Every photographer dreams of having a steady flow of clients that respect their artistic vision and with whom they can work long-term. Clients that respect your work and are therefore happy to pay profitable prices. Building a steady stream of clients takes time but will allow you to worry less about paying the bills and making ends meet, which in turn affords you the freedom to focus on your art and work on the projects you enjoy instead of having to accept any job you can get.
If you're still struggling to get new clients or even your first clients, know that it doesn't have to be this way and that there are things you can learn to get out of this unfortunate situation. In this guide you'll learn about:
- Picking a focus
- Understanding your ideal client
- Developing a brand
- Curating your portfolio
- Understanding how clients make decisions
- Boosting online presence
- Creating special offers to gain more clients and keep existing ones
- Joining freelancing websites to get more photography clients
Here are a few tips to help you get more photography clients and bring in a steady flow of new clients.
Picking a focus
Before you even get started talking or showing your work to anyone you need to make sure you know which niche (or type of photography) you want to focus on. This doesn't mean that you'll be shooting only this for the rest of your life, but if someone is looking to get some product shots they'll probably be specifically looking for a product photographer. You'd think that restricting yourself to a single niche would lead to fewer clients since you're not casting as wide of a net, but potential clients are much more likely to explore your work and talk to you if they see that you specialize in exactly what they're looking for. By trying to please everyone you run the risk of pleasing no one.
Focusing on one of the many different types of photography will build your authority in that field and help you establish yourself as an expert. As you might imagine that makes finding new clients a lot easier.
Finding a niche will also greatly help you choose and define the right marketing strategy. Leaning into what you are already passionate about is the best starting point and will make marketing so much easier!
Understanding your ideal client
The things that work for one type of client will be very different from what works with other types of clients. For example, a marketing strategy for wedding photography will (and should) look very different from a strategy aimed at commercial product photography. If you've ever worked in marketing or done some research on the topic you have probably already come across the term "Buyer Persona", this persona is the representation of your ideal client.
The better you understand who you want to work with and who are you talking to, the easier it will be to get the job! Try your best to put yourself in the shoes of your ideal client and think about their lives:
- How old are they?
- Where do they live?
- What are their interest and hobbies?
- What websites do they visit?
- Where do they shop?
- What social media platforms are they on? For work or personal use?
These sorts of questions are just a starting point, the goal is to have the best understanding possible not only of who they are but how, when and where to talk to them.
Developing a brand
There's a reason that all sorts of companies and organizations spend a lot of time and money developing their brands - it works! This aspect of the business is unfortunately often overlooked by photographers. Having a strong brand identity can help you differentiate yourself from competitors in the same niche, it helps you stand out, get recognized and create loyalty. On top of that, it just looks more professional.
The first thing that comes to mind when talking about branding is usually related to visuals and styling. Clearly defining the logo, signature, fonts and colours that you'll use across your website, presentations, paperwork, social accounts, etc will make you and your work instantly recognizable.
The second part of branding relates to personality and storytelling, meaning the story you tell about yourself, about your work, why they should shoot with you, what makes you special, what makes you better, etc.
Last point: be consistent. There's nothing worse than a brand trying to change who they are, how they talk and what they're interested in every single week. The only way for you to test what you're doing is to be consistent over time and slowly adapt as you start learning. Take it slow, don't rush into it!
Curating your portfolio
As you probably already know, your portfolio is a really important part of your life as a photographer. Building a great online portfolio is one of the most important parts of getting more clients, it's where your potential clients will go to learn more about you and your work, and it will also heavily influence their decision on whether to hire you or someone else.
It's important to understand that your portfolio isn't a random collection of your work, it's a curated, highly optimized and ever-evolving presentation that should help you get the jobs you want. You should add nothing but your best work in there. Remember the research you did on your ideal clients and step back into their shoes.
It can be tempting to show off your vast experience with endless galleries of images, but remember that your potential client will only spend a limited time on your website. You want to make sure they see the right photos, the ones that will make them decide to hire you.
Although it can be tempting to build a very creative website or portfolio you should always make sure you've got the basics. When a client is trying to decide between multiple photographers they might have 20+ tabs open on their browser. If you don't easily provide the necessary information right away they won't contact you.
Understanding how clients make decisions
You need to understand how clients make decisions about who to work with. If you don't understand this process you might be unintentionally turning off clients that might've otherwise loved to hire you.
A general rule of thumb (works both professionally and personally) is that if you're expecting something from someone you need to make it as easy as possible for them to say yes. On top of making it easy for them to hire you, once you understand how clients make decisions there are a lot of things you can do to make the more likely to choose you. For instance, educate them about what to look for in a photographer (via a blog post for example) and get seen as an authority, offer to handle booking the studio, and mention you have models, make-up artists, stylists, or assistants that you can work with. There are many more things you could do, the point is simply that you need to make it so easy to work with you that it becomes an obvious choice.
Boosting your online presence
There are a lot of ways you can boost your online presence, it's important to be aware of existing options, weigh the pros and cons and stay up to date on new channels. It's often better to pick 2-3 channels, focus, learn and improve your strategy in those spaces instead of trying to do everything at once. What are the chances you'll be great at doing SEO, LinkedIn, YouTube, Reddit, LinkedIn, referrals and Pinterest all at once right from the start?
Creating special offers to gain more clients and keep existing ones
Remember that your work as a photographer is a business, not only you should treat it as such but it also means that you can use all the strategies that other businesses might use. Here are a few ideas:
- Incentivize client referrals by setting up a referral system. Your existing clients get something back from sending you more clients. Referrals are great because they both get you more clients and get your existing ones to come back.
- Hold a one-time contest or giveaway for a free photoshoot. Depending on how you set it up it could get you lots of attention on social media and the contact information of more potential clients.
- Offer a discounted price for clients who commit to multiple shoots within the same year. This can help you develop a long-term mindset and relationship with your client while guaranteeing a certain income over the next few months.
Joining freelancing websites to get more photography clients
A good marketing rule to follow is to establish a presence anywhere your audience is likely to spend their time. And as you probably already know, most clients will start by searching the web when looking for photographers. There are a lot of jobs/freelance websites and online directories that attract huge amounts of traffic every day. It's highly recommended to build a presence on those websites as they actively try to match clients searching for photographers with the actual photographers, they usually also make it very easy for you to get started and get your first few jobs.
What's the best website to get more photography jobs?
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