Over the years I’ve seen many great photographer’s businesses fail because will they were skilled image maker, they didn’t have any business sense. Similarly, I’ve seen more than a few mildly talented photographers become huge successes because they know how to sell. Of course there are some great photographers who are also great at business and you probably already know their names but the truth is that they are the exception to the rule.
There are lots of so-called rules that can affect a photographer’s profitability but here are a few of my favorites. If you don’t believe these rules apply to your operation, you’re an exception. In speaking with owners of both large and small studios, they agreed that these rules are true for them:
- A prospect must encounter at least 28 impressions of the photographer before they become a billable client.
- 80% of the gross income of a studio comes from 20% of its customers.
- When a client has a good experience with your studio they tell two people. When they have a bad experience they tell ten people, so the odds are not in your favor. And it pays to do a good job, even when you may not feel like it.
That last one is especially important. How you handle client complaints is sometime more important that the quality of your photography. Bad news travels fast but word about a bad photo shoot travels at Warp 10. We all try to do a good job but on some day’s we’re Francesco Scavullo and on other days we’re Frank N. Stein. But it’s how you handle problems that will set you apart from the competition.
Correcting problems is an important component in retaining a client—that’s rule 2. What happens after you deliver a job and the client isn’t happy? This recently happened to a photographer I know and here’s how it was handled: They asked for a face-to-face meeting with the client to review the images and go over the problem. The work wasn’t all that bad and was within acceptable levels of professional performance. This is when you run into the difference between the stated reason and the real reason:
The real reason the customer was unhappy was that they didn’t like working with a particular photographer from the studio and it was also mutually decided to re-shoot some of the setups but also that someone else would handle the re-shoot. This client spent a lot of money with the photographer and had been a source of previous referrals, which is why my friend wanted to keep it that way. Re-shooting was cheaper (out-of-pocket costs were under $100) than losing a valuable client.
So what’s the big deal you say, anyone would have done the same thing? The difference is that I would do the same thing even if a client spent very few dollars with me and had never referred an assignment because that takes me back to rule #1.
These are just a few of the many business tips from my new book, A Life In Photography, that (I promise) will be published this year. Look on information soon.