Importance of Client Consultations
With as many talented photographers there are in any given area, talent alone is less of a deciding factor for hiring a photographer than a great client experience. This starts before any cameras are brought out or any editing software is touched. A client consultation, especially for wedding clients, is extremely important for ensuring that the photography process is explained in explicit detail and all expectations are given upfront before any transaction is made. Here are 5 reasons why photographers should take the time to have a client consultation:
Clients may skim the contract.
Contracts are essential to any business relationship. It protects both you and the client and is a mutual agreement for services to be rendered as well as any other special terms. However, do not assume that your client will read through your contract. During your consultation, be sure to spell out particularly important terms that your client may have questions about later. This leaves little room for surprises on the back end. For example, if your client only has X amount of days to access their online gallery, be sure to inform them during the consultation, as opposed to them finding out after the fact. While your contract may cover you, you may have a disgruntled client.
Even with the convenience of text and email, sometimes nothing beats the transparent (and more efficient) conversation. You don’t even have to meet in person. Skype and video conferencing or even old fashioned phone calls may clue you in on much more than you are able to receive through an email. Conversation is much more personable and sets the tone for what is to be expected, leaving less for interpretation when it comes intent behind the words used. There is much more a human aspect about hearing someone’s voice. As a photographer, you may want to use that to your advantage when trying to connect with a client.
Educate your client.
The consultation period is an excellent time to show that you know your stuff. Educate your client on your unique process. Let them know what separates you from your competition and why they should book you. You don’t have to be salesy about it, but you can accomplish more than just offering a pricing guide. You are the expert. Utilize time with your client to convince them of it.
Every client isn’t the client for you and sometimes there’s no amount of money (or maybe a REALLY, really high amount) that you can be paid to accept a job if you and the client aren’t compatible. Use your client consultation to figure out your client’s personality and exhibit yours. Think about the hours you will spend working with the client to make them comfortable, deliver a great experience, and in general develop a professional relationship. You will want to know little idiosyncrasies, such as how they feel about their body, what features they like/dislike so that you’re not spending hours in post-processing trying to change permanent physical features or wondering why they are suddenly being so difficult over seemingly little details. If you’re able to read body language or decipher what’s behind tones, it can help you read your client/potential client better.
You want to leave the consultation having asked and answered as many questions as necessary to help you better visualize the shoot. As mentioned above, let it be a conversation. Get down to the root of the reason they want to hire a photographer in the first place. Get a little deeper than “I want to take pics with my family.” It may be more like “We want to send our mother who lives hundreds of miles away some photos to commemorate this event of us getting together once again.” You then will establish a better connection and can frame the session more artistically. The end result is a mutual understanding that will be later translated to a binding contract. You client should feel confident that you are the right photographer for them based on your offerings after the consultation is done.
Do you have any other tips on why client consultations are important? Share them in the comments.