Artists are sometimes not the best business people.
We are so tickled pink when someone likes our work, we work for FREE sometimes! Fortunately for myself, I was an entrepreneur/business person before I considered myself an artist. I have been in business for myself for over 22 years and I am proud of the fact I’ve never taken an unemployment check once in my life. Most of those years, it was always a month to month situation, very few times in my life have I ever felt like I’ve had more than a couple months of my income taken care of. Even to this day, I’m not sure how I’m going to survive my next year or even the next few months… but I know I can survive, I’ve been doing it for over 20 years so why would next year be any different? Sometimes we have to stop stressing and just have faith in our hard work ethic and character– those two things have never let me down over the two decades of being in business for myself, so take a chance, BELIEVE in yourself.
Needless to say, when a client is interested in hiring us, WE HAVE TO CLOSE THE DEAL. Our lively hood depends on it, we have to put food on the table, pay our rent, replace a dying computer, get a dependable ride, pay for college, go to a workshop or whatever! The key to closing a deal is finding out where you stand with your prospective client. We need to know if we are the front runner or last option. The key to negotiating is to only commit to something when they commit. There is a helpful and a classic book on how to negotiate which can had for around $10- “Getting to Yes“. I highly recommend anyone who hasn’t read this to at least read the first two chapters. It is important to learn how to find out what your client is willing to commit to- what are the conditions, if any, that they would hire you under?
So after your amazing presentation of slideshows, albums, prints, endless price lists, packages, etc. And the client is not ready to immediately sign on the dotted line, I usually go through a routine like…
Me: “Well, be honest with me, what do you think?”
Clients: “Your work is great, just need to think about a few things…”
Me: “Is there anything that you don’t see in my work or package that is important to you?”
Clients: “Not really, we like what we see”
Me: ” You two seem like such a great couple and I am confident I can produce some world class imagery for you and we’d have a lot of fun creating some amazing images I know you’re gonna love the rest of your life. I’m not the cheapest photographer out there but I know I am a sure thing. Out of all the thousands of dollars we spend on a wedding, to spend 2-5% more to get what we really want and peace of mind, in my opinion is worth it. I know plenty of people in hindsight would have paid any amount to get what they expected but once we hire a wrong photographer, it’s kinda too late. Usually a client only gets one chance to hire a photographer, there are no “do-overs” so having peace of mind is very important to my clients. This is a once in a lifetime thing and heck you deserve it don’t you…to get the best?
Clients: In their mind they are thinking “Heck, I do deserve it, my fiancé but me through heck to get to this point and I’m working my butt off to pay for this darn wedding!”
Me: “Let me ask you a question, Is there ANYTHING I could offer that would make you hire me RIGHT NOW? (this is the KILLER question that opens doors for you!) I just want both of you to put together your dream list together, in fact I can go away for a few minutes so you can talk and in your honest assessment, give me your conditions and let’s work out something we both feel great about.
At this point, you have just put the ball in their court. They have to respond in a way where you can know under what conditions they want to hire you. Regardless of what they come back with, you are in control or you know they just aren’t into you. I’ve had so many different offers come back to me, sometimes it was a simple fix like more hours or things like edited files, a free engagement session, more images in an album, etc. Sometimes it was worth it for me to give in to their demands (perhaps the wedding was in Paris, heck you’d do anything for that wedding) or other times we were so far apart we just had to go our separate way. Whatever they come back with on their dream list you have to follow up with this question:
(lets assume they want me to add a free engagement session)
Me: So, to be clear, you would hire me RIGHT NOW, if I could throw in a free engagement session (or whatever is on their list), you’d sign on the dotted line?
Sometimes after you ask this question, your client will still get skirmish and for some reason can’t say YES. If this happens, the consultation is over, close the books, start packing it up and gratefully thank them for meeting you. Do you understand what is going on here? YOU CAN NOT COMMIT TO ANYTHING UNTIL THEY COMMIT TO SOMETHING. This leaves the dialog open and when they go home, they understand they might get everything they want from you. And no matter who they meet next, they know your FINAL PRICE IS STILL OPEN.
If they answer, “YES” you can either accept their offer or can try to negotiate with them somewhere in the middle. Even if you can’t meet in the middle, you can think over their offer and get back to them if you really want to book the job. You still have all the control.
The bad news… There is some negative feedback if they don’t want to give you their dream list. This tells you that you’re not the right fit for your client and at any cost, THEY DON’T WANT TO HIRE YOU! Take this as constructive information and get better, it could be through your imagery, personality, pricing, consultation meeting place, etc. There are a million things why a client doesn’t want to hire you and it is our job to figure this out and fix what we can.
The bottom line is to get your client to commit to something and work it from there. It is important to honestly know where you stand and how much a client is willing to pay for your services. Regardless if they book you or not, you can sleep at night knowing you gave it all you had to book this client and this is comforting in itself.
SIDEBAR: I would always be aggressive in negotiating for the first wedding of each month. Then I know I would have my bills paid, then on subsequent consultations for jobs that same month, I can take more chances and try to get more of my asking price and I would be more resistant to lowering my price.
If this has helped you in any way, it would make me feel great if I could hear from you or if you could share this blog to a friend. Please feel free to give me a dream list of things you would want me to talk about!!