How often do your clients come back to you? Do all of your clients book you again and again, year after year? Do they love you and sing your praises to everyone? Does all of this sound like you or do the majority of your clients book you once and you never hear from them again?
You need photography clients for your business to survive, so it’s extremely important that your clients become return business. Now, there are plenty of reasons why someone might only use you once, so it’s hard to always know, but if all of them are one and done, you’ve got a problem. You’re probably doing one of these 5 things photographers do to lose clients.
1. Being Unprofessional
Which would you consider a professional, a McDonald’s cook or a person that went to culinary school and works in a restaurant? Are you going to expect the same results and pay the same? Not even close. Then why don’t more photographers act like professionals? If you don’t want to be clumped in with all the other photographers, and you want to be able to build your business and charge more, you need to act like a professional.
There are several ways to make yourself look professional. The most obvious is your appearance. I’m not saying you have to wear a suit to every shoot, but you do need to match the occasion. Dress up for weddings and look presentable for other shoots. Don’t be rocking sandals and a hole filled t-shirt.
Next, be aware of what you say. The things you say can have a large impact on how people view you. Sometimes I have to be careful of this. Weddings are fun events and people can get pretty goofy. One time I said something a little too far over the edge, and I instantly regretted it. Once it’s out, you can’t take it back.
One of the biggest mistakes I see new photographers make is being passive. They still aren’t extremely comfortable with everything, so they tend to hang back. This is often disguised as “photojournalistic style.” They aren’t quite sure how to direct and pose people, so they just let things happen and try to capture them. This can work sometimes, but often, the client needs more guidance, and it seems like you don’t know what you are doing.
The first step is to change the way you think about yourself. Think about your photography as a company, not simply you. How would you act at another job? Would you go into your corporate job and dress that way or make those kind of comments? Probably not.
Once you’ve changed your mindset, evaluate yourself like your boss would. Is there anything you’re doing that’s unprofessional? Would people describe you as a professional photographer? If not, what are you missing?
Now that you know where you’re lacking, go work on it. For me, I initially struggled in several areas. Over the years, though, I have changed considerably and had some amazing growth. When I look back at those first years, I just shake my head. If you’re tired of being that McDonald’s fry cook, make the change.
2. Acting Bored or Uninterested
Have you ever been at a store and the person helping you just seems extremely uninterested and bored like they couldn’t wait to get away from you? How did that make you feel? Did you want to buy anything that day or ever return? I doubt it.
We all love photography, but some days we just might be off. Some days we might just not be in the mood or we might be tired. It might not have anything to do with our clients or the shoot itself, but if we aren’t careful, our clients will feel like we are bored or don’t want to be there. I’ve seen this with other wedding photographers before. They might be sitting in the corner, just hanging out or walking around with a frown the whole time. I felt bad watching this, so I can only imagine what the bride would feel
This will cause plenty of issues. First, the photos aren’t going to turn out very well. The client isn’t going to feel comfortable, and if you aren’t excited about the shoot, you aren’t going to be as creative. Second, the client will always look at those photos and remember how you made him or her feel. Overall, the shoot will be a failure.
Make sure you are aware of how you are feeling and what you are projecting. Sometimes we might not even be aware of how we appear or we think we are just fine. For those reasons, I really try to be overly energetic and excited. You’re getting paid to take photos; you should be super pumped!
One way to do this is to really focus. Right before you meet with the clients, get yourself in the right mindset. Think about how excited your client probably is and all the awesome photos you are going to make. Imagine smiling and laughing with them. This should help put you in a better mood. If that doesn’t work, fake it till you feel it. Just keep pretending to be excited and eventually it will start to rub off on you.
3. Slow Response
The world sure has changed over the past 20 years. I remember being back in junior high and having to wait to pass a note to my girlfriend in between classes. It might take an entire day for a conversion to be completed. Today, we expect everything to be instant. Just look at the other drivers while you’re stopped at a red light. I guarantee that 1/3rd of them will be on their phones. These people just can’t wait. Your clients will be the same way. They will expect quick responses.
How quickly you need to respond will vary from person to person, but here are some general guidelines. If the client emails you, you need to respond in at least in two days. Email is not as popular as it use to be, and we all know how much junk we get in our inboxes. People in general are more understanding when it comes to email.
If the client texts you, you should aim to respond at least within 4 hours. The client chose to use text, so you can expect them to fall into those instant gratification people. Don’t leave them waiting.
Now, strange enough, if someone calls you, I would try to respond as quickly as possible. I always run to answer my phone. Why? From my experience, if people are calling you, it’s important. People hardly ever make calls anymore, so if you don’t answer, you might miss out. I know I have had several phone calls where the person told me that no one else would answer their phones. This has gotten me several jobs just because I was the one person that answered. Now, if you miss the call, many people won’t leave a message, but if they do, try to get back with them as quickly as you can.
Overall, I believe it’s important to get back to people as quickly as you can no matter how they contact you. It shows that you care about their needs and that you can be trusted to be there. When you don’t respond, that’s when trouble starts. The client will start thinking you are unreliable or not trustworthy.
There are plenty of ways to fix your lack of communication if you struggle like I do. I’m pretty good about dealing with phone calls because I can’t really ignore them. It’s either answer now or miss out. Text and email on the other hand can be pushed off for later.
If you tend to put things off and then forget to respond, there are a few ways to fix that. First, answer texts and emails right then if possible. Force yourself to respond as soon as you read it. If you’re in a situation where you can’t respond, then don’t open it yet! Wait and then open it and respond. It’s 10 times harder to forget about an unread email than a read one. Another option is Boomerang. It’s an email service that resends emails back to you. All you do is tell Boomerang the amount of time and then the email will show up again like a brand new email.
Still not working? Then maybe you need more structure. Schedule a time in your day for responding to clients. Maybe at 1:00 PM every day you just focus on that. The rest of the day you focus on other things.
It doesn’t matter how you do it, but find a way to be as responsive as possible to your clients.
4. Lack of Confidence
About 7 years ago, I had met a bride at a bridal show, and during the show she was really pumped and about ready to book. She called me a few days later to talk about things. She asked me some questions, and I said something along the lines of, “Yeah, I think I can handle that.” Instantly, things changed. She no longer was excited, and she ended up booking someone else.
So what happened there? Why did I lose the client? It’s because I wasn’t confident in my ability. Clients, especially brides, want to know that you are capable and confident. They don’t want to hire someone that “might” be able to do the job. You have to be confident and make the client feel at ease with the decision to hire you.
How can you show you are confident? A lot of it has to do with how you present yourself. Do you use words that lack power like maybe or probably? Remember what Yoda said, “Do or do not. There is no try.” You can either do something or you can’t and you need to make that clear. Your physical self also shows confidence or lack of. Do you stand up tall and look people in the eye or do you tend to slouch and appear shy?
My biggest struggle still is with pricing. Everytime I tell people a price, I cringe a little bit. I worry about what they are going to say. I worry that I might not be worth it. This has cost me a lot of money over the years because I usually aim low so I don’t offend people or get rejected.
Man, if only there were a quick fix to confidence. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. Confidence is something that comes from deep down inside you. It’s the way you see yourself, and that’s hard to change.
Here’s what you can do. Don’t focus on yourself when talking to client. Simply show and tell them about what you have done. Let them look at your work and talk about the shoots. This shifts the focus away from yourself. People that lack confidence often find it easier to talk about things vs. themselves.
As far as pricing goes, separate it from yourself. Write your prices down and that’s it. Have a price for everything, so there’s no wiggle room. You no longer have to make a decision. You look at your prices and that’s it. If someone challenges you on it, just stick to what you said.
I am not an extremely confident person, but there has been one thing that’s really helped me. Simply understanding the fact that my confidence and how I appear affects how much money I make has made me change. After losing that one wedding and a large chunk of money, it has been much easier for me to at least appear to confident. Next time you’re feeling doubt, just remember the money!
5. Under delivering
I’m a big fan of movies. I love them so much! There have been times, though, where I watched the preview, was extremely pumped, but then the movie was horrible. Turns out they put all the good parts in that preview. There’s nothing worse than having high expectations and then being let down. We have to make sure we aren’t doing the same thing to our clients. Under delivering will kill your photography business.
Here’s how it usually goes. A client contacts us about a shoot. We get really excited and really want to book them. They tell us what they want, and we tell them all these great things hoping to convince them. Well, then we book them, and we’re not as excited. Other things happen, we get distracted, and we end up not living up to the hype.
It doesn’t matter how great everything else is; if you under deliver on anything, the client will be left with a small feeling of remorse. Sometimes it might not even be your fault, but the feeling is still there. Several years ago, I showed up to photograph a wedding and the bride asked when my second photographer would be there. I was extremely confused and said that wasn’t in the package.
A few weeks earlier, I had sent her a document to help schedule the day, and on it, there were parts for a second photographer. Now there was a comment about if this applied, but I guess she didn’t notice that. She saw the spot for second photographer and thought that meant she was getting one even though it was never mentioned before. Anyway, things still worked out, but I could tell she was a little disappointed.
You’ve probably heard it said before, but it’s best to under promise and then over deliver. It’s all about mindset. When people aren’t expecting something, they get so happy when they get something extra. The opposite is what we’ve been talking about. If we promise something and then don’t come through, no matter how small, our client will feel let down.
For photographers, there are multiple areas we can under promise and then over deliver. One, give people more time. In most cases, photographers have time built into their prices in some way. It is very easy to throw in an extra 30 minutes or an hour to a shoot. This works best, though, if you make it clear you’re giving them more time. You might say, “Our scheduled time is up, but if you’re ok with it, I’d like to give you some more time as a gift.”
The same thing goes for products. Most products don’t cost us much, so it’s very easy to give these away as well. If the client is expecting 15 digitals, give them 20. If they ordered prints, throw in a free 8×10. Again, I’d make sure to point out that you are giving them a gift.
Another way is delivery time. This is big in weddings. People always want their photos quickly. Right now, in my contract, it says it will take up to 3 months to get everything done. It use to be 2 months, but then some people were getting upset. Nothing has changed in my workflow really, just the client’s expectations. Now people are happy when they get their photos a month early when people of the past were getting upset with the same time frame. It’s all about what you promise.
Booking a client once is a big deal and is awesome, but don’t you want that client coming back to you year after year, shoot after shoot? If you continually make the mistakes mentioned above, not only will clients not come back to you, eventually you will gain a bad reputation. This happens all the time, not only to photographers but every kind of business.
Take a step back and look at yourself. Are you doing any of these 5 things Photographers Do to lose clients? If you aren’t sure, ask a friend or poll your previous clients. It might be painful at first, but it’s better to try to fix the problem than to continue making the same mistake again and again. Good luck!