How are you Choosing your Clients?
Photographers put a lot of time and energy in to getting clients to choose them, but how much effort do most of you photographers put in to choosing your clients? After talking to a lot of my colleagues, I have concluded that most do none at all.
I don’t want to sound arrogant like I have so many couples beating down my door to photograph their weddings that I need to change my phone number. That is hardly the case at all. What I mean when I ask you about how you go about choosing your clients, is how do you identify your strengths and weaknesses and how do you go about choosing your clients that you can best serve.
Using myself as an example, I know I do not enjoy doing group portraits at weddings. I also don’t feel like I am very good at it. Therefore, my website does not contain a single group shot anywhere. That doesn’t mean I don’t do them. I think every wedding photographer does. I just don’t want potential clients to think that I am the guy that does those types of shots. If that’s what they want there are plenty of other photographers who love doing that type of photography, and they are probably much better at it than I am. So step one in choosing your clients is to only present the work that you are passionate about doing. Do not try to be everything to everyone.
Money is one thing photographers use when choosing our clients. As we get a little more well known more and more couples become interested in the same day so we keep raising our prices and let the market “work it out.” That is certainly a solution, and I know I charge a lot more now than when I started, but being too expensive can really limit the opportunities out there to photograph some great weddings. My solution is that I will never flat out say “no” to a potential client just because I am out of their budget if they have an interesting wedding planned. Instead I will offer to photograph it during the week or in my off season. Of course many couples can’t make changes to their plans, but sometimes the smaller interesting weddings can be flexible. That is what happened with a couple that wanted to know if I could photograph their snowmobile wedding near my home in Breckenridge. I gave them an 80% discount, because their wedding was on week day during my off season and it was so much fun to photograph.
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Lastly, good communication between the client and photography is the most important consideration when choosing your clients. Photographer’s have to recognize when the client is asking for something that we can’t do, or can’t do well. A lot of us sometimes feel like we can do any job that comes at us, but that is not always the case. We have to recognize our strengths and weaknesses and be capable of telling a client that we are not the right photographer and they should look elsewhere. This can be tough for photographers, especially in difficult financial times, and it can be even harder for a potential client to hear. Perhaps this is my ego talking, but I think photographers are the most important vendor at the entire wedding. 50 years from now couples will not remember the food they ate, but they will be able to take out their photo album. We have a real responsibility to make sure that we really create something special that will be an important part of the couples lives, perhaps after we are gone. That isn’t a responsibility that a DJ or florist has. If we can’t meet a client’s needs, we need to be honest about that and hopefully point them to another photographer who can.
In conclusion, choosing your clients is not about arrogance, it is about presenting a portfolio that shows only the type of work you do best, relying on more than just high prices to filter out clients, and by using good communication to honestly access what type client you can serve best.