If you’re in the beginning stages of building your photography business, you may be struggling with how to effectively gain the trust of potential clients. Communicating that you can be trusted will be the difference between having booking clients or not. Gaining customer trust is vital to your success. Being intentional about this is as important in the beginning as it is as if you’ve been a photographer for 20 years. For as long as we’re in business, we’ll always want to continue to improve and strive for more connection, and consistent and more efficient systems in place that will elevate your client experience. Today I’m going to explain 14 ways you can build trust with your clients when you’re just starting out.
If you go to Wal-Mart to get groceries, would you expect to pick up an evening gown for a special occasion? I mean, they have dresses right? I don’t think so! Maybe while you’re at the dentist, you get offered Botox….I don’t know, maybe you would and maybe you wouldn’t be one thing is for sure, it doesn’t make sense. I would feel so much more comfortable purchasing an evening gown from a store that specializes in these types of gowns. They will likely have tailoring services, several colors and sizes and styles to choose from and an experienced person to help guide me in my decision. Likewise, if I’m getting my teeth cleaned, I would be pretty apprehensive about having my dentist try and get rid of my crow’s feet! But that’s just me!
As an expert in one area of business or profession, you most definitely have more authority and credibility being an expert of one area of business or trade. Photography is no different. While you may be shooting everything in the beginning trying to decide where you want to settle, really give it some thought as to what you’d love to shoot long term. The niche you decide on will determine where you spend your time learning more about and crafting pricing packages, email templates and perhaps props. Posing a bride is much different than posing newborns. There’s nothing wrong with learning both of those if that’s what you want to be known for. Take a moment to consider that old phrase: Jack of all trades, master of none. Who do you think would be more profitable in their business, the jack of all trades or the expert who specializes in their one field of work? My bet is on the one who specializes! I know it’s scary because you want to be available to anyone who will pay you to take pictures with your camera, but trust me on this one!
Show the viability of your business by posting regularly. You may not have enough business to post everyday…or do you? Here is a short list of things you can post when you don’t have a lot of client work to show:
Stock images from free sites like unsplash.com or pixabay.com
Show photos of yourself and tell stories about your life, the reason you love photography, maybe a funny story or even something encouraging.
Give your growing audience a behind the scenes look at where you do your work.
You’ll also want to post often to keep your name and face top of mind with your small but growing audience. Posting also only what you’d like to shoot more of is also key. You may take the most precious picture of your neighbor’s fur baby, but if pet photography as a business isn’t your thing, just don’t post it! Remember you’ll attract more of what you post so post with intention.
If you need a little help with what to post, I’ve put together a month of instagram post prompts as a FREE resource to help you get consistent with your posts.
The truth is that trust is a based on a relationship and because attracting potential clients on social media is many times a one way street unless they comment and engage with you so showing your face and not hiding behind the grid is one powerful way to connect with your current audience and those that come across your work later on. Recycling your photos is fine, too!
I’ve got a whole episode for the exact steps to take to build your portfolio from scratch next week! Be sure to tune in next Wednesday for all the nitty gritty details about this. Cultivating your portfolio is essential and a wise decision to show prospective clients what you’re workin’ with! Be sure to share what you can reproduce because those very photos you have on display will be the ones they will be using to envision themselves in. In the interest of building trust, this will be a vital area of earning the trust of future clients.
Honesty is always the best policy! Even now, clients ask me almost every session how long I’ve been doing photography and sometimes where I went to college. While I did go to college for a few years, I didn’t have a degree and I didn’t study photography! I told them honestly that I have no formal training and that besides two in person workshops with a mentor, I’m completely self taught. Early on in my career, I had some clients that were camera savvy ask me about specific camera body and lens questions and I admitted that I simply didn’t know all the fancy technical stuff about my big fancy camera. At the time, I just barely knew how to shoot in manual mode! You can always think of a cute way to convey that you’re new to photography if asked. The expectations of your clients will be higher if you inflate your experience. Just be honest!
Be yourself but be the most professional version of yourself. The way we dress, the emails we send and the words we speak are all small components that make up a big part in reinforcing thoughts of either a probable positive experience with us or a probable negative one. I get it, too, what we wear during sessions will vastly differ from a newborn session to a wedding.
Call, Email or text clients back promptly and let them know the next step of the process. Once you have booked a client, you never want them to be in the dark about the next steps. They’ll likely need information or a confirmation at the very least about where to be and when and also how they can best prepare and what to wear and/or bring. After the session is finished, verbally communicate what they can expect next as when and how they will view their photos and place an order. Always send confirmations and follow up messages.
Portfolio curation is a never ending process…as your skills improve, you’ll likely niche down depending on what you naturally gravitate to over time, your editing and shooting style could change and evolve and you want to keep it fresh! Your website, while can be pricey to have designed and built, in my opinion, is one of the most important investments in your photography business. You obviously need your camera and lenses, editing software and the knowledge of how to use it all but it is my belief that your website should be the very nice major expense when it comes to starting your photography business, elevating it and earning the trust of your clients and potential clients.
Though logos, colors, fonts and branding boards and having it all coordinated across all the places you show up on the interwebs will have an important part to play with your overall branding, it’s my belief that branding is YOU. When I say consistent branding, I’m also talking about being authentically you in all the areas you show up in both online and in person. For example, you’ve probably seen, heard and read where others portray themselves as one way on their business Facebook/Instagram pages but then have less than nice things to see and post about on their personal account. OR you may read all these super fancy well written words on their websites only to realize a disconnect when you meet them in person. Be YOU in all the places! Don’t worry about attracting everyone. I promise it’s true, just keep showing up as you and you’ll attract those who you’re supposed to work with.
There’s nothing quite like social proof to add to the trust factor! Whether we’re trying out a new restaurant or making a purchase online, we’re a people conditioned to checking the reviews first, aren’t we? We want to know what experience others have had with a particular good or service. Having a little insight based on the experience of clients and customers before us will give us a pretty good idea of what we can expect too. By definition, trust involves risk and when we hear or read the testimony of others, we feel like we can make a more educated and calculated decision to hire someone. I believe we’d be wise to ask for reviews and testimonials. These can be written and repurposed across social media accounts, your website and printed marketing handouts and sites that encourage reviews like google and yelp.
If you make a mistake, even if there’s a misunderstanding between you and your client, do your absolute best to take ownership of it and make it right. Early on in my photography career, there was this one client who didn’t realize that all the entire collection of digital images wasn’t included with the sitting fee. Though I’ve always made it a habit to include a pricing guide with the initial inquiry I still took ownership of it because I didn’t confirm with her to make sure she was clear of my process and pricing. Another time – only about two years ago I made a MASSIVE rookie mistake! I have a system that now after all these years runs like a well oiled machine but somehow I missed a major step of the process where I thought I’d saved a session but formatted the memory for I actually did! And yet another time, when my memory card failed completely was corrupt. I was heartbroken as both of these sessions had to be reshot. Not only did I have to reshoot them but I had to inconvenience my clients! Oh my goodness, I was literally in tears calling to tell them and all I could do was profusely apologize and basically beg for grace. I did my best to make it right and salvage that relationship. Both were so gracious and understanding and it all worked out thank goodness!
This should go without saying but sometimes it’s a good reminder….as much as it’s within your ability, do what you said you’d do. Sometimes things come up and situations change that are beyond our control and when those things do happen, just touch base with your client and let them know what’s going on and the soonest it will be remedied. With us photographers, it’s easy for a gallery deadline to approach more quickly than we’re prepared for and if it’s a busy season, sometimes those deadlines of when we told our clients their photos would be ready comes and goes. In those times, just be upfront and proactive with letting your clients know. I have more to say about setting up systems in your business to prevent this but that’s for a future episode. And by the way, it’s better to under promise and over deliver than to over promise and underdeliver.
Video is a very effective way for you to connect to your audience – even if it is a one way street for now. With so many outlets for video, you can easily and quickly add them to your social platforms, website and even embed a video into your outgoing inquiry emails. If the tech for an embedded video seems to already have you all discombobulated, simply add a link to the end of your email that directs your potential clients to a little video clip that’s hosted on vimeo, youtube some other hosting company of your choice! Promo videos are amazing but in the very beginning, I don’t think it’s necessary. We have the ability to create great quality videos right from our phones!
I talk a lot about this in episode 10 as a marketing idea, but again partnering with other businesses adds yet another layer of credibility, social proof and a higher sense of trust.
Gaining and keeping the trust of your clients is something you get to continue to work on and improve for as long as you enjoy a booked calendar! These photography business tips will be ones you can keep in your back pocket not only with building the trust of your photography clients but with any business!
I invite you to join our Free Sisterhood on FB where we support each other as busy photographer moms and are passionate about up-leveling our photography businesses and building our dreams!
I’ll see you there!
p.s. Before you go, if you’re looking for ways to market your photography business and get a booked calendar, download your copy of 15 Marketing Secrets, here!