If your calendar is looking bare and your phone is mysteriously silent, there may be more than just the slow economy to blame. It may be time to take a hard look at your business to see what needs to change to get paying customers walking through the door. Here are some of the roadblocks that we have personally run into with our business or that I've seen other photographers hit in the past.
|copyright Erik Reis/ iStockphoto|
If you've just started your photography business and you're expecting a rush of anxious customers at your ribbon cutting ceremony, you're probably going to be disappointed. The steady stream of customers will instead likely start off looking like a slow drip. In the beginning, people don't know you're there and don't recognize that you do quality work so why would they book you? Even veteran photographers face this challenge when they move their studio to another city. Either way, you've got to establish a solid customer base as fast as you can.
Quality To Price Mismatch
We probably all dream of clients who spend like price doesn't matter. That's more fairytale than reality though. Clients do care about how much they spend. Even the higher end clients who have the money to spend are not going to just hand it over to you if your images are not up to par with their expectations. I can't tell you how many times I've heard veteran photographers tell a group of start-up photographers that they should set their prices wherever they want to and just look for the clients that will pay them the price they randomly decided on. If you had a couple thousand dollars to spend on portraits, would you choose the kid next door or the one who has mastered his craft across town? I'd choose the master, and I think you would too. Try to price appropriately for your skill level, and you'll have a much better chance booking clients.
Good news travels fast, but bad news travels faster. That principle holds true for what people are saying about your business. While you may do a hundred things right when dealing with a customer, the one thing you do wrong will be the first mention your business gets when your customer starts talking to friends. Your reputation is even more on-display now than ever before with Google reviews, Yelp, Facebook, and other websites built to collect customer reviews. If your customers are complaining about the same issue frequently, it's probably a process that needs fixed. If you're consistently delivering albums 6 months late, either farm them out or start staying up late to get them done. Apologize where you've let a customer down, and work toward re-building your good reputation.
Having a great portfolio is about more than just collecting your best "wow" images. Having 100 amazing close-ups of flowers isn't going to impress a client wanting you to take portraits of their family. Not only does a strong portfolio need good images, it needs the type of images that you're wanting people to pay for. I'm pretty sure you're not going to get your next paid gig shooting a field of flowers. If your flower images look better than your wedding images, put some serious time, energy, and money into developing the skills you need to take better wedding images.
Broken Booking Process
The booking process should be a no-brainer. If a client is ready to book a session, you've done your job and it's time to collect on all your hard work. There are times when this step can break up the entire deal though. Did you forget to include a phone number or email on the website? You'd be surprised how many times I come across photographers' websites that literally have no way to contact the photographer. There are more subtle ways the booking process could be broken too. I've seen cases where a customer is faced with having to fill out a complicated contact us form and decides to skip all the effort. If you're taking days to respond to voicemails or emails, customers often move on to find someone else. We've even forgotten to record an "on vacation" voicemail greeting and lost frustrated customers.
Change Is Good
If you see yourself in one of the scenarios I just described, fix it now! If you're not sure what your problem is, you may need to do a little research. Ask your friends. Ask previous customers. Change things up, and try something new in your business. Bottom line: stop blaming and start fixing!
TJ and Larissa are passionate about the business of photography, and they have recently made it their goal to be named one of the top 10 wedding photographer teams in the world. They are located in Southern Illinois. Read their other guest post 5 Ways Photographers Are Wasting Money On Marketing.