smiling couple at St. Charles engagement shoot

Top Business Tactics: How Photographers can book more clients

The importance of Business skills in photography

In the world of photography, having business skills is like having the perfect lighting setup – it can make or break your career. Sure, you might have a natural eye for capturing beautiful images, but if you don’t know how to market yourself, manage your finances, and negotiate contracts, you’ll be stuck struggling to make any real money the rest of your life.

Successful photographers understand the importance of being able to sell their work and themselves. They know how to create a brand that stands out in a sea of Instagram filters and iPhone snapshots. They can market their services to potential clients with confidence and charm, convincing them that their images are worth every penny. But it’s not just about the business side of things – it’s also about the art of negotiation and the ability to seal the deal.

smiling couple at St. Charles engagement shoot

A skilled photographer knows how to communicate their value and get the price they deserve. They’re not afraid to put their foot down and ask for what they’re worth. So, if you want to make it in the high-stakes world of professional photography, remember that it’s not just about having a fancy camera and a knack for framing shots. It’s about having the business savvy to turn your passion into a profitable venture. Because let’s face it, capturing breathtaking images is great, but paying the bills with your art is even better. 

Understand your value as a photographer

How much does a good pair of shoes cost? It’s kind of hard to give an easy answer right? Well, that’s because it’s all about opinions and what people think. Some might think $50 is a lot to spend while others might spend $1000. The same is true for photographers. 

Each photographer needs to decide his or her value. Are you worth $50 or $1000? Again, there isn’t a right or wrong answer to this. I think there are lots of things to consider before throwing a number around. 

funny dancing guy at wedding

First, is this your full time gig or you more of a hobby person? I’m not saying one is worth more than the other by any means, but a hobbyist shouldn’t need to make as much as someone that eats or doesn’t based off photography. I know there was a big switch for me when I went full time. 

Second, what type of photography do you do? Weddings, in general, are going to have a higher value per shoot vs. birthday parties or something like headshots. Again, you can make a lot of money off of those other ones but I’m just talking in general. This number really is per shoot. So you could do multiple headshots in a day and make the same as a wedding. 

Third, how skilled are you and what’s your experience like? The more skilled you are and the better experience should mean you can charge more. Luckily, these are things you can work on and increase your value. 

Last, how much money do you need to make to survive? The cost of living is crazy different from one place to another. That’s why I don’t really like giving general numbers. I’ve known wedding photographers that are making over $100k, but are barely surviving because of where they live. 

couple chugging beers at wedding

I know this wasn’t really scientific, but it should give you a general idea of how much you want and can make from each shoot. That’s important to know because if you don’t know your worth, you’re likely to accept less. I see way too many photographers out there willing to work for less than minimum wage. 

Research the client and their needs

When you’re trying to book someone, you’ve got to know about them. Don’t assume that every person that finds you is the same. That’s why I always like to hop on a phone call at the very beginning. This way you can do some research and really get to know what the potential client wants and needs. 

Let’s take a moment to think like a detective. What questions can you ask to really learn about them? Yes, you could come out and say, “What do you want?” but that doesn’t really help that much. You need to find out the why.

Why is this important to them? Why do they care about this? Always feel free to say, “tell me more about that” if you feel like you haven’t gotten a deep answer yet. Once you start asking these questions, things shift from it being just a photo session to what they are really going to get out of it. That kind of thinking gives you power because they will be thinking about the benefits. 

Wedding-at-Das-Bevo-in-St.-Louis-18

For example, people don’t buy cars to simply get around. They buy for comfort, social status, adventure, or plenty of other things. Find out what people want and then tell them how you will get it for them. 

Focus on building a relationship with the client

Who are you more likely to get along with and buy from, a complete stranger or a friend? Hopefully, you said a friend or you’ve got some issues.

Even if you’re only going to interact with someone for a short amount of time, like a headshot, it’s important to try to build some type of relationship. That’s another reason why I try to start things off with a phone call. It shows I really want to get to know them, and during the call, I ask questions that aren’t related to photography at all but help me learn about them. Show genuine interest in their life, and they’ll reciprocate that interest in you and your business.

One thing I do is respond personally as soon as I get a lead. Too many people send out a generic email. I like making a quick video on my phone and sending it out over a text. I can’t tell you how much this impresses people. They now have a face and voice to connect to. 

The easiest and best advice I can give is to use their name. People like hearing their name. Say their name at the beginning, a few times throughout, and especially at the end. 

Amazing Ways to Close a Deal

If you’ve already learned about your lead and worked on building a relationship, the last thing to do is close the deal. For many photographers, this is where we struggle because we aren’t natural salespeople. That’s ok. You can get better at anything with practice and some tips. 

smiling couple in front of stone chapel

The first and by far easiest one is to ask for the booking. Tell them you’d like to work for them and ask if they’d like to book. I know that sounds extremely simple and dumb, but so many times, we go through the whole spiel and never ask if they want to book. You don’t want to be pushy or anything, but you still have to ask. One easy way is to say, “What do you think? Want to do this?” in an upbeat, energetic tone. 

Another way is incentives. Give them an extra reason to book. Now, there are different ways of doing this. It can be used up front to bring leads in like through an ad or it can be used as a way to seal the deal. Some will offer an incentive all the time. In my opinion, you should only offer an incentive if you think there’s some resistance. Why give away something when they are already going to book?

With incentives, make sure to put some stipulations out there. Put a length of time on the offer, so they will feel motivated to move quickly.  Also, tell exactly what is included and what has to be done to get the deal. It’s always better to be up front and clear, so you have protection later. 

By far, the biggest issue I’ve had is dealing with objections. It could be, “We need to think about it” or “We are still researching.” I think most of us shut down and give up at that point. The truth is objections aren’t necessarily bad. It just means they have questions or concerns about something. It doesn’t mean you’ve lost the sale. Don’t freak out. Try to figure out what it is they have concerns about and then answer their questions. In a non-aggressive way, ask them more about whatever excuse they gave you.

One last thing, don’t seem desperate. If they feel like you want it too badly, that’s going to push them away. If anything, you need to seem like you’ll be fine without the booking. Don’t be cocky, but you need to look like you’re well respected and sought after. 

Growing Your Photography Business

If you want to successfully grow your photography business, you’ll need to be able to easily get clients. The best way to do that is to know your own value, so you have something to aim for; find out what your clients need; build relationships with clients; and learn how to close the deals. It’s funny that being a successful photographer might have nothing to do with your photos, but from my personal experience over the past 15 years, when I followed these tips, my business grew. It will work for you too!

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