Who is your ideal client?
First, you have to figure out WHO your ideal client is. Which isn't always easy! I had to photograph a ton of families, couples, and weddings to really start to get a good idea of the types of people I work best with. While I've never had a "nightmare client," there are definitely certain personality types that I jive with better with than others. Making a list of qualities can be really helpful in figuring out what your ideal client is like! For example, here are some qualities of the people we work best with:
Non-traditional. Appreciates art, style, and music. Loves nature but lives in the city. Maybe is a craft beer lover or a foodie. Has eclectic taste. Shops at places like West Elm or mid-century thrift stores. Embraces diversity and supports the LGBTQ+ community. Is an artist, musician, or graphic designer by trade. Isn't afraid to act silly or show emotion in front of the camera. Loves traveling + adventure.
Based on that description, you can get a pretty good idea of the people and couples we love working with. This isn't to say that everyone we work with fits this EXACT description, that would be nearly impossible. But this "idealized" version is what we have gone off of to try to draw in a more creative and non-traditional client base.
Drawing in your ideal client
This part is actually fairly simple...it just takes time. When you're just starting out with a photography business, you don't necessarily have the luxury of turning away clients because they aren't the "best fit." But what you DO have control over is what you're showing on your website or social media accounts.
Remember that you don't have to blog or show every single session or wedding you shoot. Live by this simple rule:
Only show what you want to book more of.
This means that if you just shot a wedding in barn, and you legitimately NEVER WANT TO SHOOT ANOTHER BARN WEDDING AGAIN - don't show it. Maybe pick a handful of images that you love to share on social media or on your website. Think close up detail shots, or a few tender moments during the portrait section of the day. You can pick and choose exactly what you want to put out there not only to get your ideal client, but to also detract the clients that you don't necessarily want. For example, if you don't want to shoot church weddings anymore, but you have a ton of church weddings shown in your portfolio...what type of inquiries do you think you'll get? Answer is pretty obvious ;)
"Vetting" potential clients
At this point in our career, Forbis and I can be a bit more "choosy" about the types of sessions and weddings we shoot. Once we decided on our ideal client, we changed up a few things in order to get a bit more information from people before agreeing to the session or wedding. We have several questions on our inquiry form(s) that give us a little bit of insight into who is contacting us. The following 2 questions on our wedding inquiry form are the most important to us. I'll list them and explain why we might turn down a particular wedding based on their answer to the question:
"What does your wedding day look like? We'd love to hear more about your vision and what is important to you on your big day. Please be as descriptive as you can - we love details! "
When we ask this question, we hope for at least a brief description of what is important to the couple. If they only answer with, "Our color scheme is navy + gold with a classic feel" - that's gonna be a hard pass from us. If details are the only (or most) important thing they can say about their wedding, they are not the client for us. Had they said, "We want our day to be a true expression of our love, while surrounded by people we hold dearest to our hearts"....that'd be a YES. We can tell a lot about the couple just based on this question alone.
"What has drawn you to our style of photography?"
If they answer with something incredibly vague like, "Family referral" - that's a turn-off. We LOVE referrals, don't get me wrong, but we really want to hear some specifics about what in particular they like in order to ensure that they truly feel some kind of connection to our work. Had they even simply answered, "Your use of light and shadows," we'd be much more likely to chat with them further.
So, since we CAN be a bit choosy about who we book, we are very upfront about our style and what to expect from a session or wedding with us. We lay out a lot of information when we send pricing for sessions or weddings, in order to ensure that the potential client knows our approach. We even list out some qualities of the people we work best with when it comes to weddings. We want to be clear with people BEFORE they book us to make sure that they are getting what they want, and that we are booking the kind of people we work best with. If a potential client feels that we aren't the best fit for them, we are always more than happy to refer them to someone else who may be a better fit. You are welcome to read through all of the pricing and information guides we send out prior to booking!
Branding + Website
The last piece of the puzzle with finding the right clients, is the overall style and vibe of your brand. If you're wanting to appeal to brides that are classic, traditional, and romantic, maybe you choose a feminine script logo and a fresh, light, pastel color scheme for your site. If your ideal clients are families that want purely documentary-style sessions embracing the chaotic beauty of everyday life, maybe you go with a simple yet bold logo set against a clean white website. If you want to draw in alllll the hipster couples, you might choose a hand-drawn logo with an "etched" feel and set it against a moody website.