Chapter 7: Authenticity & Building Trust
As you start to consciously build your personal brand it requires a lot of soul searching, because you need to know yourself. The most important part of branding is consistency and authenticity.
First, your branding should be consistent in every big and small part of your business. First of all so potential clients don’t get confused. We've been over that part several times by now.
Secondly, your brand must be authentic. It will be way too hard for you to sustain a facade that isn’t really you and you will make lots of mistakes because that brand isn’t a natural part of you. And even if you do book a client based on a branding that isn’t really who you are, odds are you will end up disappointing that client, thus losing valuable referrals in the future.
There is no need to try to deceive or pretend. Don’t be afraid to show who you are. You are good enough.
Focus on your strengths (the 5 you wrote down earlier in the course) instead of spending hour after hour comparing your own weaknesses to someone else’s strengths. And stop comparing your beginning to someone else’s middle or ”end” too. As I showed you in the introduction, we all have to start somewhere.
Being authentic also includes being quite specific about who you are NOT for. In the fragile beginning of your business you may feel panicked about the lack of enquiries coming in and start thinking that you need to water yourself down to appeal to as wide an audience as possible. I understand that impulse. It can seem scary to target only a very small group of people.
But let me tell you, even though I only showed nature photos on my website, only talked about muddy boots and windy hair etc and was VERY explicit about my artistic preferences in that direction, I still got lots of enquiries about ballroom type weddings too. Being very specific offers potential clients a way to bond with you personally yet does not scare off everyone else.
The only people I intentionally and actively tried to repel were people with racist views or who oppose same-sex marriage rights, and I did so by featuring gay couples and bi-racial couples in my portfolio and on my blog.
Being referred to by others (fellow photographers, wedding planners, dressmakers, or the couple's own family/friends/co-workers) is one of the best ways to build trust with your clients even before they have met you. Personal referrals are worth hundred times more than any SEO you can work or buy yourself to.
Show that you are an expert in your field. Sharing that you are passionate about your work is great! But people want to hire experts. Most couples are newbies in the wedding world and its a big world to navigate. You show that you are an expert by sharing your knowledge. Without being a know-it-all, be kind and offer helpful tips in a respectful way every chance you get. Especially on your blog and after a client has booked you.
Another way to convey that you are an expert in your field is to not put every kind of photography on one site. I suggest that if you truly want to work with really devoted couples, even if you also do family shoots or commercial shoots or a third thing, you need to split it up and have a website devoted entirely to couples getting married. It is incredibly difficult to speak to more than one type of client at once. Your message becomes diluted and too general. Once the couple has booked you and you have shot their wedding and gained their trust there is nothing wrong with letting them know or with them finding out on their own that you can also keep photographing them as their family grows. But for that initial trust building it is important that it seems like wedding photography is your speciality.
Build trust by sharing your WHY. People don't invest big in what you do, but in why you do it. Let people support you and be a part of something. Whenever you need a peptalk in this area, please watch the incredible and iconic TEDtalk, Start With Why, by Simon Sinek (link in the Resources chapter).