I think by now most of us realize that business in general, and the wedding industry in particular, is very relational. Simply put, we are happier, do better work, get burned out less, and have more job & life satisfaction overall when we work with people we actually like. People we have strong relationships with. The kinds of couples that we would want to be friends with anyway had we met them in any other walk of life. And the kinds of couples that we would gladly spend time with, even if it wasn’t part of our job. These are the kinds of couples we have affectionately deemed our “Clients-Turned-Friends.”
The question then becomes: Ok, so how do you find couples like that? How do you book your entire calendar solid with couples you actually connect with and enjoy spending time with, instead of just having a few bright spots here & there in a sea of couples who feel very much like work? And while I don’t think we have all the answers figured out just yet, I do think we can help you get closer to that goal with one simple mantra and three basic tips.
First up, the mantra. Say it with me now. Business is a lot like love: if you’ll hold out for the clients who love you for YOU, you’re going to be much happier in the end. If they ask you to change or compare you to someone else, it was never right to begin with.
And now, three tips.
1. Know Thyself
Like I already said, in many ways I believe business is a lot like love. And just like dating wisdom tells us that you have to know & love yourself before you can expect anyone else to, I believe the same is true in business. So set out to do the hard work. Figure out what it is that makes you….You. Embrace that. Put it out for the world to see. And don’t accept anything less than clients who love you exactly for who you are. Whether that’s your photography style, personality or sense of humor, be willing to say, “Love me or hate me, take me or leave….but I am what I am. And the people who love me, will love me without fail. And the people who don’t, were never going to anyway.”
For us that meant embracing all of the quirky, mundane minutiae of our day to day that makes up our whole lives. Together. Things like Justin drinking orange juice with his chocolate cake, our undying need for soft pillows, even the way we do dishes together. Or how I leave milk on the night stand until it turns into gouda, and that Justin leaves every kitchen cabinet door standing wide open until it starts to look like that scene from Sixth Sense.
It also meant embracing the fact that our photography is a lot moodier than a lot of what is out there right now. We are dark shadows, rich color and a heavy emphasis on black & white. All with a touch of vintage 1940s flair. So, if what a couple is really looking for is backlit, light & airy, with Lux Soft at 100%, we are never going to be the right fit for them. Which brings me to my next point.
2. Be Willing to Walk Away
We hear it all the time, “Yea but what do you do if a couple who is not a good fit for you really wants to book you?” And when I hear that I just smile. Because I think sometimes we forget that just like dating relationships, our client relationships should be a two way street: everyone involved has to actually want to be there or it’s not really a relationship at all. And just because someone wants to hire us, does not mean we have to take the job. See, we have the ability to say no. We have the ability to walk away. And not just the ability, but I would even go so far as to say the imperative.
Because what we know is this: a bad client will weigh us down every time. We will spend all of our time, money, energy and resources putting out fires with them instead of building up the business that we really want. And that holds us back. But it also doesn’t just end with us. Accepting a wedding when we know we’re not the absolute best fit for a couple also means that it hurts them. If we know without a doubt that we’re just not a good fit, sooner or later we also know that we will disappoint them. Because if what they are really looking for is not us, eventually we are going to slip up and let “us” shine through.
3. Finally: Choose Thy Love, Love Thy Choice
Justin’s parents, one of the greatest love stories I know, have this sign hanging in their kitchen that says, “Choose Thy Love, Love Thy Choice.” And what I think it’s really getting at is this: if you are going to do the hard work and hold out to find someone who is actually the perfect fit for you, someone who loves you just as you are, then don’t ever take that for granted. Because it’s a pretty amazing thing. So once you find clients like that, clients who love you just as You are, then take all of that energy that you would’ve been wasting putting out fires with people who were never going to be the right fit for you and invest it right back into them. Court them. Date them. Send them pretty things. Remember their birthdays. Write them handwritten letters. Keep love alive.
Because at the end of the day, in business love has everything to do with it.
Written by Mary Marantz
Justin & Mary are internationally traveled destination photographers, who call New England home. Justin is a 2003 graduate of the highly-acclaimed Rochester Institute of Technology, and Mary is a 2006 graduate of the Yale Law School.
Justin & Mary have been traveling around the nation on their Spread the Love Workshop Tour teaching photographers and other business professionals about marketing, branding, building relationships, business 101, financial health, balancing life & business, creating systems that stick, and so much more.