Ok, so, here comes what I consider to be one ultra-important and very powerful tip for realizing success with your new photography business. It comes in the form of a “Don’t make a mistake that a lot of new photographer’s make”, and, unfortunately, if you’re rather new to the business of photography, it’s one that you might not actually want to hear.
The tip is very simple and can be stated, in its entirety, in just a few short words. It is this: “Don’t cheap-out on your photography website”! That’s it. The old adage is true (which is probably why it’s an old adage that’s still so often spoken) You’ve got to spend money to make money.
I know that putting out money in the early goings of your foray into earning money from your photography can be daunting. You’re not making very much at the time being — you hope to be making a lot before too long — but, for now, you’re bringing in what seems like pennies, if you’re bringing in anything at all. And, spending even relatively small amounts of money that eat significantly into the little profit you’re now making, or even puts you into the red, seems like a horribly unattractive prospect. But, trust me: if you want to grow your business, you’ve got to grow your business! And, growing your business means investing in it — investing your time, effort and money.
One of the best ways, in my opinion, that you can spend your money to grow your new photography business — and what happens to be a way that a lot of new photographers seem to decline, usually at their own peril — is spending a little bit on your website. Not doing so is a huge mistake.
Look, we live in the digital, information age. You NEED a website. There’s just no two ways about it. Unless you’re JUST taking photos entirely for your own enjoyment, and have no designs on sharing them with anyone, then you need a website. If you’re planning on trying to sell your photography at all then there isn’t even a question about it: YOU NEED A WEBSITE.
So, we’ve established that you’re going to want your own website for your photography business,yes? But, you’ll need to keep that all important tip in mind which I mentioned above: DON’T cheap-out on it! What a lot of newer photographers seem to do is to use some free website solution, or some such thing. This is not good. Allow me to fill you in on a sad fact: People absolutely, positively, without a doubt, DO judge books by their covers. They do. They do it ALL – THE – TIME. And, your website is the cover of your photography business book. People see a cheap, amateurish looking website and they think “cheap, amateur photographer”. That’s just the way it is. And, that’s not the reputation you want your photography business to have. If people see a slick, professional looking website, they think “slick, professional photographer”.
So, here’s the monster tip, expanded a little: Two things: One, get good, reliable, fast hosting for your website! I personally recommend JaguarPC. I’ve been with them, believe it or not, for about 15 years — hosting multiple websites with them. They are top notch — and, I do mean TOP NOTCH. 100% reliable — nay, 110% reliable. If you’re rich, go with a fully dedicated, managed hosting plan (that will provide the fasted possible hosting) If you’re not rich, but you can still swing it, go with a semi-dedicated, managed hosting plan. And, if you absolutely must — if money is just too tight — then go with a shared hosting plan.
With a shared plan, your web hosting account will be put on the same server as a lot of other websites hosted by your provider. This means that the server you’re on will likely be getting a lot of constant traffic, and its processor will be handling a lot of constant requests and doing a lot of constant calculations. So, your website will not be as fast as it could be. If you go with a reliable, quality hosting company, it’s still ok. They won’t oversell their resources. Your site will still be plenty fast — it just wont be super-sonic. With a semi-dedicated plan, the host limits the number of accounts sharing the same server — your site, on a semi-dedicated plan will begin approaching that super-sonic threshold. And, with a fully dedicated plan, your website will hit mach-15, as the entire server will be dedicated to handling your website alone But, a semi-dedicated plan is usually more than enough for 99% of people. You likely don’t need to go any further than that. If you’ve got Bull Gates money, then by all means, do. But, it’s probably not really necessary.
Whatever you get, unless you’re an experienced server-tech, make sure it’s a “managed” hosting plan. With such a plan, the hosting company’s techs will take care of all of the technical aspects of setting up and running the server that your website will be hosted on. If your plan isn’t managed, then all of that will fall on you. You’ll either need to do it yourself, or procure the services of a server tech.
You want to try and get the fastest hosting solution you can — not because you don’t want a slow website where visitors are waiting around for your site to load– well, you DEFINITELY DON’T want that, to be sure– but, if you go with a good hosting company, even with their slowest accounts that won’t be a problem. On their slowest accounts your website will still load so fast that no human visitor will be troubled by your site’s load times. But, these days, internet search engines, like Google, take your site’s load times into account when deciding how high to place your website in search rankings. Human visitors might not be able to perceive a difference in speed between your website and, say, Joe Blow’s Photography Blog. But, if Joe’s Blow’s website is loading pages 0.015 milliseconds faster that yours on average, search engines will count this a plus over your website for search engine ranking. And, depending on some other factors as well, Joe’s site will likely rank higher in the search engines.
You’re going to want to go with a WordPress site, almost certainly. No other platform offers the ease of operation and maintenance, coupled with the incredible scalability, usability, features, modification ability, etc., etc., as WordPress does. WordPress truly is a marvel. And, you can set up a fully operational WordPress site with, quite literally, just a couple of clicks of your mouse button, even if you have pretty much no idea what you’re doing, if you go with the hosting provider I suggested above. They’ll provide you with an automated install feature in your hosting account’s control panel.
But, here’s the thing: A lot of newbies, when they install and begin operating their WordPress site, go with a free theme. You’ll need a theme for your WordPress site. And, there are thousands, upon thousands, of free ones available. Some of them are really quite good — most are exceptionally bad. But, you don’t want any of them. You want a premium theme. You really do. Trust me. A really good premium theme is not overly expensive — you can usually find them from around $40 up to perhaps $70. They’re slick, they look good, they function well. They make your website look to visitors like you’re a pro who is dead-serious about your work. So, spend the money and invest in your photography.
Free themes break. Free themes stop being updated. Free themes are not fully supported. If something breaks on your free theme, plugins stop working because the plugin code is conflicting with some of the theme code, your site loses functionality one day… whatever… with a free theme you’re pretty much screwed. You’ll likely have to find a new theme to install. But, this can mess with your layout and formatting which can mean a lot of work resizing photos and what not so that they don’t break the layout of your new theme — because you’ve been uploading photos rendered in sizes and aspect ratios compatible with your old theme which is now fubar. Premium themes are fully supported. If problems arise, your premium theme designer will have a support page you can go to and they’ll fix the problem for you. Premium themes are also constantly updated and maintained.
Premium themes are also, usually, much more well designed, and have much greater flexibility and functionality. They’re usually more efficiently coded — which translates into more speed for your website. So, go with a premium theme. If you go with a free theme, you’re not really serious about your website. That’s the long and the short of it, in my opinion.
My favorite place, by far, to shop for the highest quality premium themes is ThemeForest.Net So, check them out. Do a search for “photography” related WordPress themes when you’re there. I know you’ll be stunned by the awesome themes available to you, how great they look, and the incredible functionality they can give you for a photography website.
But, no matter where you acquire these things from, take my advice: Don’t cheap out on your website! Get fast, reliable hosting from a reputable, quality hosting provider and invest in a premium WordPress theme. You’re going to have to invest in yourself and your business if you’re serious about it. And, I promise you, one of the biggest mistakes unsuccessful photographers make is to cheap out on their websites — they use free website/blogging services/platforms and/or install free WordPress themes. People who are serious about their photography don’t do that. Amateurs do that. Weekend hobbyists do that. If you want to be a successful photographer, you won’t do that. This is the digital information age and your website is exceedingly important. For many, it’ll be their very first impression of you. And first impressions are so important!