Updated: Sep 15, 2020
I’ve struggled with loyalty feelings a lot in my career as a photographer. You know the story: inquiry comes in. Client seems super cool, and you’re excited to work with them. You send them pricing, availability, try to set up a time to chat! You toss your phone down and roll over to Netflix and await their equally excited reply….and it doesn’t come. You re-read your response. It sounded great, friendly, excited. You gave them the information they asked for, and after a day or two without a response, you follow up with a quick “Hey girl! Just reaching out to touch base about the xyz you were looking to book! Hope all is well! Again, my availability is abc and my pricing can be found here! Hope to hear from you soon!!”. A day or two passes and again, no response.
And then the heart-breaking, soul-crushing experience every photographer has: that client showing up on someone else’s instagram. Those maternity photos with that gorgeous dress the client described? On another photographer’s page, in their portfolio, in their hands. That incredible couple’s session in that amazing place you’ve been dying to shoot? Yeah, someone else got it and is editing it with a squeal of joy as you scroll their page and instagram-stalk your dream client.
So what do we do when we’re faced with this situation? Cause, honestly, clients aren’t our most loyal friends. They’re entitled to try different things. They’re allowed to inquire, and then ghost. Does it suck on our end? HELL YEAH. But is it inevitable? Absolutely.
When it comes to rocking the business side of photography, I think having a cool collection when faced with this situation is key. Remember that you are in a service industry job. If you go to Target and look at water bottles and decide not to buy one, Target is not going to be scrolling your instagram and cursing the name of Home Goods. Right, we’re not giant corporations with million dollar budgets and thousands of employees. I get it, we’re small businesses and we rely on clients inquiring, booking, and paying us so we can keep our lights on. BUT. But, we are still a service that our clients have a right to buy into or not.
Let’s look at it this way: You go to the doctor. Your doctor is pleasant, kind, on time, and overall good. He refers you to another doctor for a follow up. This doctor is just plain cool, has kids your kids’ ages, loves your favorite wine, and you instantly connect. No brainer— you’re going to schedule more follow ups with Dr. B than with Dr. A. He just vibes with you. You didn’t have anything against Dr. A, of course not! He was well recommended to you, and he does a good job. But something about Dr. B makes you feel less nervous to go to the doctor, and you’re very happy to find that.
Sometimes you’re going to be Dr. A to potential clients. You’re good, your work is solid, your response was quick and provided what they needed. But Photographer B hit a chord and they felt connected. Sometimes you’re going to be Dr. B and book the shit out of your dream client. And you know what? You want your client to book the photographer they need. It’s not always going to be you. It’s going to be a bummer to see them on someone else’s page, but ultimately, in a service job, you want what’s best for every client.
I tell my brides that they need to book the right wedding photographer for THEM. I tell them that it might not be me. I tell them that I tend to spray That’s What She Said jokes to the groomsmen within .2 seconds to gain their trust, loyalty, and surprised laughter. I might say penis and not realize your grandmother is behind me. I might drag you out of your reception because the light is just so beautiful and I don’t want you to leave your wedding day without the most incredible photos and we can do them RIGHT NOW. If that’s not what my client is looking for, it is imperative that they find the right photographer for them. I am not a light and airy photographer. I am not a muted, all warm tones photographer. I am not a quiet photographer. I am not what every client is looking for.
And that’s okay. Because my clients aren’t my most loyal friends— but sometimes they do become just that: loyal clients. And where loyalty lies, friendship often follows.
So to my loyal friends who started as clients, and my loyal clients who are becoming friends, and the clients who decided to book someone else: You are what keep me going. My friends keep me grounded, my clients keep my lights on, and my missed catches make me work harder to be Dr. B to every person who hits send.
Love to everyone in the hustle,