When I first became a photographer and met with potential clients, I told them about me because that’s what I thought they wanted. They wanted to know who they were hiring, of course! So I talked a lot during the meetings.
Slowly, I realized I literally began each meeting by pitching myself (ew – haha). I failed to ask them the questions. What they have seen online that they like… How they met… What they are looking for in a photographer…
I have way better people skills now than 10 years ago when I started my company. As a creative, it’s important to have your style and present that to others, but you are also running a business and building relationships. In general, when I work with someone, we have similar taste, but within that are give and takes.
For example, my last wedding client didn’t care for any traditional photos, only candid moments. They wanted to be in the moment and enjoy their event, so I never pulled them aside for formal portraits. Other clients like having formal portraits, so I will make an effort to pull them aside and make sure to create plenty of those.
People appreciate when you listen to what they need.
And this is genuinely listening to what they need so that it helps them. The other day a woman wanted to network. She friended me on Facebook and wrote, “Tell me a bit about yourself!.” She followed that question with, “What are you most excited about right now?.” Those are both great questions, but I could tell they were complete bullshit because she wasn’t listening to my answers. It’s like she had a template of generic “engaging” questions.
Hint: That stuff only works if you also actually listen to the answers, so you can craft genuine responses. I stopped the conversation immediately. Nobody has time for that!
When I first started teaching workshops, branding and marketing was a subject that many people wanted to learn, but the industry changes fast. Now what aspiring wedding photographers want is good content for social media. So currently that is what I provide at some of my workshops – a beautifully styled shoot so photographers can have good content to post on their Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, etc. I teach how to pose and create natural moments, but mostly I produce the content.
I came up with this business idea by observing and listening. Hey, people want this!
The #1 skill that has helped me be a better business person (and partner is ANY relationship)? Listen and give people what they need, not what you think they need.