We’ve all been on a first date, right? It’s a pretty big deal. You want things to go smooth and hope that you make a good impression. Especially if it’s with someone that you have had your eye on for awhile. Let’s compare how you prepare for that first date to how you prepare for the beginning of a relationship with your clients. We all want to win over our potential clients by giving them a great first impression, but how do we do that?
Make an Impression
In the early stages of a relationship, you work very hard to impress someone. My husband took his car down to be washed and detailed before picking me up for our first date. It was clean on the outside and on the inside. Keep your equipment clean and treat it with pride and respect while with clients. Our clients pay us good money to take pictures of them and to receive beautiful images and products. Imagine the impression it would make if we were just casually dropping our camera to the ground, if it looked dirty or we weren’t using lens caps to protect the glass to the lens. Take care of your equipment, your bag and whatever else you bring with you to a session (stepstool, reflector, flash…)
You want to communicate with them just the right amount. You don’t want to turn into Stalker Sam who constantly calls them or emails them, but you do want to make sure you are giving them information that will answer their questions, get to know them and make them want to book you. In that first email contact, I suggest emailing them back with questions about what type of session they want, if they had a date in mind, how many people…try to get information that tells you more about their needs. When they email you back, that’s when I respond with pricing info. I don’t send my welcome packet until a deposit has been paid, but I do give them pricing information beforehand so they know exactly what to expect to pay.
Keep Your Image Clean
You definitely want to look great. What does this mean in the photography world? Have a logo. Make sure your website is up to date. Have a branded business. Make sure your blog is your voice. That’s where clients will see your images grouped together from a session and read the words you write. That’s your voice. Look good in every aspect of your business, just like you would for a first date. I don’t know about you, but on my first date with my husband 24 years ago, I bought a new outfit, had my nails done, put on some perfume and looked great! Run your business the same way, especially for first contact with a client.
Listen to Your Clients
Listen. Listen to the details of what clients want. Listen to how they describe their children, their goals for college, their family dynamic. When you’re in an early relationship, you hang onto every word spoken because you’re getting to know them. This is no different with a client. Those details will help you be in touch with their needs. I have a client from Columbia. One year our family hosted a foreign exchange student who was from Columbia. I got in touch with my client and made arrangements for our new son to go spend a day with her family to cook and be with her family. Both had a great time! An opportunity would have been lost had I not known where she was from.
Be real. Most of us have had those dates where your expectations were one thing and the person you went out with were another. Don’t be that person. I have found that one thing my clients love about me is that I am the same person on facebook, my blog, email and texts as I am in person. I’m very down to earth, fun and easy to get to know. That makes it easier to be comfortable around me during a session. Be who you really are so that clients can fall in love with you.
Do You Need to Break Up?
What happens when you see the relationship isn’t working out? Are you allowed to break up with a client? Yes, you are. You see, owning a business can be wonderful. You create your own hours, you can work from home in your pajamas, you can decide how much you are getting paid. But did you also know that you can decide who you take on as clients?
I recently had to do something that was a first for me. I had to break up with a client. From the beginning, I knew the relationship wasn’t going to last. But I wanted it to. I really did. I tried. I put everything I had into making it work. We talked on the phone, we emailed, we talked about what we wanted out of this relationship. As it turns out, we each wanted different things. And that’s when I knew I had to end this relationship. I wasn’t being respected, my voice wasn’t being heard and I felt like I could no longer continue the relationship. I refunded the deposit and wished the family well. I hated doing it, but it was the right thing to do.
As you go forward in your relationships with clients, think about what you can do to make a good first impression, just like you would a first date. And if you have to break up, just know there will be someone else out there for you!