One of the biggest questions new professional photographers have is where to meet with clients. It can be really nerve wracking because you are unsure of yourself and your pricing. The phrase “What I am thinking!?!” probably runs through your mind at least once a day. You want to appear to be a professional, and yet you don't have the experience, the professional portfolio or product samples that you would like to have. Add to that that you have to meet clients at Starbucks, so unprofessional!
Actually, it's only unprofessional if you allow it to be. It's all in your attitude and the way you present yourself. You can turn this into a quick positive by reframing it as your commitment to customer service is meeting clients in a location convenient for them. You are all about service. See what a difference a simple change in attitude can make?
Here are some tips on how to make the most of client meetings in public spaces.
Choosing the Location:
- Starbucks isn’t the only game in town. Try nice cafes, hotel lobbies, local coffee shops or wine bars. You can also look into renting an office or meeting space that is available for entrepreneurs that need an occasional meeting location. Alternatively, consider renting space from a collaborative artists group with shared space. Wedding vendors often rent a central meeting office as a group and everyone shares the space and a group calendar for holding client meetings. If you are shooting weddings, you can often meet at the venue, which allows you to personalize the presentation, mention lighting, etc. like a pro.
- Choose a place that is a relatively good match with your brand. If your services are more on the high-end side, think swanky hotel lobby.
- Scout locations in advance. Consider parking, noise level, ability to get a table easily and if you can comfortably meet clients there frequently and hold the table for an hour. That way, instead of walking into a brand new situation every time, you've got a couple options in different neighborhoods that you can suggest depending on the client's location.
- Get yourself a rolling professional case to store your samples. Scrapbooking cases can work beautifully for this purpose.
- Set up a time to do a product shoot where you take 4-5 photos of various albums, canvas wraps, printed cards, framed options etc. You can put together a product slideshow to showcase everything you offer. These photos will come in handy in all sorts of ways.
- Hotel lobbies can be fantastic-find one with a nice lounge area, but visit a couple of times to understand how busy it gets. It can go from quiet as a mouse to the loudest place in town if they have an active happy hour.
- Tell the client what you will be wearing in advance. This helps ease their comfort when walking into a strange place to meet a stranger. If you have a bright colored coat or something that will “pop” make it part of your standard meeting attire.
- Make a list of the general points you want to cover-your process, pricing, payments, how images are delivered, etc. basically let the client know what to expect when working with you.
- Plan to listen much more than you talk. Have a few good questions/conversation starters in mind if there is a dip in the conversation.
What to Bring:
- The ipad is your friend! Otherwise a tablet or laptop with slideshows ready to go works beautifully. Make sure whatever you bring is fully charged before the meeting.
- Pricing sheets and package information
- A blank contract and payment form in case the client wants to book you on the spot (think positive!).
- Bring a few choice sample albums and products that are small enough to be shared without taking up the entire table.
- Contact information form with details so you have a specific record and a mailing address to send over a thank you.
- Money for parking and drinks.
- A few extra slideshows or samples in case they ask for something unexpected.
- A warm, friendly personality. Get to know the client, laugh with them, and work to establish a connection. Understand what they are looking for.
- Some photographers take the approach that the client has probably already spent enough time on the website looking at images, so the meeting should be all about the personalities and getting to know one another.
The Client Meeting:
- Arrive extra early! The last thing you want to happen is the client gets there before you, there are no tables available, and you don't have a way to do a comfortable presentation.
- Start the meeting with buying them drinks after the hellos. It's a nice way to “host” and gives everyone a few minutes to settle in. Plus you can leave your samples out for them to glance at while you are gone.
- Have a basic routine of what order you are going to cover different info in, so that you ensure you don't leave anything out.
- Ask lots of questions-get to know the client as a person.
- When it's time to wrap things up, that's a great time to pull out your contract to go over the details of what needs to happen if they want to work with you.
- It is perfectly fine to end the meeting with, “do you have any more questions?” “OK, would you like to go ahead and book today?” (and then you go perfectly silent and let your face relax.) Give the client the option to take care of it right then and there. Be ready with a payment form and blank contract.
OK photographers, your turn! Share your best tips or your most burning questions in the comments below.