every penny.” Because I specifically ask if my birth photography was worth the investment on my questionnaire and I got the answer “ Tavia was absolutely worth every penny.” Boom! I’m putting that on my investment page where people are clicking through thinking, “Oh, that’s a lot of money” and then they see that testimonial.
Things like that will help you in the future, so make sure you’re gathering that information from these model clients. Not only will you have images for your portfolio, you’ll also have testimonials and advocates.
Disclaimer: The things I’m suggesting and the discounts I’m suggesting are for brand-new photographers. If you’re a birth photographer and you’re struggling to get clients and you’re thinking a model call is the way to go, I would strongly suggest against that. There are other things you can do to get clients besides discounting. Discounting devalues the service you’re providing and it’s unfair to those who’ve paid a higher price, so I don’t suggest discounting just to get clients.
This is really for people who are just starting out in birth photography and want to get those first 4 or 5 birth photography clients. Obviously, do what you will, but I would recommend not jumping in and discounting just because you’re trying to get births.
If you guys have questions about things you could do, I would be happy to help and have blog posts written about that.