How To Build Your Client List
Finding new people to work with can be intimidating and sometimes difficult. I’m quickly approaching the five year mark for photography, so I thought I would share some quick tips on cultivating creative relationships in your community.
Start with who or what you already know
Photography, especially portraiture, can sometimes be intimidating. Working with people and figuring out how to pose or move someone can seem like a rubik’s cube. One of the best ways to dive into portrait photography particularly, is to start by capturing your friends and family. I would recommend taking two different approaches:
Start by taking a journalistic approach. Take images of the little in between moments of family events (showers, family gatherings, celebrations, etc.). These moments are what really sell clients on hiring you for an event such as a wedding or a party.
Create a concept shoot and ask a friend or family member to help try and bring it to life. Concept shoots can help photographers deliver the messages they’re trying to get across to viewers by using imagery. For example:
This shot is from a collaboration I did with my friend, Peter. I had a new concept that I wanted to try revolving around metal health, so I decided to work with Peter. I knew that he had a strong background in swimming, so he would be comfortable enough to try a water based concept.
Make the first move
This is something you’ll get used to quickly. If you want to do portrait photography, you have to work with people (big surprise, huh?). Unfortunately, if you want to build your client base, you can’t sit around and wait for people to want to work with you, especially if you don’t have a sizable portfolio under your belt quite yet.
You can go about asking someone to work with you in a number of ways — Instagram DM, email, etc. Instagram tends to be one of the most popular and common methods because it allows the model to see the type of work you do and at the same time, you can check out the kind of content they produce.
A lot of people fear that reaching out may seem creepy, but no worries — it’s actually very normal! Here’s a basic template I would suggest for an Instagram message.
My name is ______ and I’m a photographer in _______. I’m looking to build my portfolio and work with some new people! I love your style and I was wondering if you’d be interested in working together sometime.
This one kind of depends on the kind of work you’re aiming to book. I started my first referral program a few years ago when I started shooting senior portraits. I set up a referral program so that my senior rep team would have a discounted senior session, but they would also have more money taken off of their final session for each referral they got to book with me. The seniors that were referred to me from one of my senior reps would also have a discount — this inclines them to book with me in addition to the word of mouth reference.
This method has a couple of layers to it — so make sure that you calculate the cost and return on the investment so that you’re still able to make enough after all of the discounts have been processed.
Make sure that your site is SEO optimized
I’m not going to lie — I’m not an SEO expert…. but I’ve learned a thing or two over the past 5 years from blogging to know enough to draw brands and potential clients. Here’s what I’ve learned:
There should be a way for you to enter your Site Meta Description. This is what will show up on google under your site name when someone searches something in the engine. It’s important to ensure that you include your location, and a bit about yourself and what you do to capture as many organic clicks as possible. Here is an example of mine:
Blogging is another way to increase your site optimization. Blog posts will ideally have 350 words or more. These posts should also include keywords that help drive people to your site from engine searches. Blogging also allows you to share your voice with your audience — it gives potential clients a chance to get to ‘get to know you’ before they make the initial reach out.
Make sure that you ask how initial reach outs have found you. On my booking form, one of my form submission questions asks how they found my work - this is a great way to figure out how you’re generating leads.
I hope some of these tips are useful to you moving forward! There’s obviously countless ways to grow your client list, this list is just what has proven to be useful for me the past 5 years :)