I read a lot and I talk to a lot of photographers. When things are good, they’re good. When things aren’t so good, it seems like there are two places you always go. It’s either pricing or branding. Chances are it’s neither. Here’s what I mean ... (BTW - this works for all small businesses ... including quilt shops in Central Wisconsin!)
You sell products and services to a wide array of clients. They pick you as their pro for different reasons. Some do so because they love your work. Others do so because they like you. Pricing is a component of their decision, but the key driver is going to be one of those two things. Knowing which one it was should make a big difference in how you approach that client relationship. Here’s what I mean.
If someone chooses you because they love your work they are telling you something important about themselves. Photography is important to them. They get that there are different styles. They like yours. These clients will clearly identify themselves. “I just love this picture of ...” They will simply drool over your designs, etc. They are visually oriented, artistically interested (if not inclined) and they will have an emotional reaction to their images once they get them that goes beyond just being happy to see themselves in a new light.
If someone chooses you because they like you and you are convenient, a friend of a friend, someone who did a good job shooting someone’s portraits, kids, wedding, etc., they are much different. They are more likely to be price sensitive. Their priorities are going to be elsewhere. They may actually spend more on the DJ than on the photographer! Horrors!
Expecting these two clients to behave the same way is silly. Giving them equal time in capture, editing, design and posting is equally silly. Client type two isn’t going to buy the upsell album no matter how great it looks. They have signaled their priorities to you. “We want to spend as little time as possible taking pictures.” “This album is neat, how much is it?” “Can I get your lower priced package?” It will be a rare day that a client like this changes their colors just because your images rock. Their perspective will be, “Of course they rock. That’s why we paid you so goshdarn much money!” With this kind of client the key for you is to do your best to be efficient. Don’t get carried away with editing and design. It won’t pay. Think solid. Make sure there are no surprises for them and make sure you deliver on time and on budget. That’s what will make them happy.
Now client type one .... They’re the reason you’re in business. Have fun. Make you and them happy. Just remember that for most studios, (highly successful boutique studios in Chicago notwithstanding) your ratio is going to be about 4 - 1 client type 2 to client type one. To build a successful business you need to learn to serve both. Once you are ultra successful you can start saying things like, “well I just don’t want to serve that kind of person.” If that’s you, congratulations. If you’re like the rest of us then it’s all about making solid choices about what you will and won’t do in each case. That’s not always easy. What I would do is figure out a way to delineate the client type in whatever tool you are using to keep track. That way, every time you refer to the client you are reminding yourself of your priorities in their case. You don’t want to spend hours upon hours editing and designing for someone who simply won’t appreciate what you’ve done. You want to do great work. But you want to do it quickly and efficiently. Then you can go out and shoot something that makes you happy ...