The Joy of Creating Relationships with Clients {Photographer Education, Life Prints Portrait Design}

Posted on March 23, 2011. Filed under: Education, For Photographers, photography business | Tags: , , , |

I’ve worked a lot of jobs in my life and I’ve also run a couple of my own businesses along the way.  While each one has taught me a lot, I discovered my true passion in life a few years ago and it has made all the difference in the world to me in terms of my outlook on life and where I am headed in regard to my career.  I am a portrait photographer, and I wouldn’t trade it for any job in the world. 

Over the past few years, I have worked hard to learn all I could about customer service because, while photography is my passion, I truly believe that my relationships with my clients are the cornerstone of my business.   Every potential client that calls me deserves to be treated with respect and kindness (whether or not they continue to deserve it depends on them!)  My basic assumption though, is that every client should be treated as my first, last and best client.  That’s it, the bottom line.  Building those relationships past that initial call though takes time and care.  Most of the time I have found that if I treat my clients as I would want to be treated (hmmm, the golden rule?), then building those relationships becomes a natural process that brings an added bonus to my business… I actually love what I do.  It’s because of those relationships that I work so hard to foster that I do really love my work.  So, I thought that for the purpose of this article I should try to define what those relationships are and why they are so important.

A relationship implies that there is an agreement between two or more people… at least to me it does.  Each person has a vested interest in the other person because of this agreement.  Well, that sounds terribly boring.

Okay, so here’s what I really think… building relationships with my clients is fun.  Hmmm, too simplistic? 

Okay, third time’s the charm… if you want to be successful in business, you’ve got to have clients and it’s kind of important that they like you (am I getting warmer?)  Without them, you’ve pretty much got you… and you.  So let’s go back and take a look at both of my first tries at explaining this.

Building a relationship with a client can be a fun and mutually beneficial “agreement” that you both make in order to get something important from the other person.  For example, as a professional portrait photographer, it’s important that I not only have people to take pictures of, but it’s equally important that those people are comfortable with me as their photographer.  The first part of that is obvious because if I don’t have people to take pictures of, then I won’t have a business.  The second part though is something that is a bit more fluid and definitely beneficial to both of us.  

As my passion for my work becomes more obvious to the client, it can tend to be infectious (but much nicer than say, the Swine Flu!)  A comfort level begins to build between us that allows them to trust me.  They begin to trust that not only can I do a good job technically for their portraits, but that I am somebody that they will be able to relax with.  Let’s face it, how many people really like getting their pictures taken?  Do you? From my informal survey of every customer who sits in front of my camera, I’m going to say about 1 in 10,000 (I did say it was informal, right?)  I’d say those aren’t great odds for getting genuine smiles out of people!  So having them be able to relax and get comfortable with me is an invaluable tool in my arsenal of business (and life) skills.

Why is that mutually beneficial?  Well, one of the reasons most people give for not liking to get their picture taken is that they don’t like the way they themselves look in the pictures.  Of course you don’t like the way you look in them silly… you were uncomfortable (and all the teenage boys were grumpy!)  So when I can help somebody to relax and even enjoy their experience with me, their time if front of the camera becomes a much happier place to be.  That, in turn, leads to fun, relaxed images that I can then turn into beautiful pieces of artwork featuring the very people who don’t usually like getting their pictures taken.  I just became their favorite photographer because they think I used some sort of magic technology to make them look good.  The thing is, the trick I have up my sleeve is the relationship with that person.  I simply develop relationships with my clients, and that makes all the difference in the world.  They get images that they love and an experience they won’t forget, and I develop a client for life. 

There is a quote I used a lot when I was teaching customer service classes.  I’m not sure who originally said it, but it always seemed very relevant to me both professionally and personally.

“In ten years from now, they won’t remember what you said or did.  But they will remember how you made them feel.”

Isn’t that really what developing a relationship with our clients is about?  It’s the way they feel when they call for the first time and are treated with courtesy, warmth and respect.  It’s the way they feel when they call with a question and we remember who they are.  It’s the way a new parent feels while they watch me gently position their newborn (who of course is sleeping ever so peacefully) for the baby’s first ever portrait session, or the awe that a two-year olds parents feel when they finally see the images from their toddler’s session (when they were just sure there was no way I could have gotten any good pictures out of that chaos… oh, I’ve heard that one many a time!)  It’s also the feeling they get when they receive a personalized card at the holidays from us, or in some cases, a call to let them know we care when we’ve heard of some bad news or event in their lives.

Every single contact I have with every single client is important. 

Here’s the bottom line when it comes to client relationships, or any relationships for that matter … you have to truly care about the person or they will know it.  It comes out in your tone of voice, in your body language, in the way you handle their questions and concerns, with the attentiveness you show them, and with every call, meeting or just bumping into them in the grocery store. 

I believe in the value of people and in the immeasurable value of relationships.  It’s a part of who I am and it drives the way I live my life and run my business.  It empowers me to be the best person I can be and to treat others like they are always the best person I believe them to be.  Because of that, I am able to reap so much joy and happiness from my life and my career.  Building those relationships becomes a joy, not a chore.  This is what truly feeds my passion for what I do.

So here’s to all those relationships in life that make it worth while!

Come by the main site and look through my picture galleries at http://www.lifeprintsportrait.com/Picture%20Galleries-Main.htm.  Can you see the relationships I have with my clients through the images I create?  Let me know what you think.


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