Knowing how to get photography clients can be challenging. I think this is because people are too focused on how to get connected (photography marketing techniques) and less focused on who they’re actually connecting with (finding the right clients). These two things go hand-in-hand, so if your marketing techniques aren’t connecting you with the right clients, it’s time to shift your mindset and re-evaluate your approach.
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How To Get Photography Clients
Shift Your Mindset
When I was first starting out in food photography, I didn’t know how to find the right clients for me. 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. I also fell into “the hustle” and found myself chasing clients with little to no success in booking the right photography clients for me.
“Please Hire Me” vs. “Is This A Good Client For Me”
When it comes to finding the right clients (not just any client you can get), it starts with shifting your mindset. In the beginning, my mindset was, “Please hire me.” It seems like you should try to get any client you can in order to build your portfolio and make money. But, this mindset demonstrates a significant lack of boundaries for you and your business and runs the risk of you becoming burned out, underpaid and under appreciated.
No matter what level you’re at, it’s important to shift your mindset from, “Please hire me” and ask yourself, “Is this a good client for me?”
Believe it or not, how to get the right photography clients starts with connecting with your most important client first… yourself.
In order to fully embrace this shift in your mindset, you have to start practicing 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 exciting. But, learning to think like a business person can be a difficult transition for creatives. You aren’t just creating something beautiful anymore. Now you need people to pay you to create something beautiful and introducing business to creativity doesn’t always go smoothly. Knowing your numbers involves figuring out how to price yourself in a way that makes sense as a business.
Get familiar with your numbers by asking yourself these things:
- What are your business expenses?
- What are your personal expenses?
- What is your desired annual income?
- How often do you want to be working?
- What should you charge to support questions 1 – 4?
It’s important to take the time and think through these questions. Get to know these numbers so you can charge prices that make sense for your business.
Not all creatives take the time to do this type of number crunching, though. It causes them to under charge for their work and fall into the cycle of being overworked and underpaid. Whenever someone tells me that they’re “super busy,” I don’t necessarily think that’s a good thing. I mean, honestly… how often do you really want to be working? This is such an important question to ask yourself, because if you’re too busy to do anything else, you’re probably not charging enough for your services.
Know Your Value
What You Bring To The Table
Knowing your value is different than knowing your numbers. Your value is what you bring to the table. It’s your expertise, your professionalism, the quality of your work and what you deliver to your clients. When you know your value, you are more selective with whom you work with because you know that not all clients will be the right clients for you.
So, how do you really know your value? This, my friend, is up to you. It’s something that takes time and experience to learn about yourself. It starts with shifting your mindset and asking yourself, “Is this a good client for me?” It also involves knowing your numbers, which will help guide you towards pricing your work in a way that makes sense for your business. When you start to realize the value you bring to the table, you’re more confident to ask for the prices you deserve and will walk away from the projects that don’t support what you need.
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Remember this: you know how to do something that your potential clients don’t know how to do. You’re also damn good at it, because that’s what attracts clients to you in the first place. They are reaching out because they saw your work and need you to create high quality images to elevate their business so they can make more money. If a client doesn’t have a budget for the photography they are asking for, then they 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 shift your mindset, learn your numbers and gain confidence in your value, it gets a lot easier to say no. Saying no can seem scary at first and like you’re leaving money on the table. But, the truth is, saying no is incredibly powerful. Not only does it demonstrate boundaries, it allows you to be available for the projects and clients that are right for you. Yes, lack of money or budget is a good reason to say no, but there are other reasons that could factor into your decision too. It’s not always just about the money.
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 to complete the project, 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 the time and expertise that goes into photography. If a client comes to you with an unrealistic project, you can try to help them understand your process and what is realistic for what they can afford. Some clients only see photographers as service providers and will expect you to accommodate every request. They won’t want to listen to the realities of what their project requires. While accommodation and collaboration are important in any partnership, there are definitely times when it’s better to say no. The clients who see photographers as experts will appreciate your insight and will work with you, not against you. Be an expert for your clients, not a service provider.
READ MORE ABOUT: UNREALISTIC PROJECT REQUESTS & HOW TO HANDLE THEM
Your availability is a good reason to say no. I’ve seen photographers get incredibly burned out because they are constantly working and taking on projects. It’s ok to set aside time for personal projects or simply take a break when you need it. Creative burnout is real and it’s up to you to protect yourself from that.
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 communicating clearly with you? Do they pay you on time? Are they respectful to your process? A client could have the right project, the right budget 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 client will ask for something that you’re not experienced enough to deliver. In this case, it’s a good reason to say no. A client/photographer relationship is heavily based on trust. Be honest with yourself when it comes to what you can confidently deliver to your clients.
Contracts are really important to protect both the photographer and the client to the terms of the project. Unfortunately, a lot of creatives aren’t aware of how important contracts are until they’re in a bad situation with a client. The contract should be discussed early on so there’s time to negotiate the terms if needed. A good reason to say no to a project is if you don’t agree to the terms of a contract or if you don’t have a signed contract prior to your photo shoot. No signed contract = no photographer.
Isn’t it interesting? How to get photography clients isn’t about the hustle or trying to get any client you can get. It’s all about discovering yourself as a business person. Shift your mindset and learn your numbers, start believing in your value and know when to say no. These three things will help you find the RIGHT clients and projects for your business. And, believe it or not, you may be surprised that when this shift in thinking happens, the right clients will also start finding you.
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All images ©Regan Baroni 2021.