One of the biggest frustrations any new professional photographer has is obtaining clients. I’m going to assume that at this point you have sufficiently nailed down your technique, you’ve built up a decent portfolio, and you have a website that is easy to navigate and shows off your work. So why are you not getting replies from your prospective clients? Well the answer may have NOTHING to do with your photography.
A successful business, whether that is photography or anything else, has always in large part been a result of great customer service. Often times when we think of the term “customer service” we associate it with how we take care of the client AFTER we have already obtained them. However customer service begins at the very first point of contact. If you don’t make an effort with your clients during the first interaction they will have no reason to believe that you will go the extra mile for them at some future point in time. That can be the single most powerful deciding factor between you and a paying job.
In today’s online world that first point of contact is often times an email. Most photographers who are starting out will not have the luxury of clients specifically seeking them out due to an excellent reputation in the marketplace. This means your emails will generally fall into one of two groups; replying to job postings, or answering inquiries. Both of those are equally important and how you choose to present yourself can ultimately lead you to establish a reputation in your marketplace that precedes you.
The Case Study
In an effort to prove my point I have decided to put together a small case study. In my hometown, Toronto, the free online classifieds service Kijiji seems to be a go-to for a lot of new photographers seeking job postings from commercial clients. There are a lot of poor leads on Kijiji, unfortunately, and new photographers on there must wade through a pool of offers that mostly aim to take advantage of them. Once in a while though a golden nugget does come through and one would stand to logic that each of these competing photographers would give it their absolute all when replying to such an offer. Before we take a look at the replies I received let’s take a peek at the ad that I put up:
We are a medium sized manufacturer of shoes for children. Currently we are undergoing a re-branding strategy and as such we wish to overhaul our marketing and advertising departments. We are looking to find a photographer who specializes in product photography to help create catalog images of our products.
This is seasonal work. We release new styles on a bi-annual basis. Currently our volume is about 50 new styles per season. You would be shooting spring/summer pieces early in the year, and then fall/winter pieces mid year. You would need to have your own space to shoot these products as we do not have a place to accommodate you and your equipment. We hope to keep you with us for the long term!
We will be reviewing all submitted portfolios with relevant work. Please let us know what your rates are as well.
Thank you for your time!
Simple enough and quite similar to the bulk of work that I do. This is a pretty standard catalog type job offer and would be a great opportunity for any aspiring product photographer. It is not an overly complex product and the company specializes in one kind of product so it is never a surprise as to what you are receiving. The product is small and can easily be shot in most home studios. The volume is also quite average so the workload is not overwhelming but still plentiful. At about 100 pieces annually this is a job worth several thousand dollars and has good potential for further licensing revenue. By all accounts, a golden nugget in the world of Kijiji offers. Over the course of 48 hours my ad saw a total of 60 views and had a grand total of 13 replies. So much for a competitive market.
So how did the replies fare?
I am a commercial photographer interested in your AD on Kijiji.ca. I specialise in shooting products and beauty and would welcome the opportunity to shoot for your organisation. I have my own pro equipment and a designated area to shoot out of as well.
My portfolio can be veiwed at -
My rates are quite reasonable and are based on the amount of items that need to be shot.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Though improvements could certainly be made, this was by far the best email I received. It contained a solid introduction describing who is contacting me, what they specialize in, and what their purpose is. They clearly confirmed that they meet my requirements, they offered a link to their website (you’d be surprised how many did not), and they initiated a conversation about rates. The tone in the email was very professional yet friendly, and the email was free from any glaring spelling or grammar mistakes. Had I been a legit client this person’s portfolio would certainly have gone to review.
I am interested on shooting your children shoe products. Please contact me and we can discuss the further.
No website, no attached samples, spelling errors and no reference to rates. Though the photographer in question is clearly interested in continuing the discussion, as a potential client, I have no incentive to do so.
Im a professional photographer, here's a link to my website.
Though the work generally speaks for itself and this email is quite to the point, it has no first impression value. It has about as much customer service as the clerk in a store who is painfully trying to avoid you.
I am interested in this .. I don't normally do Product work but it's a lot easier than people that's for sure.. take a look at my wedsite
The horrible grammar and sentence structure aside, at least he provides a website. I’m glad you think the work I am offering is so easy that you don’t need any experience to complete it though.
i can do this job .but can u tell me where i need to cum ?
Not sure if Freudian slip or if this individual was looking to reply to something in the adult section.
In conclusion, people, step up your email game. When folks ask me why I am not concerned about the sheer volume of new photographers out there vying for the same commercial jobs as I am this right here is a prime example of why I don’t break a sweat. Business is a multi-faceted beast and while a superior product will take you far, nobody wants to deal with poor customer service. *Cough* Adobe *cough*. Take care of your clients and they will take care of you.
Of the 13 emails I received as a response to my ad, only 2 would qualify in my opinion as worthy of a busy business owner’s time for further review. That is an abysmal 15% success rate. Think about this the next time you send out a reply. You might just win a job because you were in the 15% someone bothered to look at.
Stay tuned for the next article where I will go over how I like to personally structure my emails as well as tips and tricks for getting the most out of your client interaction.