5 Authentic Ways to Build Meaningful Relationships with Your Clients

May 28, 2014


jihae watson

Want to have more fun with your clients? Want images that feel natural, relaxed, and full of life? Want clients who refer people over and over again who are so insanely awesome you can hardly believe they're real? Who doesn't?! We've found the best way to accomplish all of this is to do one thing: build meaningful relationships with your clients. But how?

1. Be Yourself
We've all heard this since we were little kids. It's simple. It's obvious. Most of life's best advice is. After all, there's nothing new under the sun. Yet, just because something isn't difficult doesn't mean it's not hard. We all have insecurities. We all struggle with the same questions we've struggled with since middle school. Am I good enough? and Will people like me? Which is a trap. Of course it is. At times, if we're honest, we've all, from time to time, in different seasons of life, around certain people and specific crowds — think “the cool kid table” at lunch — tried to be something we weren't, and it backfired. It backfires for photographers, too, because what you put out is what you'll get back. So, be true to yourself on your website. Be who you are on your blog. You might repel potential clients who aren't like you, but you'll attract new clients friends just like you.

2. Be a Good Listener
The fastest way to make a friend is to be a good listener. Dale Carnegie tells an incredible story in his book “How to Win Friends and Influence People” of a time he went to a dinner party with complete strangers and committed to not talking about himself all night. When he left, everyone couldn't stop talking about how much they liked Dale — without actually knowing anything about him! That's because, deep down, we all have a desperate desire to be heard, understood, and appreciated. It's just more fun to talk about ourselves. It is! Most wedding photographers get two personal interactions with their clients before the wedding day: the initial meeting and the engagement session. In total, it's somewhere between two and four hours. Spend that time being curious. Ask lots of questions. Then listen to your clients. Really listen. And learn about them.

3. Find Points of Connection
The more you listen and learn, the more you'll know about someone, and the more points of connection you'll be able to find. And that's what ties us together. Right? The big things and the little ones, too. Music. Movies. You name it. Bonds aren't born from a billion connections that are discovered all at once. They're built the way America was: one bridge at a time. When we taught elementary school, we confiscated love notes all. the. time. But there's one we'll never forget and can't help but recall now, because a certain little boy did exactly what we're talking about here to woo his would-be girlfriend. He wrote out the points of connection between them. It went something like this: You're good at math and I'm good at math. You have a dog and so do I. And you're favorite color is yellow, which is my second favorite color.

Smooth, right? In all seriousness, though, even though it wasn't the most debonair move in the world, at least not something Rico Suave would endorse, there's a lesson in it for all of us. The more we can find in common with our clients, regardless of the size, scope, or seeming importance of the connection, the more we'll have to talk about. And the more we talk, the more we'll learn about each other. And the more we learn about each other, the more we'll like each other. And the more we like each other… You get the idea.

4. Be an Encourager
There's nothing quite like a sincere, enthusiastic compliment — and the more energetic, the better! When you've got subjects in front of your camera, LOVE. ON. THEM. Squeak. Shriek. Squeal. Scream. Flail your arms. Jump up and down. Let your client — and the world — know just how wonderful they are. Don't hold back. You'll be uh-mazed at how much brides (and grooms especially) light up and open up for the camera when you load them up with encouragement. Try it at your next session and see if your don't get some of the sweetest smiles and lovable laughs you've ever gotten from your subjects.

5. Share a Meal Together
Eat together. Families who do are happier and healthier. That's what the research shows. So make your clients your family. There's just something about sitting at a table and sharing a meal that bonds us as humans. So, whenever we get the chance to eat with our clients, we jump at the chance. Every time. It can — and should be — convenient, too. Your clients are busy people. So are you. So, depending our your schedules, grab dinner, frozen yogurt, or even coffee after the engagement session. It'll be the final piece to the puzzle that'll take your relationship from business to friendship.

So, what are YOUR best tips for turning clients into friends? Share your BEST idea in the comments below!

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Hi! I'm Jihae Watson! I was born in Seoul, grew up in Toronto, Ontario and now live in Gilbert, Arizona. I love all three cities so very much as I have plenty of family, and favorite restaurants in all three locations.

I am married to a stud named Chris, and we have four fantastic kids. Together we love being a foster family, and we presently have the sweetest little foster babe.