The Dollar Headshot Experiment

Shortly after Christmas of 2016, I met up with some friends to catch up about our lives.

One of my close friends (and eventual groomsman) was describing the eventual downfall of print media and the newspaper he took photos for. I began lightly brainstorming alternatives with him.

Maybe he could freelance? Not ideal because it isn’t super stable work.

Dog photography business? Dogs are tough and never sit still for photos.

Maybe headshots?

We stuck to the idea.

They’re one of the easiest photos to take and one that people typically need updated yearly.

The problem was accessibility and cost.

If you wanted a headshot, you’d need to:

– Schedule time with an expensive professional who may or may not come to you
– Schedule time and drive to Sears or JC Penny for an entry level employee to do it

But what if you could get an inexpensive headshot while you were already dressed up – maybe at a business event or at work.

What if it was so cheap you couldn’t resist? What if it was one dollar?

The Pitch

Dollar Headshot, Co. is a quick, inexpensive, and accessible mobile photography business that brings local photographers to local events in order to capitalize on the large volume of business-centric folks who need a headshot.

The low price point is a no-brainer for them and turnaround time is quick for the photographer. Photo editing, additional file types, print material, productization, and other upsells can all be available for an additional charge.

Furthermore, photographers could license or work for the company at their leisure – providing a stable income for freelance photographers.

Testing the Idea

We decided to test our idea in true agile fashion.

I reached out to a friend of mine that was hosting a startup-oriented meet-up later that month and he happily let us test the business and even added us to the event description & email outreach.

Then, we whipped together a pricing sheet and a Vistaprint banner so attendees could easily find us and see that the business was legitimate instead of a couple dudes with a camera hanging out in a corner.

Event day went awry, as things do.

First problem above all else: I was working on this business from Chicago, instead of New Jersey where the team and event were. Idealism and optimism really floated that dream and I won’t make that mistake again.

Then small things.

The team forgot to bring the sign. And couldn’t find the Square card reader. And needed to pick up a lightbulb for the droplight. And didn’t show up early enough to catch people before the event.

During the event, people were paying attention to the presentation instead of wandering to the booth, which was placed awkwardly out of sight of the attendees.

Before we knew it, the event was over and we had made one dollar. Dollar headshot indeed.

We decided the experiment was a failure despite successfully learning a lot of lessons.

Total investment: 28 days, $150.

Next Time

I do believe the core idea has merit.

Next time, I’ll be sure to be in the same location as my business.

I’ll target more of a networking event, convention, or trade show in order to capitalize on foot traffic instead of a static presentation event.

I’ll bring a big pink sign and require uniforms with name tags.

I’ll stick our bright pink booth in the middle of everything, where no one will be able to miss it and show up before attendees to get a jump start on sales.

I’ll bring sample work, business cards, and practice pitching beforehand.

There’s lots of small improvements to make and maybe some big ones as well. Dollar Headshot, Co. may live again or maybe it’s time to consider working on 99 Cent Headshot, Co. instead.

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