I follow several photographers on Facebook, and am interested in both the images they post and the stories they tell. Today, one of them posted about an event he had shot on the weekend. He shot the event, edited and delivered 40 images, and was paid $200. This was $50 per hour and he had spent 4 hours in total on the job. He was lamenting that the client had advised that they previously had received 160 edited images and only paid $100. Then followed posts from others talking about all the gear required by professional photographers and the cost of that gear, that you can’t survive on only $100 etc etc. And on they went. This was a great reminder that you need to find the right clients, not any clients.
It is possible to buy a t-shirt from K Mart for $8 – and a t-shirt from a boutique salon for $80. Essentially the shirt does the same thing, but you won’t be able to convince the K Mart shopper to spend $80 on one shirt. Equally, you won’t be able to convince the salon shopper that the $8 t-shirt from K Mart is comparable to the $80 shirt. They are different products, at different price points, for different consumers. Those consumers value different things. And so it is with photography. It is so important that we find the right clients.
Let’s take an example that photographers are sensitive to. To some people a $100 point and shoot camera is a good investment. To others, a Canon 5DS R DSLR body for $4700 is a good deal. It is about different consumers, with different needs, and different price points. The $100 shopper can’t be convinced to spend nearly five thousand dollars, and the Canon 5DS R customer won’t shoot with a $100 point and shoot. Can you see how important it is to manage expectations and find the right clients?
So, going back to the photographer who posted on Facebook today. From the dialogue after his original post it sounds like the client was not happy, and the photographer definitely was not happy. This was compounded by his friends and professional contacts reinforcing he was correct. I can only see bad things coming from this job. Generating an unhappy client is bad for business.
So what do we learn from this:
- Different clients have different expectations of price, quality and quantity. The ‘problems’ which have come from this shoot could have been avoided by the photographer asking appropriate questions before the shoot. Take time in finding out if this is the right client for you.
- The photographer didn’t have to shoot this job. If there is a mis-match between the client and the photographers expectations, you are better to walk away and let another photographer shoot this job. Negative feedback from clients will ultimately have a negative impact on your business. Just as positive feedback is worth its weight in gold, and generates referral business.
- There will always be photographers who will shoot for very low prices. The same photographers may not be in business for very long, but there will be others to replace them.
- As photographers shooting for a living, we need to show clients the value of using a professional. Have you practiced the conversation you will have with the client? Do you know what questions you will ask to determine what is most important to the client? Do you know what are you ‘walk away’ signals from a potential client?
- And finally, I hope the photographers client doesn’t follow him on Facebook. Imagine the damage that could be done if the client read that post and entered the dialogue. Ugly.
Clients are not all the same. To find the right clients is a skill. Practice that skill. Look after your ‘right clients’. Treat them well. Give them even more value than they expect. They are a source of referral business. Don’t find any clients, find the right clients.