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This guest post has been submitted by Professional Photographer Laura Novak (pictured). I asked Laura to share some thoughts on the process of ‘Going Pro’ as a Photographer. You can read more about her in a short bio at the base of this article.
In the process of starting your journey as a professional photographer, there are a variety of different aspects to the business that could feel a bit confusing or overwhelming. There is so much to know, so much to think about and to make decisions on and the last thing you would ever want is to have an unhappy customer.
Happy customers are the key to your business because they are the least expensive channel of advertising in the form of word-of-mouth (and the most credible!). They are evangelists for what you do, love your work and are thrilled with their experience. They are so thrilled that they just HAVE to tell everyone they know about your photography and why you should be hired for their next photography need.
In the few and rare instances that we have had people less than thrilled at our studio, I found that it was a misalignment of expectations that created the communication breakdown. If you can learn what someone expects from you and then not only meet but exceed those expectations, you will have a happy customer. In the initial meeting with a client, it’s important to understand where they are coming from, their point of reference for photography (i.e. I want an album just like my mother’s album OR I don’t want anything like my friend had), and what they would like to have at the end of the day. And I’m not just speaking about products or specific shots, but also philosophically and emotionally – since many of us are involved with our clients during a fairly emotional time in their lives.
A happy customer trusts you. He or she knows that you are going to do a good job and if you suggest something it’s because you have their best interests in mind. This trust also gives you a bit of a ‘buffer’ that if something does go wrong like your lab is late with their prints, they are already so happy with what you have done that they forgive a small error in leu of the overall pleasant experience they have had dealing with you and your company.
A happy customer is overwhelmed with your desire to go above and beyond. What this does NOT mean is providing free overtime, discounting products you can’t afford to discount, or over-promising things you can’t deliver. Giving customers too much control actually is counterproductive to their ability to trust you. What going above and beyond does mean is providing them with a complimentary gift for referring you, sending them a birthday or anniversary card, or calling just to make sure everything is exactly what they wanted upon receiving an expensive product.
When someone hires you, there is a great opportunity for that person to be your next best source of business. It’s up to you to create it by focusing your business on retaining and maintaining happy customers.
Laura has written a helpful followup to this post over at her blog – Managing Unhappy Customers
Laura Novak is a a wedding and portrait photographer located in Wilmington, Delaware. Her work can be found in numerous publications such as People Magazine, Martha Stewart Weddings, Elegant Bride, Rangefinder Magazine, Professional Photographer Magazine, The Knot and Modern Bride. In 2007 Laura was chosen as one of two photographers nation-wide as Kodak’s ‘Upcoming Photographers to Watch.’ In addition to the photography studio, Laura also created Strategy Avenue with her finance John, a company dedicated to helping photographers become better businesspeople through products, workshops, and a free business blog for photographers.