Especially if you’re just starting out.
Unless you are just extraordinary at something and people are just dying to work with you, most businesses are things that almost anyone can do. Especially if it’s a service-based business and/or one-person show.
I.E. For me, I run a Real Estate Photography business, and it is a business that A LOT of people can do. And honestly, a lot of people can do it well. Many better than me.
So to me, there are only a couple of things you can do in the beginning to stand out. You can “undercut” the market while you build. Which a lot of people seem to be against though sometimes it may be necessary. Or you can be an exceptional professional. When you do the ladder, you can really grow into a powerful business.
Quick & Reliable
People want someone who will always get the job DONE and get it done fast. This may not be the case with EVERY service provider, but in general, speed AND quality are ideal for most clients.
As I grew, I had to set boundaries for this, but for you just starting out, do things as well and fast as you can. I think it’s important to scope your competition, both the high and low price points. Find a middle ground, and get to work.
For me in the real estate photography world, photos tend to be expected to be edited very quickly for real estate agents. If I’m working for a construction company or interior designer, it’s not the same guarantee, but nonetheless, the majority of my clients need it within 48 hours.
So I guarantee photos to be delivered within 24–36 hours, but if I can do it faster, I do it. With a 24–36 hour turnaround guarantee, that gives you the additional time if needed, so that knocking it out in 12 hours makes it seem like you are going above and beyond for them.
Always Be Professional
This is something I stand strongly behind. As much as clients CAN BE your friends or seem like your friends, there is a very fine line. I’ve had clients I consider friends. I’ve had clients I don’t consider friends. When I’m on the job, I almost always act the same way. Professional. On-time. Making small talk. Never too opinionated. Always agreeable. I mean, read the room. If your client is extremely into eating clean, don’t talk about how you love chowing down on fried chicken every night. Blend in with the room.
So you are asking me to not be myself?
No, it’s about being yourself while blending in. This is also a fine line, but I really do believe the chameleon in me has been a big reason I have been able to grow. In that, find ways to connect with your clients. Business is SO MUCH about relationships when it gets down to it. People don’t want to feel transactional. They want to feel like you care and you listen. So do that.
Support Your Client
It’s so vital to support your client in any way you can. As mentioned above, business and relationships are practically synonymous, and in a relationship with anyone, they want you to care and support them in this life.
Having a business isn’t working FOR someone, it’s working WITH your clients. Your clients are supporting your dreams and goals by choosing to go with you, so you must return the favor. Show them your appreciation. Send them cards or brownies on special days. Keep up with them on social media. When no one else comments on their post, be that person that actually reads it and responds!! Most of all just do an amazing job on what they’ve paid you for.
These little things help you go above and beyond. It’s what separates the good from the great.
We all care about ourselves a lot. We are the main character. So be that side character in their movie, that is just an amazing person to them always. The one that’s there to help them succeed. In my experience, it comes back ten-fold. Not always money. Sometimes just a warm, positive feeling.
Accept Your Mistakes And Make Up For Them
If you genuinely have done a bad job, don’t pretend you didn’t. It’s an incredibly bad look. Offer a free or discounted service next time. If you can offer a refund, do it.
Do anything you can to make them feel like you care enough to do right. Will some people take advantage of you? Yes. But the more you grow, you will be able to avoid the clients that will do you no good.