Jasmine Star is an internationally recognized photographer, speaker, business strategist and online entrepreneur. In 2005, Star left law school and decided to become a photographer, though at the time she didn’t even own a camera. Her husband gave her her first camera for Christmas that year and four years later she was voted one of the “Top 10 Wedding Photographers of 2009” by American Photo. Her photos have been published in nearly every event and bridal magazine.
Star’s quick success led to a speaking career, a consulting business and finally the online empire she runs now. In addition to courses on personal branding and instagram, she recently launched a unique social media subscription service called Social Curator. The monthly program provides creative entrepreneurs with curated photos (taken by Star) and caption prompts to elevate their overall social media presence and strategy.
I was excited to chat with Star in Los Angeles recently about her journey and her advice on how service-based business owners to build a winning personal brand using social media. Here are her top seven lessons for success.
Start before you’re ready.
It’s true that you need to start building your service-based business locally, but that doesn’t mean you can’t jump into online marketing right away as well. Star immediately started sharing her journey as a photographer on her blog, even though she was brand new to the space.
“[Don’t be] impeded by the fact that your craft isn’t where you want it to be,” she said, explaining that what gets designers, event planners and photographers into the industry is that they have a different level of taste. “[At the beginning] can we produce that amount of work to appease our tastes? Chances are, no, but you have to work and not let that become a stumbling block. Listen, you’re going to suck and you’re going to continue to suck and still to this day I feel like, Wow girl, you need to up your game. As long as you stay hungry, I think that it really does grow your business along the way.”
I know what you’re asking — but how do I get more clients? Her answer is to “get out and get dirty.” She explained this means to get out and do the work on your craft itself, and then within your peers and with marketing. Put time and energy into figuring out who your ideal client is and putting yourself in places where you think your ideal client is hanging out both online and in real life.
Related: 10 Laws of Social Media Marketing
Create or find a local peer group.
“Oftentimes we get into an industry and we look at the people at the top and we’re like, ‘Oh if we could just be there. If we could just do what they do, look how easy that is. How do they have a team of 14?'” she said. The answer, she shared, is that they worked hard for years. Realize that if you’re only a year or two in, you need to connect to people at your same level. Star reached out to four or five other female photographers that were charging similar rates and booking similar gigs.
“Whenever I was booked for a gig, and they needed work, I would send prospective clients just to this group of people. They took care of me, I took care of them and in a matter of a year, I went from not having any clients, to being more booked than I could possibly be. I shot 40 massive weddings my first year.”
Hone in on your unique perspective.
It’s 2017, every market is a saturated market. Photography specifically, as an entire industry, has been turned upside down by the affordability of equipment and the wealth of free training and tutorials available to new photographers. So, one must figure out, how can I stand out? Star says that you’ll be set apart by your unique world view.
“I’ve learned to talk about my life and my business by way of assets and my liabilities. I looked at the two lists and I said, What can you capitalize on and how can you teach people to look at your liabilities differently?” she said. “I was very open. I was very open in saying, ‘I am new.’ Very open in saying, ‘I don’t drive the nicest car.’ People would meet with my competition … they would have more albums to show people and I had one, or I just had a digital slideshow …. At the end of the day, people really got behind me as a person, they became somebody that they wanted to believe in and walk that journey with and that was the start of a personal brand.”
Having trouble honing in on your voice? List out your assets and liabilities and when looking your liabilities find a way to reframe them. Inexperienced also means more affordable. Uneducated also means a fresh eye. Limited resources means you’re forced to be creative, etc.
Share your knowledge.
In addition to sharing her personal story online, Star shared what she was learning as she grew, positioning herself as a resource for other photographers. She believes this was the key to her initial success.
“[I realized] if I can teach other people the things that I was learning along the way, that I would be able to create trust with people. Trust is the currency on the web. If you can build trust with strangers on the web, you can really grow your business in ways that you can’t really foresee.”
Yes, sharing as you learn means you will make public mistakes. Star recalled the first time she posted a “look at my new lens” post like she’d seen from other photographers. She misquoted the model number of the lens, causing her blog to explode with comments about how that lens didn’t exist, claiming she clearly didn’t know photography.
“I just realized that the more mistakes you make, it’s the quickest path to teaching yourself really what you’re talking about and those differences. To all the haters and the naysayers, tip your hat and say ‘Thank you. You’re helping me get better.'”
As you share, Star advises you to run every post through an ideal client filter. Know your ideal potential customer like the back of your hand, then ask, will they love this content? Does this look/sound/feel like them? Will this help them?
Find tune your first impression.
Star said one of the biggest mistake she sees people making online is an ambiguous bio that says nothing about their business. She explained your bio should first categorize you with a descriptor, because humans, by nature, want to categorize. Then she says your bio should be about the reader, because people want to know what’s in it for me if I follow you?
“Anytime that you can make your personal brand about helping, empowering, or diminishing a fear, that is how you start building and helping people reframe.”
Star’s instagram profile, for example, says “Business Strategist. Photographer. Helping entrepreneurs grow social platforms.” Then she lists her email address and “FREE stock photos + video tutorials” with a link.
Another important note to remember according to Star, is that you want to repel some people. This idea takes some getting used to but it is essential for setting yourself apart.
“The more I’m myself, the more I’m bigger, the more I’m okay to be a certain way and feel a certain way, I’m doing one of two things. I’m attracting a person or I’m repelling a person. The last thing I want that anybody watching this conversation would be to click away to some other YouTube video … and forget about the conversation we had. I want you to have such a clear distinction.”
Use every post as gateway.
Star views every single form of social media as a way to grow her network. She continually offers ways for people to learn more and make more of a connection with her.
“I’m always giving people an option to get more information. I link, not to my website, but to an opportunity for them to get my newsletters, to get a freebie, to get a way that I can follow up with them via email … so that I can further that conversation and go deeper instead of wider that social media usually does.
Don’t take no for an answer.
If you’re a service provider just getting started in your industry, accept that you’re the underdog. Prepare for fierce competition and build up a thick skin.
“I’ve become an evangelist for people who are under-qualified, under-prepared, and unwilling to take no as an answer. If I become a voice for this scrappy renegade of hustlers, I’m okay with that.”
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