The big day is upon you. You’ve graduated from amateur to pro and you have a paying client. Someone is actually paying you for a portrait or an engagement photo or a wedding, etc.
What do you do next?
You stay calm. You remember that you got booked because the client liked you and/or your work. Everything will be fine. Once you get your wits about you, here are some things you can do to make sure that first paying job goes smoothly.
1. Be sure to note the date and time on your calendar. Nothing’s worse than forgetting about a booking. I also like to put a big (S) for SHOOT on my calendar for every day I am booked. I follow that by the client’s last name, their phone number and I note any deposits or money collected right on the calendar. This way I remember the most important stuff no matter what.
2. I also like to add the client’s contact info to my mailing list or address book. This is an important step because you’ll want to be able to stay in touch with this person for a long time. They’re a potential long-term client the minute they book you.
3. Create a job ticket or a job folder either on your computer and/or in the form of an old-fashioned paper folder. In this location keep your notes, copies of contracts, correspondence, copies of receipts for payments, payment schedules, etc. I like to store and sort these by client last name and date of the shoot.
4. Now that you have the administrative stuff out of the way, remember the human touch. Within 24 hours of the booking, send a hand-written thank you note or a pre-printed professional thank you card to the client, thanking them for the booking. Include your business card and sign it with a good old fashioned ink pen. Use that same pen to write out the client’s name on the envelope. Don’t use a label printer. The personal touch is what is important here. Whether you know it or not, you just sold a RELATIONSHIP not a photo. Think that way and everything will be fine.
5. Send the client a session checklist. These are guidelines for attire, hair, makeup, etc. You can download my checklist here. You may want to modify it for your personal style. I’ve left a blank spot at the end for you to put in YOUR phone number and IF you use this document, be sure to change the title from my name to yours.
6. The day before the session, you or your assistant should call the client to thank them for the booking and to remind them of the date and time. Answer any questions and wait for the big day.
7. The day of the session have your ducks in a row. Make sure all camera batteries and flash batteries are fully charged. Make sure you have all the gear you need in one place and verify that it is fully operational. Make sure you have backups ready just in case. Be familiar with your setup BEFORE the client arrives.
8. When the client arrives make a point to shake their hand. Establish a physical connection with them. Look them in the eye, smile and take a moment to make sure they are at ease.
9. Discuss what is going to happen so that there are no surprises. Answer any last minute questions.
10. Go to work. The hard part is done. Now you get to have fun (you are having fun right?) with your camera. Stay connected to your subject. Focus on them, not your gear. Make sure that you constantly reassure them, compliment them and encourage them during the session.
These 10 steps will get you on your way to a positive first professional experience. And let me be the first to say welcome to the big leagues.