5 tips on how to win premium photography clientsposted on 24 October 2022
Every photographer in the world wants better clients, unless he or she is already sitting at the peak—but what does it take to climb higher, when photography skills alone won’t cut it? If you think your independent photography business is ready for bigger and better projects, but you’re still struggling with the same jobs you were doing the day you started freelancing, these five tips may be precisely what you need to start moving up the ladder.
#1) Know what premium clients look like
If your marketing is on point as a photographer, you’re going to have a decent number of leads coming in—knowing when a lead deserves your attention can quickly become a high-priority skill for finding and acquiring premium customers. There are several factors you’ll want to keep in mind to succeed in this:
- Premium clients have quality as a priority
The clients who will pay you the most for your time care more about the quality of the service than the cost of the service; they may have an idea of what they should pay, but they’re more likely to lead with questions about your credentials and portfolio than questions about how much a project will cost.
As we’ll discuss later, this also means you can’t cut corners on customer service and the customer experience, because premium customers value their time far more than they value money.
- High value customers hire specialists
You’re going to make the most money from customers paying for something special about you as a photographer. A customer who is looking for any photographer with any skillset and doesn’t care much about where your focuses lay is a customer who doesn’t require excellence or specificity from their photographer—and isn’t going to pay for it.
- You should prioritize current or ongoing value
It’s possible to overlook valuable customers by focusing on the value they offer in the moment, rather than the value they offer over time. While no professional photographer should ever take work ‘for the exposure’, there’s a grain of truth to the idea that the right job for the right person or company opens bigger and better doors.
A smaller job for a big company can turn into bigger jobs with that same company. A mid-sized project for the right individual can help you break into a new industry, or get your name moving in new social circles. And sometimes, the biggest boost to your bottom line comes from consistent mid-tier work from a client with an abundance of projects to complete, rather than single-serve big-ticket clients.
- Take note of important segments
Over time, you should be able to develop a much clearer picture of what premium photography clients really ‘look like’ as a market segment. That means spotting key factors of demographics, geography, behavior, etc., and filing that information away.
Not only will this help you identify the customers you want to prioritize, it allows you to better shape your marketing, your niche, your skillset, even your equipment to better match what those prospects want and expect from you.
#2) Make professionalism your top priority
Nothing will lose you a potential premium client faster than a poor showing of professionalism. At the higher levels of any field, professionalism becomes mandatory for anyone that’s not a rockstar of the industry.
Presumably, if you’re so big you can show up drunk and an hour late and your client will just be glad to have you there, you don’t need advice on securing premium clients, so let’s take a closer look at what this sort of professionalism entails.
If you schedule something, it happens. If you say you’ll be done in half an hour, you’re done in half an hour. There are no surprises on invoices, and nothing unexpected pops up in the work itself. To put it a bit simpler, you can’t be flaky.
But there’s more to high-end professionalism than being a yes-man. More than anything, you should feel like someone who does high-end photography. You should come across as confident in your work, confident in what you’re being paid, and confident that you’re giving your customer the customer-focused experience they deserve.
- Clear communication
The easier it is for customers to reach someone when they need to follow up on a thought, the better it looks for you as a business. Customer service is an area where many independent photographers fail their clients, which is a big problem for such as a customer-focused field.
Everyone should know what to expect from the transaction, and no one should ever be surprised or displeased by an aspect of the project because of poor communication. This is basic professionalism; crucial for high-value customers, but important at any level.
Many premium customers, in photography or any other field, start paying much more attention to the paperwork surrounding their projects. That makes it a big plus in your favour if you stay on top of the paperwork side of things as efficiently and consistently as they’d expect.
Often, you’ll be the only photographer on their short-list paying attention to factors such as insurance, permits for venues, accurate accounting and invoices, etc. That can be a win by default against competitors who might otherwise handily take jobs from you. It may not be the most thrilling way to establish yourself as a photographer, but it works.
#3) Establish authority and a niche
The difference between a business that makes good money and a business that makes a professional photography wealthy isn’t always, or even usually, a question of talent or skill with a camera.
Outside of corporate photography, your ability to sell yourself as the right photographer for the job matters more than what specifically you do with the camera—though excellent camera skills are a necessity if you want high-end customers to stay satisfied and singing your praises. There are a establish yourself effectively for this.
People paying a premium for photography don’t want ‘a good photographer’, they want a photographer who makes them feel like they’re getting something special and appropriate. A famous landscape photographer isn’t getting calls to do wedding photos, of course, but your niche can and should be much more specific than that—and it doesn’t necessarily need to be directly related to your work.
A niche can be the story of your business. A photographer with a good story to tell about how they got into the business can find better clients than a bored hobbyist turned professional—but even the bored hobbyist turned professional probably has something they can use to form a more personal connection with potential clients, in their work or their life.
Thinking about what makes celebrities interesting to the masses can help here. Being the universally nice actor is a lot like being the most customer focused business in town, but there’s always room for the sharp-edged artiste to make a living, too.
- Technical specialization
While an emotional connection works just as well on the people calling shots at a company as it does with a magazine editor or wedding planner, technical specialization ultimately matters more to sustaining a living in corporate photography—and since it can play a key role in carving out a worthy niche, it’s a good idea to figure out what you want to be photographing and how early on, if you want premium clients.
The more focused and difficult your specialty without running dry of clients, the more you can expect to be paid and the less competition you’ll have; just make sure there’s a market for where you’re aiming and that you don’t dive so deep there’s no one there with you.
- Build your authority
If you can voice opinions about photography on Instagram or Twitter and be taken seriously by relevant communities, you’re going to find excellent customers as a natural consequence. This is what marketers call building authority; establishing your brand as a thought leader in a specific area of influence related to your niche.
Social networks, well-written blogs and video content, and similar places work wonders here—provided you have something to say that people want to hear.
If you want to make an impact on potential clients, marketing your photography should be a diverse endeavour. Putting all of your efforts into a single approach can work well early on if you have an idea and can execute on it well, but it’s neither safely sustainable nor the most effective way to market your business in the long term.
While you don’t want to spread your efforts or budget too thin, you benefit immensely from repetition across different marketing channels; if someone hears about you on social media, sees a video from you on YouTube, and sees a paid advertisement on a favourite website, it’s going to make a stronger impression than if they see you three times on Instagram alone.
- Professional associations and commerce organizations
Becoming a part of the right social circles in your geographic region, industry, and photographic specialty all contributes to your ability to find better clients for your photography business. The people who pay well for professional work are people who pay attention to these organizations—and if you’re the only or best photographer in these relatively small ponds, all the best work will come your way.
Think carefully on the niche of your photography and do your research on affiliated industries and communities, and this can work as well online as off. Joining the right LinkedIn groups or hanging out on the right specialty forums can give you an unending supply of high-value work.
Modern targeting solutions for marketing your photography allow you to prioritize putting your ads in front of all those high-value market segments you’ve been working to identify. Ads on Facebook, for example, can borrow the wealth of information Facebook holds on demographics, geographic location, hobbies, job title, industry, lifestyle, and more to target ads with pinpoint accuracy.
You should leverage this as much as possible to generate premium photography clients early on, when you may have the skills of a premium professional photographer but lack the client base; once you’ve established yourself and have word-of-mouth on your side, you can cut down here without running dry on work.
One thing to keep in mind is the differences in who different forms of marketing will reach; your ideal customer and form of marketing for social media may be different from the people who will find your website via Google search or spot your work on Instagram.
#5) Prepare your credentials to impress
Creating as many opportunities to interact with potential high-value clients is only half of the process—because at this point, they’re still merely potential clients. Make sure you’re ready and able to establish your credentials in a concise, interesting manner.
This is particularly important with premium clients because people or companies investing heavily in photography are much more likely to take an interest in the specifics of your work history, the equipment you’ll be using, and more. More specifically, you’ll want to be able to make your case in these categories:
As a photographer, your experience and your portfolio will usually be the most important cards you have to play. Make sure they’re worth playing and ready to hand.
Take care to not only include outstanding photographs relevant to the sorts of clients you’re seeking, but organize your portfolio to be easily found or shared, easily navigated, and aesthetically pleasing in and of itself. Great photos haphazardly organized on a barely-functional website can lose you as many premium clients as bad photos.
Don’t forget to sell yourself on the things which don’t show up in your portfolio: your knowledge of the industry, your familiarity with the venue, and all the demands of a particular type of project will win over clients where mere photos would not.
Premium clients don’t just want a photographer who can produce good photos, they want a photographer who can get the job done quickly and reliably with a minimum of fuss and error.
Be ready to answer questions about your gear, should you encounter a client knowledgeable enough to ask—with certain industries, that’s going to be most of them. Even with low-knowledge clients, having a pitch for what makes your equipment a good match for their needs goes a long way.
Learn to walk the line between incomprehensible jargon and sounding technical enough to impress a layman.
If you have any professional certifications or credentials, don’t be afraid to pull them out and make a fuss about them. Even credentials which don’t mean much to you or other professionals can look impressive to a customer, and suggest a degree of professionalism and dedication to the craft—especially if you have a long list of them.
Being a part of the right organizations also has value in some circles, and much like a long list of certifications a long list of professional memberships can be visually impressive as a tool for marketing your photography.
In a way, acquiring premium customers is as simple as presenting yourself as a premium photography business. Most laymen can’t really tell the difference between the best photography and merely good photography. It’s more important that they like what they see, and perceive the trappings around what they see as suitably professional, high-class, and interesting.
Learn who your potential premium customers are. Learn what they expect to see from a high-end photographer. And make sure that’s what they see, when they see you—whether they see you on social media, on your website, on videos and blog posts, or in person. The rest will follow from there, as long as your service is up to standard.
Author: Josef Nalevansky is the CEO and Founder of Imagecloud.tv, a leading business application for professional independent photographers used by thousands across the globe. Though much of Josef’s time is spent helping other photography businesses flourish, he still shoots for premium clients.
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