How to Start a Client Closet

How To Start a Client Closet as a Family Photographer | Family Photography Business Coach

You know the feeling: you have spent hours chatting with a client about their upcoming family photo session. You have watched the weather, chatted about outfits, selected the perfect location. The day finally comes and the sun is shining, the stars have aligned. You get out of the car and see the family walking towards you and … wait, what? What are they wearing? What happened to your style guide? The mom shrugs at you and tells you she wants everyone to be comfortable … oh, and can you Photoshop her son’s shirt to be less neon orange? After this happened to me a few times, I knew it was time to start a Client Closet. So if you are a family photographer that is ready to scale your business to full-time, read on to learn how to start a Client Closet.

In this blog post, you’re going to learn: 

  • Decide on your investment
  • Purchase 4-5 dresses in sizes XS, M, XL and XXXL
  • Strategic model calls
  • Add to website
  • Dress consultations 
  • Communicate to clients – marketing
  • Set aside 5% of profits every quarter to purchase another set of dresses for season ahead 
  • Could always decide to do one huge investment and start that way

Step One: Decide On Your Investment

One of the first conversations that I have with my coaching clients is the idea of investing in your business. If you are serious about making a full-time income from photography, you need to accept a certain level of investment. If you are on-board with this, it’s time to sit down with your numbers. How much can you commit to investing in a Client Closet to get it off the ground? 

The good news is you don’t need to drop $10,000 (even though you may really want to)! You can launch your Client Closet strategically so that you only have to purchase 4-5 dresses, in a variety of sizes (more on that in the next section). That being said, settle on a rough number that seems reasonable – let’s say $1200. 

Remember, this is a one-time investment that you will see returns on if you market it well. So yes, $1200 is a lot of money but if you make $6000 from sessions booked, that initial investment will be a long-forgotten thought! 

Occasionally, photography business coaching clients will ask me if they should just go ahead and invest $5000 in 10+ sets of dresses. My thought is this: if you can, do it. That being said, be SURE that this is what your clients want. Interview ideal clients, text your friends, do Instagram polls. Do not assume this is what your clients want, make a huge investment and not plan for the return on investment!

How To Start a Client Closet as a Family Photographer | Family Photography Business Coach

Step Two: Purchase Dresses

Once you have decided on your investment, it’s time to go shopping! Word of caution though: don’t rush this step! Now is a great time to do some research, chat with your ideal client and ask your clients about their opinions of certain dresses on Instagram Stories. 

I recommend that you plan to purchase 4-5 dresses, in sizes XS, M, XL and XXXXL to start. This will give you 16-20 dresses which is enough for clients to feel like they have a variety to choose from. These sizes will also cover every body type. You will also likely be able to offer these dresses to pregnant moms as well. 

Another recommendation is to purchase all of these dresses from one brand. Why? You can learn the brand in-and-out and be able to provide that feedback to clients. For example, I know exactly how a Baltic Born medium is going to look on a pregnant mom. This is really helpful if you don’t end up doing dress consultations. It will also help you feel more confident in your closet. And finally, you’ll know how to take care of all of your dresses since brands tend to be consistent in their care instructions. 

Finally, I feel strongly that a Client Closet is NOT having five small dresses for tiny moms to choose from. By offering this and calling it a “Client Closet” you are leaving out a lot of moms that may feel like your photography is not for them. Be inclusive.

How To Start a Client Closet as a Family Photographer | Family Photography Business Coach

Step Three: Strategic Model Calls 

This is where things get really fun: strategic model calls. Once all of your dresses have been delivered, it’s time to get clients in them ASAP! The sooner you have the dresses photographed, the sooner you can market the Client Closet and use it as a brand asset.

How do you do this? Typically, I will put a post on my Instagram Stories, sharing that I have dresses that need to be photographed. I share the qualities of moms that I am looking for (example: expecting moms about 6 months along) and a link to an application. This application asks them basic questions and asks them to submit a picture of themselves. All of this is strategic. First, if I am going to do a model call, I want the model to actually show up. If they can’t fill out an application, they likely won’t show up day-of. This also helps me get a variety of body typese and sizes. 

Select a date for your model calls to happen and begin to prep the dresses by removing tags and steaming them. I like to hire an assistant the day of model calls to help me with behind-the-scenes videos.

How To Start a Client Closet as a Family Photographer | Family Photography Business Coach

Step Four: Add to Website

Now it’s time to add your dresses to your website! I suggest creating your own Client Closet page and then displaying your dresses, ideally in your editing style.

What if you couldn’t pull off a model call? Honestly, my first piece of advice would be to rethink this. But if you still decide you can’t commit to that, you can post images from the website of the dressmaker (giving them credit, of course). I did this when I purchased dresses in bulk and couldn’t get them photographed in a timely manner. The most important thing is that they are on your website so you can direct future clients there.

Step Five: Dress Consultations

Woohoo, your Client Closet is created! At this point, you’ll want to consider how your clients will be able to access the dresses. I recommend hosting dress consultations at your studio. I set one day a week aside for these and clients can sign up for an appointment.

These consultations are a great way to provide your client with an exceptional client experience. Not only will they find a dress they love (why you need to have all sizes available), but they (hopefully!) will click with you. This is a great time to showcase your personality and help them to get to know you without the pressures of a photo shoot.

Step Six: Marketing Your Client Closet

Remember, the Client Closet is only an asset to your business if you are constantly marketing it. Remind clients in emails, blog posts, social media posts, Instagram Stories and Facebook group posts that you provide this unique service. It will absolutely help you stand out from other photographers. Plus, you need to make the most of your investment so do not skip this essential step! 

Step Seven: Adjust Your Pricing To Reflect The Client Closet 

Now that your Client Closet is established and actively being marketed, it’s time to make sure that the added asset to your business is being reflected in your profits. This is going to be unique to each photographer’s situation. That being said, a good rule of thumb is to think about how much you want to invest in your Client Closet each year. Let’s say you decide on $1200 per year for new dresses. Divide that number by the number of clients you expect to use the dresses. If that’s 40 clients per year, that means you want to increase your prices by $30 a client to be able to hit that goal of having $1200 a year for new dresses.

Is that how you have to calculate it? Absolutely not! This is one of those areas where you need to be strategic about scaling your prices in order to scale your business. If you want to chat about your unique situation, feel free to send me a DM on Instagram to chat more! 

Step Eight: Growing Your Client Closet

After your initial 4-5 dresses have gone through a season, you may realize it’s time to add to the closet. This is especially true if you have repeat clients, which you’ll have a lot more of after this process. 

In my business, I set aside 5% of my profits every quarter to purchase another set of dresses for the season ahead. Organizing your business finances is a whole separate blog post and what I spend a lot of time coaching my clients through. What you need to think about now is how can you set aside a certain amount of money each quarter to continually be refreshing your Client Closet? 

If a dress was a dud, don’t be afraid to sell it on Poshmark and add that money back to the dress fund. As your Client Closet grows, you may want to start expanding to other brands, maternity dresses, and maybe even dresses for girls. This is definitely a scaling decision though and not a step to take lightly. 

How to Start a Client Closet: Conclusion

To wrap it up, do you NEED to start a Client Closet to scale your business? Absolutely not. But in a time where a lot of families are trying to lessen their expenses, this is a great way to stand out in a crowd. Clients LOVE the idea of not having to wander Nordstrom the night before their session and have to return a thousand random outfits the week after their session. Hopefully this blog post can be your inspiration for how to start a Client Closet.

If you want to see if a Client Closet is the next right step for you, be sure to check out my quiz: “Are you ready to scale your business?” to find out if this is the best way to focus your resources right now. 

Choosing Sharon As Your Photography Business Coach

You are in the right place if you’re looking for a family photography coach who: 

  • Is all about concrete, action steps
  • Went from a full-time teaching job to full-time photography
  • Has been a stay-at-home mom, a work-from-home mom, a home-daycare- mom, a full-time working mom and now a small-business mom! 
  • Can help you implement strategies to help you grow your business quickly without getting distracted by all of the shiny things 
  • Will push you to try new things in your business to say good-bye to slow season forever! 
  • Want systems and action plans you can implement on your own

Want to see if we’re a good fit? I totally get it! Fill out an application here and we can schedule a no-pressure meet-and-greet to see if I can help you get where you’re going quickly. 

Still not sure? Last year, I wrote a book to document my personal growth journey that helped me (and my business!) get to where it is today. You can check it out on Amazon here

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