Using the 80/20 Rule in Your Photography Business

Author Recent Posts Nicole BegleyNicole Begley, M.Photog.Cr., CPP, is a zoological animal trainer turned pet photographer and educator. She created Hair of the Dog in 2012 to empower pet photographers to turn their dreams into reality by helping them improve their craft and grow their pet photography business.Nicole has authored a book “Pet and Equine […]

Written By Nicole Begley

On September 27, 2012
I’m sure that most of you have heard of the Pareto Principle, although you have probably heard it referred to as the 80/20 rule.  It was named after an Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, who observed that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population.  This principle pops up in just about every aspect of our life, including many ways that it can be applied directly to our photography businesses.

–       80% of your profits come from 20% of your customers

–       80% of your complaints come from 20% of your customers

–       80% of your sales come from 20% of your products

While these aren’t going to break down exactly to 80% and 20% for all of us all of the time, the general idea that certain people or activities are responsible for a large percentage of the outcome is certainly true.

I’m hoping that by sharing this little principle with you it causes you to examine your clients and your business.  One of the things that I struggle with is saying no, although I am happy to say that I am much better at this then I used to be.  I’ve improved in this skill mostly by learning the hard way.  Saying no is especially difficult when you are first starting your business, but it is one of the most transformational things that I have done for myself.

Don’t take on clients or jobs to just have more jobs.  It will erode your creativity and can take you to a negative space…at least that has been my experience.  As you may know, I have a pet photography division and a family/child photography division, each making up approximately 50% of my income.  I absolutely love both genres of photography so I couldn’t imagine ever giving one of them up.  I have certainly narrowed down exactly what types of sessions I am willing to take on in the past few years though.  I no longer shoot large family groups.  I found it drained my mental energy as I thrive off of making one to one connections with individual children and their parents….not with setting up the same shot 8 times with all of the different family groupings.  I also discovered that I do not want to shoot “traditional” images at all anymore in either of my genres.  I will only accept clients that are looking for a fun, modern, lifestyle photography session.  No longer do I try to accommodate their wishes if it doesn’t fit in my offerings, instead I refer them to someone else.  This may sound a little harsh, but it has kept me in a happier and much more creative place.

I hear you saying….”but Nicole…I have bills to pay.  I need to accept every job that comes along.”  I completely understand that, but is there any way to create income in another manner so you can focus your creative energy on creating the business that fulfills you instead of drains you?  Can you pick up a part-time job?  Can you second shoot for other photographers if you shoot weddings?  Are there other streams of income that you can add to your business, such as creating other types of art?

Just say no to those clients that are going to cause you 80% of your headaches.  You will thank yourself later!  I promise!!

I also want you to examine your best 20% of your client base.  This doesn’t only include those clients that top your average order.  It can also include that client that LOVES what you do, but may not have been able to afford to do a $2500 session, however, they have sent numerous new top clients to you.  That client deserves to be treated as GOLD!

During the fall season, I always go through all of my clients from the past year and I pull many of them aside to send a little Christmas/holiday gift.  In the past two years, I’ve chosen different Christmas ornaments with an image from their session.  I have also sent note cards or note pads to those clients that celebrate Hanukkah.

I then separate my client list out one more time and pull out my best clients.  I don’t pull a specific number but it often ends up being about 10% of my clients from the past year.  To those clients, I create an extra special gift.  I may include a small desktop standout print and easel, or a little canvas.  I may create a custom calendar with images from their session.  It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money, but it should be something that makes them smile.  If you are crafty, Pinterest has a plethora of ideas!  Luckily for us, we have all of these images that they already love, the trick is to find a way to incorporate it into a thoughtful gift.

I would love to hear what fun things you do to spoil your top clients.  Please leave a comment below or hop over to the Hair of the Dog Facebook page to share your ideas!

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