11 Tips for Profitable Mini-Sessions for Photographers
Can’t figure out how to make profitable mini-sessions work in your photography business?
We’re going to help you do just that!
If you haven’t actually run a mini-session, let’s start with a mini-session overview.
And if you have tried offering mini-sessions and aren’t fully booked or haven’t been able to pull off profitable mini-sessions in your photography business, skip down to the 11 tips below.
What is a Mini-Session?
Mini-sessions are little samples of your work. These type of sessions are a low-risk way for clients to try you out.
You get exposure to new clients who you can turn into long-term portrait buyers who love your full sessions.
With mini-sessions, you want to photograph everyone possible. Even if you photograph a few clients who may not be your ideal target audience, that is ok!
The key is to be able to separate the “right” client who will result in profitable mini-sessions from the “wrong” clients. Spend the least amount of time you need to create great photos for the “wrong” clients while focusing on investing time building relationships with the right clients.
If clients come in and say they only want your mini-session special promotion, no worries.
Make it quick and easy for them.
Your goal for profitable mini-sessions is an in-person sales appointment (even if it’s quick) with anyone you photograph! From here, you have an opportunity to encourage them to invest in your larger offerings, like a wall portrait.
Profitable mini-sessions are not a full session at a discount.
That’s right. A mini-session is not offering your regular products and sessions for less money.
Instead, you want to pare down your product offering and the amount of time you spend in the session.
I recommend having a theme for your mini-sessions that is completely different than what you would offer in a traditional portrait session (photos with Santa, Momma and Me, Halloween, a Fairy set, etc.)
Are mini-sessions right for you?
The workload can be very intense over a short period of time. But the upside is that when you photograph all your sessions over one weekend, you can earn a lot of dough quickly while adding to your database of future clients. For profitable mini-sessions, you need to market for weeks before-hand. Then, you move on after the event.
Placing so many people in front of your camera provides an amazing opportunity to upsell into bigger products, gifts, holiday cards or full portrait sessions. But you’ll want to make sure you have an after the mini-session plan in place for how to convert smaller mini-session packages into more profitable mini-sessions with upsells.
Here are my 11 Tips to Profitable Mini-Sessions:
1. Create a theme & beautiful design.
Your invitation, promotional materials and event branding should set the tone to attract the type of client you want.
From your price list to your special mini-session product mix, your mini-session branding should follow a theme and be consistent.
If it’s hokey or looks low budget, it will attract the wrong client – someone looking for a cheap session.
2. Choose the right promotional partners.
Mini-sessions can cannibalize your regular sessions if you only offer them to your existing client list.
Instead, pick a partner business who shares your ideal target audience.
Partners can be another local business, a charity or both.
Get creative here when looking for partners. The ideal partner doesn’t have to be a kids’ clothing store. You can partner with an insurance agent or furniture store to host and promote your mini-session events.
If your ideal client is a newborn parent, a charity whose mission is to help elderly may not be a great fit.
What you say when you approach a promotional partner is key in getting the right partner on board and attracting the right client for these special sessions.
3. Follow a promotional plan.
It’s easy to skip a step along the way. Or get your timing off. Map out your event from start to finish, giving yourself and your partners enough time to promote in advance and book the sessions.
- Do you know who you are marketing to and when?
- Do you pitch the media?
- Do you offer mini-sessions to VIP clients?
- Do you pay to promote on Facebook?
- Do you mail?
- Do you email?
- Do you invite your friends & family?
When I worked at an ad agency we promoted some very large regional events.
Our goal was to attract tens of thousands of attendees and they came!
However, the lesson I learned was this: timing is everything.
We had to really nail it on perfecting the timeline for each one of our promotional activities. If we started too early, people would think it was too far out to plan or forget the event was happening. We’d waste our budget if we marketed too soon.
If we started promoting too late, attendance would be poor because people had already made other plans.
You have to be intentional about your promotional plan and tailor the timing to your audience.
Keep good notes on your timing and the results so that you can learn from the experience and improve every time.
4. Book mini-sessions in advance.
Don’t just set up a mini studio at a marketing partner’s location and expect people to wander in for photos while they are out shopping. For this type of session to really work, book clients in advance and require a credit card deposit to hold their spot. This gives them a chance to come prepared for a portrait they want to purchase.
Learn how to book mini-sessions and more in my free training here.
5. Do a needs analysis.
Try to have a short conversation with your mini-session client on the phone when they schedule the mini-session. (Or do it right before you pick up the camera.)
You want to know what specifically they are looking for in their photos so that you can quickly capture it for them.
Do they just want a few shots of each child in your themed set?
Or are they expecting the whole family to be in the images you create?
Talk clothing and logistics so they know what to expect and follow up the day before the mini-session appointment to confirm with them.
6. Make it fast.
This is a mini-session so work fast! Use the information you got from the needs analysis prior to their session. Depending on your business model, each mini-session shouldn’t take more than 15 – 20 minutes.
Keep it short and sweet and it’s okay if you leave them wanting more.
It’s tempting when you love what you do to go long. But you’re only devaluing your regular sessions that these clients will hopefully invest in the future.
7. Create an irresistible offer.
Choose one day or a specific small time frame they can get this irresistible mini-session offering. Limit the availability to only a certain number of clients.
Choose a theme you don’t offer for a regular session (Santa theme, milk and cookies, jammies, ducks and bunnies, etc.).
8. Offer “mini-session only” pricing & products.
A mini-session does not mean you offer the same products for a cheaper price.
They won’t get a full-blown session with outfit changes and prop or background changes. This is one outfit, one location, one “look.”
This is “One and Done.”
Carefully choose your product mix to showcase products you don’t typically offer so you don’t devalue your full session.
Or maybe you do an image cube instead of the large wall print you typically sell.
A big mistake I see photographers making with mini-sessions is overwhelming clients with too many product choices.
You don’t have much time, so, pare down your offerings and options to a handful of packages or a la carte items.
Print special price lists for the mini-session event that maintain a consistent look and feel with your overall event theme.
Spice up your mini-session “event only” packages with incentives for them to order more.
Sure, your client may have committed to a specific mini package before the session.
But if you see potential in them becoming a high value client, you will want to give them the full reveal of their images by projecting their images large to music.
The in person sales appointment may be a little shorter than your usual IPS appointment because you’ll show fewer images. However, you give yourself an opportunity to form a connection with your clients when you hold this appointment and uncover opportunities for sales.
10. Take advantage of opportunities to upsell
During the in-person ordering appointment, you have the opportunity to go beyond selecting images for the package they purchased.
You can upsell frames, holiday cards, large wall portraits, gift prints and gift certificates as well as future sessions. This is where you increase the profitability of your mini-session!
11. Plan for what’s next
Delivering an incredible client mini-session is the first step. For mini-sessions to pay off in your photography business, you want to have a next step for these new clients you just photographed.
Add them to your database and plan to follow up.
If they have a baby, set a reminder to touch base up in 3 – 6 months when their growing baby will need portraits again.
If mom is pregnant, be sure to note her due date so you can reach out for newborn portraits.
If the family has teenagers, find out when they will be seniors so you can make a note to follow up when it’s time for senior portraits.
Holiday card season is also a great time to reach out.
During the in-person ordering appointment mention and show other products you offer for full sessions (like books and albums).
Make sure they know what your full offering looks like without obsessively talking about it. Bring it up as a “by the way” a few times during the ordering appointment.
If you follow these 11 tips, a profitable mini-session promotion this year can work for you!
And if you want to really dig into the nuts and bolts of mini-sessions, register for my free training here.