This may turn a few heads, but it is something that has taken me a long time to come to terms with. I do not want to book every single person who contacts me about photography. You are probably thinking to yourself, “But, Casey, isn’t that bad for business? Shouldn’t you want to have as many clients as possible?” Not necessarily. Before you start thinking there is something wrong with me, stay tuned in for a while and keep reading…
I spent many years trying to please everyone because I thought it was better for business if I booked every client that came through my proverbial (or in this day and age ‘virtual’) door. Once I understood the reasons why I wasn’t going to click with everyone, there was a huge sense of relief. It was like an enormous weight had been lifted from my shoulders.
First and foremost, I did not say I am kicking people out the door and saying I don’t want their business. I treat every potential client with the same amount of reverence and respect. And if things aren’t clicking, for whatever reason, I recommend them to a photographer I think will be better suited for them. I want everyone to have the best possible wedding photos, even if I am not their wedding photographer. There are lots of reasons why things might not be working, and the three topics below are at the top of the list.
The first and probably most self explanatory reason. Photographers set their rates based on a wide variety of criteria – experience, market, cost of doing business, cost of living, how many weddings they want to do each year, accolades, demand – the list goes on and on. When it comes to running my business, sometimes I am not on the same page with some potential clients who contact me. And I am okay with that, it is bound to happen.
There are only so many days in a year, and some of them are extremely popular for weddings. Last year, I had fourteen inquiries for one date! And I was booked for that day nearly a year and a half in advance. For some reason, I always feel bad when someone contacts me for a date and I am already booked. But I should be happy about that, right? I already have a wedding booked for that date, but for some reason I feel like I am letting the folks who just contacted me down somehow (feel free to psycho-analyze that). The simple fact of the matter is that the more popular you are the more inquiries you are going to get! And you can’t be in two place at once (until I figure out how to break – or at least bend – the Laws of Physics).
The other part of this is that I simply cannot do more than a certain number of weddings per year. I usually try to top it off between 25 and 30 per year. Why? Because if I go over that number, I am going to burn out and I won’t be able to give my clients the level of service they deserve. There are a lot more hours that go into wedding photography than just taking pictures on the day (more on this topic in the near future, be sure to check back). I usually average about 70 hours of work for every wedding that I do (outside of taking pictures) which if I hit my peak number of weddings in a year averages out to 40 hours a week, plus the time photographing the weddings – 52 weeks a year.
My wife tells me I still need to take more time off so I don’t burn out. And she is right. As always.
I am not the right photographer for everyone. There are many, many great wedding photographers out there and couples should choose someone who they feel they connect with! You are going to be spending a lot of time on your wedding day with your photographer and you don’t want that to be with someone you don’t gel with. I can connect with people on a lot of different levels – music, movies, literature, comedy, dance, art, comic books – the list goes on and on, but it comes down to a very crucial element – pictures. How do they feel about pictures? It took me a long time to figure out that I am not the photographer for people just looking for an item to cross of their list. I am the photographer for people who really want great photos and who will treasure those pictures.
FOOTNOTE: You can reduce the number of ‘wrong number’ inquiries where potential clients reach out to you despite not being a fit for you by being clear in person, in your communications, and in your online presence when dealing with the topics above. Give them a starting price or a price range for services. Immediately let them know if you are unavailable. And find out about them while letting them see who you really are, so that you both know what you are getting into. Everyone will be a lot happier that way!