When building a successful photography business, there is no aspect more crucial than a client meeting. This is your chance to represent the very best of your brand, while putting a face to the person behind the camera. For many photographers, the decisive face-to-face meeting can be an intimidating challenge. For others, it is their opportunity to shine and demonstrate how personable they are. Whether your are a wedding photographer or a commercial photographer, there are many techniques that can make your meeting a success.
Below are my top six tips to help you impress your client and land your next gig.
1.) Do Your Research
Think of every meeting with a client as a job interview, because that’s precisely what it is. Just as you would research a company or potential employer before sitting down for your interview, the same practice should hold true for your client. For a commercial or corporate client, research the company’s history and decision makers. Websites like Manta are a great resource for this and allow you to easily identify the key members of many organizations. Some of the information you can glean from Manta are establishment date, locations, expected revenue, amount of employees, and more.
When it comes to personal photography such as weddings and portraiture, research can take on a different form. Explore new trends in the genre, or even innovations that may offer an exciting new service for your client. In an industry that is constantly changing, tradition has its merits, but so does remaining on the cutting edge.
2.) Be Alert and Focused
This should go without saying, but there are many photographers who will not consider their appearance or energy level before sitting down for that cafe-side chat. Your client will not care about the reasons that have left you drained or inattentive, so ensure that you appear well-rested and energized for your meeting.
I am personally not a believer in the importance of first impressions. It is your behavior and the final impression you leave upon your client that will make all of the difference. Being focused on your client and demonstrating active listening goes a long way in building trust in them, as well as solidifying your professionalism. One technique that I like to employ is reviewing with the client by repeating what they said back to them later in the conversation. This proves to your client that you are interested in their needs and passionate about what you do.
3.) Present Your Vision
Whether this potential gig is routine or unexplored territory, come prepared to demonstrate your style and ideas. This can be accomplished through mood boards that showcase the sort of styling, mood, or overall aesthetic that you envision for your client. Depending on the production, preparing several portfolios digitally on a laptop or tablet that display different aspects of your style can really wow a client.
One of my best practices for preparing for a meeting is to email the client a mood board or portfolio gallery prior to the meeting. This allows me to make it a discussion piece, by soliciting feedback from the client on what they thought about the imagery. Allowing them to see it beforehand will give them time to formulate an opinion that is more developed than an instinctual reaction.
For a client, knowing that their photographer shares their vision, or perhaps has conjured up an even better one, is a great comfort.
4.) Nail Down the Details
Once you have sufficiently built value in yourself and your brand, it is time to discuss the business aspects with your client. Managing their expectations when it comes to how many photographs will be delivered, retouching, turn around time, your crew, usage rights, licensing, and any other relevant information that can impact your pricing or time invested has to be covered. There are few things more frustrating than a client that is disappointed because their expectations were wildly different than those that were committed to writing.
There are many times when a client can be so passionate about their project that they go off on a tangent, making it easy to get caught up in their excitement. While you want to share in their enthusiasm, it's important to rein it in and gain clarity for the details you need to hammer out. Guiding the discussion back to these points is a purposeful way to guarantee your time is well spent, as is your client's.
There may come a point during the meeting when your client will press you for an exact rate given new information or a lack thereof. While you may feel pressured to provide them with a number in the moment, I highly discourage it. Until you have had the time to confirm that your rates are in line with the work required, then do not provide a price. It could be unfair to you, or much lower than the final cost may be to the client. Explain what is involved when formulating your rate, and assure them that you will follow up with pricing within a specified window of time. However, if you are confident in your rate, then do provide that to your client during the meeting.
Also ensure that you have informed your client of the necessary documents they will need to either sign themselves, or have for the success of their shoot. Contracts, model releases, usage agreements, and permits can be quite daunting for some clients, making it imperative for you, as the photographer, to simplify those processes in order to put them at ease.
5.) Define Next Steps
Before you shake hands with your client and part ways, they must absolutely understand what the next steps are. There are a whole host of tasks that a client may have to undertake for the success of their shoot, depending on what the photographer is expected to take ownership of, and what the client is responsible for. Guarantee that your client understands what happens next. If you and your client do not have a firm grasp on this, then the meeting’s primary objective has not been met.
6.) End on a High Note
Knowing when it is time to end the conversation is key to not overstaying your welcome. After you feel that you have satisfied all of the above, ask your client if they have any additional questions. If they do not, then it is time for you to bring the meeting to a close. Reinform them of the next step in the process or when you will follow up, and genuinely thank them for their time.
Just like a consumer when they leave a retail store with a new purchase, the last thing you want them to experience is buyer’s remorse. Make them confident in their decision to hire you, and then exceed their expectations the moment you step behind the camera.