Photographers often forget that everyone needs pictures. I know that sounds obvious, but it’s often overlooked in the rush to make photographs. Photojournalists, fine artists, weddings, paparazzi — every kind of photographer caters to someone who needs photographs. Photographers may insist that they make photographs for themselves, but in the professional world it’s really the other way around.
That is why building a profile of your ideal client is the first step to working for people that you want to work for. It evens the playing field and allows you to dictate the terms and conditions of your work for them. If there’s one problem that plagues photographers, it’s that they often have little to no say about how or where they work, how much they are paid for their work, and even how their photographs are used.
My Perfect Client
Considering the harsh realities of the marketplace, if you want to a chart a course to a better place, you need to start with your clients. You need to learn about your clients so you can attract the kind you want. For example, here are some of the characteristics that create the perfect client for my business as a wedding photographer:
- Highly educated, with either a graduate or post-graduate degree
- Lives nearby or is planning a destination wedding at a location where I enjoy working
- May be marrying for a second time and, based on knowledge gained from the first wedding, knows exactly what they want
- Is willing to pay for good photography and an excellent level of service
- Has realistic expectations for the wedding (they aren’t interested in a wedding that is “over the top;” they want something that is real)
- If they weren’t looking for a photographer and I met them on the street, we might end up being close friends
Building this profile did not happen overnight for me. As my business matured, the profile emerged and over time I shaped my business to appeal to someone with that specific profile.
Market to the Clients You Want
A client profile — and the more specific you make it the better — empowers you to “prequalify” prospects in your market. It determines whether a potential client is the right fit for your photography. It determines, to a large extent, how the client will use your photographs. And it determines, to an even greater degree, how much you are paid for your work.
Don’t forget that while you may have started making photographs for yourself and your ideals (as I did), your photographs ultimately must serve the needs of someone else. By getting to know who your ideal client is, you can shape the presentation of your work and, equally important, the direction of your marketing.
[tags]photography advice, photography business[/tags]