In the past few weeks, I have had the most amazing honor of teaching and sharing at two conferences for creative small business owners on Finding and Serving Your Ideal Client, and really the benefits that I have found in specializing as a photographer of motherhood.
I am still floored that I was asked, as sharing at either is such an incredible honor. I spoke a couple years ago for the very first time, and to be honest when I got off that stage I vowed I would never do it again. I hadn’t known how to prepare myself effectively, or understand how nervous I would feel in front of a crowd- no matter how well I knew the material in my head!
When I was first asked to share this year at the Annapolis Creative at Heart Conference, and then shortly after at the Pursuit Conference, I knew that if I said yes I would need to commit to a lot more practice and preparation this time! I tried to keep my Keynote Slides simple, (per the suggestion of Katelyn James) and included my notes with each slide right in Keynote itself. I learned the first time I spoke that paper notes didn’t work well for me, they were falling all over the place!
Something else I found really helpful in preparing to learn my talks was recording myself through Evernote on my iPhone, so that I could listen to it on the plane and the night before, in addition to reviewing the notes and slides. Now I definitely admit that I still need a lot more practice in the art of public speaking. A lot. I gained a whole new respect for those who do it full time. I found myself looking at my notes much more often than I wanted to, and wish I had the confidence to strut the stage with passion as so many of my friends are able to do, but thankfully there’s grace for the beginner! Truthfully, just between you and me, I had to include “Hi my name is Tiffany” in my notes for my intro- because THAT’S how nervous I get in front of people! Ahh!
Finding Your Ideal Client and the benefits of specializing is a topic that I am SO passionate about, because I have learned that trying to be everything to everyone is the fastest way to hate your dream all together. If you have no filter for what you say yes or no to in your business, if you have no idea who your client is- than I believe you will find yourself more often than not, running on that hamster wheel, chasing growth for your business and never really seeing it. If you don’t know who your client is specifically, than how will you market your business to them? Who will your brand speak to? How do you make any decisions for where your business is headed outside of replicating what everyone else is doing? In the last four years, I have learned SO much about how to find your ideal client- and more specifically how NOT to find them. I could never fit all that I shared into one blog post, so I thought I would leave you today with just three simple lessons I learned in finding my own ideal clients over the past few years.
LESSON ONE- In order to find your Ideal Client- the clients who are the perfect fit for you and your business- you MUST know why you are in this business and who you are as a photographer. (or an event planner, or a florist, whatever your role may be.) Because you see, when I first started, I was more concerned (obsessed) with what everyone else was doing. What THEIR website looked like. What THEIR brand looked like. How THEY edited their photos. What products THEY sold their clients. What props THEY used. I had no idea who I was a photographer, or know that I even had the right to define that at all. I never spent time thinking about my own core values, so how would I attract clients who shared them? Keeping my “eyes on my own paper”, and asking myself what images that I created actually MEANT something to me was when the game begin to change in my brand and business.
LESSON TWO- Finding your ideal client, or building a speciality, doesn’t have to mean that you only take on one type of session. It is instead about choosing to work with one type of client. Those of you who have been around here for a few years know that I used to proclaim my specialty as “Connection Portraits”. It had a specific structure, and it was just one type of session- because I thought that’s what you had to do to “specialize”. Although it brought me closer, because I was finally pursuing my OWN brand and vision, it often still felt like I was striving. Like I was trying too hard. I became so concerned with the outside look of my brand, and what I offered and what it was called- that I almost completely missed the most important part of building a niche and that was WHO my client was and WHY. Naturally, and over time, I realized that my clients were mothers, and that SHE was who my brand needed to speak to.
LESSON THREE- I learned that the best way to define your Ideal Client is to simply tell your truth. And it doesn’t have to have a name or a title, and it doesn’t have to be different, and it doesn’t have to be the same- it just has to be YOU. Your vision. Your values. Communicated in a way that filters and connects only to the clients who are the perfect fit for you. And guess where that doesn’t start? When you spend your whole days looking at what everyone else is doing. I came to understand that my own story has shaped the way that I see the world and how I value family. When I started photographing through THAT lens, instead of worrying how every other photographer was doing things, that is when my work started to have a defined, consistent look, and I began to work with clients who were such a good fit for me- because we began to connect on a much deeper level of shared values.
“Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.”– CS Lewis.