I remember the excitement of wanting to start and have a thriving wedding photography business. I remember how my heart would skip a beat whenever I’d get a new photography inquiry regarding my services, and I remember how desperate I was for any type of wedding photography gig. I also remember not knowing how to price myself, being scared that if I charged too much, clients wouldn’t want to book me. Or if I told a client no to a request, they’d find another photographer. I look back on the first few years of my business very fondly, but I also remember a few times that being a wedding photographer made me want to crawl into a hole and hide from the world forever.
Those few instances that made me cringe and rethink my decision to pursue professional wedding photography happened because I wasn’t working with my ideal client. This was before I intentionally sat down to decide who my ideal client was, and way before I’d decided on a specific brand. Although some of the experiences I had made me second-guess my role as a photographer, I’m still thankful because I’ve been able to learn what worked and what didn’t. Now I’m able to identify who is and isn’t an ideal client, and how to approach each potential client differently. I’ve become comfortable telling clients no and declining unrealistic requests. If you’re just starting out in the photography world, the idea of narrowing down your potential client pool can be scary, but I’m here to tell you if you don’t do it, you’ll end up dreading your job as a photographer. Here are a few ways to tell if someone is not an ideal client.
They Question Your Pricing
Having someone question your pricing is probably one of the most intimidating experiences when starting out in business. You’re already unsure of yourself and if you’re valuing yourself properly, then a potential client comes along and asks you to discount yourself, or worse, give your services and products away for free. If a client is asking for a discount, that doesn’t necessarily mean they aren’t your ideal client. It's up to us as the professionals to educate potential clients on our value. However, if after educating clients on our value the client still insists on a discount or free services, this might mean they aren’t your ideal client, and it may be time to walk away.
They Undervalue Your Time
During my first year in business, I had a bride hire me for six hours of photography coverage. In the weeks leading up to her wedding, I was working with her on a day-of wedding timeline, and I realized that the bride was piecing apart my coverage time. Although she only paid for 6 hours worth of photo coverage, she scheduled me to be at the venue for 12 hours with several-hour breaks in-between the times she wanted me to take photos. I didn’t know how to say no to her, and as a result I allowed her to take total advantage of me. While I was shooting the wedding, I learned that she’d done the same thing to the videographers. I completely resented the bride after this experience, but it wasn’t her fault. It was mine. I was too scared to let the bride know that my policy for photo coverage was consecutive, and in the end, I really ended up hating the wedding day. Had I had any more weddings like that, and I would have quickly given up.
After that experience, I promised myself that I’d stick to my own policies. I learned that clients may inquire with unrealistic expectations, and it was up to me to reset those expectations so that everyone, including myself, ended up happy with the arrangement.
They Don't Trust You
While interviewing clients (yes, you should be interviewing clients as much as they’re interviewing you), it's important to pay attention to any red flags the clients may be sending up. If you’re feeling hesitant during your initial meeting with a client, they may not be your ideal client. One huge red flag is a client who micromanages. Micromanaging is awful all around, but something huge that it implies is that the client doesn’t fully trust you. If you’re having trouble gaining control of the time that you’re providing your photo services, it can adversely affect the final outcome of your photos. Whether you have a client who wants a specific list of photos from Pinterest, or is requesting a style of photography that you’re not familiar with, they are probably not your ideal client.
If you’re having trouble booking your ideal clients, it may be time to sit down and create a detailed ideal client avatar. Having an ideal client avatar helps you identify who your ideal client is, and how to speak directly to that client within your branding. It also helps you be more comfortable as yourself within your brand which is so important to connecting with clients.
If you find yourself dreading an upcoming photo session, it's probably time to sit down and reevaluate who your brand speaks to. Take time away from learning the technical side of photography and focus on the business side, nailing down perfected pricing, and an ideal client avatar. You’ll be surprised at the difference it makes.