The client that never was


You’ll hear it thousands of times in your career: “NO”. When I was trying to get hired for my very first job as a 16 year old, my mom told me “You’ll have to get 10 ‘no’s’ before you get 1 yes”

Fortunately I didn’t get turned down that many times, but it was good advice then, and it’s good advice now.

Not every inquiry will book a session with you (that’s a good thing). But there is something you can do to make the most out of those “Nos”.

When someone responds with a polite email of “thanks, but I think we’re going to go in a different direction”, you have one more opportunity to ‘WOW’ the ‘client-that-never-was’.
You can turn her into a
‘client-that-might-be-someday’ or a

Let me explain. Most of my inquiries come in the form of an email. After I’ve responded, answering all of their questions, when the person doesn’t book, I either just don’t hear from them (and that’s how I know they aren’t booking) or they kindly respond with a “thanks but no thanks”. Maybe it’s because my availability doesn’t work with their schedule, or I don’t offer something that they really want, or I’m just out of their budget.
Whatever it is, when they politely respond with a “no”, I send them another email stating

I totally understand
No hard feelings
I hope you find a great photographer and you love the photos
aaaaand, here are some helpful tips to consider during your quest for the perfect photog

And that last item is where I get one more shot to show them what they’re missing out by not choosing me.

There are three things to keep in mind when giving them this helpful info.

1)This should be a page on your website. You just include the link in your email so that you don’t have to rewrite the same tips every time. And by reading this on your website instead of an email it gets them interacting with your brand one more time, all while (hopefully) thinking to themselves “wow, that was really helpful. I’m glad she sent that to me”.

2)It’s gotta be juicy. This person that just turned you down will not click on just anything. They have to be compelled to find out what you have to say about xyz.

3)It shouldn’t be sleezy. First, this should be a page that everyone can access, including the clients that DO book you. For that reason, you don’t want it to have the tone of: screw you for not picking me, no photographer is as great as me and let me tell you why. Nope. It needs to feel like: I am SO passionate about this that whether you buy from me or not, this is what I want everyone to know. Have integrity in all of your business practices and you will quickly rise to the top in your community.

When trying to decide what you can offer, ask yourself “What type of information can I offer to everyone (clients or not) that would help meet their needs as a lover of photography?”

Here are some ideas:
“How to look your best in photos”

Why this works: It tells people that you as a photographer are taking responsibility for how good they look in their photos. So many people are self conscious about how they look in photos (and that’s why so many people stay out of them completely and just have photos of their kids taken). When you can tell them “I care about how you look too. I’m not going to do anything that will be unflattering. Here are some things to think about when picking out your wardrobe / doing your hair / posing, etc”, not only does this position you as an EXPERT (something their next photographer may not be), but it shows them that you value them as people and you value good photography. It also shows them that there are some tricks to the trade. It’s not as simple as “stand here while I push this button”. There next photographer may not posess these skills and that will make you stand out even more.

“How to get your pics off your Iphone and into your hands (where they belong)”

Why this works: once again, this shows people how much you value photography. ALL photography. Whether it was taken by a professional with a $3,000 camera or by an ameteur with a camera phone. This is your chance to remind them of why printed photos are so much more important than digitals, and why photos in general are so important. Give them step-by-step instructions along with some recommendations on where to have their photos printed (as a consumer, not a pro).

“Newborn Safety”

Why this works: If you’ve been in the world of newborn photography for more than a minute you know how important this is. You also know how neglected it can be sometimes by newbies that just don’t know any better. This is your chance to show someone who decided NOT to have you photograph their newborn how important this is. Often times they are only thinking about the photos they are going to get. Most clients NEVER consider whether their baby will be in good hands with the photographer. Tell them all the safety measures you take. This will elevate you as an authority and a trusted member of the community, and you may even prevent an unfortunate accident outside of your studio. When someone is considering you as their photographer this could be just the thing that pushes them over into booking with YOU.

Make sure when sending your ‘NO’ back to your website that you sound helpful, not pushy. You could say something like
“I’m sad I won’t get to photograph your family but I completely understand. Regardless, here are some tips about XYZ that you may find helpful. This is something I am very passionate about and want everyone to have the best information, whether they are my client or not”

By positioning yourself as an expert who is also passionate (and not ruthless) you create an environment that makes it really easy for people to come to you next time they’re ready for portraits. You also create an opportunity for people who were never your clients to refer you to their friends. I have gotten loads of referrals from people I never photographed, who all told their friends something like “I couldn’t afford her, but if I could I would definitely have her do my family’s photos”. This gives you an opportunity to make people who aren’t even your clients fall in love with you.

And this whole thing just makes me think of one of my favorite quotes:

“Expect the best.
Prepare for the worst.
CAPITALIZE on what comes.”
~Zig Ziglar

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