When Firing Your Clients is a Good Idea

It costs 5x to 25x more to find a new client than to retain an existing one. So why would you ever want to fire a client? Well, buckle up.

It costs 5x to 25x more to find a new client than to retain an existing one. So why would you ever want to fire a client? Well, buckle up.

The 80/20 Rule

AKA the Pareto principle which states that, for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. In the case of your clients, typically 80% of your revenue comes from 20% of your clients. Conversely, 80% of the time you spend is catered to 20% of your clients. We all know the ones…

The ones where your contract clearly states one revision. You’re a professional, you know the pre production was extensive. Yet, the client insists on revision after revision after revision. What’s worse is they’re expecting you to do it for free even though your written agreement states only one revision is included in the price agreed upon.

They’re the client that tries tirelessly to nickel in dime every aspect of every shoot. Before, during, and after the date of the shoot. They pay late. Some clients even try to avoid signing contracts all together.

You Owe it to Your Preferred Clients

You actually have a responsibility to your other clients to fire problem clients like this so that you can better serve your best clients. They deserve it after all. The 20% of your clients paying 80% of your revenue should be royalty to you. Short of cutting off your own arm, you should be willing to do anything for them.

You should be willing to do anything for them.

They’re the clients that would never dream of asking you to do something “for exposure”. They pay you on time. They admire your professionalism when you explain the ins and outs of a contract to them. Most of all they respect you, and you respect them.

If you have trouble clients that are impeding on the quality of service you provide to the clients that you wish you had more of, then you need to fire those bad clients immediately.

What if You Don’t Have Dream Clients Yet

You’re never going to get to the place where you have outstanding clients that respect the hell out of your business if you can’t respect yourself. You’ll know… After you’ve put in the time, you’ve been in trenches, you’ve done the hard stuff and now you’re demanding a little respect. Stick to your guns. The clients you want to have will admire you for it.

It’s better to have one outstanding client than ten bad clients.

Out With the Old and In With the New

Listen, I get it. We have all been there. You have to do a lot of stuff you don’t want to do when you’re on the long road to becoming a full time photographer and filmmaker. You work jobs you don’t love, you work for less than you’re worth. It’s a reality unfortunately. However, don’t take that baggage with you.

This is what I mean.

If you were once the $500 guy. To some clients, they might always see you as the $500 guy. You’re going to evolve, you’re going to get better at your craft. You’ll continue to pick up new skills and become more sought after. When this happens it can be awkward telling old clients that your prices are going up. There’s a right way to do it. Still though, it can be awkward and doesn’t always go over well.

Thinking of your dream clients though, how do you think they would feel if they knew you were shooting a full day commercial project for $500 if you’re charging them $3000 for the exact same thing. Is that fair to the client shelling out $3000? Of course not. It’s also not fair to you.

It’s also not fair to you.

You know you’ve worked your ass off to get to the point where someone is willing to pay you what you’re worth. Don’t let clients from your past de-value that. If they don’t understand that, and if you’ve done everything in your power to communicate with them… you need to fire them!

There’s a common theme here. You need to be constantly be thinking about what’s best for your preferred clients, and also for you.

A Natural Parting of Ways

Sometimes it’s not as dramatic and black and white. Sometimes you begin working with a client in hopes of a future that you both imagine together. Maybe it’s partnering with a startup or a smaller brand. You might give them a break on some shoots, maybe they trade some of their product or services for your services.

You’re happy to do it at the time because you believe in the direction it’s going, the doors its’ opening. It may feel mutually beneficial for a while, so why not. Well, time changes things. Maybe you don’t require their services anymore and the exchange that once worked doesn’t really make sense for you now.

Sometimes you just have to go with your gut, there’s not always a perfect formula to know when it’s time to move on. Making yourself available for something new can be tough. You might even make the wrong move. Some of this is guess work, and that’s okay. The most important thing is you do what feels right for your clients, for you, and for your business.

Your Photography Business Name Can Make or Break Your Business

Sound dramatic? It isn’t SEO and brand identity is everything in today’s world. Here’s how to make sure you’re making the right decision when it comes to choosing your photography business name.

Should I Use my Name or Create a Unique Company Name?

This depends on your goals long term and there are pros and cons to both.

Pros and Cons for Using Your Personal Name

Example: Ryan Richardson Photography. vs. Life Outside Studio.

Branding

Using your personal name immediately makes differentiating your business from other similar businesses much easier. One of the toughest parts of running your own business is creating a brand that separates you from your competition. This is usually done by focusing on a particular niche, and creating a strong brand with very consistent marketing.

The nice thing about using your own name is that you already set yourself apart from the competition because every person is clearly completely unique. You’ll save yourself a lot of time and frustration by building your business around your name. Unless your goal is to grow a photography or a filmmaking business that can grow beyond just you, or operate without you.

Using a unique company name like Life Outside Studio for example would allow you to partner with other creatives. Down the road you might want to contract on additional free-lancers or create an agency. Maybe you you’ll want to host photography workshops around the world but you don’t want to be the one teaching them.

Example of How This Can Go Bad If You’re Not Careful…

There’s a successful landscape photographer who markets photography tours in his name (which I won’t mention here). This photographer markets these photo tours as if he will be the one hosting and teaching them, when in fact he hires local photographers to stand in for him.

Many of these clients feel cheated and disappointed when they fly around the world to be taught by their favourite photographer only to learn they won’t even be meeting him.

Personality

This is really similar to “branding” because any company with good branding should have a personality attached to it. Personality is just a lot easier to achieve as a person rather than a “business”. Another way to think of it is by being personal. People prefer to deal with other people than with a “company”.

Think of all the times you’ve tried contacting a service provider and it takes for ever just to speak to a human rather than a machine. That’s kind of what happens when you build up a company instead of building up your own name.

Are You in the B2B Business or the B2C Business?

Who is your client? If they’re another business like you then marketing and operating your company as an established business might be more achievable. You can contract additional help and solve a lot of your client’s problems either by yourself or with a team you commission to assist you.

If your client is direct to consumer, maybe it’s more approachable if you’re a person rather than an “entity”. Example: If you’re hoping to work with athletes directly, they’re likely more keen to engage with you if they see you as a person. Where as if you’re hoping to work directly for the brands and companies that sponsor athletes, you might have better luck building up a company with more services and specializations to offer them.

Flexibility

When you have a company, you’re not your work. You can evolve, you can offer new services and try new things. You can kill different avenues of your business that might not be serving you and or your team anymore. You can launch separate sub sections or divisions of your company to remain specialized in a number of different areas without deluding the perceived value of your brand.

I’ll paint a bit of a picture so that makes sense. If you are Ryan Richardson, shooting for National Geographic one day and working on quarter million dollar productions for commercial clients, how would it look if you saw that same photographer offering $25 LinkedIn headshots on Kijiji the next day? Brand consistency is everything when it comes to your own identity. You can’t mess that up or else you’ll loose trust. Once you lose trust, you might not recover.

The benefit of company name is that you can create divisions that operate under the umbrella of your company but specialize in separate areas. Guitar companies do this, Fender has their budget division, Squire. Phone companies, Telus has Koodo. Goodlife has Fit4Less. It’s all the same company but they create a little distance so they can play to different markets without hurting their stronger image. You don’t have that flexibility any other way.

Freedom

This comes back to your end game, your goals long term. I wanted to create a company I can put in auto pilot and walk away from for a year, and still thrive. I can grow it, or shrink it, pause it or go full throttle when ever I want. Removing yourself from being front and centre gives you the freedom to pursue other ideas or interests or business pursuits.

That’s why most entrepreneurs intentionally stay behind the scenes. It gives them the freedom to lean into what’s working and pull back when things are going nowhere. If you market your business with your name, you have to be committed and full on, all the time.

In Summary

There is no right or wrong approach. Actually there is. There’s no wrong approach if you work backwards from your goals and really consider what you want your business to look like in fifteen years. If you look long term and choose what’s best for you based on some of the points and consideration above, you’ll do the right thing.

Remember, whatever you decide. Take a second and celebrate your decision. You’re on your way to working for yourself and you have to take time to celebrate the little wins!