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May 2018

How To Get More Photography Clients? Start Saying No!

11 min read

When you’re eager to get more photography clients, you may be tempted to take every job that comes along. Here’s why saying NO is key to long-term success… (Photographer: JENNY PERRY)

Every photographer begins shooting with a lifestyle in mind. Maybe you want to travel the world with your camera, or crave the flexibility of working from a cozy home office. Perhaps you’ve always envisioned a shiny studio with backdrops and lights, or want to tell stories with stealthy street photography.

Whatever the end goal, at some point in the photography journey, most photographers veer off-course.

  • You feel ungrateful turning away an opportunity to earn money, so you say YES to a job you don’t really want.
  • A former client begs you to accept a project you know is a bad fit, but you’re afraid saying NO will upset her.
  • Your goal is to get more photography clients, not turn them away! What will people think if you say no?

Here’s some raw, honest truth for you:

Sometimes, saying NO is the only way to get more photography clients. More specifically, saying NO gets you more of the clients you actually want.

Too Many YESes, Too Little Time

Photographer Jenny Perry knew quickly that she wanted to photograph children and families – period. Yet she repeatedly fielded inquiries for weddings, engagement photos, senior portraits, and corporate events.

Jenny certainly had the talent to make beautiful photographs in any of these scenarios, but she knew those jobs would overwhelm her calendar if she let them.

“I felt strongly that I couldn’t become highly skilled at photographing children and families if I wasn’t consistently photographing children and families. Saying NO to events, weddings, engagements, and seniors allowed me to focus my brand and my abilities.” – JENNY PERRY

How To Get More Photography Clients? Start Saying No! - Clean and bright family photographs by Jenny Perry.

A Season of YES

When is it right to say YES to everything? When you aren’t yet sure what you want to do!

Maybe you love commercial work and weddings and families and photographing your niece’s dance recital every spring. That’s AWESOME! Keep at it!

The time to step back is when certain jobs begin sucking your creative energy dry. After all, if you’re drained by photographing socks for that sporting goods company, what will you have leftover when it’s time to tackle an assignment you do love?

“In my early years, I said YES to many things that were nowhere close to child and family photography. As I zeroed in on what I loved and photographed best, I naturally found my niche.

“Sessions that included babies and young children, I realized, were the sessions I enjoyed most.” – JENNY PERRY

How To Get More Photography Clients? Start Saying No!

“When a photographer identifies their strengths and can mold those into a cohesive brand, it’s time to start saying NO.” – JENNY PERRY

How To Get More Photography Clients? Start Saying No! - In-home baby photography by Jenny Perry.

Saying No: A Missed Opportunity?

Of course it is! But saying YES is also a missed opportunity. Will you keep your cake or eat it? You can only choose one.

Instead of pouring hours (or weeks) into a job that doesn’t inspire you, get more photography clients who DO. This to-do list will get you started:

  • Fine-tune the client experience for your ideal clients.
  • Plan a morning of mini sessions.
  • Reach out to past clients with a special offer.
  • Update your portfolio with only the kind of work you want to be doing.
  • Schedule your upcoming social media posts.
  • Write two or three new blog posts intended to attract your ideal clients.
  • Research and reach out to a vendor who might collaborate on a styled shoot and share your photography with their clientele.

I Thought Saying YES Was the Only Way To Get More Photography Clients…?

“If you say NO to a job you know isn’t your strength, you’re doing yourself a favor. Doing a session you know you aren’t equipped to do and won’t enjoy could result in a less-than-excited photographer and a disappointed customer.” – JENNY PERRY

How To Get More Photography Clients? Start Saying No! - Sibling photographs by Jenny Perry.

Saying NO: Does It Make You An Elitist Meanie?

NO can impress as surely as a YES  – if delivered with the right flair. Get more photography clients with a great NO by implementing these communication methods:

“When someone contacts me for photography outside my specialty, I thank them sincerely for their email. Then, I explain simply and kindly that I focus solely on newborns, children, and families. Whenever possible, I suggest a few photographers who offer the kind of photography they’re looking for, or at least provide guidance on where to look.” – JENNY PERRY

How To Get More Photography Clients? Start Saying No! - Outdoor child and family photography by Jenny Perry.

But… But… Saying NO Is SCARY!

I hear you. But let’s break down why it’s scary…

“I’m Afraid of Losing An Opportunity”

As we’ve already touched on, there are two sides to the opportunity coin. One side depicts the opportunity you did take; the other side represents the opportunity you did not take. Instead of focusing on the “lost” opportunity, examine the opportunities that remain.

“I’m Afraid of Negative Word of Mouth”

There’s no reason saying NO should invite negative word of mouth unless you tell people, “Weddings are stupid. I only photograph newborns because they don’t whine as much as brides.” (Just… don’t do that.)

In fact, when you establish yourself as a specialist in a particular genre and showcase a cohesive body of work, you’ll likely become known as THE Photographer To Book for THIS Type of Photography. And that will get you more photography clients than the Be Everything To Everyone method.

“I’m Afraid of Losing Income”

Okay. Let’s talk real talk.

  • If you need to pay the mortgage: take that job.
  • When you have $3 in the bank and nothing but canned peaches in your pantry: take that job.
  • If you’re just getting started in photography and need all the experience you can get: take that job.

Do what you need to do to sustain yourself and expand your knowledge. But remember: just because you photographed it doesn’t mean you have to put it in your portfolio. If you don’t want to book more corporate awards ceremonies, don’t blog the one you did photograph.

Keep your branding focused on the end-goal, and take the necessary-to-survive jobs behind the scenes.

How To Get More Photography Clients? Start Saying No! - Children playing, in-studio and outside.

Here’s What’s AWESOME About Saying NO…

“Saying NO to something means you’re saying YES to something else! Yes to family time, yes to planning for your business, yes to a session that fits your style and brand better, yes to something you enjoy MORE.” – JENNY PERRY

YES To Feeling Empowered

Saying NO proves that you have the confidence and strength to run a business. You’re equipped to take care of your company, your brand, and yourself.

YES To Setting Healthy Boundaries

Know your limits; it’s a sign of self-awareness and maturity. There is nothing wrong with acknowledging, “I’m not good at that,” or “I don’t enjoy that.” Sometimes we have to do things we aren’t good at or don’t enjoy. But when you can say NO, it’s great to exercise that muscle.

How To Get More Photography Clients? Start Saying No! - Relaxed family photographs by Jenny Perry.

Saying NO Will Change Your Business For the Better

“Saying NO allowed me to really explore my style within my niche. I’ve been in business for several years, and I’ve found that clients like knowing what to expect.” – JENNY PERRY

These days, Jenny’s clients know exactly what to expect when they book her. They’ve already seen it: her website, social media posts, and sample products all display the work she has become known for.

Clients who get precisely what they’d hoped for are the happiest clients of all!

How To Get More Photography Clients? Start Saying No! - Child portraits in pastel by Jenny Perry.

Saying NO Enables You To #FocusOnWhatMattersMost

Ah, the elusive work/life balance. We strive for it endlessly, then collapse all-to-often into our beds at night, painfully aware that we achieved plenty of one and hardly any of the other.

“Saying NO to things that aren’t right for me and my business allows me to find a great work/life balance. I want to be sure that when I say YES to work, it’s a yes that honors my mission as a business owner.” – JENNY PERRY

Homework: Two Lists

Some folks have no problem saying NO. For others, it triggers intense anxiety. Regardless of how saying NO, feels to you, take a few minutes to evaluate how you’re doing with two easy lists:

#1: The YES List

Craft a list of 10 things that truly matter to you in life and in business. What does it say? Are you saying YES to opportunities that align with your list? Or are your YESes getting in the way of what matters deeply to you?

#2: The NO List

Next, make a list of the things you do that you don’t enjoy or value – work-related and personal. Which of these items can be outsourced, ignored, simplified, or eliminated completely?

If your answer is, “None of them,” it’s time to reevaluate your responsibilities with your support community – your friends, family, partner…

When you believe you can’t say NO to anything, that’s a sure sign you should be saying no a lot more. If you don’t, the next step is burnout.

How To Get More Photography Clients? Start Saying No! - Photographer Jenny Perry, as a kid and now.
Photos courtesy of JENNY PERRY: Jenny as a child, and Jenny today.

What’s the First Thing You’ll Be Saying No To?

You need to start somewhere! Baby steps are excellent. Before you know it, you’ll be able to say NO like a pro, and get more photography clients who want exactly what you have to offer.

Tell us in the comments how you’ll begin setting boundaries and saying NO!

We’re here for you as you start to specialize, streamline, and #FocusOnWhatMattersMost!

Written by: ANNE SIMONE | Featured Photographer: JENNY PERRY

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