The year 2017 has been a year of growth for both myself as a person, and for my business. It's also the year I chose to join a professional business network, aptly named Business Networking International (or BNI for short), which helped me to focus on several key business points that I either hadn't considered in the past, or hadn't put as much focus on as I should have.
Almost all of my business is through word-of-mouth referrals from past clients, vendors I've worked with, or people who have followed my work or saw me published somewhere. I do not pay to advertise, nor do I pay anyone to refer me or offer any kickback for referring me. I take a little bit of pride in this, because it means whoever referred me, referred me of their own accord--and most likely based on the quality of my work and the service I provide. Happy people refer you to others and I like to make sure my clients are happy.
That said, I do get several inquiries a week via e-mail, phone call, and social media. I try my hardest to respond to everyone who reaches out to me. But I felt maybe this would make for a good blog post, to point out two key points that I look for when connecting with a potential client to see if they are a good fit for me, as well as me being a good fit for them.
What I Look For in My Ideal Client
1. My Ideal Client will take the initiative.
I sometimes explain it with "I don't chase clients." To understand this, let's talk about value. Value is what we decide to place priority in. A client who values me is looking for me.
More importantly, they value themselves and don't want to waste their time unnecessarily chasing the wrong people. They've done their homework. They've asked their friends and family for referrals, they've asked vendors, they've looked at websites and figured out who they want to connect with. They have an idea of what they're looking for and they come to me to see if I will fit their expectations.
So my ideal client isn't floating along, unsure of the direction they want to go. That is someone who needs to be sold to and that's not what I like to focus my time and energy on.
Likewise, just as I don't chase potential clients to reach out to me, I also don't chase potential clients to follow up and book me. Take the following analogy, two people go on a date. Everything seems to be going well and the future seems promising. But at the end the gentleman says "I'll call you." We all know where that usually goes.
My ideal client is the gentleman at the end of the date who says "I'd like to see you again," and follows up by setting up another date.
I am confident in my abilities and what I have to offer, and my ideal client will not want to risk losing their opportunity with me by dragging their feet.
2. My Ideal Client takes a sense of pride in being able to afford me.
I can usually tell what direction a client inquiry will go based on their first 3 sentences. If the first thing a client asks is about my pricing, I know they aren't likely to be a good fit for me because this is a person who values price before quality.
With my average local wedding price at around $3,000 usd, I am not a budget photographer. I am a professional business that carries a cost of doing business to provide a service--often called "overhead"--and I also limit how many weddings I will take on in a year so I can still maintain the high quality imagery and care my clients have come to love. This is reflected in my prices.
While I am not against educating the public and others who are looking into going into business about how to price for profit, I do take issue when I have to validate my business and why I'm priced where I am to a potential client. That is not someone who values what I provide. That is not my ideal client.
My ideal client values quality before price. As I said in point 1, my ideal client has already looked at my website and checked my portfolio and reviews, and while doing so would notice my prices published on my website. So they've done their homework and they know what it costs to hire me.
The client that usually hires me is someone who reaches out and tells me how they found me and what they're looking for, and asks if I'm available for their wedding date. There's rarely a mention of pricing in that first inquiry.
I'd love to hear from you!
I've made it my resolution for 2018 to blog at least once a week on a topic of interest in the photography industry for both other professionals, and the general public. If you think of something you'd like me to bring up in a blog, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I'm always interested in hearing what people want to know more about!