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One of the first steps you need to take when you start your photo business or put together your marketing plan is to define your ideal photography client.

Let’s start with the basics…

finding your ideal photography client
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What is an ideal client?

If you don’t already know what an ideal client is, I’m going to break it down for you. In very basic terms, your ideal client or customer is defined as someone you most want to target with your marketing and promotions based on your current business situation

Put simply, they are the person you are trying to reach.

And I am going to emphasize the singular PERSON here. You are trying to reach one person. 

You are not trying to cast a giant net in a big ocean. The more specific you get, the more likely you are to land the fish you want.

If you’ve been at photography a while, I’m sure you deal with getting inquiries from people who are totally wrong for you. Either they are way below your price range or the style they are looking for doesn’t match yours at all. Why is that? Because your message is going to the wrong people!

You’re not trying to reach a big group of people. You’re trying to reach your ideal client. More on that later.

Why do you want to reach your ideal client?

You may have heard the saying that you only need to get 1% of the audience. You don’t need to get everybody. Just 1%! Maybe even less than that. There are so many people out there looking for a photographer, the people who want to hire me are just naturally going to gravitate to me.

No. 

person holding black point and shoot camera
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As my friend Spencer Lum likes to say, “You need to get 100% of the 1% you are marketing towards.”

You have to aim your marketing and your social media presence at the people you want to book you. Yes, you will get people who are outside of that target audience, BUT you should be consistent in aiming at your ideal client.

And before we go further, if you do different types of photography. Say you do weddings AND family portraits, you can have an ideal client for each of those styles of photography. I have a couple of different ideal wedding clients, but there’s a reason for that I will discuss later. You don’t have to have just one for your whole business. But let’s get to defining who your ideal client is first.

How do you define your ideal photography client?

You need to create an Ideal Client Profile!!! Get a piece of paper, or a notebook, or type it up in a google doc. However you do it, WRITE IT DOWN!

Why is it important that you write it all down? Because you need to get very specific. You will want to update and change aspects of the profile. It can’t just live in your head.

woman in red long sleeve writing on chalk board
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

The first thing you need to figure out is what problem you are trying to solve for this client. This is going to vary depending on the style of photography you do. The problem you solve for a wedding client is totally different than the problem you solve for a newborn photography client.

Once you figure out what problem you are trying to solve, we get specific on demographics!

Give this ideal client a name. Yep, you give them a name. I told you that you needed to get specific. Next…

  • Age
  • Interests and hobbies
  • Occupation
  • Location
  • Where they shop. 
  • What they read. 
  • Where they get their news. 
  • What is their favorite social media platform.
  • What is their favorite tv show? Movies? What music do they listen to?
  • Income
  • Level of education
  • Etc., etc.
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Why do you need to get so specific?

You get this specific because all of this is going to inform HOW, WHERE, and WHEN you speak to this ideal client through your marketing.

You need to get into their head. Is there a blog they love? That’s the blog you want to be featured on!

Is there a local Facebook group they would frequent. Be sure to post there!

What terms would they use in a Google search for a photographer? Those are things you need to consider in your SEO.

When is this person looking for a photographer? Do they do it in the evening after work? When they are looking will help you determine the best times to post on social and elsewhere.

What social media platform do they spend the most time on? That’s where you want to focus your social media efforts.

Remember this needs to be a REALISTIC person!!

I once talked to another photographer about her ideal client and she said “Oh, she’s 24, she wants a luxury DIY barn wedding and her budget for photography is $5000…”

Let me just tell you, that is a very very specific person and I don’t think it’s a sustainable market to try to reach the ‘luxury DIY barn wedding’ crowd.

How do you figure this stuff out?

First, start with your existing clients. The people who have already hired you came to you for a reason. You may not have known what vibe you were putting out to them, but it is important to find out if there are trends among the people who have already hired you.

For example, I found that I was getting A LOT of potential wedding photography clients who told me that they felt unphotogenic and that my pictures seemed very natural and unposed. By creating an ideal client profile for someone who felt the same way and gearing my marketing towards someone who might feel the same way, I drastically increased the quality of my inquiries and the percentage of potential clients I had consultations with who booked me shot up from 40% to 80% – why? Because I had been speaking to them from the moment they first found me. Everything they saw fit into the same narrative. It was cohesive. 

I was also dealing with less “LOW QUALITY LEADS” the people who weren’t a good fit from the beginning and probably wouldn’t have hired me anyway. 

So, to get started, consider surveying your existing clients and finding out what is important to them.

Next, dig into analytics

Google and social media analytics can give you an idea of who is ALREADY searching for and viewing your website and social accounts. Use that data to inform who you are trying to market to – or realize that maybe you are reaching the WRONG audience. 

macbook pro on brown table
Photo by Negative Space on Pexels.com

It is entirely possible you could be reaching the wrong people, and that’s why your business is not doing as well as you want it to or you’re not getting the quality of photography leads you hope for.

Take a look at who your competitors are trying to reach

I am not saying copy your competitors! What I am saying is take a look at those competitors who are successful and try to figure out who they are trying to reach. Can you spot their audience by reading what they put out and how they put it out?

Dig in to their website and their social feeds. Get to know your competition – it’s market research. AND it will help you differentiate yourself from what they are doing. 

Create your ideal client persona

Now that you know more about your ideal client and have a bunch of data, it is time to fill out your ideal client persona.  Looking at all of the things you’ve put together, what motivates this person?

What motivates them to interact on social media? What motivates them to reach out to a photographer? What motivates them to HIRE a photographer? 

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What problem can you solve for them?

People hire photographers who solve problems for them. And there are problems clients KNOW they have and there are problems they DON’T know they have.

For example, a potential client who doesn’t feel comfortable on camera wants a photographer who can solve that problem. Someone who makes them feel at ease. Someone they know can make them feel good about themselves.

Problems they don’t know they have are usually more subconscious – for example maybe being competitive with people they went to high school with. They want the photos they post to social media to ‘impress’ the audience but they don’t really know why.

Filling out those sorts of problems you can solve helps you better reach your ideal client. Why? Because you’re going to create content and offerings that specifically solve those problems.

Your social media posts are going to address those issues. Your blog posts are going to show how you can solve these problems. Even the photography package names you use should invoke a feeling in your ideal client.

It’s an ongoing process. Use what you’ve learned to your advantage

You should always come back and regularly evaluate your ideal client profiles. If things don’t seem to be working or perhaps the demographics of your clientele are changing or you just want to reach a different audience. 

The key is to think critically about who you are trying to speak to. Because if you try to serve everyone, you end up serving no one.

If you try to please every potential client who sees your content, you won’t stand out to anyone.

There is a very specific group of people out there that you can help! They’re looking for you to solve their problems. You just need to know who they are and what they need so that you can attract them, and, ultimately, help them. 

And get hired by them!!! You do want to get hired don’t you?

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