Being a professional photographer entails a lot more than just knowing how to create excellent photographs. Professional photographers also have to be savvy and efficient business people as well. In fact, if you want to be considered a “professional” in any field of work, you need to be good at many things that go beyond the scope of your trade or craft.
I wanted to discuss this subject on the blog because I am often asked the question, “What does it take to be a professional photographer?” There is a lot more to it than meets the eye, and I feel it’s important for anyone who’s considering earning money from their photography to know some of these ground-floor principles. So today I’m going to share with you five simple things that I feel are of the utmost importance when dealing with clients or potential clients.
- Be punctual. Professionals are expected to be, well… professional and one of the quickest ways to lose a client is to show up late, call late, or miss a deadline. It makes no difference if your taking family portraits or if you are shooting commercial work for an ad agency – you have got to be on time, all the time. Artists typically aren’t the most punctual people in the world and you will lose work and clients at a dizzying pace if you aren’t on time.
- Communicate, communicate, communicate. I can’t say this enough: you have to make yourself accessible to your clients. That means answering phone calls and e-mails promptly, returning messages, and having contact information all over your website and/or blog. If clients can’t reach you or get you to call them back, they will fill their need with another photographer no matter how good you are. If you aren’t going to be available for awhile, make sure that people who may contact you know that and know when you will be available next. If they like you that much, they might wait until your available but it is key that they know when you will be available.
- Under promise and over deliver. Don’t promise your client something that you are not 100% certain that you will be able to deliver on. It’s far better to promise your client less and give them more and it will keep them coming back time and time again. Say that you agree to provide your client with 40 digital images and while they are going through their proofs to select their 40, they really like 45 of them and are having a tough time deciding which five to discard. Would it hurt to throw in those extra 5 images? Most likely it wouldn’t and they will remember you for it and gladly call upon you again. A little goes a long way when it comes to making your clients happy.
- Stay organized. One of the biggest barriers to running a successful and professional business is organization. If you can’t find the contract that you were supposed to get to your client or remember what day you were supposed to deliver it to them you are putting your business in serious jeopardy. Make time to sit down and get organized. Write out a schedule. Keep a calendar. Maintain a to-do list. Organization will keep your business running efficiently and effectively, allowing you to spend more time working on the most important part of your business – the clients you serve.
- Serve your clients. Have you ever heard the phrase, “The customer is always right”? If it weren’t for your clients, there would be no income for your business. And after all, that’s why we’re doing this in the first place isn’t it? We want to make a living doing what we love. Your clients have chosen to spend their money on you and it’s critical that they find value in the services that you provide them. It’s also extremely important to let them know how much you appreciate their business. A simple Thank You card or gift is a great way to show your appreciation and it reminds them that you are there for them in more ways than just to receive the check.
These five principles are the foundation of any good business and play a huge part in your success. If you ever wonder why there are mediocre photographers who are making a good living, it’s more than likely due to the fact that they follow some of these principles. You can do a little research in your area, but believe me when I say that I see it all the time.
Remember that you don’t have to give yourself away or let clients take advantage of you in order to serve them. There is a big difference between over delivering and giving yourself away and it can cause you problems down the road if you don’t understand that difference. If you brand yourself as an inexpensive photographer or one that gives a lot away – that reputation is going to stick and it will be hard to get away from.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, successful businesses aren’t built overnight (or even in a year or two), and it takes more than just excellent photography if you want to be a professional. If you apply the five principles above to your business then you will have a solid foundation to work off of when it comes to taking care of the number one asset in your business – your clients.