HOW MANY CLIENTS DO YOU NEED TO MAINTAIN YOUR BUSINESS?
We all question this at some point, in the beginning or even sometimes after being established. Referring back to my hairdressing days and going to Paul Mitchell, we had this guest artist, can't quite remember his name but was explaining how to maintain a hairdressing clientele as well. I wasn't the only one listening to our guest speaker, there were about 60 other students tuned in as well. But the moral of his visit was this... "RUNNING A SUCCESSFUL BUSINESS" no matter what the trade, it was an in-depth speech about how many clients you needed to maintain a a business. The famous number was about 130. Rather large number but was the right amount for one hairdresser or esthetician to maintain their bills, station rental, supplies, tools, etc. Now I sat there and said to myself "it can't possibly be that many people". But when I sat down and did the math myself, I soon realized it wasn't too far off even as a photographer. When looking into camera equipment, I soon became discouraged, overwhelmed and unsure if photography was even right for me. After looking at my work, working with the gear I had, and gained a small bit of money, I bought some fairly nice camera equipment which was my 5D Mark ii. Wasn't the newest but wasn't ancient either.
I had to prepare myself for the upcoming year (2014), Marketing was a confusing topic for me. I was shy yet knew marketing. The only thing I was even more stuck with was the introduction to my marketing and getting out there. I wasn't confident enough and was a bit intimidated by the other photographers out there. But I did soon learn that I have more potential then I knew I had.
Here are a few things that help me decide my overall objective clientele...
- Monthly expenses
- Equipment & maintenance/upgrade
- Marketing tools and advertising
- Hourly rate/compensation
- Overall start to finish time (start to finish product/service)
- Available funds (current funds)
- Extra ordinary purchases (giftwrap, client gifts, furniture, studio rental, software)
- Legal fees (taxes, copyrights, trademarking, etc)
Originally I just thought it was taking clients and just ordering stuff. Not really. I had to make sure I had enough supplies that I could in a pinch take on small prints if needed, along with editing my images with purchased software (there are indeed companies that will edit images for you VIA dropbox or another image loading site). I looked into all the costs of doing things myself vs hiring someone hourly or by unit pricing.
Moral is, I had to find my ideal client base in order to make a living. In comparison to working elsewhere I had to keep in mind my editing time, my session time, along with traveling and how long it took me to finalize everything for a client (weddings are my most time consuming). Weighed the pros and cons and saw that in some cases, I wasn't even making minimum wage by the time I was done editing and finalizing. But I broke down my sessions for the year, Last year I had close to 35 sessions. Not bad but it's only 37% of my overall target goal. Not bad, but not good either. Prior to this year I have just about booked the same and they year wasn't over. There are still plenty of clients booking along with the upcoming season. Now 37% is a somewhat small number but... 2015 and 2016 I've already booked in advanced for weddings along with the late inquiries as well. Most of the clients taken this year booked sorta close to their session dates. The number above was calculated for portrait rates mostly. Weddings alone (depending on how much money you are looking to make in a year or target income) the number may vary for example with weddings, you may make a decent amount with 30 weddings, or you may want to book more than that. None the less, regardless if your clients are returning clients or new clients, to stay in your target income you have to generalize how many clients in a year would you need to take to be successful and to have a steady income.