“31 ways to ignite your photography business and demand higher fees” is aimed at helping photographers & videographers, particularly those running their own business, add massive value to their clients without having to negotiate on price. I will literally give you 31 ways to do this in your business, starting at the initial stage of incoming enquiry right through to project delivery and training.
01: Say No!
Say no to initial client meetings…. If a client calls you up and asks for a meeting say “No!”. Here’s why:
Ever been to a meeting with a client who’s new project is going to be bigger than Facebook yet 1 hour in they tell you they have no budget… (sigh) but then they say that’s ok because they’re going to cut you in on future equity.
Yeah, we’ve all been there…
Here’s the thing, whenever I make an appointment with the osteopath to go have some work done on my back, I ring up the osteopath to book an appointment and she’s like: “Yeah sure! Just pop over”. Every time I get off that call the wifey comes over and asks: “Why can they see you right away?! Don’t they have any other clients… They mustn’t be very good”
My point here is: Saying no positions you as someone who is in demand, busy and who is a specialist. That’s exactly where you want to be positioned.
So what do you do instead of meeting clients? — You qualify them. Qualify them to make sure you’re a good fit, make sure you can help them and make sure it’s a project you actually want to work on.
I’m pretty sure it was Tony Robins who once said “The quality of our relationships is defined by the quality of the questions which we ask” and most photographers/videographers don’t ask very good quality questions when they start talking to clients. They speak about shooting techniques and camera specs.
04: Ask Why!
One of the most important questions you can ask them is: “Why are we doing this?. What is it we’re trying to achieve, what is the purpose of this project?”
05: Define Success
Another really important question is “What does success look like?”. Define the success metrics. “If this thing works and we knock it out of the park where do you want to be in 12 months, what does that look like for you. How has will your business change should we be successful.”
Another question, and this time perhaps the most important one. Ask them how much cold hard cash they have stuffed down their pants to devote to this project! Because if they don’t have a budget allocated to this project, you’re going to get a whole way into the relationship with the client just to figure out they don’t have enough budget allocated for you to actually do a good job… And that’s not good for anyone, it’s a waste of everyone's time. Don’t be afraid to ask these questions.
07: Rebranded Portal
Ok so, couple of other ideas, re-brand their login portal (you know, the place where they log in to see the work you’ve done for them) and show it to them when you do meet for the first time. Something to show how useful and helpful your work is going to be. I might say something like “Hey I hope you don’t mind but I’ve taken the opportunity to mockup what things might look like, should we work together. Just thought I’d give you a little teaser”.
08: Useful Portal
While we’re speaking of the portal. Please make it useful! Use it as an opportunity to differentiate yourself and give them tools/info that can actually help their business. Even something as simple as having variations of a photo or a video optimized (resized) for each platform.
09: Value your time
Here’s an idea: Has anyone else noticed that most meeting last for an hour? Like what is that!?! I can feel the 54min mark of a meeting, the other person starts pulling their papers together, checking their phone. You can literally feel them about to end the meeting. I’m like “Yup, we’re at the 54min mark and in 6 minutes I’ll be out the door”. What’s up with that?
So.. My meetings last about 20minutes these days, started cutting them back from 45minutes and realistically the first 15minutes I don’t even need to be there. it’s all just chit-chat and report building. Useless. Doesn't actually get us anywhere. So value your time! If you don’t value your own time then how can you expect your clients to? Don’t sit around for 1.5 hours, especially on the first meeting. It sets an expectation that you don’t have anything else on and that you can spend all your time working for them.
10: Show Ease of use
Back to the portal thing. Record a little screen capture on how easy it is to use their new footage. How to embed it in different places, how to upload to social media, what some good use cases might be. Remember your job is to be helpful and not a pain in the a**. Keep in mind that most people have had bad experiences with photographers & videographers. Most will have previously hired a fresh graduate who went snorkeling in Thailand the week after the shoot and stopped replying to emails about best usage.
So they’re a little suspicious about you. From the moment you walk in the door, your job is to show them how helpful and valuable you’re about to become for their business.
11: No Cafes!
Don’t meet in Cafes! Please don’t meet in cafes. It sends a really bad positioning message. If you meet in cafes then the client you’re meeting will start to build perception that you’re this laid back, chill, kinda easy going photographer which means you have to charge chill, laid back, easy going rates.
You’re a business consultant! You want to meet them in an office. If you don’t have one, rent one in a co-working space or better still go meet them in their office. You can meet existing clients in cafes and you can host referral lunches in cafes (I would strongly recommend that) but don’t meet new clients in cafes.
12: DM’s Only
Don’t meet unless all the decision makers are in the room! Don’t meet Robin unless Batman can be there as well! Because Robin is never going to do as good of a job communicating the value you bring to the project as you are. You want to make sure all the decision makers are in the room and if they’re not, re-schedule the meeting. If a client has a decision maker who can’t be in the room, then they’re not showing you the respect you deserve.
13: Tight Schedule
Keep a tight schedule! What does that mean? I share an office space with a saas startup and a real estate development firm. A couple of weeks back the startup had a photo shoot and the photographer came in, sitting in the board room doing the usual pitch, making all the usual pitch mistakes we’ve all made over the years. I thought I’d listen in and one thing that stood out to me was when he said “Yeah we can meet next week, when are you free?”.
Duuude! You should NOT have ALL of next week free to meet this client!
He should have said something along the lines of: “We can meet next week, I’ve got Monday 8am, Wednesday 2pm or Friday 10am. Which one suits you?”
I don’t care if you have nothing on next week but you should have allocated times during the week where you can meet clients. The rest of the time you’re doing other things to grow your business. Hopefully blogging, marketing or reaching out to find new referral partners. Just don’t be available all week to meet with a client.
14: Avoid Chit-Chat
Don’t completely cut out chit-chat. We still need to build rapport but try and get into the business conversation as quickly as you can.
We’ll often spend 15minutes talking about what’s happening around us, which is fine just keep in mind the longer you spend chatting the more that “Hey, I’m around for a chat” feeling starts to grow. Ultimately devaluing your time.
15: Dress Well
I know this one seems kind of obvious, but please dress well. I’ve been to client meetings where the other consultant rocks up in shorts. Maybe it’s just me but I don’t care how hot it is or trendy your shorts are, ditch them for the meeting. Dress well, it sends a message. I usually dress based on how much money I think the client’s got. If I rock up in a three piece suite, you better know I think you’re loaded.
16: No camera talk!
No camera talk, no lens talk, no editing software talk. Have you ever been to a doctor who started talking about what brand stethoscope he uses to check your heart rate? Has your mechanic ever told you about the machine he uses to do wheel alignment?
Customers don’t care about what tools you use, they care about an outcome and the benefit of your knowledge to their business. Now stop talking about tools because you’re devaluing what you offer and are making yourself a commodity.
17: Do your homework
Not sure if some of you have heard about this amazing little website called Google. You know the one that’s like a library on steroids. Well seriously, use it! Do the homework about your new lead before meeting them. Find out what’s happening in their industry, know what their competitors are doing and get an idea about what their objectives are. Learn how to speak their language to be on the same page as them.
18: Claim superpowers
This one is a little more tricky, and I like to be a little cheeky about it but claim superpowers.
Towards the end of a meeting ask the client “Hey, what superpowers do you think I bring to this project?”
They’ll usually have a bit of a laugh/nervous giggle but then they’ll say something like: “Well… Uhmm… You know how to use that editing thing that really makes it feel like everyone is having an awesome time” or “You know how to do that thing that removes blemishes from my skin”.
Realistically they don’t even know what they’re talking about. The point here is that they don’t know how to do what you know how to do. Getting them to admit this through “superpowers” makes it then very hard for them to negotiate on price. When was the last time you asked Superman for a discount for saving your life?
Point being: you don’t ask superheroes for discounts!
19: Don’t do cards
The amount of times I’ve been asked for my business card… Just think about it, busy people collect cards but busy people don’t give out cards, they don’t need them. (Also a fun talking point at meetups).
20: Record meetings
Record meetings on your phone. Just say to the client: “Hey I hope you don’t mind, I’m going to record this so that nothing falls through the cracks as I have a bit of a fish memory.”
The real reason behind recording your meetings is to prevent scope creep and other random requests. How many times have you worked on a project only for the client to come back to you during the last revision as say “Hey remember how you told me you’d help my brother in law do the editing for his wedding shoot”
“No I didn’t. Here’s the recording from our meeting”
21: Email Summary
This one is really just a differentiator because not many people are doing this.
Email the client a summary of the meeting the day after. You could type this up yourself or use a transcription service. Something along the lines of:
“Hey, was great to meet with you yesterday, just wanted to let you know I’m really excited about the project, it was really interesting to hear you speak about xyz” ( xyz being: success factor, what their objectives are, what they’re trying to achieve). All this just to let them know that you’re listening and you care about their success.
22: Reiterate Success
This one is really important! Reiterate to them what they told you success is. Especially the day after the meeting because that’s what they’re trying to achieve. They’ll need to be reminded about what they’re trying to achieve throughout the process. Doing this will keep them on track and prevent them from changing their mind mid-project.
23: Don’t bore them
Don’t bore them with long specification documents and timelines. Unless you’re working on a gov or enterprise project there is zero reason to fill up your proposal with useless specs. We all know that as soon as you send a proposal the first thing they’re going to do is skip to the price section and then work backwards if the price doesn't scare them away. Hopefully, by this stage, you’ve already qualified them and you know what kind of budget they have. Long detailed proposals in small businesses just don't get read.
24: Read (book name)
- I'm left undecided on what book to recommend, any ideas?
25: Use Better Proposals
Use better proposals to write your proposals. You’ll have to check it out for yourself but in short, it’s an amazing tool that allows you to deliver beautiful looking proposals really quickly. It also allows you to save proposals that work well helping you to gradually improve your proposal template.
26: Tighten Up
Never finish writing a proposal and then send it. It’s the equivalent of DM’ing your ex when you’re drunk at night. You know what I’m talking about. Write the email, only send it to friends/mentors/industry experts to help you tighten it up and send it the next day.
You know your process, now setup checkpoint along the way and get clients to sign-off on each step. The more sign-offs the better as it helps keep them on track. I make them pay on each checkpoint too.
It’s just like building a house, the builder only gets paid once the bank has sent someone out to approve the work. Each stage then gets signed off. Same here, don’t do 50% upfront 50% on delivery. Break it down into smaller stages and stick your payment schedule to it. Helps both parties stay motivated to keep moving forward.
28: Check Grammar
Another obvious one, although I’m sure you’ve noticed by now that grammar is my kryptonite. Get someone who knows how to write to check yours.
29: Do NOT call!
One of my favorites, do not call after you’ve sent a proposal. Even if you’re hearing nothing but crickets. It’s just like calling someone who’s obviously ghosting you after your first tinder date. It’s desperate and needy. The first person who calls loses all the power.
So why do we do it? — Usually, because we don’t know what else we should be doing.
30: Email proof
Instead of calling to ask if they've seen/signed the proposal, send them proof.
I like to drop my prospect into a little email campaign for this. Which then sends them Testimonials, relevant articles, things that show the client I'm actively thinking about them. To them, it’s proof that I know what I’m talking about without coming across as needy.
The best part is that you only need to create this email sequence once and when the next prospect comes in you drop them into your CRM and they get nurtured until they become a client. (or call me to tell me I’m a stalking freak and I should get out of their life.)
Either way, I’m happy because I know if we’re doing business or not.
31: Stick to the process
Please stop letting clients micromanage you, you lose your power and your position. You have a process, stick to it!