While all photographers are unique and differentiate through their style and specialty, there is one constant throughout: client experience. All photographers must provide an excellent client experience in order to stay in business. When clients choose us to document their lives, they may love our style and even like the final product, but if they have a poor experience, they will not recommend us to others or refer us new business. Particularly in the boudoir genre, because we provide such an intimate service, the client experience must be a priority for a photographer to be successful and have a lasting career.
Before We've Said Hello
The client experience begins even before you first make contact. Prior to a phone or in-person consultation, your clients will meet you virtually, through your website and online presence. There are several factors you must take into account when creating or evaluating your website. Is it easy for potential clients to contact you? Your email and phone number should be prominently displayed on the homepage of your site. Your location should also be apparent on the homepage. If a potential client has found you through a Google search, they may not know exactly where you reside or where your studio is located. If they can’t find that information quickly and easily, they will move on to the next photographer’s site.
Another mistake many photographers make is not taking their potential client’s comfort into account when responding to inquiries. Let’s say a potential client has looked you up and found your website. They love your work and are interested in booking a session, so they send you an email asking for more information. How should you respond?
I always recommend to respond to clients in kind, which means you respond to them in the same way that they contacted you. Their level of comfort is the most important factor. Maybe they can’t talk on the phone during the day due to work regulations or hate emailing — you must remember that while you may feel you can sell a session better by phone, if a client is uncomfortable, it won’t matter what a great salesperson you are! Don’t be intrusive and this will ensure they are at ease with you, which is the first step in building client trust.
When it comes to responding to inquiries, you must be prompt. She who responds first wins! Your client has likely contacted a couple of photographers and if a competitor reaches her before you, she will likely hire them. One way to work around this is to ensure your website/inquiry system includes a built in autoresponder. An autoresponder is an automatic message that is emailed to a potential client as soon as they reach out and contact you. This can buy you three or four hours to respond and will make your client feel important and valued.
An autoresponder can be as simple or as complex as you choose. I recommend incorporating some of your images to brand your communication and emotionally connect with the reader of the message. I make sure to thank the potential client for contacting me and I share a bit about my photographic philosophy. It’s important to include the location of your studio and possibly some images of your space as well, which encourages them to imagine themselves there. I also describe what my sessions entail, from hair and makeup to how I shoot my clients. I mention a bit about scheduling as well and while I don’t include a pricing guide in the autoresponder email, I do mention investment and give the potential client a session fee amount and price range for products.
After the autoresponder email has been sent, I follow up with a quick, personalized email that addresses my availability and includes my full investment guide. I'm a firm believer in giving potential clients all the tools they need to make an informed decision.
Once a client has booked you, the client experience is just beginning. They have chosen you because they love your work and their experience so far, but their opinions could change quickly if they feel like they are not being treated as your most important priority. Again, it’s about maintaining client comfort! You want them to feel like they are a part of this process, not just another number on your roster. A Session Prep Guide is a fantastic tool that can give the client confidence as their session approaches. This can also cut down on emails and the back-and-forth between client and photographer, which is extremely time consuming. Here is what I include in my Session Prep Guide for my boudoir clients:
Grooming tips to prepare for their session
Wardrobe inspiration for their session
Hair and makeup information
What to expect from the session
How you will follow up with them after their session
How your viewing sessions work
Your business policies
These topics range from helpful advice to legalese, and they are equally important. Giving your client an idea of what to expect from your session encourages them to prepare themselves. The session will be much more enjoyable for both the client and the photographer if there are clear expectations set from the beginning. Most people tend to feel uncomfortable getting their photo taken and giving them this information ahead of time gives them the opportunity to settle themselves before they are in front of the camera.
While sending out your business policies may not seem like a fun read for your clients, it’s so important in order to protect yourself as a photographer. You should include a rescheduling and cancellation policy, as well as your copyright and artistic license information. This will safeguard you against issues like late-cancelling clients or your images being shared online without permission. While having these policies in place won’t guarantee these issues won’t occur, having proof in writing that your clients have been informed of your policies will be extremely beneficial.
Once your client is booked and on your schedule, their experience is just beginning. Giving them a positive perspective going into their session will give you a leg up as you move forward.
This is what I have found works best for my studio. What have you found to be effective? Please share in the comments below.