When I was first starting out as a food photographer, I didn’t know how to find my ideal photography clients. I was excited to hear from anyone who liked my work and because I love what I do, I thought I wanted to work with everyone. But, this was not a healthy mindset and I had to practice three things to get beyond it. If you think you want to work with “everyone,” then you’ll want to read this post.
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How To Find Your Ideal Photography Clients
In the beginning, when it came to getting photography clients, my mindset was, “Please hire me.” It’s seems like you should try to get any client you can in order to build your portfolio and make money. But, this turns into a stressful hustle and demonstrates a significant lack of boundaries for how you run your business.
You always have a choice with what clients you work with and not all clients are going to be a good fit for you. If you take anything you can get, you could become overworked, underpaid, under appreciated or simply exhausted and unhappy.
So, how do you find your ideal clients?
This may surprise you, but when it comes to finding your ideal photography clients, it actually starts with you. You have to know your business and shift your mindset from “Please hire me” to “Is this a good client for me?” A client may really want to work with you, but do you really want to work with that client?
If you want to find your ideal clients, you have to know these three things:
- KNOW YOUR NUMBERS
- KNOW YOUR VALUE
- KNOW WHEN TO SAY NO
Know Your Numbers
Making the decision to turn your creative passion into your business is definitely exciting. But, learning to think like a business person can be a difficult transition for creative entrepreneurs and artists. You aren’t just creating something beautiful anymore. Now you need people to pay you to create something beautiful for them. It’s a big transition going from a hobbyist to an entrepreneur.
The first step is you have to know what to charge for the work that you do. In other words, you need to know your numbers. And, while this step is often challenging for creatives, it really doesn’t need to be.
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Your numbers include your personal expenses (what you need to pay yourself), your business expenses (your costs of being in business), knowing how to estimate a photography shoot, what your ideal yearly income is and how often you want to be working. Don’t forget that you need to deduct 30% from each paycheck for paying your taxes.
It’s important to organize these numbers so you can keep track of what you’re earning, what you’re losing and what you need to stay in business. Not all projects will cost the same, but knowing your numbers will help guide you towards the right projects for your business.
Know Your Value
Knowing your value is different than knowing your numbers. Your numbers are a guide to figuring out a pricing model that makes sense for you. But, in order to be confident in asking for the prices you deserve, you really have to know your value.
Your value is what you bring to the table. It’s your expertise, your professionalism, the quality of your work and how well you take care of your clients. When you offer something of value, you can charge more for it. And, you SHOULD charge more for it.
When you know your value, you can be more selective with who you work with. When you don’t know your value, you can easily get lost in the rat race of trying to get any client you can and taking on work that isn’t a good fit.
So, how do you get confident in your value? This, my friend, is up to you and your mindset. Knowing your numbers is a really good start. But, gaining confidence in asking for the prices you deserve takes time and experience.
Remember this: you know how to do something that your potential clients can’t do. You’re also damn good at it, because that’s what attracts new clients to you in the first place. They are reaching out because they saw your work and need your high quality images to elevate their business and make more money. If a client doesn’t have a budget for the photography they are asking for, then they aren’t ready to hire you or don’t see a value in what you are offering. Don’t take it personally, just don’t take the job.
Know When To Say No
As you get more confident in your numbers and your value, it gets a lot easier to say no to projects that aren’t in line with the goals of your business. Saying no can seem scary at first and like you’re leaving money on the table. But, the truth is, it’s incredibly liberating and allows you to be available for the projects that are right for you. Money (or the lack of it) is definitely a good reason to say no, but there are other reasons that could factor into your decision too. It’s not always about the money.
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Sometimes a client will want something done faster than you know is possible. It’s up to you to try and inform them to your process and the time you would need for their project. If they are strict on their timeline and it simply doesn’t align with what you need, it’s ok to say no. Let them find a “faster” photographer. Your ideal clients will want a project done right, not just fast.
Not all clients are going to understand what goes into photography. If a client comes to you with an unrealistic project, it’s up to you to help them understand your process and what is realistic for what they can afford. Some clients only see photographers as service providers and won’t want to listen to the realities of what their project requires. Let them find someone else. The clients who see photographers as experts will appreciate the insight and will work with you to make sure the project is beneficial for everyone involved. Be an expert for your clients… not a service provider.
Professionalism is assumed in business, but it isn’t always practiced. How do your clients treat you? Are they following through on their end of the deal? Are they responsive? Do they pay you on time? Are they respectful? A client could have the right budget, the right project and the right timeline… but if the client is not good to work with, this is another reason to say no. Your ideal clients will treat you well.
Photographers are constantly learning new things and educating themselves. But, just because you’ve played around with a new technique a couple of times, doesn’t necessarily mean you should get paid to deliver a high quality product of it (yet). Sometimes a potential client will ask for something that you’re not experienced enough to deliver and in this case, it’s a good reason to say no. It’s better to say no than to not deliver the quality that your client will expect from you. Be honest with yourself when it comes to what you can confidently deliver to your clients.
Isn’t it interesting that finding your ideal photography clients isn’t about the hustle or trying to get any client you can get? It’s very much about discovering yourself as a photographer and as a business person. Knowing your numbers, knowing your value and knowing when to say no will help guide you towards the clients and projects that energize you.
Stop thinking, “please hire me” and start asking yourself, “Is this a good client for me?” When this shift in thinking happens, you’d be amazed at how your ideal clients will actually start finding you.
This post may contain affiliate links which means if you click or make a purchase through my site, I might make a small commission at no extra cost to you. I only promote products that I actually use and support.
All images ©Regan Baroni 2021.