In this guide, I show you how to choose who to pitch, how to find the right contact information, and how to craft a winning pitch.
I am a food + product photographer & educator specializing in eco-friendly and sustainable brands. When I am not working with clients, I empower creatives to start their journey by sharing my knowledge on the business of food + product photography.
As the owner of a growing photography business, client onboarding is a very important piece of your job. Growing your business is so exciting, but you may often find yourself wondering how to help every interested client who reaches out to you.
Client onboarding is a fun (but delicate) and important process to ensure that every interested client is also a good fit for your particular brand. There are several things to think about whenever the opportunity arises to take on new business.
Qualifying your potential clients during the client onboarding process is an important step. You have the opportunity to get to know your new clients’ needs, desires, and personalities.
When you qualify your clients, you’re basically getting to know them better—which tells you if they’re the right fit for you, and vice versa. It’s like dating! You need to spend time together, ask the right questions, and really understand whether this relationship is worth pursuing.
It may be tempting to take on every job that comes your way! Of course, it seems simple to just tweak your area of expertise or adjust your overall standards in order to please everyone that comes knocking. And you might figure that having more clients means making more money, right?
Wrong! This could not be farther from the truth—you want to build quality in your business, not quantity.
Photographers perform their best work when they are at ease behind the camera lens. Sticking with the personalities and photography content that aligns with your creative flow means more opportunities for you in the long run. On the other hand, compromising your comfort zone could mean sloppy work and less satisfied clients.
When you take a few minutes during client onboarding to consider how well you mesh with a client, you are in turn guaranteeing a certain level of excellence.
With little time to get to know one another, what things should you be asking during client onboarding? Here are three things to prioritize when deciding if a new client is right for you.
What will you be looking at through the camera lens? And for what purpose?
As a photographer, you have spent the larger part of your education and work experience defining your niche. Whether or not you can photograph other things is beside the point: you want to accept your clients based on the best work that you have to offer.
It is also important to consider the size of the project that a new client is looking to complete.
One particular shot in your field of expertise is totally different from a dozen more. Consider the amount of time you have available to fulfill each order that crosses your desk.
Ask this question sooner rather than later. When you ask, have a clear idea about how much you would like to earn for your work.
It’s super important to know a client’s budget as early as possible. If the gap between their budget and your pricing range isn’t too big, you can always adapt the scope and the number of deliverables to fit their budget. But if their budget is way under your rates, you can still stay in touch with them in case the numbers work out some time in the future.
All photographers meet their clients in different ways. You might pull most of your business from online platforms while others bring in clients by word of mouth. This can help inform your method for client onboarding. There are many clever ways to get to know the people who want to work with you.
Have your client onboarding questions ready as soon as you receive an inquiry. Onboarding conversations often flow the most naturally after a greeting!
For example, a prospective client might choose to dial your phone number and chat about a project out of the blue. Having a few notes, prepared questions, and a calendar of availability nearby could help steer the conversation in the direction that it needs to go.
For new clients who reach out via email or inquiry form, you might want to draft a reply message that both showcases your personality and begins the client onboarding process in an efficient way. Clients will appreciate the quick response and down-to-business approach as much as you can appreciate having all of the information that you need in order to accept or decline a new project.
You can also automate the thank you message depending on which tools you are using. If you’re using a CRM like Dubdsado or HoneyBook, you can create an automation that automatically sends out a thank you email and information about your booking process when someone fills out your contact form.
A client onboarding questionnaire keeps you focused and lets you get all the information you need. A list of questions helps streamline the process so that no stone is left unturned….while saving all parties time.
A questionnaire also lets you save time on discovery calls by knowing you’ll get key information no matter what. This works well for photographers who are speaking to their clients over the phone and need to redirect the chatter towards the important stuff!
Questionnaires also work well as a separate email component so as not to get mixed up with other parts of your written message.
In addition to (or instead of) a client questionnaire, consider allowing potential clients to schedule a discovery call with you. A tool like Calendly makes this super easy!
Your service guide lets potential clients can decide if they are a good fit on their own.
A services guide has its perks: many clients will be drawn to the services that you present in the guide, and you can communicate loads of information about your style and availability with one simple guide.
But beware! It is hard to sell your personality, creativity, and flexibility with a services guide alone. That’s why I always encourage you to get on the phone with the clients. A call is the BEST way to get the information you need and to create that essential personal connection with a potential client.
How many times have you wished that you knew more about a project before you began working? Now you have all of the tools that you need to avoid those problems in the future!
Client onboarding is an important first step to building great working relationships with your clients! Another excellent way to uplevel your client onboarding experience is by building an amazing Client Proposal (my Client Proposal Kit can help!).