I mentioned this a while ago, but it’s worth expanding on the topic:
Websites are not magic, they’re just multipliers of the quality of your work. Your photography website can indeed be a powerful tool in your career. Sometimes indispensable, but only a tool. It depends on how you use it.
When some beginner-photographers set out to build their first website, their dream is to create something that is completely “automatic” that can magically get clients to show up for prints and assignments, and bring in passive income every month. A dreamer can dream, right?
They spend a lot of money on gear & training, rightfully so, but they then realize the process is slow, and the website is not generating the huge growth they had hoped for.
So they start looking for shortcuts, for quick tips & tricks to use to be successful (advertising, black-hat SEO practices, etc). They set up some over-used template and end up looking like a thousand other photographers. Fast & cheap solutions are used by many others too; you won’t be able to different yourself. But the “real work” is slow and difficult. If it were simple, everybody would be doing it.
With this in mind, your site is not an actual business plan in itself. Nor is it a marketing or sales plan for that matter. It’s just one piece of the entire puzzle.
A metaphor is easy to construct here: if you were launching a grocery store, you wouldn’t see the business flourish without getting other things in place: location, branding, interior design, product quality, prices, marketing, etc.
Almost everybody can build a basic website these days, but what you do with it is more important. And the quality of images you put inside it is even more important.
I’m a web-designer, I can talk a whole lot about how to structure and build a website to help your photography business. But the main business component lies in your hands: having truly awesome images (and/or photography services).
If you lack clarity or you’re working in a dead-end photography niche, the most impressive website in the world will not help you reach your business goals. Even though it will look pretty.
Let me try a quote to bring the idea home:
“If you think your organization needs a bigger marketing budget, maybe you just need to be less average instead.” (Seth Godin)
Look around at some successful photographers online. Many of them are using Flash, have crappy About page, poor navigation, SEO issues, you name it.
But they’re still hugely successful because they focus on their images, and they think of their business as a whole. Their website and social media outposts are just tools they’re using, poorly or not, to drive their business forward.