Have you encountered any of these statements from a potential client?
- I didn’t realize your services would cost that much!
- Could you retouch an extra photo for me? Itll only take a few minutes.
- I don’t think I need a professional photographer for my wedding. My Uncle Bob has a good camera. Hell take some photos for me.
From a high level view, these statements demonstrate a clear lack of understanding when it comes to the value and effort that should be associated with professional photographers. Encountering people that just don’t get it can be both exhausting and discouraging. It gets to the point that some photographers eventually consider changing careers. However, instead of pointing a finger outward at the client, you should turn the focus on yourself and answer one simple question:
Do you make an effort to properly educate your potential clients?
Educating your clients is important because it helps clarify the line of distinction between a person with a camera who takes pictures for a hobby, and a professional that has invested money and time into their craft to make the experience and final product flawless. It helps them understand that your pricing is directly tied to your value, and will make your occupation much more enjoyable (and profitable) in the long run.
Lets discuss three ways to educate your clients. These are just a handful of many possibilities, but theyre a great start.
1. Start educating them during the initial consultation.
The initial consultation is the prime time to make sure your client understands the amount of work that goes into the shoot. Whenever possible, I make it a point to have an in-person discussion about the difference in value they are getting from me, a professional, versus having a friend or family member take photos for them. This includes showing photo comparison when necessary, and making it clear they would get a top-notch, stress-free experience with my services.
Also, client education goes hand-in-hand with the sales process. A photographer friend of mine always makes it crystal clear to the client how much work actually goes into the process of producing a great photo. This happens either in person or via Skype when she uses the initial consultation to explain the hours of care and attention that go into pre and post-production. She then takes it a step further by finding out the exact locations in their home they want their photos to hang, what sizes best fit the chosen spaces, and what types of shots they prefer. During this detailed on-boarding process, the client begins to envision the final product in their living space, and specific photos are being pre-sold before a single shot is ever taken. After the shoot, the studio simply picks out a handful of the strongest photos for retouching based on the pre-discussed criteria. In essence, they sell more prints, while at the same time reducing their post-production work.
2. Make your website an educational resource.
Usually potential clients will visit your website or online portfolio before they decide to actually contact you to set up a shoot at all. While using your website as a way to showcase your portfolio is pretty much a given, using it as an educational resource should be considered equally important. Through case studies, blog posts, videos of you in action at past shoots, and even an email newsletter, you can give seekers insight into your professional workflow. You can also include other pertinent details, such as when to arrive, what to wear, and what to expect in general. Potential clients can begin to trust you before ever interacting with you in person, which increases the chances of them contacting you for the initial consultation.
The additional bonus of offering an email newsletter is that it allows you to stay connected to your clients in the long term (or as long as they decide to stay subscribed). Through list segmentation, you can establish a pre-shoot relationship with them, and after the shoot you can transfer them to a new email sequence that keeps past customers informed of future specials and your latest projects. This fosters life-long clients, which can become the bread and butter of your business.
3. Itemize your services on estimates and invoices.
Chances are the general public does not realize the work and expenses that go into pulling off a shoot successfully. While this can vary depending on the genre you are in, it is still important that your paperwork offers insight into why youre charging what youre charging. Breaking down applicable details such as the sitting fee, the cost of a location, assistants, travel, model payment, licensing fees, and the time spent in the post-production phase can be very enlightening for a client. Before I started itemizing my invoices, I used to get the occasional client request that I throw in an additional retouched photo, with the unspoken assumption that it would not increase the overall cost of their package. When I mentioned it would be an additional fee because it required extra time and work, I was often met with a bewildered expression. Don’t assume they know because, frankly, they may not.
In most cases, the client is not trying to make your life miserable. They simply don’t know what they don’t know, which is completely understandable. Taking the time to actively educate them has many benefits: you are able to charge what you are worth, your shoots will go more smoothly, and your clients will be more informed about the professional photography process in general. Even if a prospective client ultimately decides your services are not a good fit for them, at the very least you have unleashed a more educated consumer into the photography marketplace, which helps all professional photographers in the long run.
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