I believe strongly that my vibe attracts the right clients. I'm a little opinionated, I'm a people-pleaser, I'm passionate about what I do and I'm professional but I'm here to have a good time. And I share a lot of that through how I show up on social media as an opportunity for people to decide if I'm a good fit for them or not. And most of the time, the clients who choose to book with me are easygoing, trusting and grateful. But as I enter my third year as a full-time wedding, engagement and boudoir photographer in Flagstaff I've identified the following red flags and green lights that help me decide if a client is a good fit for me!
Let's serve this tea!
1. Red Flags
The red flags I share with you today come from experience. The red flags listed below are typically followed by ongoing attempts to take advantage of services, like intentional misunderstanding of a signed contract, demand for additional services like free editing after the gallery has been delivered, legal threats, and more disrespect of boundaries that will leave you licking your wounds for lawddd knows how long. I'm generally of the mindset that people are good and not out to take advantage of small businesses, but unfortunately that's not always the case. After conversations with some other photographers and shared experience on these red flags here's what I urge small business owners to look out for when that new inquiry comes in!
a. The potential client doesn't trust my suggestions and guidance.
I GET IT. It's hard to let go of control. It's hard to be vulnerable and let your guard down. But when you're investing money into a service provider, you've got to do so with the understanding that you're trusting them. Don't hire someone you don't trust. And I'm not just saying this as a business owner, I'm saying it as a fellow consumer. Shit, we're planning our wedding right now and we're carefully selecting vendors who are skilled at their craft. Example: I'm not a DJ, so I'm investing in a professional to take the lead and let me focus on receiving an excellent, impactful product.
When a potential client questions every single creative and directional decision I give- through the booking process and through each photo- it takes all the magic out of the experience. Examples: doesn't trust the location, doesn't trust a prompt, doesn't read the contract for a better understanding of turnaround time, editing process, etc. Distrust is one sure way for your service provider to reject the next inquiry. Sorry. Not sorry. RED FLAG.
b. The potential client expects a discount.
This may happen for a few reasons- they just missed the cutoff for an offer, they know me through a family member, they're booking around a holiday-- whatever the reason, the expectation and entitlement vibes that come from someone digging around for a discount is a pretty significant red flag. This tells me that the client doesn't see the value in my work and that this could just be the start of other short-cutting behavior down the road. RED FLAG.
c. The potential client is impersonal and treats me like a business exchange.
To each their own on this one! I personally emphasize more casual, laid back transactions in my business. Don't get me wrong, I invest in reliable invoicing and organizational software, I track each step of my clients process and check in with them often. My contract is thorough, and I'm communicative and clarifying when a client needs a deeper dive.
While I take great pride in professionalism within my small business, after working in offices and feeling restricted on what I could wear, say and be, I love to run my business with an emphasis on laughter and comfort. Not just for myself, but for my clients. In my ideal session, I'm not posing clients and calling it a day. It's important to me that we play, connect, talk, explore and trust the process together.
I try to go into each of my sessions with an attitude of sisterhood and I ask that of you as well if you choose to work with me. Coming from a family of six, learning to navigate relationships with my siblings has been instrumental in how I approach relationships with my clients. I want everyone, including myself, to feel included, relaxed, safe, comfortable and confident.
For me, when I get rigid, impersonal inquiries, my first concern is that the potential client hasn't researched who I am and what I'm about. Their expectations may be unrealistic and they oftentimes won't be very relaxed and fun to work with - which is key to the kind of photography I deliver. If you browse my portfolio, my best photos are often in the moment, with the clients relaxed and trusting the experience. Not everyone wants closeness and connectedness with their clients, but I do. When I'm treated like an employee? RED FLAG.
2. Green Lights
Okay, that was tough. No hard feelings, right? Let's end this on a positive note! There are probably the same amount of green lights as there are red flags, but the green lights carry so much weight and take the relationships with my clients far. It makes me excited to even think about them. Fair warning, this whole green lights segment is going to feel pretty egotistical and self-centered. Like it's just here to stroke my ego. It's not. It's just green lights that I have found led to the most positive, productive client connections in the lifetime of my business. But if you want something a little more strategic and active to make sure you're attracting the right clients, this article by Creative Live is a great place to start.
a. The potential client has a friend crush on me.
Okay, this is so simple and so silly. But this can also be read as: they just get me. We click. We vibe. We're on the same page. Personality and being in alignment with someone makes my job and your experience as easy and fun as it should be. If someone is looking forward to being around me and I'm looking forward to being around them then it's game over. I'm sold on you. GREEN LIGHT.
b. The potential client trusts me wholeheartedly.
Circle back to Red Flag A. Trust is KEY to a successful partnership. In the first few conversations with my best clients, they've usually dropped the line, "we trust you." or "you're the professional! just tell us what to do." And they don't just say it to say it. They mean it. They come in with realistic expectations and a willingness to play and follow my guidance that allows me to overdeliver for them. They don't stress about the final product, they just release control over to me and let me be creative and thrive in my own little world as a service provider. They jump on board with all the ideas and inspire me to push the envelope. They laugh with me when it doesn't work, they cheer with me when it does. They just enjoy the experience and the company and for me, that's a GREEN LIGHT.
c. They don't question my value.
Another callback to our red flags, specifically Red Flag B. One of the best green lights a client can give you is not questioning your value. They take your pricing and say, "yes this is worth it." That's not to say they don't do their research! Or that they're ignorant. Or that they're easy to take advantage of. It means they know my service and the final product are something they are investing in and they see that my portfolio is in line with my pricing and their budget. They acknowledge terms in our contract, they understand exactly what they are paying for and they don't. argue. it. They appreciate it. They know they are getting what they paid for and oftentimes much more. A client who values your experience, pricing and product is a GREEN LIGHT.
Will your red flags and green lights look the same as mine? Probably not. But pay attention and identify them to save you grievances down the road and set your business up to be as rewarding and aligned to your needs as possible. It's hard saying, "no" but it's a lot harder to wade through a toxic client situation if you let the wrong person into your world.