Sure, you can learn from workshops, online courses – even this blog! But what if your very own clients could teach you everything you need to know about photography? Here’s how! (Photos: TOMAYIA COLVIN)
Workshops. Conferences. Online courses. Art schools. The educational opportunities are endless, and they all promise to teach you everything you need to know about photography so you can make better photos, earn more money, and become the Next Great Photography Sensation.
But what if your #1 learning resource is already right in front of you? What if the teaching, tools, and insights you need are already within your grasp?
We’re convinced that everything you need to know about photography can be learned from one unexpected source: your clients.
Here’s what we mean…
“Photographing young people has made me a better photographer and communicator, and brought out the best in my creativity.” – TOMAYIA COLVIN
Your clients know what’s working. Do you?
We’re our own harshest critics, and sometimes our self-criticism prevents us from seeing our strengths and accomplishments. But the clients who hire you do so because they love what you do! They’re fully aware of what makes you special, and if you allow yourself to see your business through their eyes, you’ll be able to elevate your areas of skill rather than wallowing in your weaknesses.
Let your clients educate you on your assets: what you do best! Begin with these two steps:
#1: Listen to what your clients LOVE about you!
If you look for failures, you’ll find failures. But have you looked for your successes lately? Instead of fixating on what’s NOT working, dig into the data on what is working!
Your clients are your best resource for this information! Using verbal feedback, written surveys, and data reports (such as ShootProof’s sales reports), you can learn the following:
- Which of your clients did you LOVE working with last year?
- How did they find you?
- What did they buy?
- Which referral sources have worked for you – even if only one time so far? (E.g., a vendor, a past client, a friend?)
- What POSITIVE things have people said about your photographs?
- What POSITIVE things have people said about your website?
Now that you’re enjoying a little boost of confidence, it’s time for step two!
#2: Do MORE of what’s working!
It can be overwhelming (and expensive!) to completely reinvent the floundering areas of your business. It’s far simpler to identify successful areas of your business, and DO MORE OF THAT!
“High school seniors & teens want to be different and stand out from the crowd. Every session has to be awesome in it’s own way and unique from the last portrait session.” – TOMAYIA COLVIN
If you’ve spent any time in the comments section of a blog or social post, you’ve heard the phrase, “Don’t feed the trolls.” This means simply, “Don’t engage with people who are just there to drag you down.”
The opposite is true, too, however: “Feed your passion!” In other words, when you know what’s working, invest into it.
Reward your favorite clients with steeply-discounted mini sessions. Gift prints to your repeat referrers. If people tell you that they LOVE seeing photos of your dog on Instagram, post a puppy picture once a week! And if your high school senior clients adore your one-of-a-kind senior sessions, up the ante with a year-end styled shoot featuring your senior reps – like photographer Tomayia Colvin did!
“I’m always on the hunt for cool new locations, staying on top of the newest social media platforms and fashion trends, and working around the clock to make sure I’m bringing my A-game!” – TOMAYIA COLVIN
Don’t overthink your flaws. Your clients will let you know if something’s off!
It’s great to self-evaluate and look for ways to improve your business. But, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” Trust that your clients will make it clear to you if something you’re doing isn’t working. How?
- They won’t buy it.
- They won’t book it.
- They won’t tell others about it.
If you’re getting passive negative feedback from your clients in one of the forms above, BE BOLD. Reach out to some trusted clients and ask them: “Why doesn’t this work for you?” Listen sincerely to their feedback, and use their honest insights to make changes as you see fit.
Just because you decide to change something, doesn’t mean you were doing it “WRONG.”
Just because a customer dislikes something about your business doesn’t mean it’s wrong; it may just be wrong for them. Don’t react in panic to every client’s whim. Instead, consider their feedback, and take your time deciding whether it’s valid for your business goals.
Let’s say, for example, that numerous potential clients have complained that your rates are too high. The number of times you’ve heard this concern has you worried, and you’re starting to doubt your pricing structure.
You could: A) frantically try to create a price list that appeals to EVERYONE, or B) dig into the data you’ve collected to better understand your customers’ concerns and how to address them.
Maybe your data reveals that those customers aren’t, in fact, your target market. Perhaps it’s time for you to cut off whatever referral source is bringing you those “you’re-too-expensive” customers. Instead, invest your energy into building referral sources who will send customers who can afford your work.
Or maybe the data has revealed that your packages simply need to be restructured so they don’t appear to be so expensive.
One photographer cut her portrait pricing by 75% by charging ONLY a session fee up front – no digital files or products included. She booked more sessions with her new, “session fee-only” pricing, and ultimately earned more in post-session product sales than she earned when she was pre-selling product-inclusive packages!
She allowed customer feedback to educate her rather than intimidate her, resulting in smart business decisions!
Challenging bookings are your opportunity to LEARN!
When a client or job turns out to be more difficult than you anticipated, you can scramble for ways to get out of the gig, or you can treat the challenge as an opportunity for growth!
It can feel intimidating or frustrating when a customer inadvertently reveals a shortcoming to you. Maybe you’ve realized you actually don’t know how to use a flash. Or perhaps you’re finally accepting that your group portrait skills need some polishing. The great news? Once you know what you don’t know, you can start learning.
From the ShootProof blog to Cole’s Classroom to Zack Arias’ DEDPXL community, the internet is chock-full of free and affordable educational solutions. Find the one that’s right for you, and start problem-solving!
When you allow your clients’ needs to inspire new skills and fresh creativity, you open yourself up to a vast, new world of sessions, relationships, and opportunities!
“I’m a better parent and community liaison because of my student-clients’ need for role models to offer positive words of encouragement, support, and advice as they navigate their way through high school.” – TOMAYIA COLVIN
Let your clients teach you everything you need to know about photography.
The moment someone hands you their credit card, they’ve said, in essence, “I trust you to take care of me.” Cherish that trust and respond with an abundance of enthusiasm. Allow your clients needs, dreams, and questions to motivate you to be the best artist and entrepreneur you can be.
“As a former classroom teacher, I mesh well with senior clients. I’s always my pleasure to photograph them and break away the day-to-day routine of my portrait photography business.” – TOMAYIA COLVIN
You can read articles, buy courses, and even commiserate with other photographers. But no one can give you firsthand feedback like your clients. Let the community you serve inspire you, guide you, and elevate you.
As your creative talents blossom and your business acumen evolves, you’ll be rewarded with loyal clients for life.
How have YOUR clients made you a better photographer?