We’re in the middle of a series for photographers and aspiring entrepreneurs called “Making the Leap” where we’re sharing our ten practical steps for going from part-time photographers to full-time. Or, as author Jon Acuff puts it, going from your day job to your dream job without it becoming a nightmare.
At the beginning of our business, we made a marketing decision that bucks the normal trend: no traditional advertising and no paid advertising. For us, from the start, it’s never been about booking as many clients as we can, it’s been about booking the right clients, the ones we started our business for, the ones we get out of bed and get excited to serve, because it’s more than photography to us. Our business is about marriage, memories, and life. We never wanted our clients to just be customers, just dollar signs on a business sheet’s bottom line, and we never wanted to be just be vendors to them, people who show up, set up, and shut up. That’s not something to get out of bed for every day. There’s no purpose in that, no higher calling or deeper meaning.
We want our clients to be our friends, people we love and serve, and support, and we want to be their personal cheerleaders on their wedding day and in life. That’s what strong marriages need, a team of people who surround you with encouragement. And in our minds, who better than the people who saw your marriage for the first time through their lenses for everyone to remember forever: your photographers? We know what you’re thinking, I want that, too, I want to make a difference, but I don’t even know where to start. If that’s you, then you’re in the right place, because we’ve got some ideas that’ll get you started right now!
We sat down for dinner recently with a friend of ours who’s recently engaged and we asked her a simple question, “What are you looking for when you’re contacting potential wedding vendors and deciding who to hire?” We thought it was a good question, because the longer we’ve been married, the harder it is to remember how it felt during the planning process, and the more important it is that we stay connected to how our brides feel when they contact us. “I’m looking for people who respond quickly and are excited for me,” she said, “because I’m excited and I want people at my wedding who feel the same way.”
When it comes to getting busy loving and serving clients, could there be a more important place to start than a good first impression? When you get a phone call, email, or Facebook message from a potential client, how long does it take you to respond? 12 hours? 24 hours? What are you like when you do? Our friend said that the two most important things when she first contacts you are 1) how fast you respond, and 2) how excited you are. Why? Because both show that you care, and both first impressions set the tone for how you’ll be throughout the entire wedding process. From now on, when you get a wedding inquiry, try responding within the first hour, or if that’s not possible, by the end of the day, and do it enthusiastically!
One of our favorite parts about meeting with new couples is hearing about their love story. Each one is so unique and special in its own right, and listening to a newly engaged couple recount all the details of their courtship is just plain fun! Since you don’t have more than a few face-to-face interactions with your couples before their wedding days, it’s critical that when you meet for your initial consultation that you’re really listening, that you’re catching small details, that you’re hearing what they’re saying, paying attention to nuance, and finding out who they are. The more you listen and learn, the better you can serve them down the road throughout the entire wedding process. We’ve had clients mention all kinds of things in consultations that, because we listened and remembered, we were able to use that knowledge at some point later on to love that client better.
You know the best vendors in town, because you’ve likely worked with them before, become friends with them and trust them completely. You also know which ones to avoid. One of the best ways to love and serve your clients is to familiarize yourself with the best people in each sector of the wedding industry (planners, florists, DJs, caterers, etc.) so that when your clients need solid referrals, you can give them with confidence. If you haven’t worked a ton of weddings yet, or you’re just getting started, reach out to another photographer in town and find out who they refer and why. Brides can easily get overwhelmed with all the different choices they have to make leading up to the wedding day, so if you can help simplify that for them, you’ll be doing a great service!
We’ve talking about this before, but it bears repeating: being in front of a professional camera for the first time can be very intimidating for most people. So, when you’re out on your engagement shoots or when you’re shooting on the wedding day, help your clients feel like rock stars by encouraging them from start to finish! When you’re coaching them from behind the camera and making them feel like the most important people in the world (because at that moment, they are), you’re building trust and continuing to grow in a relationship with them that’ll resemble a friendship more than a business transaction.
Okay, who doesn’t love surprises?! There’s almost nothing better than getting something thoughtful from someone you love, whether it’s a spouse, family member, or friend. So we should all being doing the same in our businesses! When you listen to your clients and show a genuine interest in them, you’ll become friends, and you’ll know exactly what to do to show them how much you care.
Start from the beginning of this list and work your way down. Be intentional about responding to new clients and current clients by the end of each business day, if not sooner! Be as invested in their wedding as they are, and then get busy loving and serving them in any way you can!
Next, we’ll talk about Step 8: Get in Community. We’ll share one of our earliest business mistakes and some practical steps you can take to get connected to other photographers who can help you grow.
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Thanks for checking in, friends! Have a great week and serve on!
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