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Where have all the clients gone?

In one of my recent posts here on the Pictage Blog I wrote about some core things that I think new photographers should know.  One of the suggestions seemed to resonate with a good number of people – both in the comments, and in conversations I’ve had since.  Since it seemed to be something that a good number of people struggle with, I thought I’d go a little deeper here.

First, here’s what I wrote:

Finding clients isn’t that hard.  Waiting for them to find you is.

A lot has changed in the last few years.  People keep talking about how the economy has effected everyone’s business.  I’m sure it has, but what I’ve noticed is that there are two types of photography business right now:

A) Photographers with growing, thriving businesses, with more work than they need.

B) Photographers with struggling, dying businesses.

The difference?  The one’s with growing business are the one’s that work harder than everyone else.  Sure, their work is incredible.  Sure, they’re super talented.  But, so are you.

Here’s the deal – the photographers with growing businesses aren’t sitting around waiting for the phone to ring.  They don’t spend hours a day reading other photographer blogs.  They’re working!  They’re either shooting, or if they’re not shooting, they’re out building their business.

They’re connecting with clients, venues, vendors, planners, and other people who can help them grow their business.  They spend time meeting people.  They follow up with clients.  They WORK HARD.

Often, people worry about how they’re going to find more clients.  What they’re really wondering is “how do I get clients to find me.”  The truth is, unless you’re REALLY well known – that’s just not going to happen.  So, instead of being depressed about that fact – go out and work.  Go out and find clients!

The reality is that I think this is probably relevant to everyone who runs a small business, so let’s unpack a few things you can do to find clients.  The bottom line is that finding clients is a mindset.  It’s not a secret formula, and it’s not magic.  It’s about getting serious about building your business, and being aggressive about attracting new clients.

Google SEO and AdWords are examples of hoping people find you.  Building a great website is, well – great, but it’s useless if you just sit around hoping people find you.  Instead, here are a few things that require you to get out there and work hard!  The great thing about working hard is that it’s hard – so a lot of people won’t do it.  A lot of people want it to be easy, so when you go out and do the hard work – you stand out!

So, what does it look like to be actively finding clients?

1. Engage in relationships.  People refer people they like and trust.  People like and trust people they have relationships with.  I know that I refer people that I have a genuine relationship with – not just people that ask me to pass along their name.  I’m much more interested in helping people if I have something at stake – if I’m invested in them, and they’re invested in me.

Specifically, I focus on building REAL relationships with the following people:

Wedding Coordinators and Planners

Editors and Publishers

Reception Venues

Other Industry Pros I respect and admire.  This includes photographers, videographers, cake designers, and more.

2. Make it easy for people to talk about you.  I totally stole this one from my friends Zach and Jody Gray, That’s okay though cause it’s an AWESOME idea.  We started giving our clients a challenge.  When we posted their sessions online, we gave them a challenge that if they had a certain number of their friends comment on the post- they’d get something valuable.  We simply sent them an email letting them know about the opportunity, and let them do the rest.

The very first post I tried this on, We had over 60 comments, and 2 INQUIRIES – just from that one e-session post.  When you make it easy for your clients to talk about you – they will.  And when they do, you win.  I can’t tell you how important it is to make it easy for your clients (and other people) to talk about you.  When you have a real relationship with someone, and you make it easy for them to say good things about you to their friends, you’re two steps closer to finding the right clients.

3. Put yourself where the clients are.  It’s easier to find someone if you’re hanging out where they hang out.  There’s two ways this works.

A) Be physically where your target clients are.  This can mean the location of your physical studio, but it also means that you should be frequenting the same kinds of places your ideal clients frequent.  Where do they shop, where do they eat, where do they hang out?  You’d be surprised how big a difference this can make.

B) Have a presence at the front of their mind.  This is what advertising is meant to do, but it only makes sense if you’re spending your resources on things that actually hit your target.  Think again about your target clients – what do they read?  Where do they get their wedding information?  What resources are they actually using to plan their wedding?  Be there.

What about you?  What are some of the things you’re doing to find the right kind of clients?

Written by Jason Aten

Jason Aten is a Michigan based wedding photographer. After a career in marketing and sales management for a Fortune 100 company, Jason became relentlessly drawn to the ability to impact people’s lives through photography. So in 2001 he quit his job to start his own photography business. Jason applies his previous marketing and sales experience to his photography business and now takes the time to educate others with his “Starting Out Right” one-day intensives and resource guides. You can find more posts like this on the Starting Out Right blog.

The NEW ShootQ is Complimentary while in Beta mode for the next few months.  Enjoy!
The NEW ShootQ is Complimentary while in Beta mode for the next few months.  Enjoy!