How to Create Your Dream Video Production or Photography Client List
We have client horror stories. You have client horror stories. Every small business owner, service provider, and entrepreneur has client horror stories. But, for some reason, those of us in the creative mediums like video production, photography, and design have A LOT. However, no fear, there is a better way. It is possible to a curate a cadre of dream clients. The trick is to focus more on yourself and your business, not bending over backwards for your client. Let us explain.
Know Your Worth (It's more than free)
This, by far, is the number one issue facing freelance photographers, smaller video production and photography companies. Take the time to understand the business side of your operations. Everything you do, from travel time, to consultation, pre-production, production, post, and delivery all has some sort of value tied to it. Familiarize yourself with your competition in the area, what their production costs are, and decide how you can compete. If you're not sure what to charge for video production, we suggest diving deep into "the Google" and checking out Video Maker's cheat sheet. Often times we find this "competition" creates a race to the bottom, and the only ones that are left figured out how to create value and demand at a higher price point, or have a trust-fund supporting their operation.
Remember, if your value proposition is budget alone, you've successfully turned your offering into a commodity and doomed your margins. This is where some strategic thinking, and experimentation on your part is needed. Discover what your unique value proposition is, and how you can communicate that to potential clients.
Develop more than a video and photo production Process
Video or photo pre-production, production, post-production, and delivery is not your process. When you're running a video production or photography business you need to consider client outreach/marketing, then client intake/onboarding, needs assessment/consultation, and then have a process for creating a proposal, which hinges on knowing your worth (see how these tie together?). All of this happens before you've even started story-boarding or scripting. Our process is a mix of Design Thinking tools, Six Sigma process adherence, and traditional film production steps. This works for us, but it might not work for you. The key is to have something that is repeatable, yet flexible to match the needs of your client. Also, don't be afraid to experiment, and change your process. You'd be amazed how becoming a slave to process can inhibit creativity.
Having your process, standard approach, and being able to communicate said process and approach to your client early-on helps you weed out potential nightmare clients, from the long-lasting relationships we all aim to create.
Learn When to Say No
No is tough. Especially as a "creative/designer" my inclination is to say "yes and" instead of turning down work. I've learned the hard way we can't please everyone, and that we don't have enough waking hours in the day to take on every job that comes our way. However, as you start to understand and know your worth, and you flesh out your process, saying "no" becomes easier. Why? Well, if you know your worth, and you have a process it's easy to blame the process or the budget constraints as the reason you can't take on a client. We always try to be supportive and leave our not-meant-to-be clients with advice, other options that can fulfill their needs, or refer them to a production company/freelancer that might be willing or better suited to take on their business.
Deliver More Through Delight
Under promise. Over deliver. It's cliche, but I'll be damned if it isn't true. Almost everything in your process that has a deadline, or deliverable should have the aim of finishing early, and providing more or unexpected value to the client. We usually accomplish this through responsive communication during our initial contacts and conversations, as well as making strategy and creative brainstorming work more hands-on than clients anticipate.
As far as delivering the final product, look for opportunities throughout production to find "delighters." These can be behind-the-scenes photos the client can use for their internal/external communications or footage that you have an intern package into a quick edit they can utilize. Maybe it's a live-video from a production day on set or maybe you deliver the final product a few days early. Ultimately, you know the client best, and should be able to find some sort of delighter, or cherry on top.
Sometimes it's tough to be yourself. Boardrooms and offices can be stuffy, soul-sucking places. But, you aren't doing yourself any services by pretending to be someone you're not. Most humans have the ability to connect with other people on some sort of common ground. Search for it. This is part of the initial relationship-building process the often times loses you a client. People wan't to trust you, and believe you'll deliver a great product that will make them and their business look good, but they want to have a good time as well. Plenty of shops can put out masterful creative, but not so many are great at really understanding their client, and developing meaningful relationships.
Schmooze. Go to local business meetups. Talk the owners of your favorite establishments. Join local business organizations. Embed yourself in your community, and explore outside your comfort zone. Traditional advertising works, so does adwords, but spending time putting yourself out there with other professionals, creatives, and members of your community helps build a network where your name isn't just a headline below a search bar. Additionally, try your hand at speaking opportunities, which conveniently translates to being comfortable on camera, which leads to you putting out more consistent vlog content, podcasts, and tutorials, which only again helps to potentially put you in front of another dream client.
Final Advice: Be Paitent
Everything we outlined above takes time. You're not going to have a list of amazing reoccurring clients tomorrow, or a week from now, or even a month from now. But, if you're diligent, you'll start seeing the fruits of your labor. Clients will start recommending more clients to you, you're return business will increase, and your blood pressure will fall.