Have you ever encountered one of these clients during a first inquiry?
- The Expert – They already know everything about photography… they just want to make sure you know.
- The Pricing Police – Their last photographer didn’t cost nearly this much.
- The Human Questionnaire – They’ve got questions about their questions.
You may find clients like these difficult, but they aren’t acting out just to mess up your day. They’re doing it because they have a deep-seated fear of the unknown.
- The Expert is wary of signing on with a photographer who doesn’t know his or her stuff.
- The Pricing Police are worried about spending their hard-earned money wisely.
- The Human Questionnaire is terrified by how little they know about this big decision they need to make.
It’s your job to not only deliver a great end product but to develop a trust-based relationship with your clients that alleviates their fears. If you skip this very important step, you could be setting yourself up for failure before you take the first shot. Here’s how to lay the right foundation for a good working relationship:
Gauge Their Comfort Space
The best way to inspire confidence right off the bat is through your communication. Proofread your written communication, be respectful when you speak in real time, and respond promptly either way. Then take it a step further.
A photographer has to be good at finding what’s really important to a client, even when that client doesn’t entirely know himself. That extends to your manner. You’ll need to determine what behaviors will resonate best with each client while still remaining true to yourself and your brand. Will your earthy, laid-back portrait client be able to relax if you’re wearing a suit and using technical jargon? Probably not. And your stuffy corporate headshot client likely won’t have a lot of confidence in you if you show up in a pair of ripped-up jeans. Find ways to calibrate for each client’s comfort space that are authentic to your process.
Have the Right Business Tools
Every client you’ll ever have knows someone else who takes good pictures. There’s always a family member or friend who has a passion for photography and a top-of-the-line DSLR or mirrorless. They’re contacting you because they want a professional photographer, and that’s about a lot more than just your camera. You’ll need some business tools that set you apart from the hobbyists they know.
Okay, so most (or all) of your paperwork will probably be digital, but don’t expect your client to remember everything from the mile-long email thread you share. Having a dedicated document (even if that document is actually a PDF) for each step of your interaction gives them blocks of related information they can refer back to at their own leisure.
When you’re trying to convert a lead, a well-laid-out proposal will show that you’ve really put thought into their project.
An itemized quote is always a nice touch, even if you’ve gotten the verbal okay from your client.
After you’ve set terms, a welcome packet is an easy way to lay out your process in a way the client can easily understand. You can talk about pricing, a timeline, and how many images your client can expect from you. When you receive an inquiry, you can include this in your response so your client feels comfortable right away, without having to ask a single question.
A contract, of course, is especially important. We’ll touch on this more in a bit.