How to Network with Birth Professionals
If you've recently relocated or are just starting out as a new birth photographer, one of your most important tasks is to connect with other birth professionals in your community.
Because this business is deeply rooted in trust.
We're invited to document a family's most intimate moments, and our clients hire us not only because they love our photos, but because they trust us. By forming relationships with other birth professionals you can begin to develop a reputation of trust and visibility in your community.
It often takes people hearing about a birth photographer numerous times before they reach out. Perhaps a client finds you on google...and browses through your beautiful work...and then sees one of your images at the birth center they'll be birthing at. They then go back to their prenatal appointment and when they casually mention your name, their midwife's eyes light up, "Oh yes! She's wonderful! We love working with her!"
You'll likely your find yourself with an inquiry later that evening.
Your website or your social media page is rarely enough. (Which is actually a relief in many ways!) Most of my clients find me online but it takes hearing about me from someone they know or trust to compel them to reach out and take the next step.
So how do you do this? How do you network with birth professionals?
1. Dismiss your inner critic. I know. Sometimes it feels a bit yucky to reach out to someone for networking or business purposes. I see many women struggle with this, and I think it's often tied to socialization and out-dated gender norms. So let me emphasize: it's perfectly okay to meet with someone with the aim of growing your business. This isn't superficial or sleazy. This is what business owners and entrepreneurs do to grow and maintain their brand. If you really struggle with this (perhaps you're an introvert like me!) then sit down and schedule it on your calendar. 1-2 meetings each month. Put it on your monthly or weekly to-do list because yes, it's that important! Doulas are a great group to start with, but I'd recommend also reaching out to midwives, as I find that I gain the most clients through their recommendations.
2. Ask questions. The best way to win a friend or develop a strong networking relationship is to listen. If you're just starting out, remember that you have so much to learn about birth and about your local birth community. It can be embarrassingly easy to put your foot in your mouth. In every city, there are often layers upon layers of birth politics that the average person is completely unaware of. So when you're meeting with another birth professional, ask questions. Listen to their story. Try to understand their philosophy about birth. Find commonality but realize that it's inevitable that you're going to have some different opinions about the birth process. This is okay. This is normal. This is good.
3. Talk about what you know best. We aren't medical professionals, but we see birth a lot. And so it can sometimes be easy to start throwing out our opinions about birth and interventions. I definitely some strong opinions myself! But at the end of the day, I'm a birth photographer, not a midwife. When I meet a birth professional here in Denver, I talk about what I love in my job: capturing incredible transformations and documenting true love and deep strength. I want birth professionals to trust me. I want them to feel confident that I know my place in the birth space. This is one way to do it. (Caveat: I now have many close midwife friends and yes, we do talk openly about my opinions and experiences. But this is after years of relationship and 300 births. They know me well and they know I don't interfere medically in the birth space. When you're just starting out and forming these relationships, you want to make sure that the birth professionals you meet can sense your professionalism and commitment to your craft).
4. Offer something meaningful. I've donated dozens of images and canvases to midwives and birth centers in Denver. It's a small marketing cost with the potential of a big pay-off. If you know you want to work with a midwife and her clients, then offer her something to hang on her walls. Give her an album she can display in her waiting room. If money is tight, you could even consider offering her an image to use on her website (I only recommend doing this with LOCAL birth professionals).
5. Support their work. Once you've met in person, connect with them online. Follow their pages. Comment on their posts. Get excited about what they're doing...and they'll return the favor. When you have a slow month, you can reach out and see if they might be willing to pass your name onto their client list. And you should refer your clients to them. Over time, these relationships can and often do blossom into true friendships. You might find that these are the people you can call at 2 in the morning when you need a listening ear.
Networking is a huge part of this job...and it requires planning and determination. But after photographing 300 births here in Denver, I can say that it was one the keys to my success. And just as I mentioned, many of these birth professionals have now become some of my dearest friends!
If you want to learn more about marketing birth photography, consider signing up for our next online course. Or if you are just starting out, consider purchasing the birth photography toolkit: an amazing resource for new birth photographers.