One of the first things I tell photographers who are at the beginning of their career is to “Learn from the mistakes of others.” Learn from my mistakes, learn from the mistakes of your instructors at school, learn from the mistakes of your peers. The point is to learn what to do, and what not to do.
With this in mind I put the question out to some of my graphic design peeps and asked, “What’s the one thing a photographer can do to lose you as a client?”
I got responses about technical mistakes and business mistakes but the majority of answers were about attitude. While it’s important to understand you’ve probably been hired for your vision (more on that next) it’s also important to remember that the client also has a vision. They’re looking to you for help in realizing that vision. Assisting them and moving them down the path towards realization is good, steamrollering them where you want to go is bad. It’s also worth noting that some clients just want a technician. They didn’t hire you for your vision or your creativity, they just want someone who can take a picture so they don’t have to bother with it. If that’s your gig then fine, but remember that these particular clients will, in general, have a lower threshold for ‘tude.
An interesting aspect of my research is that there were a fair amount of contradictory responses. I got responses that basically said “Be more creative.” I got responses that said “Don’t be so creative.” This tells me that every client has a different threshold for outside creative input. Indeed, the same individual client may have differing thresholds for outside creative input based on the job. I have one agency client that I have an excellent rapport with. Some of their clients are very tight and controlling on the creative. Everything has to be approved by a committee not to mention the legal team. Some of their other clients are much more relaxed and open to other ideas. So it’s important to discuss this with your client before the shoot.
Other common responses were …
- Don’t be a prima donna/diva/schmuck/jerk, etc
- Coming in over budget
- Showing up late to the shoot or delivering images late
- Not being prepared for the job
- Not being flexible enough to adjust on the fly when things change on set
- Shooting images too tight
- Not backing up files
You can see the question and responses on linkedin here