For many photographers, this is the time of year that you're filling out your calendar - especially if you're a wedding & event photographer.  Have you ever wondered how you can turn all of those client consultations into an opportunity to book more of the right types of clients?


Here are 24 things you can do to have better client consultations this year:

1. When someone sends you an inquiry from your website, assume that means they want to meet with you.  Respond accordingly.

2. Offer people 3 choices of times to meet, and ask "which of those would work best for you?" 

3. If you don't have a studio to meet a client, instead of buying them coffee, buy them dinner.

4. Always let the client pick the location (if it's not your home or studio). "I'd love to buy you dinner at your favorite restaurant.  Where should we meet?"

5. Leave the sample albums at home. They've already seen your work. They like it.  That's why they're here. They want to like you.

6. Ask questions.  Then listen to the answers.

7. Assume they are there to book you.

8. Stop trying to find ways to save them money.

9. Ask open ended questions (tell me about... what do you think about... what are you excited about... what is your favorite... etc).

10. Have a copy of your agreement (contract) with you at the meeting.

11. Have a way to accept payment (square, paypal, etc) if they want to book at the meeting.

12. You should be talking less than 30% of the time. People like to talk about themselves. They don't like listening to someone else talk about themselves.

13. Never have a client meeting without a client.  Mom or dad aren't your client.  Bride and groom are.

14. Make a list of questions and practice asking them naturally. (more on this tomorrow).

15. When you talk on the phone, smile.  It makes all the difference in the world.

16. Be prepared to answer their quetions: "why are you so expensive?" "why don't you include a disc of images?" the more prepared you are, the more confident you will seem in your business.  Confidence builds trust.

17. Ask closing questions. "It sounds like we have a package that would meet your needs. So that we can hold your date, we simply need a signed agreement, and your booking fee.  Did you want to take care of that with a check or credit card?"

18. Agreement is a much more friendly word than contract.

19. When you want information, ask open-ended questions (how do you feel about... tell me about...).

20. When you want a client to take action, ask multiple choice questions (would you like to take care of that with a check or credit card? I have three dates available for a meeting, which works best for you?)

21. Never assume you are out of someone's budget.  If you are, they will tell you.  Otherwise, act as though they will pay your asking price.

22. Did I mention - it's not your job to save your clients money.

23. Always send a thank you note, whether they book or not.  And always hand write your thank you's

24. If someone doesn't book at the consultation, set an expectation of what comes next. "It sounds like you need a little time to think about your decision.  If it's alright with you, I'll follow up with you later this week to see if you have any more questions."



1. People will think that all you do is take pretty photos

2. People will think that you always bring your camera with you, and don't mind taking photos wherever you go.  Including at your niece's birthday party... "since you're going to be there anyway." 

 3. You'll spend most of your time trying to figure out which photos don't suck. 

 4. You'll constantly be wondering whether anyone else thinks any of your photos are any good. 

 5. You'll want to change your website/blog/logo/business card/brochure/etc every time you log into a photography forum and see another photographer's new website/blog/logo/business card/brochure/etc.

 6. Most of the people that contact you will think you're overpriced.  You'll never know how many didn't take you seriously because they thought you were underpriced.

 7. You'll constantly be asked "that includes a disc of all my images right?" 

 8. You'll constantly be asked "can you do that thing where part of the picture is in color and the rest is in black and white?" 

 9. People expect you to be able to make their children smile... on command... every time. 

 10. When people realize you can't make their children smile, they'll get mad at you... as if you punched their kid in the face. 

 11. You'll spend hours at your computer "processing" your images, which is really a euphemism for staring blankly at your screen wondering why anyone actually pays you to take these terrible, terrible photos. 

 12. Usually, everyone else is sleeping, while you're still sitting at your computer at 2:30am. 

 13. Camera companies release new gear all the time, and you'll constantly think you need it in order to make your photos suck less. 

 14. The average photography business lost money in 2011.

 15. You'll have zero job security 

 16. You'll spend about 20% of your time on photography, and the rest banging your head against the wall, trying to figure out how to make money doing this so you can still pay your mortgage.

 17. Most small businesses last less than 5 years. 

 18. The average photographer has $14,520 worth of camera gear... 

 19. that they put on a credit card... 

 20. You'll meet with 50 people to get 15 to say yes to you. 

 21. You'll be required to learn to like coffee. 

 22. There's no pension plan 

 23. There's no health insurance 

 24. You'll wonder why XYZ photographer always gets to shoot at the cool venues. 

 25. You'll also wonder why she gets published all the time. 

 26. What you won't realize is that she sits up at night wondering if her work sucks... just like you do. 

 27. Running a business is really hard. 

 28. You'll often feel very alone, and that no one else in the world understands what your life is really like. 

 29. You'll wake up on Saturday mornings for the rest of your life, wondering if you are supposed to be at someone's wedding. 

 30. You'll attend weddings of family and friends and will spend the whole time watching the photographer, not the wedding. 

 31. Then you'll look at the photos later and wish you'd have paid more attention, since the photos suck. 

 32. You'll have to hire an attorney and an accountant. 

 33. Wedding photographers get sued by their clients. 

 34. They also get audited (3X more often than people who don't own their own business). 

 35. You'll find yourself worried more about what other photographers think, than what your clients think. 

 36. You'll have to carry 50lbs of gear around for 10 hours, often without food or water. 

 37. People will think that you have little elves that work for you that can apparently "photoshop" anything.... even people who didn't actually show up at the wedding... for free.... 

 38. Someone will always show up at a wedding with a nicer camera than you.  

 39. And they'll post their terrible photos on facebook, and the bride and groom will love them, and you'll wonder why you even got out of bed. 


 BONUS - Here are three reasons you should: 

 1. Owning a business means creating something that supports the kind of life you want to live.  It means freedom. 

 2. Being creative means you get to give the world something it has never seen before. 

 3. You have the opportunity to help people remember the way they feel at the most important moments of their lives. 

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Principles and policies exist to create barriers.  Sometimes barriers are a good thing.  Sometimes they help keep bad things from happening.  For example, the nurse asks you for you name and birthdate, and confirms your wrist band before giving you medication.  The policy is designed to prevent the wrong medication from going to the wrong person - which could certainly be very bad.


In fact, in a hospital, that type of poilcy is what is known as a "red rule."  Red rules are policies that cannot be broken for any reason because someone could die.  These are the policies that, though they might be inconvenient, are important enough to stick to, no matter what.  You don't get to take a baby out of the nursery without a matching ID band, no matter what.  

On the other hand, there are "blue rules."  These are policies that are important, but if you break one, no one dies.  "Only one visitor at a time."  Sure, this policy is important, and there's a good reason it exists.  But it's a "blue rule," and breaking it isn't likely to result in an immediate crisis.

The problem with many businesses is that we have a lot of BLUE rules that we treat like RED rules.  Certainly you've experienced this somewhere:

 - There will be a $0.25 charge for extra BBQ sauce.

 - If you'd like to pay cash for your gas, you must come inside and pay first.

 - You can't return this without a receipt

I wonder how our clients feel when they hear:

 - There will be an additional $25 charge for each additional person in your portrait session.

 - If you want to contact me, you have to use the form on my website only.

 - I have a clause in my contract that if anyone else dares to take a photo at your wedding, I walk.

These policies all exist to help a photography business operate more efficiently and effectively - but none of them are RED rules.  When we treat them like they are - no one wins.  Not the client, not the business, and not us.  It doesn't mean you shouldn't have policies - you absolutely should.  It does mean that it's worth considering some policies can be bent or broken, and no one will die.

Except maybe our ego.

What do you think? When is it okay to break your own rules?

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