If you're failing to get hired as a photographer, then maybe your first impression and initial communication could be the things that are letting you down.
When an inquiry comes in from someone requesting your photographic services, it is vitally important that you not only reply in a timely manner, but the response that potential client receives is clear and professional-looking. First impressions really do count when most clients are speaking to many other photographers besdies you. This makes what you do in those first few instances of communication even more pivotal. There may be times when there isn't much between you and another photographer getting the job. You really do need to make sure that every single thing you do during this initial process is helpful and not hindering your chances of success.
I have already talked at great length about the questions you should be asking a client before giving a price but not so much on the methods used to professionally and efficiently deal with inquiries. Personally, I like to send out a PDF estimate to any query I receive because an official document will always look more professional than a few sentences in an email. It is also much easier for a client to understand the breakdown of various costs when they can see it in the traditional estimate format of columns and rows. If all that wasn't enough, having the ability to include all your terms and conditions in the pages that follow your estimate is another great habit to get into and the right message to send out to any potential client.
When I started using PDF estimates maybe 10 years ago, I would laboriously create them from a Photoshop file that I kept on my desktop. Even though the process wasn't too painful, it did take up too much time for my liking. If that time-suck wasn't enough, having to rely on using a computer to write estimates put me at a disadvantage when I was away from the office for hours or days at a time. Clients always want an answer to their requests quickly, and when you may be competing with other photographers, time really is of the essence. Thankfully it was around then that I got my first iPhone and began playing with a very basic PDF app that I had installed on there. I soon realized that I could stop making estimates on my computer and start using my phone instead. Even though there are many invoice and estimate apps on the market today, there wasn't much around back then, so I had to get creative to work around the limitations the primitive apps had. The reason I am taking you on this trip down memory lane is because the technique I use to create estimates still hasn't changed since those early days. If you have any kind of smartphone, you too should be able to send estimates like me with one of the many free PDF apps out there.
Creating a Blank Estimate
The real trick to this technique is to create a blank estimate to which you can add basic text fields in the PDF app later. Even though the PDF apps have become much more sophisticated these days, they still can't beat Photoshop for making things look exactly how you want them to.
Once you have created a blank estimate in PDF format, it's just a matter of emailing it to yourself so you can import it into the PDF app on your smartphone. It's worth noting at this point that not all PDF editors can rename files in the app, so name your file "Estimate.pdf" just to be safe. Not only does this look neater than "Untitled.pdf," but it will also avoid any possible confusion when forwarding files to your potential client.
Making the Estimate Customizable
The app I have been using for many years goes by the imaginative name of PDF Reader by Kdan Mobile Software. Although your app may differ slightly, the following steps will still work. In a nutshell, we will be using the app's annotation and note tools to make our blank estimate have editable fields. Even the most basic PDF apps from 10 years ago had these features, so I'm sure whatever you choose to use will too.
By clicking anywhere on our opened blank estimate, we are given the "Typewriter" option where we can add text fields. This part is a little fiddly to do, but you only have to do this once ever. Add text fields for all the parts of the estimate you will need to regularly change. In my case, I have quote number, date, description, and a total field. If you want to get fancy, you can even change the font styles, colors, and sizes too.
Once that is all done, you have successfully created your estimate template. It will now literally take you seconds to generate estimates while on the go. In fact, I can write an estimate and send it to a client mor quickly than it takes to fire up my laptop!
So, that is how I became much more efficient and professional when it came to writing estimates. I can literally be sat on the side of a mountain, take a call or email, and write a personalized estimate to someone there and then as if I were sitting in the office.
Is Any of This Actually Responsible for Helping Me to Win New Clients?
It's hard to say if these methods are directly affecting the outcome, but they can't be doing me any harm either. Who doesn't want to receive quick, professional replies from people they are wanting to hire? There are probably times when my PDF estimate combined with my two pages of terms and conditions may actually scare the odd client off. If this is the case, then I take this as a positive contribution to the filtering of bad clients who I'd rather not work with anyway.
I really do urge those who are still using their computers to write estimates to try to start using your phones instead. Even if this technique doesn't replace your current workflow completely, having the option available to you on your phone might just save the day while away from your computer. Creating PDF files on your phone will save you time, cost you nothing, and might just give you a competitive edge. I really can't think of a reason why all photographers shouldn't be doing something similar these days.
Do any of you already use your phone to write and send estimates? Any app recommendations you use on the go that you'd like to share? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below.
Lead image by Mohamed Hassan via Pixabay, used under Creative Commons.