In some ways, working with clients is a lot like the dating scene. So how do we get that second date? Wouldn't life be easier if you didn't have to look for new clients all the time? What if you could retain the best clients you've worked with before? Maximize your resources, get better recommendations, and make freelancing far more relaxing. Maybe we're all guilty of annoying a client or two, but if you find you're not being approached by anybody for that second date, then maybe it's more than your bad breath. Here are five great ways to go about it.
Get Somebody Else to Fill in for You
I understand that it seems crazy, but it comes down to one theory: Be on your client's side. If you can’t make it on the day, why not pass the job onto a friend?
The client surely has a lot more on their minds than setting up this shoot, and if you reply with “Nah, I can’t do it. Sorry!” then they have to start again.
What happens if you’re the only photographer they know?
Speaking anecdotally, nearly all of the clients that I’ve passed over to friends have come back to me again offering more work. Maybe that says more about the quality my friend's work, however I'd like to believe it has something to do with the client respecting you. They know that you’re on their side and want to help them, even if that means tapping into your network. It’s also worth noting that I still negotiate the price, so that nobody can undercut me too drastically.
I’ve gone so far as to set up a private Facebook group that I can advertise jobs in. At least 2 or 3 times a month, I put the jobs out to tender for the 25-odd people in it.
Nail Down the Contract
Nothing gets in the way of the relationship between you and your client like different expectations. They thought it would only take you a week to deliver the final product, but you’re going away on vacation. You didn’t think anybody could possibly need so many re-edits and changes, but they’re proving you wrong.
The contract should at least state when you expect to deliver the product, when you expect to get paid, and then when the "re-edit deadline" is. This means that they can’t email you three months from now and say, “Hey only looking at this now, is there any possibility of changing the text?” Avoid this by making sure you're both on the same level.
Have a Trick up Your Sleeve
When I’m creating a video for a client, things like hyperlapses can seriously bolster their opinion of you. Sure, they’ve become more commonplace in the past two years — but there’s nothing like watching your client's face light up when they see a good hyperlapse. It’s memorable, and that’s the point.
It really comes down to showing them what’s actually possible. Just this week I mentioned double exposures to a prospective client, and it was the perfect way to draw excitement into the project. I want to be creative and avoid boring projects, just as much as the client does.
We’ve all done it. We’ve accepted too many jobs and suddenly we’re snowed under. I don’t know about you, but normally the quality of work begins to diminish. The only resolution is to charge more, and do less. By doing this, you're making just as much money, however the quality of your work will shine through.
In the video above, I'm talking about dealing with clients and money for university students. There's a huge gap in quality between €100 and €3,000, however one of those options will lead to overworking yourself. Usually when I quote a client, it's not based on how much work I'll be doing. It's based on how much work I won't be able to do for other clients. If they're paying me for a service, it's only fair that they receive that service without interruption from my other clients. You should never find yourself putting aside one client's post-production for another client.
If you’re getting enough jobs in the door, then you can absolutely deny the lower paying ones. Hell, maybe you can even pass them onto friends.
This is arguably the most important that I’ve seen to date. Let’s set the scene: You arrive on location to see that instead of shooting portraits, the client wants you to shoot group shots too. This wasn’t part of the deal.
- Tell them that you don’t have a wide lens with you, and that you can’t possibly do it. Especially since it wasn’t part of the deal.
- Explain that you don’t have the correct equipment, but you’ll do your best to make it work — even if it means shooting multiple shots and stitching them together in Photoshop. However they can’t expect it to be amazing, and you can't work much longer than you would have otherwise.
Of course, there’s a line between helping out a client, and bending over backwards for them. However, if you’re looking to be consistently re-hired, option 2 is your best bet. It's surprising that this can be controversial.
Last week I was filming a few interviews. I was never told that there might be group interviews, and so I didn't have enough radio microphones for each person. I could have said "no group interviews allowed," but instead I just mounted a shotgun mic above them, and explained that the audio would not be as good. The client understood that it was their fault, and I'm sure appreciated that I was doing my best.
Peter House puts it brilliantly by saying, “Structuring your business in a way that facilitates recurring business is an alternative approach that can free up your time and resources.” Are there any other tricks that people have picked up? Do you even need to have clients looking to re-hire you?