The Kindred Path
How to Find, Book, & Keep Your Ideal Client
Kara Powers, Kara Powers Photography
Hi y’all! I’m Kara Powers. I’m a motherhood and newborn photographer based in Richmond, VA. I specialize in thoughtfully crafted portraits expressing the heart of motherhood. I love all stages of documenting families, but I have to admit that newborn is where I thrive! Over the past 8+ years,I have been honing in on who I am as a creative, what is unique about my work, really what makes me, well… me as I serve my clients. For being artistic, I am pretty data driven when it comes to my business. I want to share with you how over half of my yearly sessions are booked from past clients. Hopefully, these straight-forward tips will help you to fill out your calendar year after year.
It can feel overwhelming in a market full of talented photographers to know how you can stand out enough to get your ideal clients and retain them throughout the years. I have learned that as long as I’m showing up, offering the best I can- ie: myself- then the right families will keep finding me. It is CRUCIAL to operate from a mindset of plenty and not scarcity. Babies are born everyday. Families want portraits every season.There will always be enough to go around. There are always people that want to work with YOU and only you.
We’re going to talk about three areas that will set you up for lasting success. WHo your ideal client is, how to attract and book them, and finally, how to serve them well, so they keep coming back! Ok, let’s dive in!
1) WHO IS YOUR IDEAL CLIENT?
You may already have a very clear picture in your mind of who this person is.... Where they shop, what they wear, the types of hobbies they like, the food they cook. Maybe this is something you’re just starting to think about. I feel that the more detailed you can make this vision, the better it will help you! Here are a few cornerstones of what make an ideal client for me:
a. They like your work (well, that’s a given), but more so than that, they can articulate what about your work that stands out to them. When you have a client who can articulate what it is about your work they enjoy, you are going to be able to collaborate with them more easily during the planning leading up to their session and during the session itself- more on this in section 3. For example, you won’t have to worry about a client asking if you wrap up babies in gauze and put little bear hats on them in a basket. If that’s your thing, you do you! You can confidently share your offerings and services, knowing that you have clearly communicated who you are as an artist from the beginning.
b. They are committed to creating and investing in heirloom-quality portraiture
Ok, confession time… for the first few years in my business, I didn’t price myself in a competitive or profitable way. Yikes. Yeah, I said it. I was worried about creating my client base and losing out on opportunities. I didn’t have the body of work I wanted to attract my ideal clients, so I felt like I had to work at a lower rate than I wanted to in order to get there. I was working a ton and had loads of clients, but some of the clients I was attracting were for the wrong reasons. I would have people ask for discounts, custom collections that fit within their budget, or other requests that weren’t really what I necessarily felt comfortable doing. Now, there are always special circumstances where there is room to flex or offer a special discount, but I was determined not to make any of this the norm anymore. With years of experience and hundreds of sessions under my belt, I can confidently say that this isn’t a problem anymore. I realized my time and my expertise were worth it, so I substantially raised my prices over the past three years. (More on how this actually attracts your ideal clients in a bit!) I have less people inquire now, but the majority of the people that do, will book and subsequently, book again. Many of my past clients have stayed with me through these changes because I have fostered a genuine relationship with them and their family, but they also understand and value the process.
c. They TRUST you. Personally and creatively. Now this is a pretty loaded statement, right? I think it’s the most important one, though. Let’s unpack this. You are walking alongside families during some of the sweetest, but sometimes most stressful and emotional moments of their lives. I don’t take for granted the trust that comes along with being invited into someone’s home when they are 2 weeks postpartum. Maybe your client had complications with her delivery, maybe her baby was in the NICU, maybe she’s welcoming TWINS with a toddler already at home. I’ve served mamas in all of these situations and many other types of circumstances. I have learned that empathy and grace go such a long way! If you search my Google reviews, one of the words that comes up repeatedly is “comfort”. This is one of my main goals going into any new client relationship, so I’m glad that feeling is being conveyed. What is a word you would like associated with your work? Think about the steps it would take to get you there! This is such an important factor that will bring families back year after year. For many mothers, a trusted photographer they can count on from year to year is highly valued. How do you get to this point, though? This trust-building begins before they even contact you.
2) HOW TO ATTRACT YOUR IDEAL CLIENT AND BOOK THEM.
I have found that unequivocally the best chance I have at attracting my ideal client is to create and share content that not only speaks to me, but to them. If you are inspired by the work you create, it will show! I promise! If you aren’t feeling inspired because you aren’t booking your ideal clients yet, I would highly encourage you to set up some styled shoots that are going to achieve the feeling and attract the clients you are looking for. You also want to make sure your messaging on all platforms is consistent. Are you discussing your offerings? How a session flows? What can they expect? These are all great additions in rounding out their first impressions, that will then give them a call to action!
a) Tell a story they will fall in love with!
When potential clients are pursuing your Instagram, website,or blog, not only are they looking for beautiful imagery that speaks to them, they are looking for a way to connect with you. They want to be able to envision themselves in your instagram feed, on your website, or on a blog post. You will often attract what you show. You are not only telling the story of you, but the ‘could be’ story of them! It’s also important to share about yourself, your passions, your WHY, your process, basically, what makes working with YOU so great. Curating your website, blog, and instagram feed to reflect this will set you apart every time.
Quick Sidebar/ Motivational Speech
Here’s the thing… we can all suffer from imposter syndrome from time to time if we’re honest, right? It doesn’t matter where we are in our business. We look around and think “I’ll never be where they are”, “I can’t do what they do”, “This seems so hard”... The list goes on and on. Let me tell you from experience, though, that the faster you rewrite this narrative in your mind, the faster you will start to see the changes that truly set you apart! The fact of the matter is that each of us are blessed with talents and skill sets that make us uniquely equipped to serve our clients like no one else. Yeah, you read that right. Can I get an ‘Amen!’, y’all? Ok, end motivational speech and back to our regularly scheduled content. Thanks for sticking with me there.
b) Create a personal connection/ point of contact as soon as possible after inquiry
For me, it’s important that I make personal contact with every person who may want to work with me. I run a highly personalized business, so this is a non-negotiable for me. When a new client reaches out, the first thing I do is respond as soon as I can. CRMs and other softwares utilize push notifications, so when you get a new inquiry, it will alert you via the app on your phone. I know, I know. I’m working on the work-life boundaries. However, I try to start a conversation as soon as possible via email or text and set up a phone call as soon as they’re available. Usually that same day, or within a few days. I cannot tell you the number of times people are so appreciative of my promptness. They are normally just as eager to talk to me as I am to talk to them. I’m old fashioned and prefer the phone over texting or Zoom, but it works well for me! Discovery calls are important because you are able to get to know one another a little bit, as well as talk shop. This is also a good opportunity to make sure they are a good fit for you. Sometimes, this phone call can help determine if this is a relationship that can work. You are not meant to be everyone’s photographer. That’s ok! You can chat about life, hobbies, jobs, and of course, babies! You are instantly putting them at ease and making the process more understandable. You walk them through what working with you is like before, during, and after their session(s). You are able to give specific details of what their investment will be for a given collection, and why this investment is worth it.
c) Show them how working with you will be an exceptional and unique experience and why it’s WORTH IT!
Do you provide a wardrobe? Hair and makeup services? Just digitals? Artwork only? In-Home or Studio? Whatever type of experience you provide for your client is fine, but I would encourage you to start with the end in mind. Do you want to serve more luxury clients? If so, they will be more interested in the investment that comes along with wardrobe, H+MU, and artwork vs. just digitals. These clients want a more high-touch experience and want to invest in that. This is what I was talking about earlier when I mentioned how adjusting my pricing actually has helped me find my ideal client and keep them. I realized at the lower prices, I was working just as hard (quite frankly, a lot more!), but I wasn’t always serving my ideal clients. I now work a bit less and am able to confidently say, “YES!” to the work I do take on.
A quick note about pricing: I personally don’t provide specific investment amounts on my website, but I do have thresholds to choose from on my contact form. I have every prospective client fill out this form when they inquire. It’s good to have a few details before hopping on a phone call. By asking simple, but straight-forward questions about the services they’re interested in, coupled with their intended investment, I am able to quickly ascertain the best way to serve a potential client. It’s important to set clear expectations.
A lot of times, someone may list a lower amount, but end up investing more after our phone call. I will say, “Most clients typically invest around $___ amount” and many people find this helpful. Remember, you are not only selling your services, but your expertise, too! Being truly engaged, interested, and genuine in this conversation is very important. Be confident in your words and intention. Be the expert! You are building the bonds of trust. It will pay off, I promise!
3) How to keep your ideal client coming back session after session.
I’m not going to talk about the actual session or delivery of said images because, at this point, you’ve got that in the bag! You’ve booked your ideal client. You’re going to rock that session and they are going to love their images, of course! I want to discuss how personal touch points before, during and after their session, are truly the catalyst to cement the trust building process.
a) Maintain open and clear communication before their session
Great, so they’ve booked and it’s time to start planning. Once they’re in your calendar make sure you touch base from time to time. Have pre-session information and questionnaires? Send them! Any day-of guides or tips? Share them. Wardrobe pictures? Get their sizing. I don’t think there is too much information you can give to a client to make them feel prepared and confident for their session. Your client will feel well cared for. Is a due date approaching? Check in and send well-wishes and prayers for a safe delivery.
Note: I have learned that it is crucial for me to not have more than 1-3 sessions per week. That way, I can have a good flow of preparing, working, editing, and delivering sessions. It’s easy to get busy after someone books and let some of that pre-session tending fall between the cracks. I want each of my clients to feel like they are a top priority because they are!
b) With your actions and words, validate them and make them feel seen during their session
Your client is going to look to you to set the tone on the day of your session. Positivity and kindness are key. Your actions and words validate your clients and make them feel seen during their session. Call children by their names. Take the time to learn about them ahead of the session, so you can make a personal connection and win them over right out the gate. If you’re serving a family with a new baby, make sure to always ask specifically how mama is doing. Hold space for her to share if she wants to. New moms appreciate validation. Be positive and encouraging throughout the session. Sincere compliments go a LONG way. Tell her how beautiful she looks. How romantic her dress is. How cute her baby/children are. How she did a great job styling everyone. Taking time to notice and validate goes a long way in trust building. Be confident in how you are managing expectations, emotions, and your time during a session. Being tuned in to your client’s body language (and their spouse’s) is crucial. Is a Dad not loving pictures? Invite him into a few choices for a prompt or pose, so he has more autonomy. Let him know how much time he will be needed, so he has an end goal in mind. Thank him for his participation and remind him of how special this opportunity is. Toddler melting down mid-session? No worries! You’ve got this covered, take a break and have them grab a snack. Carbs and protein do wonders for the “ragies”. I recommend having an arsenal of pouches, goldfish, granola bars, etc. at the ready for on-location shoots. If not, I make sure my families have snacks and drinks at the ready when we’re working in-home. Although I wasn’t in the Girl Scouts, I feel like I am always prepared for the random curveballs that can arise at sessions with babies and children. I have seen it all and now I can be fully prepared for it all. Boogie wipes, tissues, bandaids, you name it (within reason) I carry it with me to a session. Assure your client that all of these things are normal and that you feel great about how everything is going. They are looking to you for reassurance! With a little forethought, you can show up for your clients in a way that emphasizes not only how professional and confident you are, but how you truly desire to serve them.
c) Express your gratitude and show enthusiasm to serve them again. -
It is important to remember that you are partnering with your clients in something very special. You are being invited into people’s most precious memories. They chose YOU. This is humbling and a reason to be thankful. Be specific about why it was enjoyable to serve their family. Make sure you keep your communication open after the session. Give them clear expectations of when to expect their gallery and what the next steps are. Let them know to reach out if they need anything or have any questions. Reiterate how wonderful everything looks when you deliver their final product. Follow up with reminders on ordering deadlines, coupons, product codes, whatever it is. Express how you are excited to serve them again in the future. Make sure to check in periodically to keep those lines of communication open. I, personally, enjoy following many of my clients on Instagram and seeing what their sweet families are up to! This isn’t to say I am helicoptering their feeds, but it’s a nice, passive way to make sure you stay in touch without coming on too strong! Many of my moms share memes or funny videos with me. I enjoy having a friendly rapport with them. This makes conversations about future sessions easier and more casual for me, too. They are engaging with my feed, as well. They will comment if they see friends, like a client’s dress, or location. You can casually extend an invitation to book a session ahead of busy season, so you make sure there is room in your calendar for them. Many times, they appreciate this forethought.
After you have built this type of relationship with several clients, you won’t have any trouble filling your books year-round! You will continue to serve them well, session after session. They will tell their friends about you and you will start to see more wonderful families head your way. Remember, above all else, being authentically YOU is what is going to serve you and your ideal clients best. Thank you so much to my sweet friends, Adrianne and Marie for inviting me to share with this wonderful community. Wishing you all a spring and summer full of wonderful sessions!
Kara Powers, Kara Powers Photography