Tuesday, February 5, 2019

How Many Clients Do You Need?

I used to think I needed as many clients as I could get, but that was a fast recipe for disaster until I had systems in place that allowed me to take on more work than I could personally handle.  Many people only learn what their limits are when they actually go beyond their limits.  This is a natural learning curve for new entrepreneurs and businesses, and hopefully you learn it early enough to benefit from finding your creative work boundaries early as well.

Once my client list got too big to personally handle, I started to outsource, insource, and run a team of more people to help behind the scenes.  The more distance I had from my own work and serving clients directly, the more I came to realize how much I missed being personally involved and having a part in each step of the process for clients so that I could assure great communication and quality imagery at every step.  I also realized how much more time and administrative function was needed to manage a team of people rather than operating as a boutique customized personal service business.

The grass is often greener, until you have to actually mow the lawn.

Some people get into business to grow profits and then sell-off or exit the business.  However, providing a creative product or service offers the opportunity to be more boutique, more custom, and more hands-on in a business, which is often what I love most about being in business at all - getting to help people directly.

Reaching the point of having too many clients to handle, and then experiencing what it was like to move from artist to manager in order to serve so many more clients, taught me exactly how many clients I could take on while still giving the boutique level of one-on-one service I preferred.  It also forced me to realize that in order to provide that boutique level of high touch and personal service, I also needed to have the appropriate price for that much intensive client care.

In order to deliver very personalized service to each wedding client, I maxed out at 30 clients and felt best at 20 clients.  In order to deliver very personalized service to each architecture & design client who had multiple projects over the course of a year, I maxed out at 25 clients and felt comfortable at 20 clients.  Some clients took 20% of my time and some clients only took 2% of my time, but together they all kept me busy as a full time photographer, and my pricing was designed to help me support this high-touch level of one-on-one service for each client.

When you think about how you want to grow or expand your business in the future - consider how growth may also change the type of work you do and how involved you want to be with clients versus your team of contractors or employees.  If you hate dealing with client issues and would rather deal with a team you've hand-selected, than expanding your team and training your staff is going to be your sweet slice of pie!  If you love working directly with your clients, you may want to focus on the boutique business model and use outsourcing & contractors supporting you behind the scenes.

When you look into the future of your business, what feels right for you?

Once you know what feels right for you- you can then decide if what you're focusing on going forward is to bring in fewer clients who value your work at a very high level, or focusing on more volume with value-minded clients who will help you support more staff that you can mentor and rely on to grow the business together.

Anne Ruthmann is a retired professional photographer in New York City. With over 13 years of success as a full-time photographer in weddings, portraits, editorial, architecture, and interiors.  She now spends any extra time she has helping others find smart solutions to business problems.  Stay in touch on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook.

No comments:

Post a Comment