The following is a reply to a post on one of the photography forums I read daily. In it, Rick McCleary, a Washington DC based photographer, replies to comments and questions posted by another photographer.
©Rick McCleary, used with permission
Your post has been stuck in my head for a couple days because it makes me recall the exact same sentiments I felt when I was starting out – all full of myself and feeling like the world owed me something/everything. There are a couple things you need to embrace that will help you get out
of your own way:
1) This is a business, just like any other business. Nothing is given. Learn the basics. Read some business books that stress marketing. Read Seth Godin’s blog.
2) No one owes you anything.
3) Your job is to make your client’s life better. See the world from your client’s perspective. User experience, and all that.
Q: So, let me see if I got this straight: I have to be “persistent”?
RM: Yes, exactly.
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A huge thank you to New York Photographer Michelle Kawka for this guest blog post:
Often times, I will get a price request for my photography services via email. Generally, the inquiry looks something like this:
I need a photographer for X photo or video project or event and it is on X day and time. Are you available? How much do you charge? Please email me back with your price.
To which my email response is generally along the lines of:
Thank you very much for contacting me regarding your photo and/or video needs. How did you hear about me ?
Before I give you a price, it is best if we have a brief phone conversation so that I might ask you a few questions and better understand your needs.
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You receive a phone call from a prospective client asking you to “bid” on an upcoming photography project she has. It’s an opportunity to forge a new relationship with a new client and you really want the job. Here are a couple of guidelines that have served me well, resulting in me being selected as the successful “bidder”:
1. Never, ever, give a “ballpark figure” for the project; you’ll surely overlook something if you provide an estimate on the spot. It’s just impossible to quickly throw together a figure while under the pressure of “I want an estimate now.” Instead, gather information by asking open-ended questions and let your caller know you’ll get back to her quickly with the estimate.
2. Always ask your counterpart in the negotiation what her budget for the project is. In most cases, they’ll tell you they haven’t set one. That’s fine, just gather more information – perhaps share some insight about how you would handle the project and offer some suggestions to help her out. Then a bit further along in the conversation, share the following: “I have to say Mary, your project is exactly the type of shoot we do all the time and I’d love to work with you on it. Tell me, where do I need to be on this project?”
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A sometimes overlooked, but very important factor in any negotiation is making sure the person with whom you are speaking is in fact the decision maker. If he or she isn’t, you ideally need to get the true decision maker involved in the negotiation.
One method I use to tactfully determine if the person I’m talking with is the decision maker is to ask him, “Is there anyone else I should email samples of my work to?” Or, perhaps, “Can you suggest any other persons in your company I should send a few samples of my work to?”
Your goal is to try to get the ultimate decision maker involved in the negotiation. If you still can’t get to that person, then it’s best to “empower” the person to whom you’re talking with “talking points” or “bullet points” so they can talk about your value and essentially sell you to the person hiring the photographer.
Remember, that initial phone conversation is the time when you have to talk about what it is that makes you different from your competitors. How do you differentiate yourself? What do you “bring to the party” that others may not? What I’m really saying is what value do you provide this potential client?
The inability to show your value will only put downward pressure on the total price of the job. Only with differentiation can you command higher fees, primarily because you will be providing a look, or style, or service that is not easily found elsewhere.
What methods do you use to get to the "right" person? Let us know in the comments!