Updated: Jun 14
In today's blog, Kara Nelson Hubbard talks about finding your ideal client, especially when you're just starting out as a photographer.
The Idea of An Ideal Client
I know I know, ideal client. I have a feeling you're starting to read this already with an opinion formed as to where you think this blog is going, but I ensure you….you don't. If you've spent any time at all in the photography industry you've most likely heard the coaches, educators, and marketing experts tout and push the idea of forming your ideal client (heck, I've probably even mentioned it a time or two). They encourage you to identify this person, market towards this person, pursue this person, and (some of them even teach) to ONLY book this person. YIKES!
Your ideal client is important, certainly. However, in my experience (only 10 years as a photography business coach here guys) AND in my opinion, your ideal client is whoever is willing to pay you money for your services regardless of what they look like or who they are. There, I said it.
Now, this opinion has gotten me in a lot of trouble with coaching groups (I’ve literally been kicked out). But buying into the idea of having an “ideal client” TO MUCH is toxic, especially to new(er) photographers who are in the early stages of building a serious business. Here is my approach to the idea of an ideal client:
The Rule of Follow-up
As a coach, I encourage my clients to pursue EVERY SINGLE ONE of their inquiries. There are educators and coaches around that will often suggest that you only pursue those clients who fit your ideal client description, whatever that may be, or that you don’t pursue them at all. They approach inquiries with the idea that if a client wants to work with you, they will pursue you as a photographer, and there’s no need for you to chase them. But here’s a secret, nothing in this world is black and white, and this approach may work for some photographers, but definitely not the majority. If someone is interested in your services, treat them like a potential paying client!
Always always always follow up with your inquiries. If someone doesn’t respond to your first email immediately, that doesn’t mean they don’t want to work with you. I can’t tell you how many emails are sitting in my inbox RIGHT NOW that I need to respond to yesterday. Life is busy. Put yourself in that person’s shoes. Everyone is preoccupied with their own hectic schedules; kids, work, school, relationships, social media, you name it. It’s natural for emails to fall through the cracks. Every inquiry you don’t follow up with is potential money left on the table. So, don’t miss out on potential cash flow just because that client doesn’t fit a mold, or because they didn’t get back to you immediately.
Setting up automated workflows with client management tools like HoneyBook help with this tremendously. You can automate everything so not a single inquiry falls through the cracks (and you only have to do the work once).
What a blessing it must be to be picky as a small business owner, especially a new one. Deciding not to book a potential client because they are not your “ideal client,” or deciding not to follow up with an inquiry, these avenues are just not options for any photographer who is building their business. You’re saying no to money! That person who you did not follow-up with, could have been someone who would have passed your name along, or book multiple sessions, but you’ll never know because they weren’t considered “ideal,” and you didn’t follow up with them. Furthermore, even if they didn’t do any of those aforementioned things, they were willing to PAY. YOU. MONEY. for a session! It just does not make sense. Money is money. And the perfect clients are clients that are willing to pay you that money for your services.
Until your business explodes and you have more money and clients than you know what to do with, you do not have the flexibility to decline clients because they aren’t “your ideal client.” Your biggest mountain between failure and success is experience. Getting people to pay you money to stand in front of your camera. Think of it like an actor trying to break into the Hollywood scene. They move out to Los Angeles, get a job waiting tables, and start pounding the pavement. They go to acting classes in the evenings and jump at the chance of even auditioning for the smallest role. They don’t have the flexibility to turn down roles and negotiate their terms yet. They aren’t Leo or Meryl yet. They are still trying to learn, and build, and grow.
That is most photographers. Most photographers for much of their careers are still learning, building, and growing. Most do not have the flexibility to turn down clients because they don’t fit into their ideal “cookie-cutter mold.”
So, are ideal client avatars even important?
The long and short of it is, ideal client avatars really do come in handy when you’re creating your marketing plans or even making branding, pricing, or website decisions. It helps to keep your decisions focused on that “one person” in society that you want to book your services. However, this doesn’t mean that those will be the only clients who book you, nor should it mean that those will be the only clients you will take on.
To put it simply, every client is your ideal client. As a coach, I genuinely want to see my client’s businesses succeed, and in order to do that, they need to book clients! My number one piece of advice to my coaching clients who want to book more photography clients is to follow up. Treat every inquiry like royalty. You never know what that person’s day looks like or what their intentions are.
About the author
If you’re looking for a business coach who will help you streamline your business and book more photography clients, I’m your girl.
My name is Kara, owner of TOGRAFY, and I specialize in everything related photography business. Pricing audits, business automation, workflows, email templates, and every other thing you might need. If you’re ready to shoot more, manage less → let’s chat!