Telephone Posts

Phone Inquiry? Remember These Three Tips

Selling on telephone photographersYou 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.

Why I Don’t Quote Prices via Email

michelle kawka

Thanks 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:

On Selling, Negotiating, Commodities & Differentiation

Negotiating for PhotographersThis essay originally appeared in the handbook given to attendees of the American Society of Media Photographers‘ (ASMP) very successful Strictly Business three-day conference series earlier this year. The essay is reprinted here in its entirety. (ASMP’s updated-daily “Strictly Business” blog is another great resource for photographers.)

Selling and Negotiating.  The words strike fear into almost every creative person I’ve met.  As creatives in the photography business, we love to take pictures and have a strong desire to satisfy our clients.  The selling process, by its very nature, involves give and take, and at some point along the way, we’re likely to not give the client (or potential client) everything he or she wants. And, keep in mind that sometimes we won’t get everything that we want. That’s negotiating.

But We’re a Non-Profit!

At one time or another we’ve all received this call. Usually the conversation goes something like this:

Client: “We have a project coming up, we saw your website and absolutely love your work. We’re looking for a photographer we can build a relationship with.”

Me: “That’s great, thanks for the compliment, tell me a bit about your project.”

The client gives you the details, closing with, “And as you probably know, we’re a non-profit, so please give us your non-profit rate.”

It’s at about this time I want to blurt out in response to their, “but we’re a non-profit”: “WELL, I’M NOT!”

But I stay calm, not wanting to look like a jerk, and knowing that when people move from company to company, they take their address books with them and the next time this person calls, she may really have a budget.  Here’s how I handle these calls and what I say next.  (By the way, I want to give credit where credit is due, but I’m not sure where I picked this up, but it may have been my photo pal Joe Pobereskin or Chicago photographer Marc Hauser.)  BJD:  Joe has indicated in the comments that it is Marc’s method.

If it’s a charity that I care about, here’s my offer: “I’m glad you called me Mr. Client because I do indeed have a special fee set up for charities such as yours. I work for half price! And here’s how it works.  We’ll work together for your next six photo projects. The first time, I’m going to charge you 100-percent of my customary fee. The next time, 80-percent. The next time 60-percent. Next 40-percent. The next, 20-percent.  And the sixth time, I’m not going to bill you a penny.”

I continue, “If you do the math, that works out to half price. And it works out great for both of us, you get quality photography at a below-market rate, and I have an opportunity to create great images for each of us.  How does that sound?”

You’ve offered the client what he wants and you’re very much looking like a good guy.  But not a fool.  If he takes you up on the offer, your fee is front-loaded… in other words, you’re smart enough to know that if you worked for half price right out of the box, he may use you once, then move on to another photographer. If I’m going to give up part of my fee, I’d at least like to build some sort of a relationship with both the charity and its patrons.

Its patrons? Yes, that’s where the potential lies in the deal. I want to be seen more than once at the charity’s events. Charity fund-raisers almost always yield more clients if you work the room; after all, everyone present at a charity function is a potential client. Introduce yourself, be personable, look professional, and hand out business cards. And the more often they see you at their functions, the more they get to know you, the more trust you’re building.

I’ve made this presentation, and so far, two charities have taken me up on the offer.  The jobs were simple, and actually the benefits were very much worth it. I’ve managed to get new clients (one major!) and that’s resulted in more billings for the studio. Think of the “discount” as part of your advertising budget.  Anyway, it’s something to consider next time someone calls from a charity fishing for a photographer.  Don’t get upset, the person on the other end of the line is just doing his or her job. Instead, make lemonade out of the lemon they are offering!

What do you think? How do you handle these types of calls? Please share your thoughts by leaving a comment.

(Check back on Monday, I’ll be kicking off a simple contest for a free copy of my Web Marketing and SEO DVD.)

Photo by, licensed under a Creative Commons License.

A Potential Client’s Website Speaks Volumes

When a new potential client calls on the telephone, one of the first things I do is look up the caller’s website.

What I’m looking for are two things: their level of design sophistication and how they’re currently using photography. These two bits of information can give valuable clues to what sort of budget he or she might have for photography.

Lack of pleasing design and imagery might be a good indicator that I am talking with someone who has likely not historically spent money for higher end professional design or art. It might mean they’re used to working with budgets that are small or doing the work in-house.

Ideally, the client’s website makes good use of color, makes use of an attractive font, and it’s navigation is intuitive. It will also look as if it was created specifically for them instead of being made from a template.

Most of all, I’m trying to determine to what extent they use excellent photography. Does it look as though they’ve done a lot of it in house using a point-and-shoot with no lighting? Does it look professional? Do they credit the photographer?

This analysis takes just seconds and can be done during the initial part of the conversation. If it appears they haven’t worked with a photographer of your skills, you’ll know you have to spend a lot of time talking about the value you bring to the project. Put another way, you’ll need to convince them that you’re the correct person for the job and worth the money.

Remember, if you focus the conversation of price, the price will likely go down. Instead, focus the conversation on value, what you can offer that everyone else cannot, the price will likely go up.

Good luck!

(This article originally appeared on ASMP’s Strictly Business blog. Photo copyright 2010 Mary DuPrie, used with permission.)

How Do You Answer the Phone?

I know a photographer here in Detroit who answers his phone, “Studio.”

We get one chance to make a first impression. Don’t make it sound like you’re rushed and bothered to be taking a potential client’s call. I remember working in a toy store back in High School and thinking it was silly how they wanted us to answer the phone, but now I get it. In this age of “good enough” be grateful that your phone is ringing and the client didn’t go out and buy a Canon G10 so they could take their own photographs!

Answer the phone with a smile, the caller will “hear” it on the other end. I’d suggest something like, “Firefly Studios, this is Blake.” It lets the person know they’ve reached your studio and who they’re talking to. Then let the conversation start. Two tips: be a good listener, and if you get in over your head, you can always let the FedEx guy save you!

Photograph by Tambako licensed under a Creative Commons license.