How to get clients. 

 December 19, 2016

By  Pascal Depuhl

“How do I get clients?” is a question I asked myself often when I was starting out. Today I see many small business owners and freelancers on this quest to get clients. So what’s the secret? How do people figure out you’re the guy or gal that can solve their problems, create the content they need, or provide the service to help their business succeed?

To get clients you must show them work that rocks!

This should be a given. Your work (in my case photos and videos) needs to speak for itself. It needs to stand out from all the other work out there. Show only your very best work. The stuff that’s won awards, that’s been showcased, stuff others can’t stop talking about – that’ll get clients talking.

Your work has got in front of the right audience. If it sits on your hard drive or on your shelf I don’t care how awesome it is – no one is going to hire you based on work they can’t see. Build a strong web presence. Write a blog. Learn social media. Have a good website. Make it easy for potential clients to find you. Build an audience – (here’s a Roadmap to building your audience.)

To get clients you need to show them what you want to shoot!

Clients book you because they see a still image or a video you created. And they need something similar. This is what Google calls the moment of relevance. The closer you can get to it in your response to a prospective client, the more likely your chances of getting work from them. (I’ll talk about my response time a little in this post). You must make sure that the work you want to do is searchable – that’s especially challenging for a visual content creator since search engines don’t speak photo. They need text to find the imagery people are searching for. Get rid of those IMG_1234.jpeg filenames on your website and help people find your work. [Read: Your filename must include this work.]

Some may say “but I don’t have an image or a video of what I’d like to shoot.” Let me guess and since you don’t have it, you can’t show it – and since you can’t show it, you don’t get clients to book you to shoot it – so you don’t have it … you get the idea.

Shoot it anyway. Shoot it for yourself. Find a non-profit that needs that photo or video and create it for them. Then you have the work to show the next prospect, which proves to them that you can shoot this because now you can show it. Think that’s too expensive, too complicated, too risky? I went to Afghanistan to produce, film, edit and promote a short documentary for a non-profit because that’s the kind of work I want to create, the work that would help me get clients.

You know what my client’s biggest donor said?

Showing work you want to shoot can get clients.

We’re talking about a commission, that represents a group of governments, who work with hundreds of non-profit humanitarian organizations around the world and see even more films showcasing the work those NGOs do. What do you think happens, when I show this corporate documentary film to my prospective clients? You think it gets me more clients? You bet!

To get clients to get personal and show them more, than just your work

“My work speaks for itself.” Yeah. Sure. Future clients want to know who YOU are. In the creative field especially – unless you just want to be a technician. No thanks. I want to give input in the creative process, come up with a new idea, present a fresh way of showing my client’s product, sharing an innovative way of describing what their company’s service is all about.

Remember they are hiring you because you’re an expert. They trust, that you are able to produce what they need, at the quality you promised, for the money that they have budgeted. True, a picture says a thousand words, but it’s so much more powerful when you like the guy or gal that made it and can see yourself working with them. If they can see who you are, that will get clients to work with you.

CASE IN POINT: Let’s look at the last three clients I am working with: One is a multi national company, one is a start-up  and one is moving their production quality up. One makes a watch, one sells food and the third sells security services to various governments around the world. One found me through an existing relationship, the other two found me in an organic Google search.

At first glance, these three look like they have nothing in common. Except they do. You know what that is? Every one of them told me two things: We are not questioning your ability to produce the photos or videos we need. (the Facebook post earlier in this post is the verbatim quote of one of these companies) – Remember I show work that rocks. Show work that is better, than what they need. It will answer a lot of their questions before they ask them.

Secondly, they all said that they wanted ME to shoot their ad campaign, their packaging photography, and produce their marketing video, because of who I was – and that’s before they met me. (Wanting to work with you specifically will get clients to build a strong relationship early on.) Every one of these three had agreed to work with me before meeting with me in person and before we had discussed the budget. So their choice was not an ability thing (there’s a lot of great photographers and filmmakers out there), nor was it a price thing (there’s plenty of people who produce cheaper – in terms of money and usually quality than I do) – it was who they met online when they looked at my presence on the web.

Get clients to care, by showing them that you care.

How fast do you respond? How quickly can you produce a finished estimate? How easy is it to reach you? How quickly do you deliver finished images? Photography and cinematography (or fill in the blank what you do as a freelancer) take up the minority of my time – I mean the actual creation of my visual content. Planning, pitching, coming up with treatments, learning, researching, producing, traveling, processing, editing, co-laboring, delivering, storing, archiving, backing up, billing, repairing, marketing, promoting, … takes up the lion share of my day.

When a prospective new client contacts me through my website, I respond to their request immediately. How long do you take to get back to your leads (If you wanna know how I manage a personal response check out my quick tip on ASMP’s Strictly Business Blog: Automate!)

I read an interesting article on inbound marketing the other day that said: “Be significantly more remarkable than your competitors…”

How are you significantly more remarkable? If you can figure that out, that will help you get clients to pay attention to your brand and favor giving you the work.

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    Pascal Depuhl

    Miami product photographer, video producer, cinematographer and chief mindchanger at Photography by Depuhl I love to share the knowledge I've gained over the past two decades. Catching light in motion.