Nothing makes a photographer freak out more than not getting photography clients. Whether its getting too many inquiries but nobody is booking or not getting any inquiries at all, both are indicative of a problem. And, the freak out is warranted. For many photographers, this isn’t just a hobby, this is their job!
For some unknown reason, when this occurs, the first thing photographers want to do is drop their prices. But, I want you to hit the breaks for a second. It could be related to pricing, but it also might not be. Here are the top 13 reasons photographers don’t get bookings.
If you just recently bumped up your prices and are freaking out at the decline in bookings, don’t! Thats the entire point of raising your prices. You don’t need as many bookings as you used to. You don’t want to shoot 40 weddings at $5,000 a piece, you want to shoot 20 weddings at $10,000 a piece. Same amount of money, but less work for you! Don’t let the sound of crickets in your inbox scare you.
Experience doesn’t just mean the amount of years you’ve been shooting. Experience means whether or not a photographer can consistently get good photos every single time they shoot. I know this is hard to hear. But, if you just learned photography, you cannot charge what the other photographers in your area charge. And this isn’t even necessarily a reflection of your work. You could be freaking amazing and still have to start out at the bottom.
What if every time I went to Starbucks, I ordered a caramel latte. But, sometimes it tasted amazing, other times it was watered down and disgusting, too sweet, or not sweet enough. The reason people like going to Starbucks is because they know that their drinks are consistently good. But that level of trust is not inherent, it’s earned.
The pricing dead zone is a real thing. It’s when a photographer is priced to high for budget clients but too low for high-end clients. Head over to THIS blog post to discover how to get out of the dead zone.
For me and my ideal clients, less is more. My ideal client doesn’t like a lot of choices. When they go on vacation, they want it planned for them. They go to an all-inclusive resort that they payed more for up front so that they don’t have to pay anything along the way. When my clients hire me, they are also hiring me for my ability to make the best decision for them.
And while your ideal client might be different, it is a general rule of thumb that too much is overwhelming. This is why I recommend to my photography students to have no more than 4 packages. But always keep your ideal client in mind. For example, as a busy mom who works full time, base packages with an la carte section are a living nightmare! In fact, when I go to the coffee shop, I always tell them to surprise me. I spend every minute of every day making decisions, when I spend money it’s often for an experience. And 9 times out of 10 it’s for an experience that brings me relaxation (which does not involve too many choices).
Read more about pricing brochure organization and the psychology behind it HERE.
Every single client has a journey that moves them from cold to warm to hot.
More often than not, when a client first discovers our brand, likes our photos and then immediately inquire, they will not be ready to book! Often responding with something along the lines of, “You’re too Expensive!” An example of a “cold client” might be someone who finds you on google through the SEO you’ve done for your website!
Naturally, they have no personal connection with you, nor do they know why you are different and unique and “more valuable” than every other photographer in your area with decent photos and cheaper prices. This is why it’s important for photographers to not just market themselves but to be intentional about how and where they are marketing themselves. Otherwise you’ll get a lot of inquires who never respond.
In my More than Marketing course I help photographers map out the exact client journey they want their client to take and then do what is necessary to make it happen.
Sometimes people don’t get clients because they cannot answer the question, “what makes you different?” There are literally millions of photographers in the world, and if you cannot tell me in 30 seconds or less what makes you different or worth $500 more than that photographer down the street, then you don’t actually understand what it is that makes you unique. Thats why the entire first module in my More than Marketing course is focused on finding your why (MORE HERE).
I’ve watched countless photographers struggle, feeling lost, confused and overwhelmed. Believing that if they just:
✔ Edit one more thing on their website
✔ Buy one more piece of equipment
✔ Purchase a different set of presets
✔ Start posting consistently on social media
✔ Figure out who their ideal client is
✔ Begin blogging regularly
That if they just changed or did one more thing then everything would be different. BUT THIS IS A LIE!
When people invest in you they aren’t just investing in your photos, they are investing in who you are as a person and as a photographer. What is it that is going to make them pick you ? If you don’t know the answer, how can you expect them to?
Knowing your why doesn’t grow your photography business by trying to prove you are a better photographer than the competition. It shows how you are a better choice for the people you want to serve. When we find our why and apply it to our business, magic happens. Trust me.
If you don’t know don’t know who it is that you are trying to attract, you run the risk of attracting the wrong people. And if you attract the wrong people, they aren’t going to be interested in your offers. Or, if you are a photographer who tries to appeal to everyone, you will end up appealing to no one.
You need to build a profile of your ideal client in as much detail as possible. And I’m not just talking about the big things, I want you to really get them. I want you to know their deepest fears and their biggest hopes and dreams. I want you to insert yourself into their daily life and really think about things like:
Download this free guide to get to know your ideal client better.
Once you have found your ideal client, I want you to highlight areas of alignment between the both of you. These are points of connection that you want to discuss (common struggles, dreams, hopes, anxieties, etc.).
Having a basic website is nowhere near enough these days to get the clients you want because most people who land on your website are cold clients (SEE ABOVE).
Which means, they’ll stop by, if you’re lucky they will look around, but more than likely, they will leave.
Therefore, you want to make your website work for you! Make sure it highlights why you’re different in all the right places. Ensure that it is free from distractions and that each page has a clear purpose. Double check to make sure there are no broken links or missing contact forms. This is something I extensively talk about in my course.
Most people looking for a photographer have no idea what questions to ask, but the one obvious question they can think of is “how much?” Which means If they can find your prices on the website before they fully understand the intangible elements of working with you and the true subjective value of your work, you’re back in the unenviable position of being a commodity, which they can then compare with the other photographers in the area to see who’s the least expensive.
The key is to make sure you have enough content on your website to show them your value. You want them to get emotionally involved in your work. For me, the best way this was accomplished was through my branding video. Another way to do this is by highlight your benefits (not your features) in the first email, and the pricing brochure, you send their way. More on the difference between features and benefits HERE.
A good way to figure out if you’re too cheap is to keep tab on your conversion rate. Conversion rate is how many end up booking after inquiring. To find your conversion rate take the number of conversions (bookings) and divide it by the number of inquiries. For example, if you had 100 inquiries, and 50 ended up booking, your conversion rate would be 50%.
I like to keep my conversion rate around 50-75%. But that is because I’m in a rural town and I am the only source of income for my family of 5. I find adjusting prices by conversion rate is better for portrait photographers.
For wedding photographers, I recommend adjusting your prices every 5-7 weddings you book. But, only adjust it by 1-3% at a time.
There are times when we need to lower our photography package pricing. Perhaps we made too high of a jump when raising them, or maybe the entire world is shut down due to a worldwide pandemic, either way, it’s okay.
However, before lowering your prices, consider other factors that might be preventing you from booking. But if you are confident that you are 100% on all of the areas above, then you can consider lowering your prices. Generally, if my conversion rate drops below 50%, I don’t like it. It’s a good indication that i’m either slacking in one of the areas above, or my prices are off.
Or for wedding photographers, if you have had 5-7 consultations that don’t lead to a booking, that’s a good indication that something is systemically wrong. Again though, before dropping your prices, make sure it’s not one of the reasons above.
If I can’t get on your website, look at your social media pages, or read your emails and feel your personality shining through, we have a problem. Scientifically, all purchases are emotional. Which means that a potential client NEEDS to be able to make a meaningful personal connection with you or else they will lose interest and go to someone else.
Truth bomb, lazy won’t get you anywhere. If you take 4 days to respond to a Facebook message or an email, you will not get that client. Did you know that the odds of a lead booking if you contact them 30 minutes after an inquiry drops by 21 times compared to a 5 minute reply! Even going from 5 minutes to 10 minutes translates to a decrease in response by 400%!*
Now, i’m not recommending that you stay glued to your phone 24/7! Instead, I recommend implementing a client management system, like Honeybook, to set up automated workflows. Then, you don’t have to worry about it!
In my business, when a client fills out my contact form on my website, they get a perfectly on-brand brochure with all the information I want to give them about my business IMMEDIATELY! I have it set to where an automated email goes out to my clients after a payment has been missed, an email hasn’t been opened, a contract hasn’t been signed, etc. Honeybook is like a personal assistant that stays on top of everything for me! Except, WAY FREAKING CHEAPER of course!