In competitive industries like photography, it pays to have an edge. As great as your photos may be, there’s a skill every bit as important to the success of your business. And you can turn it into your photography superpower.
Building relationships with clients is essential to any successful photography business. As a new photographer starting out, it’s important to understand that photography is not just about taking great photos, but also about building strong and lasting relationships with your clients. The best part is that it isn’t particularly difficult. The time and attention you put into honing your customer relationship superpower will be rewarding in more ways than one.
Why building relationships is important
When you build a strong relationship with your clients, you create a bond of trust that allows you to work together more effectively. Your clients will feel more comfortable expressing their needs and desires for their photo session, and you’ll be able to tailor your services to meet those specific needs.
Building relationships also creates loyalty. When you show your clients that you care about them and their needs, they’re more likely to come back to you for future photo work and refer you to their friends and family.
Ways to make valuable connections with your clients
When I wrote that relationship building isn’t hard, I meant it. The Golden Rule really does apply here. Treat the client the way you’d want to be treated. These four behaviors show how simple it is.
1) Communicate effectively
Clear and open communication is key to building relationships with your clients. It’s important to be responsive and attentive to their needs and concerns. Take the time to understand what they’re looking for in their photo appointment and make sure you’re on the same page before moving forward.
During the session, make sure to give them direction and feedback, and ask for their input along the way. There’s not much worse then spending an hour or more working with a client who is just certain you’re not taking the photos they really want. Unless, of course, it’s finding this out when the clients tells you they’re unhappy with the final product. Clear communication can avoid the majority of problems new photographers tend to have with their clients. This fact alone should be enough to make effective communication a major goal.
2) Personalize your services
Take the time to get to know your clients on a personal level. Ask them about their interests, hobbies, and passions. Use this information to personalize your services and create a unique experience for them. For example, if you’re photographing a family with young children, you could incorporate their favorite toys or activities into the session to make it more fun and engaging. If you’re working outside a studio, pick locations that are significant to your client. Your goal as a photographer is to tell their story. This is so much easier when you take the time to get to know your client.
3) Follow up
After the session, follow up with your clients to see how they liked the experience. This does a number of things. It shows that you value their business and care about their satisfaction. It also gives you an opportunity to remind them of your workflow schedule so you’re not bombarded with anxious messages pressuring to get your editing done. Not only is this a chance to get them excited about the photos they’ll receive, but it can head off problems you didn’t know you had. If the client has any concerns from the way the session went, you have time and opportunity to correct anything the client brings to your attention to keep them looking forward to their photos.
Even after you’ve delivered and your contract is fulfilled, send a personalized thank you note or offer a discount on future services to show your appreciation. If you’re a wedding photographer, send an anniversary card regularly. If you’re a newborn photographer, send birthday cards to show you’ve remembered the special day. There are almost endless opportunities to follow up in inexpensive, yet thoughtful ways.
4) Be professional
While building a personal connection with your clients is important, it’s also essential to maintain a professional demeanor. There’s a fine line between being your client’s “friendly photographer”, and being their doormat. Being too friendly at the wrong time sends mixed signals that open the door to a whole new set of challenges. This means setting boundaries between “friendly” you and the “photographer” you and knowing when to be which.
When it comes to your work, protect your boundaries and be the professional. This means being punctual, reliable, and respectful of their time and needs. Make sure to set clear expectations from the beginning, including the scope of the project, the timeline, and the fees involved. Remember that people often take advantage of the “friend” before they take advantage of the “photographer”. Don’t give them the chance.
In the end, you both benefit
When you work to build a strong relationship with your clients, you both benefit. For you, it can mean repeat business, referrals, and positive reviews, while for the client, it can mean a better overall experience and a higher likelihood of getting the desired results.
Here are a few ways in which both you and your clients can benefit from a strong relationship:
Better communication: Building a relationship with your clients can lead to better communication, as they become more comfortable discussing their needs and desires with you. This can help ensure that you’re on the same page when it comes to the session, leading to better results.
More trust: When clients trust you, they’re more likely to recommend you to others and work with you again in the future. Trust can be built through honesty, consistency, and transparency.
More collaboration and cooperation: A strong relationship with your clients can lead to more collaboration on the session, as they may be more willing to provide input and ideas. This can lead to a more creative and unique final product.
More referrals: Happy clients are more likely to refer you to others, which can lead to new business opportunities. Building a relationship with your clients can help ensure that they are satisfied with your work and feel comfortable recommending you to others.
More repeat business: When clients have a positive experience working with you, they may be more likely to hire you again in the future. This can lead to more repeat business and a stable income stream.
Most importantly, everyone is happy
Overall, building a relationship with your clients can be highly beneficial for both you and them. By focusing on building strong relationships with your clients, you can help ensure the long-term success of your photography business. By communicating effectively, personalizing your services, following up, and maintaining a professional demeanor, you can create a bond of trust and loyalty with your clients that will last a lifetime.
Remember, your clients are not just customers, they’re also human beings with unique needs and desires. Treat them with care and respect, and you’ll be rewarded not only with happy clients, but with a thriving business.