I receive a lot of requests for proposals. Whether it be through word of mouth clientele, or through a website like Thumbtack.com, I see several requests come through my inbox each day.
While not all of these are applicable to what I offer, a number of them I do follow up on.
To Bid, or Not to Bid?
I have a set of principles when it comes to deciding whether or not to follow up and complete an RFP.
For one, the gig has to be something that I get excited about, and it has to be something in the genre of photography I specialize in. I pay close attention to requests regarding corporate events, food/drink and corporate promotion. If you send me a request for a wedding, I’ll pretty much always ignore it.
Secondly, the job has to be worthwhile. I’m not going to spend my time putting together a bid on a job that doesn’t keep the lights on. Likewise, if the company isn’t sure what it wants, it’s probably too early in the bid process. While we, as photographers, can help generate some ideas, we can’t tell a company what it needs the most!
Personalize Your Proposal
When I do decide to bid on something, I have a few templates I use so I can answer the RFP quickly and easily. But for each potential client, I personalize it. If I’m bidding on something for a local school or university, I’ll give examples of other schools I’ve worked with.
I’ll also point the potential client to my online portfolio, where they can see photos that may be similar to the job they need covered.
I also do some research on the company’s current photography. This gives me both an idea of what they’re after, and it allows me to have a sense of anything extra that I can bring to the table. Doing so might give me specific ideas to mention in the bid, which tells the potential client I’m serious about this opportunity.
The Waiting Game
In almost every case, an RFP is sent out to several photographers. Even if you were referred by a friend or current client, chances are that the RFP is being responded to by at least one other person.
This is why following up is essential to winning the bid.
You may receive a generic, canned response from the potential client, or you might get something more personable. You might not get a response at all.
Regardless of that, follow up with the contact person on the bid. While you may think it’s annoying to e-mail or call the person a few times, doing so gets you back in their mind. Chances are the person has several different aspects to his/her job, and hiring a photographer will almost never be top-of-mind.
Depending on your potential client, you may have to send out several follow-up e-mails or phone calls. There’s a few different things you can do here, but ultimately, you want to show your expertise to them and why you think you’d be a great photographer.
Know the Organization
Immediately after you send your proposal, you should try to find out as much about the company as possible. Look at their website, recent news articles and try to know the names of their leadership. Follow their social media accounts, and engage with them. Doing so will save the potential client time in explaining their business, making you look like a pro.
Get Specific and Give Ideas
Even if you gave ideas in the initial RFP, send them more. If you’re trying to get a job doing marketing photos for a school, think of some creative ideas that you could organize. For instance, instead of just going into a classroom, you might talk about how you could use real students and work to create a photo campaign. You might mention about how using teachers and staff, in addition to students, might help create a more well-rounded and unique campaign.
Grab a Coffee
A lot of potential clients might be new to the process of hiring a photographer. Offer your time to meet with them for coffee. If they don’t have time for that, ask for a phone call with them, where you can discuss more details about the job. E-mail can only go so far, and meeting with them will give you more creative direction, and may even spark some ideas. To date, I’ve always gotten the job when I’ve arranged a short meeting.
No Meeting? Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
There’s a fine line here between being annoying and not showing interest in a job. My rule is to contact a potential client no more than two times in a week. Typically, this means on Tuesday morning and then again on Thursday afternoon. This schedule avoids any crazy Monday busy-ness on their end, and it also (usually) avoids any three-day weekends they might take.
In your conversations with them — whether it be over e-mail, on the phone or in-person — ask questions. Get as many details as possible. Even if you ultimately don’t get the job, finding out details will help you in preparation for other photoshoots you might be having. And it might give you ideas for those, too.
If you haven’t already figured it out, being punctual and keeping an open communication with a potential client is to the utmost importance when dealing with proposals. By communicating with a potential client, you let them know of your excitement and professionalism, which oftentimes is enough to put your name at the top of the pile.
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