I remember about two years ago I walked into a new clothing store in our town. I had no idea what this place was like, but as soon as I went in, I felt out of place. Everyone was dressed nicely, and there I was wearing khaki shorts and a t-shirt. When I looked around, I didn’t know any of the brands, and it was really expensive. There was a t-shirt for around $70 and all the jeans started around $150.
A worker eventually talked to me, but I think he knew there was little chance of me buying anything. After a few minutes, I left and never came back.
Was there anything wrong with this store? No, it’s actually pretty popular, but it just doesn’t fit who I am, and it’s not supposed to. Their store is made for a different type of customer.
One of my favorite stores is Banana Republic. I feel comfortable when I go in there, and the clothes are dressy and I love the fit. Things cost a little more than other stores like Old Navy, but I’m willing to pay the higher prices. Overall, I feel like Banana Republic Fits with who I am.
I’ve had similar situations with my photography business. Sometimes I didn’t feel the connection with the client, and the client felt out of place. One of the more common issues is people contacting me, and their first question is about price. Many of these clients were more concerned with price, not quality. They, of course, didn’t hire me and instead went and found the cheapest photographer out there.
One of the most common mistakes I see photographers make is they try to sell to everyone. They think that everyone is their customer. That would be nice to be able to sell to everyone, but it just isn’t doable. Think about it. Are there any stores that attract and sell to everyone? Not really. Even the biggest store of them all, Walmart, doesn’t reach everyone.
Instead of focusing on everyone, it is much smarter to narrow your focus down to a certain group called your ideal photography client. It can be difficult to figure out who this ideal photography client is. It should be someone we enjoy working with and they are willing to pay our prices. This is going to be different for each person because we are all different.
8 Questions to Find Your Ideal Photography Client
Sounds overwhelming but there’s an easy way to figure it out. We are going to create a visual image of our ideal photography client, and all you have to do is answer these 8 questions.
Are you your ideal client?
One thing I’ve heard many people say over and over again is that you are not your ideal client. What that means is the ideal client isn’t similar to you. The people that say this usually argue that your ideal client needs to have a lot of money, and if you had that much money, you wouldn’t be doing photography. So this leads photographers to aim only for the upper class.
This way of thinking can work, but there are some problems you’ll have to overcome. First, you won’t completely understand these people. They live a different life and come from a different culture. If we threw you in a room with them, you’d feel really out of place and not know how to act (what do I do with this spoon again???). You also won’t be connected to them. All your friends will be more on your level, so you won’t have people you can just reach out to. The biggest problem is that you’ll have to be fake and become someone else. You’ll have to start talking different, dressing differently, and being a different person to get these clients.
The other option is to find an ideal client that is similar to yourself. This is the route I’ve gone, and I’ve found it to work better. First, you really can understand these people because they are similar to you. They might like the same things or have a similar job, and this allows you to talk to them and build a relationship. In short, you’ll actually like these people and do not have to change who you are. You’ll also be able to find people these people easier because you’re already connected to a ton of them. If I want to do a mini session or if I’m looking for something, all I have to do is post it on social media, and my friends can help.
1. How old are they?
People are different at different ages and you need to figure how old your ideal client is. I sure hope no 12-year-olds are getting married, so that’s not my ideal client, but some photographers might target the parents of tweens. Maybe your ideal client is a grandparent wanting photos of their family or grandchildren. Each one of these age groups is different, so you have to figure out which one is right for you.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve found myself with older couples. Before when I was young, they would not have considered me because younger people usually lack experience. As I age, the younger crowd might not hire me because I’m old and not hip. That might actually be good for me, though, because people are getting married at an older age. The good thing about that is they have money and want someone their age.
2 Are they male or female?
If you haven't figured it out yet, guys and girls are different. Depending on what type of photography you are doing, you’ll either be aiming for males or females. For the majority of the photography world, women are going to be more interested. Most guys don’t care as much about photos and aren’t willing to spend money on it.
There might be some things that are more geared toward guys like sports, vehicle-related activities, or maybe hunting. I’ve had done some of that and tried to market to guys for weddings, but overall, females continue to be my ideal client.
3. What is their ethnicity?
Please understand this. I am not pushing racism in any way. That’s not what I’m going for at all. If you are worried at all about that, please just skip this one.
No matter how hard we try to make everyone the same, there are still differences from one group of people to the next, and that’s not really a bad thing. Each group has different traditions and ways of doing things and these are things to consider. Indians have bright colored clothes and hand tattoos at weddings calledMehndi or henna. Hispanics celebrate a girl turning 15 with a big party called a Quinceria. Each one of these is an opportunity, so it's a good idea to consider ethnicity.
I have found that people tend to gravitate to similar people. The majority of my clients are Caucasian. Is that all I want to do? No, but for some reason, different cultures and races don’t book me or even contact me.
Now, this doesn’t mean you can’t have an ideal client of a different ethnicity. You might even be able to use this to your advantage. Maybe there aren’t any decent Hispanic photographers in your area. If you can connect with them and get involved, you could get a lot of new business.
4. What is their religion?
Religion is another subject like race that we all tend to avoid. We don’t want to offend people, but really, we do need to think about this for our ideal client.
You can further narrow your idea client by religion. Do you know everything about a Catholic mass or do you prefer people with no strong religious ties? Do you have problems controlling what you say? You should think about all these things before defining your ideal client.
5. What is their class or income level?
Do millionaires eat at McDonald's? Possibly a few, but the majority will eat at a nicer restaurant or have someone cook for them. McDonald's targets the middle and lower income brackets while other expensive restaurants will target the middle and upper incomes. Both ways work and there is nothing wrong with either.
The same can be done with photography. Most people say to raise your prices and try to work with the people that have a lot of money. That is a good strategy and works for plenty of people, but you can also survive photographing those that aren’t rich. How does that work? It’s basically the same way McDonald's works. You need to serve a lot of people every day, quickly, and cheaply.
I’ve shot events like this before and it’s very different than my weddings. Basically, someone comes in, I snap a few photos, and they’re gone. I might talk to them for 30 seconds but that’s about it. Most of the time I don’t learn their name or anything about them. My average sale is much lower, but the quantity makes up for it.
6. Where do they shop or hang out?
To fully understand your ideal client, you need to think about where they would shop or hang out. Do they frequent boutiques or do they get everything from Walmart? One’s not necessarily better than the other, but it does tell you about their spending habits.
Another reason that this is important is it will help you find your ideal client in real life. You can connect with different shops and possibly put out flyers or business cards. You could do a special promotion with the stores, and then you could meet the potential clients face to face.
7. What type of job do they have?
When you think of a doctor, you get a certain idea in your head. The same goes if you think about an artist, but the image is probably quite different. There are things you can learn about someone from their job like they enjoy helping people, are good at building things, or are creative. Of course there will be people that don’t fit completely into our premade conception of a job, but in general, it can help with figuring out our ideal client.
There are some things to consider when looking at the possible job of your ideal client. What is their education level? Do you know anything about their profession? Are they someone you can talk with and get along? For me, I think it’s important that I can have a real relationship with my clients. There are certain jobs that I really get along with, but if you put me with a mechanic or a brain surgeon, I won’t know what to talk about.
8. What are their hobbies?
Hobbies are another great way of targeting your ideal client. What do they like to do in their free time? Do they read? Exercise? Ride horses? Party? Again, a big part of this, at least for me, is finding someone that I can relate to.
Hobbies can also help you find these people in real life, similar to where they shop. You could join a parenting group to connect with mothers, go to a climbing wall to meet climbers, or maybe you could start your own group to attract people.
You’ve got an ideal client, now what?
If you’ve gone through all of these questions, you should have a clear image of your ideal client. Once you have this person created, you can start making decisions based off of that. This will affect things like where you market, how you market, the fonts you use, the way you dress, your price, and your products. I know that sounds crazy that you have to consider all of those things, but if you want to consistently book your ideal client, everything you do has to fit with them and attract them.
Multiple Ideal Clients
One other thing to understand is that you can have multiple ideal clients. I know that sounds confusing since all we’ve been talking about is narrowing down and finding that one ideal client. Well, the truth is you will need to create an ideal client for the different types of photography you do. If you do newborns, that’s one ideal client. If you do weddings, that’s another ideal client. If you do landscapes, that’s a different ideal client.
Be Flexible with Your Ideal Client
My last bit of advice is be flexible. If you’ve defined your ideal client and you’re doing everything right to attract them, but still having no luck, maybe you should change your ideal photography client. Look in a new direction and try something else. Also, as you age or get more skilled, your ideal client might shift, so be prepared to adjust. I’ve found that we often start off thinking we know our ideal client, but it isn’t until after we’ve tried and failed that we find our real perfect client.
Finding your ideal photography client is one of the hardest things to do for a photographer. We want to work with everyone, but that just isn’t realistic. The process can be complex and difficult, but it is well worth it. Once you’ve found your ideal client, you’ll be able to get booked more consistently and actually enjoy working with these people.