Starting your photography career is always exciting in the beginning. You’re bright-eyed and bushy-tailed as you start your journey to financial freedom. It’s just like the movies and those success stories you’ve seen on social media (because chances are you haven’t picked up an actual magazine from the news stand in a while), passionate creative leaves the 9 to 5 life and makes enough money to purchase a luxury car, travel the world, be invited to top notch parties, and lives the life that Paris Hilton gave us as an example. Very soon however, the clock strikes midnight on your fantasy and you begin to see the reality for almost all entrepreneurs; there is a very high cost to create a small business and manage one in a day and age where there is no-longer a set blueprint to success.  One of the first challenges that every entrepreneur must tackle is how to generate business and land that first major client. With this article, you’ll be equipped with tips and tactics to not just help you land those major clients, but how to keep them.

First, it’s important to define the term “Major Client”. A major client can be considered the anchor to your finances and your overall customer base. The major client is the client that sustains at minimum, your core business costs through the consistent purchasing of your services. As a photographer, this is very important to acquire early on if you are not supplementing your small business goals with a standard 9 to 5’s income. Often, your equipment costs can far exceed a monthly paycheck at your local Starbucks and the amount of time spent on projects can exceed the hours of a part-time job. The major client is not to be confused with a client that provides you with a huge surge of revenue on a single transaction. Without consistency and repetition, they are just a sugar high and are not able to sustain your business for the short or long term.

Landing your first major client starts with yourself. As a photographer in a world where everyone has a camera, your skills and services are not as in demand as you think. To appeal to any client, let alone a potential major, you must be able to articulate what value you bring to their lives through your goods and services. Why do they need professional photography instead of using their uncle who just bought a camera to take pictures of the family during vacation? What marks you as a professional? Why do you charge what you charge for your services? Who else has worked with you? What can you give that they can’t receive on their own? These questions are foundation building opportunities that every photographer must go through to build trust between their business and the market. Trust, that’s how you attract your first major client. People are more apt to purchase from and continue purchasing from, businesses that they trust. How do you build trust with your market?

After you’ve landed your first major client, now you must deliver on the trust points that you’ve articulated. A word of caution, never sell what you cannot deliver. Lies and cons are reserved for scammers, politicians, and hustlers. Your photography business is that, a business, therefore actions must be measured, assessed, and delivered within relation to the success one hopes to gain from the transaction. A golden rule to follow in business is to “overprepare and overdeliver.” Your major clients will rave about your services and the treatment they receive while working with you. Why put so much spending in advertising when your clients can do so for you?

Congratulations! You’ve not only created clear value that attracted and acquired your first major client, but you’ve delivered on your promise of service and even went the extra mile to add to it at no cost to them. Here is where most photographers drop the ball. Never lose sight of the future benefits to a present encounter. Just because the current business transaction has concluded doesn’t mean that all benefits from it have as well. Stand out from your peers and the other school of photographers clamming for your major client’s dollar and build a relationship with them after business has been concluded. A great way to do this is to send a thank you email to them a few days after the photoshoot or try following up with the product you’ve given and how it’s working for them. Another great way is to email them updates along the way as you build your business. What this does is allows you to shed that scaly salesman skin and be reborn as their personal photographer. Once that relationship is secured, the benefits such as increases in sales, frequency of sales, and referrals are just the beginning. 

Having a major client is necessary to sustaining yourself as a photographer along your career. The more major clients you have, the better. Major clients afford you the ability to continue growing as a professional in skill, growing your business in scale and scope, and increasing your outputs without fear or worry of covering the costs to do so. With the tips and tactics above, you’ll be well on your way to enjoying the benefits of doing business with major clients who are happy to do business with you as well.

Let me know how it goes! I’d love to hear your stories.