Tuesday, April 8, 2014

What Will Bring In The Most New Clients?

I had a great question while consulting for another photographer recently and it was one that I had never really stopped to consider so concretely.

"If I can only invest my time and money into one part of my business right now to have the biggest impact on bringing in new clients, where should I focus?"

I knew the answer immediately, because it's the single most important thing that has always made the biggest difference for me.  No matter how outdated my website portfolio is, how messy my branding might be at the moment, when my last blog post was, how active I've been on social media, or how many website directories my page is listed on, by far the biggest impact on my business is directly related to how happy my clients and fellow working colleagues are with my quality of work and how easy I am to work with.  It seems so common sense that most people don't even mention it, but it really is the single biggest factor in being successful as a creative.

Service businesses are highly recommended by former clients on one of two factors: how cheap they are or how amazing they are.  Being cheap may be a great way to start and prove you can do the job, or allows you to sustain a side-business as a hobby or part-time venture, but it isn't a model for longevity or sustainability if you're going to work as an individualized creative service.  So, my recommendation is to be highly recommended for being amazing to work with.

How does that play out in a list of actionable items?

  • Make promises with your clients that you can exceed regularly, which means having all of your business and production ducks in a row so that you never need to apologize, only surprise!
  • Prepare your clients expectations by detailing your process and how you work
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate  - return calls, emails, texts as soon as you can
  • Check in with your clients when you've completed a job to find out what they loved and what you can improve
  • Stay in touch with your clients through an email newsletter, loves notes, phone calls, or facebook friendship, because people aren't checking your blog or website on a regular basis after they've worked with you already, but because they've worked with you, they'll be the first to help recommend you to new people who are looking
  • Give your previous clients opportunities and ways to work with you again by running specials on products they may not have purchased, or offering additional services that benefit them
  • Revisit other people you've worked with on a shared project, like wedding vendors, makeup artists, venues, etc. and see if you can collaborate on a future project that would benefit them
  • Thank people for their referrals when you know who the referral came from and let them know how much you appreciate their support of your work and service
  • Create work that your clients will want to share with everyone they know by going above and beyond in ways that you know will make them happy
  • Be easy to work and a joy to be around by not letting your ego get in the way of doing something that would help out a client or another vendor
If you can do this for every client you work with, you will see exponential returns on your investment of time and dedication to client happiness in ways that support rates that exceed industry averages and provide the demand that supports being selective in who you work with.  

Note: If you don't have a list of clients that you've been able to be awesome for yet, than your job is to go out and create awesome work for people you really admire or are inspired to work with, but then treat them with the same level of professionalism that you would with any paying client.  Too often people who do complimentary work to build their portfolio don't do it in a way that would make someone want to work with them again, and therein lies the cycle of destroying working relationships before they've ever been created.

Anne Ruthmann is an editorial & event photographer in New York City. She spent 10 years practicing marketing & management in corporate and non-profit businesses before pursuing her passion for photography in 2004 as an independent small business.  She loves helping others find creative and smart solutions to business problems.  Stay in touch on Twitter or Facebook.


  1. really beneficial Anne..thanks a lot !

  2. thank you, Anne...this is great stuff.


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