Those of you that are wedding photographers know that we are in the midst of another booking season. There are a couple different times throughout the year when suddenly we are inundated with inquiries from potential clients, but I’d have to say that around the holidays and immediately following is always one of the busiest. That being said – lots of inquiries means lots of meetings with potential clients – so I thought this was the perfect time to chat about some tips for holding potential client meetings!
Of course everybody has their own ways of holding client meetings (and some don’t have in-person meetings at all)… so I’m definitely not saying this is the only way to do things, or even that this is the right way to do things… I’m just telling you what has worked for us. Feel free to take it or leave it… but here it is! 🙂
1. Hold the meeting somewhere you’re comfortable and that fits your brand/business model. Some people hold meetings at their homes or studios, and others that are coffee lovers meet up at a local coffee shop or Starbucks. But for the most part, if I can help it, I like to meet potential clients out at a local brew pub or wine bar in Chicago for a drink! James and I are laid-back people who like to grab a beer or glass of wine – so we’d like to attract couples who are similarly laid-back and that like to go out for drinks too! Right on my website I suggest if someone is interested in booking us that we grab drinks together, and in my initial reply to an inquiry I do the same. I love doing it this way because it feels like I’m meeting friends out for drinks, not potential clients for a serious business-only meeting. It creates a low-key, fun atmosphere in which I can get to know my potential clients personally and see if we’re a good fit!
2. Dress appropriately. Again, I think this is dependent on your brand and how you’d like to represent your business. Like I mentioned above, I like to attract people similar to us because we’re going to click the best and enjoy working together, so I dress mostly how I would if I were grabbing drinks out with a friend! That being said – I try to dress casual/cute and work-appropriate (no low-cut shirts, etc)… which usually means: jeans, boots, shirt/sweater, and then I accessorize with a statement necklace or scarf (because I’m obsessed with both). Figure out what makes the most sense for your brand and for the type of client you’d like to attract – which may mean wearing something dressier than that for some of you… it’s totally up to you! Here’s what I wore to last night’s meeting… (of course Chloe had to photo-bomb the pic! haha)
3. Come prepared in order to look professional and build trust. I want to show my clients right from the start (before they’ve even hired me) that I’m a professional and that they never have to worry about being taken care of if they decide to book us. To help show that – I bring an information box to each meeting (that matches my branding of course). I fill it with important information for them regarding their wedding photography, and some other goodies. Potential clients love getting it and love knowing I took the time to put it together just for them! It also (hopefully) makes them aware that this is the kind of treatment and attention they will get throughout the process from us!
4. Bring examples of work. For a while I didn’t have sample albums, so I would bring a laptop computer with a slideshow of some of my best work to show them if they were interested in seeing more. Then a year or two in when I finally got a sample album, I brought that instead. Now I have two albums that I bring to show clients so they can see some of the cover options for my albums, and to show them the general quality, layout, and design of the albums we offer. This is also a good time for me to chat about the different parts of their wedding coverage (prep photos, First Look, portraits, reception photos, etc) as we go through the different photos to make sure they know how we work during a wedding day!
5. Gather information about the couple before the meeting if possible, and send pricing information. I like to find out more about the couple and their wedding before we meet-up for drinks, because if I see something early on that makes me think maybe this isn’t the right client for us then I know it isn’t worth spending time meeting up in person. Time is valuable, so I really only want to meet up with clients in person if I feel like we could be a good fit and work great together! Again, because I don’t want to waste my or my clients’ time – I send my PDF of pricing information right away in my initial reply to their inquiry as well – because I want them to see my pricing and be comfortable with it before moving forward. Personally, I don’t want to wait to surprise them with that information at the meeting, and then have them realize I’m not in their budget and we’ve wasted all of our time getting together for this meeting! I’d rather they’ve seen it, are familiar with it, and can ask questions about specifics in the meeting (if they have any), so that for the most part the meeting can be more about getting to know each other and seeing if we’re a good fit personality-wise!
6. Do NOT think of this as a job interview! I used to get SO nervous before meetings because I went into every meeting feeling like I was being interviewed for a job! Now, I see it as a 2-way street… I hope they like me, but I want to see if I like them as well! Because of that – I think of it more like a first date than an interview. I hope we hit it off – but the pressure is not on me to ‘get the job.’ If we don’t click, we don’t click! These meetings are just about seeing if we are a good fit for each other. And because we only take a limited amount of weddings each year – I would prefer to only work with clients I love, and who are as excited to work with us as we are to work with them! And for me the best way to find that out is to hang out with them over a glass of wine or a beer, and see if we click!
7. Be yourself. Like I said – this is not an interview – it is a first date. 😉 Because I want to see if we click – then it is important I be myself. If I act uptight or hold back because I’m nervous or trying to get them to like me – then I might end up with clients who like the version of me they saw in the meeting, but not the REAL me they’ll be dealing with throughout this entire process! So instead I just act like my goofy, normal self in my meetings, and if they like me – awesome! If not – then I’m happy to go our separate ways. These are people I need to deal with in person for a full wedding day, an engagement session, and in countless emails leading up to and after the wedding – so I want to make sure we get along great, and most importantly – that they think my jokes are funny. haha… (I’m kind of kidding with that – but in all seriousness – if they roll their eyes at my sense of humor or don’t laugh at my corny jokes – we’re probably not a good fit, because how will I get them to smile naturally in their photos if they’re looking at me like I’m crazy when I say something I think is funny?! haha)
Anyway – these are just a few tips about preparing for potential client meetings. When I first started going to these – I HATED THEM. I didn’t know what to talk about, what to bring, or what to do at all. I was totally lost and wished I had someone pointing me in the right direction! Instead I learned by trial and (a LOT of) error. I figured out things that definitely didn’t work – and figured out as people started hiring me what things I was maybe, just maybe, doing right! So I thought I’d pass along what I learned to you all! I hope it helps!
(**I’ll chat much more about what exactly I bring in my client intro-box, what we talk about, and the flow of my meetings at my Advanced Workshop if you’re interested in hearing more in-depth details!)