What you’ll learn
- How to attract your initial clients
- How to build a healthy client base
- How to keep existing clients
- Top tips for young photographers looking for clients
What you’ll need
- People skills to attract clients
- Networking skills to gain new clients
- A pro-spec camera kit with a back-up body
- A high-quality hard drive to back up your work
- A computer with enough memory to handle editing
Whether it be a magazine, a website, a brand, an event or a commercial commission that chooses your photography skills you’ll definitely need clients to build and grow your photography business. Steve Fairclough spoke to two photographers to discover their best advice for getting, keeping and growing a healthy client base.
Clients are absolutely key to making a photography business work, so how to you attract clients, keep them and build a client base that makes your business a success?
To get some key insider advice and useful tips about getting clients Camera Jabber spoke to photographer and content creator Sara Melotti and photojournalist Gali Tibbon.
Building a client base
Sara Melotti is originally from Italy but she moved to Los Angeles after high school to pursue a career in dance. An injury curtailed her dreams of being a dancer but after settling in New York City she quickly carved out a new career as a fashion photographer.
She now mainly focuses on her project Quest for Beauty, which involves travelling the world photographing everyday women in their everyday lives – you can find out more about her at: www.saramelotti.com
Sara reveals: “At the beginning of my photography career, when I worked in the fashion industry, I used to push my work in front of as many people I could. I sent a million e-mails to pitch myself to possible clients every month and knocked on as many doors I could.
“I tried to not pay attention to all the rejections I got and I focused on the, much fewer, positive responses. Perseverance is the most vital quality for a starting artist.”
Gali Tibbon is an award-winning photojournalist who is based out of Tel Aviv, Israel. She combines personal projects (often with religious themes) with commissions from newspapers and magazines. Her work has been exhibited at many major photo festivals in Europe and she has been the subject of two documentary films – Mirrors of War and Women in Photojournalism. You can find Gali’s main website can be found at: www.galitibbon.com
In terms of how she first approached potential clients for her photography Gali says: “I think it’s always a challenge to jump from your local market where you might have established a reputation to the international market, especially in documentary, travel and photojournalism. I realised that at photo festivals such as Visa pour l’Image in France, among others, there is a great opportunity to meet many photo editors from top media outlets, so you can meet them in person, show your work.”
How to keep existing clients
Both Sara and Gali were asked about their top tips for getting new clients and keeping existing clients…
Sara replies: “To get new clients, just keep pitching your work. Clients won’t come to you unless you’ve been around a while. ‘A while’ means years and years of hard work and several accomplishments under your belt, so you’ll have to keep knocking on doors for a long time. Don’t be afraid to contact people, if there’s someone or some company you really want to work with send them an e-mail or reach out to them on social media. Let them know you are interested in working together and see what happens, the worst thing that can happen is that they’ll never get back to you or say ‘no’, but you’ll survive that!”
Sara adds: “As for keeping new clients just keep creating. Stay true to yourself and your vision and you’ll make work that no one else can make cause no one else is you.”
Gali Tibbon advises: “I think first you have to identify your market, what are you aiming at regarding the type of photography you do. Do your homework, make sure your portfolio is strong and at the same time have a personal fingerprint.”
She continues: “Don’t be shy. If you think you have a good body of work, try to arrange a meeting with a client; send it out by e-mail. Don’t forget that photo editors are human and at the end of the day they are looking for new stories and new photographers. We live in an intense era; be active on social media and make sure your accounts are up-to-date. Sometimes it feels as if social media is a monster that needs to be fed and fed with images.”
Best advice for attracting clients
When quizzed on the best advice they would give to younger photographers who are looking to attract their first clients the key factors for both Gali Tibbon and Sara Melotti are to be focused on your genre of photography and to get your best work seen by the type of clients you want to attract.
Gali says: “Stand out, have your own voice, apply to contests and do your best to win; if you do it is a great way to expose your work to a bigger audience. Try to attend portfolio reviews, but make sure the person reviewing your work is relevant to the kind of photography you do. Meaning if you do documentary work, don’t line up for a review from a fashion photographer! Exhibit your work in photo festivals and professional events… you never know who you will meet there.”
Sara replies: “Firstly, understand what kind of work and clients you want to get and then build a relevant portfolio within that genre. You want to attract clients who respect you as an artist and understand your vision. Don’t take jobs that have nothing to do with the work you like to make because they’ll end up being nightmare gigs, and the money is never worth the hassle.”
The client carousel
Whilst you may be sitting at the start of one year with two or three ‘big ticket’ clients it may only take a few budget cuts or a change or two in personnel and the main part of your business could disappear rapidly.
A couple of years ago I interviewed the renowned sports photographer Bob Martin and he advised to always be on the search for new clients as your client base from five years ago will probably be vastly different to what it is today. So, it’s important to stay hungry for clients but also to make sure you do your best work possible and deliver top class work every time.
Depending on the genre of photography you are in that will often go a long way to making sure that something as simple as word of mouth attracts exactly the type of clients you want.
Don’t rest on your laurels and think you have clients in the bag – it’s better to think of each project, even for an existing client, as a new pitch and a new opportunity to showcase your skills and creativity.