A simple step-by-step guide on identifying why you’re not booking clients.
It can be terrifyingly frustrating when you’re not booking clients. There are so many different aspects to the booking process that it’s difficult to know where to look or where to start.
Does it have to do with my website? Am I not blogging enough? Are my social media posts not connecting with potential clients? Can anyone even find me online?
And in times of panic it’s easy to start thinking that everything needs to change. This often results in trying to change too many things at once, which can be an expensive reaction.
But taking the time to intentionally reflect on your booking process and improve those things can help you learn a lot about your business.
Track Your Booking Process
You should be able to answer questions like:
- How many inquiries do you get each month?
- What percentage of those inquiries do you book?
- How are people finding me?
Tracking these sorts of things doesn’t require a college degree in statistics, either. We’ve put together a simple Google spreadsheet that we use to track inquiries. You can get access to that spreadsheet here…
Minimally, you should be tracking the dates of inquiries, how people find you, and how far along they get in the booking process.
Tracking these sorts of things will enable you to make educated decisions about your business because you’ll be able to identify trends.
If you notice that no one is responding after you send over your pricing, there might be something wrong with your your pricing, the way you present your pricing, or the kinds of leads you’re attracting.
Tracking the booking process can provide super helpful insights into your business. If you’re not doing this, stop reading, request access to the inquiry spreadsheet form above, and make a copy of it for your own business.
How to Solve Your Booking Problem
Step 1 is to determine whether you are currently getting a steady amount of qualified inquiries. A qualified inquiry is an inquiry from someone who has the means to book you. In other words, they can pay whatever you’re charging.
If you’re tracking your inquiries, this should be an easy question to answer.
It’s a bit more difficult to quantify “a steady amount” because it will be relative to what you do, how long you’ve been in business, and—probably for many of you—seasonality.
But again, tracking your inquiries can help you determine this because you can compare your inquiries in a given month to the same month last year, etc.
So, are you receiving a steady amount of qualified inquiries?
- Yes, I’m receiving a steady amount of qualified inquiries.
- No, I’m not receiving a steady amount of qualified inquiries.
Click one of the links above to jump to the most relevant section for you or continue reading. We’ve also put together this flowchart to help you troubleshoot your next step.
Troubleshooting How to Get More Inquiries
If you’re not getting inquiries, figuring out how to get more inquiries will be where you want to start.
And we think the best place you can start is with relationships.
Are you building relationships with others in your industry?
This is the single most important thing that you can do for your business: Build solid relationships with others in your industry that can refer you the kind of work you’re looking for.
We’ve found this to be true of our business and countless others. We love chatting with business owners who successfully move their business from one market to another. And when we ask them about their success in doing so, they almost always say they spent a lot of time networking and building relationships in their new markets.
Who can you get coffee or breakfast with to start building a relationship?
This requires intentionality. It won’t happen overnight, but it will happen if you put the work in. Also, you’ll want to build relationships with people who can refer you work.
If they work with clients who don’t like your aesthetic or don’t have the budget for you, they probably won’t be able to refer you work.
We’re not saying you shouldn’t build relationships with people who can’t refer you work. We’re saying that it’s not enough to just show up at networking events and meet a few people.
If you have built strategic relationships with others in your industry, then ask yourself…
Is your website professional and are you blogging/producing relevant content?
You might do great work. But if you’re website is not user-friendly or is outdated, you’re great work may not be immediately evident.
It’s also important to be sure you’re showing off your best work on your website. This means occasionally revisiting the images on your website and being sure they reflect your work. We try to do this at least once a year.
Blogging relevant content is one of most effective ways to drive inquiries. Relevant is the keyword. It’s important to make sure the content you’re providing is valuable to your ideal clients.
Blogging consistently also shows that you’re active! If someone goes to your blog, and it looks like you haven’t published anything new for a year, what message does that communicate?
Even if you don’t have a ton of content because you’re just starting out, there are plenty of ways to make the most of the content you do have.
And if you don’t have content, go out and create some! Organize a styled shoot, take some portraits of friends’ families, etc. Those kinds of things will also help you build relationships.
If you’re happy with your website, then ask yourself…
Do you have an intentional presence on the social channels potential clients are using?
We’re not on every social media platform—just those that our clients are on. This means we are on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest.
Creating content and sharing that content go hand-in-hand. If you’re blogging, but not sharing on social media, you’re not getting your work in front of as many people as you could.
As with blogging, it’s important to remind yourself who you are posting for. Are you posting for your ideal clients? Or are you posting for your peers?
It’s easy to post the kind of content that our peers like, but might not resonate with our ideal clients.
Already on the social media channels your clients are on? Well, what does your search traffic look like? Are people finding you on Google…?
Have you optimized your website for search traffic (SEO)?
Don’t Google yourself to find out the answer to this question.
Instead, make sure you have verified your website with the Google Search Console and Google Analytics. You’ll be able to use both those resources to get an idea about how people are finding you.
Search engine optimization sounds scary, but it’s worth familiarizing yourself with some basic concepts. And we think that SEO is really about doing these three things well: great content, building links back to your website, and a good website structure.
Ranking on the first page of Google for the searches you want to rank can help you get consistent, qualified inquiries.
It can also help you build brand trust. We trust that Google returns the most relevant results on the first (and maybe second) page of Google, right?
So think about how powerful a combination it is when someone sees you on Google, then notices a social media post, and then hears about you from a friend.
Maybe you’re happy with the amount of inquiries you’re getting, but need to figure out how to book more of those inquiries…
Troubleshooting How to Book More Clients
So you’re getting inquiries! Now you just need to figure out how to turn those inquiries into clients.
My guess is your process goes something like this:
- Visitor uses contact form to send inquiry.
- You respond to inquiry with more information and, maybe, your pricing.
- If prospect responds, you set-up a consult meeting.
- At the consult meeting you provide more information and answer any questions.
- If the prospect decides to work with you, they send a contract and deposit.
Even if your process doesn’t look exactly like that, the key here is finding out where most people drop-off after your initial follow-up.
This is why it’s so important to keep track of your entire booking process! Keeping track of how far people get in this process will allow you to focus on improving specific areas.
Examining Your Initial Email Follow-up
When someone inquires, you’ll want to respond as soon as possible. There’s all sorts of research out there demonstrating the importance of responding quickly and its correlation with booking.
You don’t have to use an autoresponder. I hate autoresponders (unless you’re on vacation or something), but I admit that’s mostly personal preference.
When you respond, make sure that you proofread your email and you’ve sent information in a format that’s easy to understand. We try to keep the body of the email fairly short and straightforward, and then attach more in depth information (more on that in the next section).
This makes the email easier to read and understand.
Proofreading is important. Did I say that?
And don’t get too cute or use a thousand exclamation points. Periods should probably go at the end of most sentences. Paragraphs full of exclamation points doesn’t look professional.
If people are dropping off after receiving your initial email, it could get a bit tricky to figure out why. It could be due to your email or your prices if you send them at this stage.
Revisiting Your Pricing and How you Present Your Pricing
If you’re not hearing back after you send your pricing, it could be that you’re too expensive (or too cheap) or the way you present your pricing is too complicated.
Figuring out pricing is critical to the success of your business. Freedom and flexibility are probably some of the reasons you started your own business.
And there’s nothing that threatens that more than pricing that doesn’t make sense. That’s why we wrote this crazy in-depth post about pricing: The Super Simple Guide to Pricing Your Services.
We send our pricing information in an attached PDF because it allows us to present more information, more clearly. We’ve seen others send people to a hidden page on their website with similar information.
The benefit of doing it this way is that you can present the experience you provide in addition to your prices. Remember that purchasing is a mostly an emotional experience that’s then rationalized.
If the people inquiring are always out of your budget, it doesn’t necessarily mean you need to change your prices. It might mean that you need to figure out how to connect with those that have a budget for your services.
Reviewing Your Consult Meeting
Selling takes some practice. And it can certainly feel a bit awkward or intimidating at first.
If you’re getting people to meet with you, but you’re not closing the sale, ask yourself these questions…
- Is it easy/convenient for people to meet with me?
- Do I look/sound professional and confident?
- Who does most of the talking during the consult meeting?
- Do I follow-up with people to see if they have any further questions?
- Is it clear what action people should take after the meeting?
Make sure it’s easy as possible for people to meet with you. We used to meet with everyone in person, but found it was easier for people to meet via video call (and saved us a TON of time).
But even that has taken some refining. Google Hangouts was difficult for a lot of prospects so we ended up switching to a different video call software.
Try not to do most of the talking, especially in the beginning. Ask people questions that will give you some insight about them. This will allow you to better understand what they are looking for.
There’s nothing worse than talking at someone for 25 minutes and not answering any of their questions.
And most importantly make sure people understand the next steps. You don’t necessarily have to ask people to buy in that moment, but making sure they know what they need to know to book is critical.
We follow-up with people 24-48 hours later to thank them for their time, ask if they have any other questions, and see if we can send over the contract/invoice.
Putting It All Together
You know what makes all of this so much easier? Tracking your inquiries and the booking process.
Tracking as much information as possible will help you troubleshoot inquiry or booking issues that arise. And this doesn’t have to be a complicated endeavor. Creating a simple Google Sheet like the one we mentioned above can provide really helpful insights into your business.
This way if you encounter any issues booking clients, you can take a thorough look at your process and make educated decisions on what should change.
And the truth is that all of things are important and not necessarily in the order we present it. But we think it’s helpful to go through them in that order. Trying to fix a bunch of different stuff at once is usually expensive.
The important thing—and this is true of most things—is to be intentional. Don’t panic. Create a plan and then execute it.