I remember a phone call I had with one of my very first clients.
We were discussing the photos they wanted to have done, and I remember in my head that I had an expectation that they would know exactly what they wanted and what they were willing to pay for it. It wasn’t even really something I thought too much about at the time, it was just a preconception that I had for some reason. At the time, that seemed reasonable, that I would work within my clients expectations only and that I would accommodate all of their needs. I had done a a very small amount of research on pricing, and I was trying to be fair and flexible. At least that’s what I told myself.
I had to learn on my own that that is the wrong way to approach a new client. Honestly, of all the clients I’ve worked with, the majority of them had never worked with a professional photographer when they reached out to me. Or, they had worked with just a few, all of which had their own way of doing things. That means, they really had no template for what we do or how we do it. And, I was expecting them to know more than I did about my business and what I offered. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you how much of a mistake that was. Luckily, I have a long history of learning from my mistakes... I fairly quickly realized that it was going to be up to me to figure out what I wanted to offer to my clients. It was not going to be as simple as showing up and taking photos. That's actually the easy part! So, I started asking a lot of questions and doing a lot of research. I listened to podcasts, and watched YouTube videos. I talked to clients and PR firms. I talked to other photographers. I poured over contract templates. And while I learned a lot from doing this, the main thing I learned is that, there is not one way to run a photography business. There is no one template that all of us are following. That’s both the good news and the bad news. It’s bad news in that it’s hard for potential clients to reach out and find general and consistent information about what photographers do and how much it will cost them. That’s not only frustrating for people, it also creates confusion and mistrust. It also seems to have been the inspiration for lots of companies who offer to pair brands with photographers, and who notoriously low ball photographers and pay them a fraction of what they would normally make if they were dealing directly with the brands. The good news is, this is a golden opportunity for us to create a client journey that is nurturing, educational, and transparent, and that fulfills my clients needs better than they even anticipated. It’s an opportunity to educate them about what we do and the time and work that goes into it. Most importantly, it’s a opportunity for all of us to gain confidence and learn to value ourselves more. And, when we are confident and value ourselves, we have a better tendency to have clarity of purpose and offer a better service in our business and to our clients.