Last week, a past client reached out to me for help. She mentioned that she'd just gotten an inquiry from someone who was DEFINITELY nothing like the ideal client we laid out for her during our project. From the sounds of it, this person was about as different from that ideal client as a person could possibly be! So, she knew this wasn't someone she wanted to work with. And even more so, she realized this person probably wouldn't have the best experience with her either.
Did you know finding your ideal client is about more than just identifying the exact type of person you'd love to work with? It's also about breaking down your experience and approach to find out who would most love working with YOU, too!
When we forget that our services aren't for everyone, that's when we let ourselves book clients who won't enjoy what we offer.
That's right! If you've taken the time to refine your skills and client experience but are STILL getting negative reviews, it's probably not you. Well, it is…but it's not “you” the way you think it is. It's more like “yoouuuuu-re booking clients you really shouldn't.”
So, inspired by that past client, horror stories y'all have told me, and my own experiences, I wrote a blog post on how to identify a non-ideal client BEFORE you've booked them. I also briefly shared what you can do once you've figured it out.
But as promised at the end of the blog post, the fun for you fine folks doesn't end there! I want to share a few more detailed and concrete things you can to do handle a non-ideal client kindly but FIRMLY.
So, what can you do if you've noticed either through the inquiry or consultation call that you're talking to a client you shouldn't work with?
The first option I gave was to just say you're all booked.
Now, as I said, this isn't my favorite course of action. Why? Because I think that the more we get out of the habit of lying in business, the more ethical and genuine or businesses will be overall. It's not easy to be honest in awkward situations, but it's important to me that I try. HOWEVER, in some situations, I completely understand that you just don't know what else to do. And that's alright! But I want to share a couple of other options that you can try.
The second option is to politely tell a potential client that you aren't a good fit, and send them in the direction of someone who might be.
This is perfect for a client who is asking for light and airy photos if you only rock dark and moody, or if all of your collections start at eight hours of coverage and they want four.
If a potential client is asking for something you don't offer, you don't have to make exceptions if you don't want to! Sure, if the person or situation seems incredible and you want to give it a try, go for it. But if there's a reason you don't offer what they're looking for, just be honest!
If they ask for a photography approach (very posed, very candid, documentary, adventure, lifestyle, etc.) that you don't offer, share the style that you do offer and a fellow photographer who offers what they are looking for. Then, they can choose whether they want to adjust their wishes to book you or stick with their plans and book your friend!
If they indicate that they love an editing style you don't offer, do the same! Clearly illustrate the style you DO offer, share someone who edits in their desired style, and then give them the freedom to make the choice that's best for them.
If they share that they're planning a celebration or session that just isn't your vibe—asking an “elegant and sophisticated” photographer to cover a barn wedding or asking an adventure family photographer to take corporate headshots—help them understand what you DO photograph, how that contrasts with what they've asked for, and let them take it from there.
The same is true for someone who comes your way looking for a deal. Simply share your prices, lay out what's included (this should be on the details page of your website, so you can just point them there!), and invite them to book if they'd like to. And if you know of another photographer who suites their budget, send them that way!
Do we notice a running theme here? Explain what you offer. Reiterate what they are asking for. Show the contrast. Share another option. Let them decide from there! This is moving with confidence. If you believe in the service you offer, believe in them enough not to compromise for someone who doesn't want whatcha got!
And remember, you know WAY more about photography than the average bear, and DEFINITELY way more than any potential client. So, after this conversation, they just might realize what you offer is better than what they thought they wanted! And voila! A non-ideal client becomes an ideal client in a snap. But if they stick to their OG plan, it's better that they move along.
OK, now let's talk about option three: the “politely tell them that you aren't a match, and point them to NO ONE AT ALL!”
This is the group of people who don't seem to care at all about photography, whether because they barely fill out your inquiry form, don't engage on the consultation call, repeatedly ask questions you've already answered showing that they're not listening, or push back hard against elements of your process. There are just some people who are difficult, and while they will eventually end up matched with a photographer, that photographer doesn't have to be you or one of your friends. 🤷♀️
Sometimes the best thing to do is to simply say that, unfortunately, you've realized you're not a great fit or that you don't offer what they're looking for. Then, wish them well, telling them you hope they have luck finding a better option. And let that be that. Just a few sentences, and it's over!
I know that this probably sounds impossible to many of you. And trust me, it's scary to hit send on that email! I've done it, and yeah, I didn't love it! But what I did love was the peace of mind that came from knowing I'd avoided what would have undoubtedly been a nightmarish experience that I'd had the opportunity to walk away from.
And best of all, because you didn't book that non-ideal client, you left room for the ideal client that came your way next!
I hope this blog post and further direction helps you spot non-ideal clients before booking and gives you the tools to say “no thanks” with grace. But if you have a particularly challenging circumstance you're trying to navigate, I'd love to hear from you and give you a hand! Just hit reply on this email, and tell me ya tales.
And if my past clients have made it this far, keep your eyes peeled for the next edition of the client newsletter! I'm going to include a few sample templates you can use to make this even easier!
This was a long one, but I wanted to REALLY dig into this topic with you all since I know it's a major cause of stress. So, thanks for sticking it through! Talk soon!
— O U R C L I E N T S —
Our photographers are driven, collaborative, visionary risk-takers ready to fearlessly plant their flags in an oversaturated industry to radically serve their unique clients with sincerity and heart.