Selling Yourself as a Professional Photographer, Part 2 (Make sure to check out part 1 from yesterday if you missed it)
AFTER THE SESSION AND BEYOND
Yesterday, we touched on what to do to prepare before the shoot, and what to do during the session. Now, the real work begins! Download those images and do your funky Photoshop dance and make those clients look like a million bucks!
- Try to keep within your stated proof offerings. If you promise 20 and deliver 40, that’s great – but then your clients may think that there are more on the camera, or they may become totally overwhelmed by all of your selections.
- Decide now how you’ll handle the “what if’s” and “can you’s.” “What if we change Image 5 into black and white?” “Can you make my spare tire go away?” Acquiesce as you feel comfortable, but know that every time you accommodate a “what if” or “can you”, you are cutting into your bottom line (especially if you’ve priced yourself to earn a profit).
- Email them as soon as you get home with a summary of what you discussed – when your ordering session will be, the date their ordering gallery will be available, and a reminder about how to order prints or products. And then stick to those dates like white on rice. Scotty on Star Trek used to double the time estimates he’d give to Captain Kirk, so when he’d exceed those expectations, he’d look like a miracle worker. Give yourself enough time to edit those pictures. And most importantly – contact them before they contact you.
- Process that order timely with your lab. Know the dates you’re working with – especially around the winter holidays and plan accordingly.
- If something happens that is remotely your fault, own it and make it up to the client. Did a print come back looking less than pristine? Is a canvas green and warped? Fix it and own it. How you deal with the repercussions will impact your reputation. Better yet, get it right the first time and avoid costly errors!
Beyond actually shooting a session, there are ways to market and promote yourself without even picking up a camera – but that will have long lasting impact on your business. Consider the following:
- Pick up that phone! Sometimes, you’re in a tricky situation with a client and email, texting, IMing, and chatting over Facebook just isn’t working. Stop. If you’re having trouble communicating digitally, the power of hearing each others’ voices is not something to be dismissed. So many times, a hot Facebook war can be avoided by simply talking things through. Try it! Then follow up with email, summarizing what you’ve discussed so you both have it on record.
- While we’re talking about Facebook… let’s talk social networking in general. The beauty and the beast of being able to communicate digitally is that it’s ALL OUT THERE for the world to read. Make sure what’s coming from your fingertips are words that you’re proud to own. It’s so easy to pile on in forum drama wars, or go on and on ad nauseam on blog comments – but remember three words: cut and paste. Someone could do that to you – or screenshot an inside joke gone bad – and there’s your reputation on the line, wholly unrelated to what you do behind the camera. So be professional online!
- One last item on Facebook, I promise: if you’re “Facebook friends” with your clients, remember that the drunk status update you post tonight may cost you a client tomorrow. Learn about creating special lists and assigning appropriate permissions as you deem fit.
- If you are emailing or writing with clients, keep your emotion out of it. It may be terribly satisfying to rip someone a new one, but it won’t be worth the hit you’ll take when your reputation and that email is forwarded to everyone and their mother. Don’t treat email like a long text message. Use complete words, sentences and appropriate capital letters.
- Don’t be afraid to say NO. If you’re not a wedding photographer and someone wants to you to shoot their wedding, refer them on. If you are strictly natural light or strictly studio light and you get a referral for something you’re just not comfortable with – it is okay to say no. I promise! But – say no with courtesy and respect.
Of course, another bullet point here is “read everything you find on the Internet with a grain of salt.” I don’t profess to be an expert and for me, some of the items above I’ve learned the hard way, although I’m quite thankful that my biggest faux pas on Facebook was an errant perm from the ‘80’s! The next time you feel like saying, “My clients are walking all over me! What do I do?” rethink that – most of the time, your expectations and your own hesitancy gives others an “in” in managing their experience. You let them convince you to shoot a wedding before you were ready, or selectively color the heck out of a rose. Turn that attitude around, learn from your mistakes, and remember to manage your client’s experience. It’s what they’re paying you for.
Casey Yu is a wedding and lifestyle portrait photographer in Tallahassee, Florida, where she is also a PhD student in Information Studies (i.e., Professional Geek) at Florida State University. She lives with her husband, Josh (another PhD student), and two kids, Matthew and Lindsey – the former only makes silly faces when she pulls her camera out; the latter automatically says cheese. Not entirely sure how that happened. Visit her photography site, her personal site, her Facebook page, or her twitter feed.