You can shoot, process and print like a pro – but can you negotiate solid gigs with your clients? As a portable event photographer, your business acumen and communication skills are just as important as your artistic eye. Your customers know they want great pictures, but they probably don't understand your craft – or your pricing structure – nearly as well as you do. If you want to please your clients and avoid post-shoot headaches, follow these tips in your next pre-event meeting.
You'll need to do some preparation of your own before you even head to the meeting. Look at what your client has already given you – event details, timelines and budget – and start to think about the work you'll do and the fees you'll need to charge. Remember, this is a negotiation, and both parties need to have clearly defined expectations.
Dress to impress.
Don't wait until the actual event to put on a professional appearance. You represent your business every time you interact with clients, so dress sharp. You'll have far more success in your negotiations if your look exudes effort and professionalism.
Get your goals right.
Kick your meetings off right by clarifying your clients' goals and managing their expectations. There's no reason to start discussing details before you've addressed the big-ticket items like turnaround times and pricing. If you don't clarify goals upfront, you could have some disappointed clients on your hands later on.
Plan a timeline.
Dedicate a big chunk of the meeting to ironing out a timeline. Clearly explain your process from booking to delivery, and make sure your clients and their guests understand when they'll need to pay. Also, clarify what YOU are going to provide during each step of the process – when you'll provide sample shots and mini-albums, how long editing will take and when your customers will get their finished photos.
Sweat the details.
Once you've solidified your schedule and pricing, discuss every little detail you can think of. What sort of aesthetic are your clients looking for? Will the attendees include children? Are you expected to focus on specific events or people more than others? These are the kinds of questions you need to answer before you start shooting.
Stick to your guns.
Establish a floor for your rates, and don't let clients talk you down. It's fine to have some wiggle room, but you need to price like a professional if you want to make a living as a photographer. If your clients don't understand why you need to charge what you do – and many won't – explain your process and the value you provide. Most people will respect your professionalism and confidence in your own skills.
Insist on a contract.
Contracts are crucial for BOTH parties. Once you've agreed upon expectations and pricing, get everything in writing, and give your clients plenty of time to read and sign. It's a big red flag if a customer is unwilling to sign – don't get scammed!
Ultimately, you need to match your own skills and aesthetic with the right clients. Even if you have experience in a wide variety of venues, you're not going to be the best photographer for every job. Carve out your unique place in the industry, and be clear about the kinds of work you can do. To learn more about building your business, download our free best practice guide today.