Fetch! The Right Mindset For Finding Clients

Fetch! The Right Mindset For Finding Clients

There are many factors to success in the creative industry. Of course a big chunk of it has to do with the quality of the work, but we know quality isn’t the only factor to being successful as a photographer, otherwise, there would be a lot more of us. Yet most photographers put all their efforts into developing their technical or artistic abilities and leave the entire business chunk untouched. Today I would like to touch on the passive nature of many entrepreneurs.

It is not enough to simply “start” a business. Many entrepreneurs have grand visions of their own success and visualize the finish line at every moment of every day. This may be a great form of motivation, but this “too far ahead of yourself” mindset often leads to a short list of accomplishments. If you are too focused on the end result, you are simply living in your imagination, and not spending enough time thinking about HOW to get there.

We need to change this mindset in order to jump start your success. Many entrepreneurs start a business, put up a website (in our case an online portfolio), they tell a few friends, maybe even throw up a Craigslist listing, then they go make a long island iced tea, sit back, and dream of dollars. This is the extent of their business strategy. The thought is that if they put up a good portfolio, it will get exposure, and clients will start pouring in. This is not a viable approach, and a terrible mindset for client acquisition. You should never EXPECT that your clients will come to you. That will one day happen, but your mindset needs to switch from catching to fetching.

What Is A Fetching Mindset?

If you are a dog owner, undoubtedly, at some point you’ve tested out its fetching ability. Heck, even my girlfriend’s cat plays fetch. It’s not a very hard concept. Instead of waiting for something to come your way, you run after it and get it yourself.

You need to realize you are entitled to absolutely nothing. If you want anything, it will come from your own efforts, and how much you have will be proportional to the amount of effort you give. A dog can only get the ball if he decides to run after it. How soon he gets the ball depends on how fast he runs.

That is exactly what you need to be doing with clients. Make a conscious decision to go after them, and give it all you’ve got.

How To Start Fetching?

1. Don’t rely on your work

Your work may be stellar. It may be revolutionary. It may even move me to tears. Yet the fact remains we work in a subjective environment. How a client ranks your work against another photographer will vary wildly by client. It will take more than your images to convince them that YOU will be the correct choice. Think about value added benefits. What extra perks beyond image quality do you bring to the table? Because the other photographer is also bringing image quality, and do you really want the final hiring decision to be a subjective one? Give your client all the information they need to make a fully informed decision.

2. Don’t rely on clients FINDING you

Clients are very busy people. Just like you they are running a business and have a million tasks to oversee. Their searches are brief and often based on a combination of top search results and networking. Knowing this, you should be researching your target market (you do have one right?) and finding out what they are specifically searching for and who they are talking to. If you can find that information then you can begin working on targeting your exposure to those groups and creating networks of people that will bring you closer to your goals. Use those networks and the exposure from targeted marketing to make direct contact with your clients. You need to be the one initiating conversation and introducing yourself. Don’t wait for anyone to open the door. Sometimes you just have to knock.

3. Don’t rely on referrals

If you can’t fetch for yourself, get someone else to fetch for you right? Not quite. Referrals are great. I would say 60% of my current business comes from referrals, but I would never RELY on it. A lot of new entrepreneurs think that all they need is a winning attitude and some great customer service and that will directly translate into several referrals per client. Not the case. You are relying on someone else to make the sales pitch for you. Some clients will forget, some will just go out of business, whatever the case may be, it’s not a reliable source of new clients for your business. Think of it as a bonus, but never stop pursuing your own sources.

4. Don’t forget to plan

You can be ferocious and hunt down every single client in a 100km vicinity, but it is not enough just to show up at the door. Part of changing your mindset will require you to stop focusing on the finish line, so by occupying your thoughts with sales pitches and step by step strategies, you can begin finding clients AND turning them into YOUR clients. A solid business strategy will make you more confident in front of your clients who in turn will have more confidence in you and your work.

Go Fetch!

I hope what you’ve read here has inspired you to be a bit less of a dreamer and a little more practical. I know they say not to play in traffic but sometimes the best way to stop a moving vehicle is to get in front of it. Don’t be afraid to stop your clients dead in their routines and come up with an action plan to have them notice you. Be pro-active, and seriously, don’t play in traffic.

Feel free to visit me anytime at Peter House – Commercial Photographer to follow our work.

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7 Comments

Was really hoping to read a "do" list after reading the "don't" list.

I feel the same way! I almost feel like each paragraph was kind of repetitive. I understand you shouldn't sit on your butt and wait for the business to roll in. Maybe throw out some suggested places to advertise your business? Whether you're a wedding photog, fashion shooter, portrait, headshots, etc.

Peter House's picture

Thanks Cody. There is certainly an underlying theme of "don't sit on your ass" haha, but I think it bears repeating. Most people fail at all this BECAUSE their mistakes are repetitive, and they don't learn from them.

In future posts I will be exploring different marketing avenues, and giving suggestions as well as showing a glimpse into what I do personally to promote myself. Consider this article as the preface. Cheers!

I appreciate the reply! I hope I didn't come across as a jerk. You definitely wrote a great post. I look forward to your future posts!

Peter House's picture

Thanks for the feedback. I will actually be expanding more on these topics in future posts so that I can delve deeper into each one. I hope you keep reading! :)

Great article Peter, thanks!

In my opinion, one of the most underestimated aspects of being a (semi)pro photographer is being an entrepreneur. It's great to be creative and move people, but it's also great to have some food on the table, right? And that's where many photographers lack skills.

How do you get new client's? And if you have set up a website - which is fairly easy nowadays - how do you attract traffic (prospects/clients!) to your website? How do they pay for your work. And how do you get Google to rank your website so that it is found (SEO). Al these aspect have nothing to do with photographing. But they have everything to do with being a serious photographer.

We help photographers everyday with selling their work, attracting business and marketing. We have noticed that many photographers are creative, but need some help with the 'business' aspect. The aspect that keeps you 'alive' as a photographer.

It is about skills, but also about awareness. That your work - however great it may be - will not sell itself. You will have to do it on your own.

Kudos to FStoppers (and the contributors) for writing these kinds of articles. Hopefully it will help all you struggling photographers to find a market for your work.

Great article Peter, thanks!

In my opinion, one of the most underestimated aspects of being a (semi)pro photographer is being an entrepreneur. It's great to be creative and move people, but it's also great to have some food on the table, right? And that's where many photographers lack skills.

How do you get new client's? And if you have set up a website - which is fairly easy nowadays - how do you attract traffic (prospects/clients!) to your website? How do they pay for your work. And how do you get Google to rank your website so that it is found (SEO). Al these aspect have nothing to do with photographing. But they have everything to do with being a serious photographer.

We help photographers everyday with selling their work, attracting business and marketing. We have noticed that many photographers are creative, but need some help with the 'business' aspect. The aspect that keeps you 'alive' as a photographer.

It is about skills, but also about awareness. That your work - however great it may be - will not sell itself. You will have to do it on your own.

Kudos to FStoppers (and the contributors) for writing these kinds of articles. Hopefully it will help all you struggling photographers to find a market for your work.