Knowing how to get photography clients can be challenging. This is because people are too focused on how to connect with clients (marketing efforts) and less focused on who they’re actually connecting with (finding the right clients). If you are struggling to find your ideal clients, this post is for you.
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Finding The Right Photography Clients
When I was first starting out in food photography, I didn’t know how to find the right clients for me. I reached out to everyone and I was excited to hear back from anyone who liked my work. And, because I love what I do, I thought I would want to work with everyone who approached me. In a nutshell, I thought the word “no” would hurt my business.
Shift Your Mindset
When it comes to finding the right clients (not just any client you can get), you have to shift 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 is exhausting. It demonstrates a lack of boundaries for your business and runs the risk of you becoming completely burned out… and if we’re being completely honest here, probably underpaid.
It’s important to shift your mindset from, “Please hire me“ and ask yourself, “Is this a good client for me?”
Here’s a new thought to consider: Finding the right photography clients actually starts with connecting with your most important client first… yourself. And, in order to connect with yourself as a business person, you need to practice 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, behind the scenes, learning to think like a business person can be a difficult transition for creatives. You aren’t just creating something beautiful for yourself anymore. Now you need people to pay you to create something beautiful for them.
Finding your ideal clients starts with knowing your numbers, which should not be a guessing game. Start learning your numbers by asking yourself these questions:
- 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 figure these questions out. Get to know these numbers and write them down so you can charge prices that make sense for your business and find clients who will pay you those prices.
Not all creatives take the time to do this type of number crunching. It causes them to guess and ultimately, undercharge for their work. This leads to them chasing clients and falling into the hustle of being overworked and underpaid. Whenever someone tells me that they’re “too busy to do anything else,” I don’t necessarily think that’s a good thing. It makes me think they’re not charging enough for their services.
If you’re too busy and are stretched too thin in your business, isn’t it time to re-evaluate things? Your numbers are a huge part of your business and will help guide you.
The less you charge, the more you have to work to make ends meet. The more you charge, the less you have to work to make ends meet.
Know Your Value
Knowing your value is different than knowing your numbers. Your value is what you bring to the table for your clients. It’s your expertise, your professionalism and the quality of your work.
So, how do you know your value?
The truth is, knowing your value is about building confidence in yourself as a business person. When you take the time to learn your numbers and figure out a pricing model that makes sense for your business, you’d be amazed at what an eye-opener it is.
A lot of photographers still feel uncomfortable after learning their numbers, because even though they realize they were totally undercharging for their work, they aren’t sure how to approach higher prices with potential clients.
The best way to approach higher prices with potential clients is to get as much information as you can about their project before talking numbers with them. Asking relevant questions first is going to make you look more like an expert and will get your potential clients thinking more critically about what they actually want.
Then, when you write up an estimate for their project, make sure it’s very easy for them to understand. I find it really helpful to be very clear about how much time is involved for their project. For example, if I’m shooting 8 hours on set, I will also include how much time I’ll need for the post-production and editing. This helps clients realize that there are more hours beyond the photo shoot when it comes to how much time I’m spending on their project.
The more a client wants, the more time it will take… and more time equals more money.
Always let potential clients know there are ways to negotiate too, because estimates are just that, estimates. They’re not set in stone until you have a signed agreement and everyone is on the same page.
Building confidence and learning your value comes with time and experience. As you grow, it will get easier and easier to spot your ideal clients vs. the not-so-great clients.
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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. I used to think saying no would hurt my business, because I felt like I was leaving money on the table and ruining a connection.
But, the truth is, saying no has actually helped my business. Not only does saying no demonstrate boundaries, it allows you to be available for the projects and clients that are right for you.
And, here’s a twist to consider… some people won’t take no for an answer at first. They may actually try to negotiate with you get you to say yes.
Lack of money, a low budget, or “exposure” are common reasons to say no, but there are other reasons to say no too. It’s not always just about money.
Sometimes a client will want something done faster than you know is possible. It’s up to you to try and educate 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 will appreciate the insight, because they see photographers as experts. You know how to do something that they don’t and they will want to work with you to learn the process and figure out an approach that makes sense.
Other clients only see photographers as service providers and will expect you to accommodate every request they have. While collaboration is incredibly important in any partnership, being treated as a service provider is a red flag for photographers. Be an expert for your clients, not a service provider.
READ MORE ABOUT: UNREALISTIC PROJECT REQUESTS & HOW TO HANDLE THEM
Your availability is a very good reason to say no. I’ve seen photographers get incredibly burned out because they are constantly saying “yes” and working on every project that comes their way. Believe it or not, it’s important to set aside time for your own personal projects and simply take a break when you need it. Creative burnout is real and it’s up to you to take care of yourself.
What kind of projects do you want to be working on? Sometimes projects are a mismatch and that’s a very good reason to say no. A lot of people hear the word “photographer” and will assume you take pictures of everything.
For example, I’m a food photographer. But, in the beginning, people would ask me to take pictures of their family. I would say yes, even though it wasn’t what I truly wanted to do. Family shoots are totally different than food shoots. And, after one family asked, other families would ask… Eventually, I stopped taking on family photo shoots and I became so much happier.
It’s so important to say yes to the projects you actually want and say no to the ones that you don’t want. It’s the only way you’ll stay happy in your business.
Professionalism is assumed in business, but it isn’t always practiced. How do your clients treat you? 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.
Contracts are really important in any business. It protects 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 not-so-great situation with a client. The contract terms should be discussed early on in the project so there’s time to negotiate if needed. A good reason to say no to a project is if you don’t agree to the terms of the contract or if you don’t have a contract at all. No contract = no photographer.
Isn’t this interesting? How to get photography clients isn’t about the hustle or trying to get any client you can. It’s about discovering yourself as a business person so you can make the right decisions when it comes who you work with and how to market yourself to those ideal clients.
Start by shifting your mindset and asking yourself “Is this a good client for me?” Learn your numbers, believe in your value and know that it’s absolutely ok to say no. These things will help guide you to finding the right clients for your business. In fact, you may be surprised that when this shift in your mindset happens, the right clients will also start finding you.
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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.