I hear from a lot of photographers about spokesmodel programs, some saying it works for them, some saying they tried and it didn’t work, others saying they want to start one but don’t know how and everything in between. Spokesmodel programs are super popular in our industry but how do we know whether it is right for our specific business?
In order to know whether a spokesmodel program is right for you, we must first know what exactly a spokesmodel program is! While there are many variations of the spokesmodel or rep program, the basic idea is a group of girls or guys that represent your photography business during their senior year of high school. They help spread the word about your business to their friends, bring in referrals and help you get booked with senior clients! Essentially it is a marketing plan that helps grow your business and allows you to make more money in the senior market.
There are honestly no two businesses that are the same and there are no two spokesmodel programs that are the same. So how do you know whether your business needs a spokesmodel program? Let’s break down the different stages of senior photography businesses and the types of Senior Model Programs that could work for each to determine the perfect program for you!
The Newbie Senior Photographer – This type of business is one in which the photographer is fairly new to the senior genre or may be new to photography in general. This photographer knows they enjoy photographing high school seniors but hasn’t had a lot of experience in that genre. They need portfolio images of the genre they want to photograph and they need to get their name out into their community to let potential clients know they are booking senior clients.
This was me several years ago! I knew I wanted to photograph seniors after photographing a little bit of everything and realizing that seniors was what I wanted to concentrate on. I knew I needed to show what I wanted to shoot but didn’t have portfolio images to visualize that. And this is when I started my first spokesmodel program.
A spokesmodel program can work for this type of business because it gives you access to the genre in which you want to shoot, images to not only practice and improve your work but images that will show your potential clients what type of photography you do and it will help you get your name out to the specific market you are targeting. I like to call this type of spokesmodel program the Starter Senior Model Program.
The Starter Senior Model Program is one in which you have a small group of girls or guys (I started with four) on your team and in exchange for you taking their photos, they get referrals for you. The key to this program working versus not working is to NOT GIVE EVERYTHING FOR FREE. No matter how new your are to photography or senior photography or spokesmodel programs, your time and talent is valuable. And free really never works for anything! If you decide to run this type of program, make sure the spokesmodels have to do something in order to receive something.
This is the building block for any future programs you may run. Having this type of program is one that will give you models to use when you want to practice lighting or posing or try out a new location, it will give them awesome photos to post and show their friends and that will in turn have other seniors asking about getting their photos taken by you.
The Advanced Beginner to Advanced Senior Photographer – This type of business is one in which the photographer has experience in the genre they love…seniors! They have booked some senior clients but they are ready to book more. This photographer is somewhat known as a senior portrait photographer but wants to become the go-to senior photographer in their area. So the main goal of this type of photographer when it comes to a spokesmodel program is to get referrals and get people talking about his or her senior photography business as well as get their calendar booked with senior clients.
A spokesmodel program can work really well for this type of photographer because it will not only allow them to get their name out there but it will allow them to start to create a must-have type of experience. There are two different options for spokesmodel programs that can work for this type of photographer.
The Traditional Spokesmodel Program is one in which you have an application process to pick the members of your team, plan shoots to give them marketing materials to use to help promote your business and in turn they recommend you to their friends. You are also providing an experience that is special and unique which the spokesmodels can’t help but share with their friends.
This program can be done several different ways depending on you and your business but it all comes down to what you want and need out of the program and what you think your teens want and need out of it. It is similar to the starter program in that you are giving your spokesmodels something in return for them doing something such as getting you a referral but it is a little more advanced because you are more advanced and can offer different things than you could before.
The traditional program consists of photo shoots, images for social media, perks or bonuses if they refer a friend or friends such as extra shoots, print credits, cash or other creative ways to reward your spokesmodels for getting referrals.
A traditional program is what I did for years and while I changed it up over the years, it was a successful way to market my business and get my name out among my target market. I feel like a traditional program is a good stepping stone to a more experienced program and allows you to show people in your community what you are all about. By showing your program, you will build interest and get future seniors interested in becoming a part of the program.
The Experience Program is one in which you are giving your spokesmodels the ultimate experience and perks for being part of your program. This type of program is built around the experience, something that seniors would not get as a regular client. It allows you to offer something more to your team such as learning experiences, community service, bonding with other spokesmodels and photo shoots!
There is an exclusivity factor with the experience program making girls want to get in on this so as to not miss out. It gives them something special to do during their senior year and it makes their senior year unforgettable.
This is the type of program I run now. I feel like it is a program that has been built based on my past programs and because of my past programs, I am able to run this program today with a lot of interest, applications and more. In other words, without the first programs, I do not believe this one would work for me. I needed the others to build up my program so that potential clients and models wanted to be a part of it.
The experience program is not one that is based on referrals but is essentially making the spokesmodels clients with bonuses that regular clients would not receive. This program takes a lot of work on the part of the photographer because you have to invest your time and energy into making the program the best it can be. You need to make sure your spokesmodels feel you are invested in order for them to be invested in you. This program is all about building relationships with your team and allowing them the chance to build relationships with others.
The Expert Photographer – This type of business is one in which you are an established senior photographer with may years of experience and a completely booked calendar of seniors. You are well-known in your market for being a senior photographer and are most likely already the go-to photographer for seniors.
First of all, if this is you Congrats!! You are doing a great job so keep up the good work!! Second, if this is you, a senior model program may not be something you need. Or maybe you already ran a spokesmodel program and it got you to where you are today! If you are already booked, don’t need to get your name out there anymore, then you may not have the time to invest in a spokesmodel program.
However, if you are interested the best type of program for you is The Experience Program as mentioned above. This type of program will allow you to show a select group your amazing experience, give teens something unforgettable and allow you to mentor teen girls during their senior year!
No matter where you are in your business, there is a senior spokesmodel program that will work for your business. Ask yourself these questions to determine if a spokesmodel program is right for you:
Where are you currently in your senior photography business and what type of senior photographer are you (newbie, advanced beginner, advanced or expert)?
What do you need and want out of running a spokesmodel program?
Do you have the time and energy to put into running a spokesmodel program?
Once you determine your answers to the above questions, you will know if a senior spokesmodel team is right for you and you will be able to determine the type of program you need.
Want to take a quiz to help you further in determining if a spokesmodel program is right for you?
If you need further help on running a senior spokesmodel program or have any questions, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I am always happy to help!!
We're busy curating all the best resources, trends, and opportunities for creative women in business - just like you!