After years of running a photography business, I can pretty much guarantee that I have had to deal with every possible experience out there when it comes to running a business. Going through the ups and the downs has led me to where I am today and I'm very thankful for bring here now and running a business where I absolutely adore my clients. Where my clients value everything I do and trust me as their photographer. I seriously have the BEST clients in the world.
But you know what? it wasn't always like this. There was a time where I didn't feel valued. Where I felt like I poured my heart into everything I did just to have it go unnoticed. I often sat there and wondered if pursuing a career in something that I am attached to emotionally, something I cared so much about was the right decision. I think part of me is more vulnerable by choosing this as my job. It's more than a job. It's something I created from nothing in hopes that the person I'm creating it for, is someone who values it. It's something very personal. And pouring your heart into something you love for a long time just to feel like it's not valued will run you into the ground eventually.
The million dollar question is; how do you get others to value what you do?
It starts with you. The first step in getting others to value you is to value yourself.
There are countless hours of work I put into this business. Countless nights that I would stay up all night to get my work done because it was the only time I could because it was when my little ones were sleeping. Countless hours on the road driving to sessions. Nights away from my family. Countless hours of trying over and over to get it right and countless of hours of failing and trying it again. Editing full wedding galleries while holding my son while he's sleeping. I have taken every day and pushed towards my goal and I am the only one who knows how much I have had to sacrifice. You know who values what I do most? I do. I myself know how much I have had to sacrificed and how hard I have worked. I know the hours, the days, the years I have put into this. There has been million of things that I have had to sacrifice to get to where I am now. I value every single minute of my day and at the end of day I have become very picky in choosing where I spend my time and who I spend my time on. I am ok with walking away from someone who does not value what I do because I know there are people out there that value every thing I do. So the first step to getting others to value your time, your effort, your work, you - it's to value yourself and your time.
The second thing is learning how to recognize those that will value what you do and those that don't. With this you will also need to learn to let go of those that don't. It's learning how to filter through people to find your dream client. The client that sees how hard you work, they see your beautiful work and they appreciate everything you do for them. It's not always easy to figure this out but take the time to figure out who your dream client is. Have you ever had a 'dream' client? Sit down and write down what about them you loved so much. Then figure out how to find more of those types of clients. Learn to see signs of a dream client and signs of a client that you've had in the past that didn't appreciate everything you did. You'll soon know exactly how to find and recognize your dream client everywhere you look.
Here are a few things I personally look for:
- Someone who gushes over my work. The first and most important thing I look for is if they absolutely love my work. Are they wanting to hire me for my work or something else? If it's not what my work looks like then most likey it's not going to be my dream client. If i get a quick email asking for a price list - it's probably not my dream client. If I get an email from someone who is in love with one of my sessions and they would love to shoot with me and find out more about what my sessions entail - that sounds more like my dream client.
- They value my prices and my time. I have set my prices accordingly to what I need to charge in order to pay my bills and run a successful profitable business. My dream client understand this and since they value my work they have no problem with my prices. There are plenty of times where I need models for special projects and will give them a special thank you gallery for it. I love using past clients for that. I already know i'm working with someone who values what I do.
- They trust me as their photographer. During the session they trust me. They know what I see things differently than they see it. They know that they will end up with a beautiful gallery if they just follow my lead. They know i'm the photographer that has the vision. When i'm shooting through a flowery branch to create a special affect it might look a little funny but they know that it will end up pretty. They don't second guess what I do, what I say, my direction, my advice. It all leads to trusting me.
- They ask me for help or advice. I love it when I get texts or emails from my clients asking what I think about their outfits. Or when they ask for recommendations on where to shop. I love being part of styling the session and having clients that allow me to be part of that aspect of planning out their session. It shows me that they care what the session will end up like.
Those are just a few things that I look for personally. There are so many signs that you can learn to see in your dream client. You just have to learn what to look for and learn to walk away from those that show signs of not valuing what you do. Take the time and sit down and write out signs of your own dream client.
The last thing you can do in order to find more people that value and appreciate what you do is raise your prices. Will it slow down how many sessions you shoot or how many people contact you to book a session? Yes - it will. But it will also help filter those that will not value everything you do. You will attract people that want you for your work instead of people who want you for your prices. If they want you for your work, they will value what they get and value what you did. Raising prices alone won't solve the problem of having people not appreciating what you do but I do believe the three steps above will.