You open your email and there it is, an inquiry from a potential client, asking about your photography services. You hit reply, share your session info and rates, and before you know it you're meeting the family and getting ready to capture them with your camera. They show up a few minutes late. Mom is on edge, snapping at her children to behave and smile in order to earn ice cream afterwards. Dad looks annoyed and ready for the session to be over before it's done. You begin to feel a slow trickle of sweat drip down your back as you put on a friendly smile and gear up for what is already turning out to be a difficult session. You struggle through family photos, sibling shots and individual headshots. You try and get mom and dad to look like they're in love while their kiddos play at their feet. And when it's all said and done you're exhausted, the kids are melting down, and mom looks like she is about to cry. You drive away and a few days later you receive an email asking when their photos will be ready. What began as an exciting inquiry has now turned into a stressful experience that left you questioning what went wrong.
Have any of you fellow photographers been there? I sure have.
I think one of the hardest aspects of owning a photography business, is the business side of it. Keeping up with inquiries. Handling emails. Figuring out what to even say in those emails! Invoices, client expectations, delivering galleries, SEO, marketing, etc.. It can seem like a juggling act and if you're in a place where business is beginning to pick up and inquiries are becoming more frequent, it can all become a little overwhelming. Here is the start to finish flow I have created that has helped keep me sane and from becoming overwhelmed, as well as created an enjoyable experience for my clients where they feel valuable and know what to expect from me and their session.
When I first receive an inquiry, I make sure to respond within 24 hours. I introduce myself, share a blog post I wrote on lifestyle photography, and really make sure that they understand who I am as a photographer. If someone is coming to me for posed studio newborn photos, I'm not going to be able to give that to them. I don't want them to be disappointed at the time of their shoot, so it's best to make sure they really know my style and are 100% positive they want to book a session with me.
I also ask them 3 questions in this initial email:
1) What type of session are you wanting to book? (Newborn, Fresh48, Maternity, Family)
2) Do you have a specific time frame in mind? I let them know that I shoot my newborn and Fresh48 sessions in the morning around 9 or 10am and I shoot my maternity and family sessions 1-2 hours before sunset. Again, I don't want them to be disappointed if I can't do their session at the time they are wanting.
3) Do you have a location in mind? I let them know of the 5 locations I typically shoot at, but also am open if they have a spot in mind.
Once they have officially booked with me and we have settled on a time, date, and place, I send them a booking confirmation email. This has my client contract in it, a link to a blog post on what to wear, and reminder that 50% of the session fee is due upon booking. I give them options of how to pay.
3. Reminder Email
3 to 5 days prior to their session, I send a reminder email. This is a very friendly, upbeat email sharing my excitement for meeting and capturing their family. I say a few times that this will be a fun and laid-back experience. I give a blog post link on what to expect during their session. Again, I don't want a stressed out mom and annoyed dad showing up to the session-ha! I want them to come ready to have fun as a family and let me capture their love for each other with my camera. I also remind them that the remaining 50% of the session fee is due by the day of the shoot.
4. Sneak Peak
Not every photographer likes to do this, but for me when I'm a client, I LOVE the sneak peak! It gives me peace of mind that the photographer actually captured something worth framing, and gets me excited about seeing my full gallery soon. I like to give a sneak peak within 48 hours and I do this for 2 reasons. One-it keeps me accountable to not wait too long before culling their session, and two-it generates an avenue of advertising. If the client is excited over the photos I post on their social media, it attracts more potential clients for me.
5. Gallery Delivery
I tell my clients their gallery will be delivered within 2 weeks both in the client contract as well as at the end of their session before we say goodbye. I think it's important for them to know when to expect it, and it keeps you, the photographer, from getting multiple impatient emails and texts. :)
I do this either before or after I deliver the gallery, depending on the busyness of my week and if I've recently put out a blog post or not. I share the story of the family and paint a picture of what their session was like, and I share what I loved about my time with them. Then I share 15-20 of my favorite images. I keep my blog posts short-no more than a few paragraphs. I always put my location and vocation in the title, along with the family name. This helps with SEO strategy. For example: San Diego, California Lifestyle Newborn Photographer | Baby Isla.
A day or so after delivering their gallery, I email or text and ask the mom to write a review for me on my Facebook page. I also ask her to share the blog post I wrote on her social media or with family and friends if she doesn't have a social media. Again, this attracts clients and builds my business.
So there are my steps from inquiry to gallery deliver. I hope this was helpful! Feel free to drop a comment below if you have any questions or any tips for me. As artists we are all learning and growing together!