There were 50 different ways I could’ve worded the title of this blog post. “How to 30x Your Client Spend After Only Ever Working With 1 Client” was in the running. So was “How to Go From a $75 to a $2,250 Client in 60 Days”. So you get to pick whichever one resonates with you, but you need to know a few things first:
This is the exact strategy I used within my first year of starting my photography business
My skill at my craft didn’t magically change in 60 days
But my way of thinking did
As photographers we convince ourselves that we all have to go through this same “rite of passage” in order to be legit. It looks something like this:
Most of you are probably in between the “Charge $50” and the “What the Hell Happens Next” stage of business. Maybe you’ve upped that $50 session fee to a *gasp* $150. Maybe you’ve convinced yourself that you only want to offer mini-sessions because those are the only ones where you can make a profit (30 minutes for 4 8x10’s, right?). Most of you have convinced yourself that you’re not good at selling so you’ll probably only ever be a shoot-and-burn photographer. Has the lingo caught up with the modern version of this? Perhaps shoot-and-upload?
So the goal here today is to take you from “I could make more money working at Target” to “Holy sh*t I’m looking at a $2k+ deposit”. Ready?
Here’s what you have to promise me first:
I will let go of any preconceived notions I have about selling as a photographer.
I will let go of any assumptions I have about what my ideal client or market can afford to spend on photography.
I will begin to separate my worth from my craft.
Ok, so now that we’re all here together let me point out some major wowza facts for you. Prior to switching up my technique with my clients (aka when I was only ever making $75 a pop) I was barely scraping by. But once I made the shift to putting my clients first and truly understanding how I could better serve them...things went bananas. Some will call this strategy In Person Selling or IPS. But I kinda hate that phrase. I truly never believed I was selling anyone anything. I was creating an experience for them. A journey. I was showing them the value of why they should and needed to invest in photography. And not only photography, but collateral. So for the sake of clarity let’s redefine this.
Can we all agree that shoot-and-burn (or upload) is a 100% valid way of running a photography business? Heck, even my own family photographer of choosing today uses this method. Let’s call this the SAB Method.
The method I want to teach you today takes it further than that. It only incorporates a few additional steps and touchpoints, but the pay off (and satisfaction) is huge. Let’s call this the VIP Method.
Here, look at the difference of my own business using the SAB Method and the VIP Method:
The $525 was made up of 7 different sessions from 2 different clients.
The $7,300 was made up of 2 different sessions from 2 different clients (neither were a wedding).
To demonstrate the difference in these two experiences (and why you can make a helluva lot more money by utilizing the VIP Method) I’m going to breakdown how each of them look step-by-step.
Connect with client and schedule a time to book the session
Client pays your session booking fee ($50-$75)
Client calls to chat about her ideas for the session (poses, outfits, setups, locations, etc)
You text the client reminding them about their session (they probably reschedule)
You finally show up to client’s location of choice and work through all the variations she has in mind and end up shooting for around 90 minutes
You leave that session and get started editing the 400+ images you took
You finalize between 75-100 edited images and upload them into an online gallery
You email or text that gallery link to your client
Connect with client and schedule a time to book the session
You lead the discussion on ideas you have for their session including location, outfits and feel
Client pays your session booking fee ($100-$250)
Your client gets a formatted email reminding them of their session date and time, your reschedule fee, links to their Pinterest board you curated for them and some session expectations
You show up at the location at the time of your choice and shoot for exactly 60 minutes
You show your client some images from the back of your camera and talk about how you see them coming to life (in canvas, an album or a print)
You leave that session and get started editing the 200+ images you took
You post 2-4 on social media and tag your client
You email your client a formatted email that has a few teaser images and ask them to schedule their Viewing Session
You arrive at their Viewing Session and showcase their images in a video slideshow, you’ve brought product samples and dessert
You walk them through what to purchase and present them an invoice
They put 50% down that night or pay in full ($1,000-$2,250+)
You order their collateral and setup a time for your client to pick up
You can see that the VIP Method has only 5 additional steps to the entire process from start to finish. So let’s break those down. Here are the main differences between the VIP Method and the SAB Method.
SET PRIOR EXPECTATIONS
You can see that one of the first differences right off the top is that within the SAB Method the client is the one to set the tone of the entire experience. When left unguided, a client can get particular. In my experience (and I’m sure you’ve seen this too!) is that my SAB clients (those who paid less and got less) were my most difficult and needy.
We’re talking 7+ outfit changes in one session. Backdrops, chalkboard signs, balloons, location changes and more. But I allowed that to happen. If we don’t step in as the expert that we are to set up the expectations the client will take over.
As soon as I switched to the VIP Method and set up those prior expectations early and often the entire process went smoother and my client was happier. I began to get firm on what days I shot, what time I would shoot and how long the session would last. These were non-negotiable so my clients didn’t even budge.
It’s as simple as changing your lingo from a question to a statement.
“What time would you like to meet?” turns to “I only shoot at Golden Hour so we’ll need to meet right at 6:30 to take advantage of our time together”.
“What would you like out of this session?” turns to “I see some magic happening in this area of the garden. So I’ll have your family meet me there and we’ll get some great shots.”
TEASE THE END RESULT
You can see that within the SAB Method there is a big disconnect between the session and the end result. The client is often left to wonder if there were any good shots captured, how did they look, was their kid covered in snot the entire time? The thread of excitement didn’t continue from session to delivery.
The opposite is true within the VIP Method. When I would shoot I would be immediately be talking about the products that a particular shot would look great as. I would ask clients throughout the session “Where are you hoping to hang these images in your home?” “How will you be gifting these images to family?”
I could then use their responses to tease the end result. If I knew they were interested in a gallery wall above their dining room table, I could make sure to achieve a shot that would work great as a large canvas. As soon as I had it I would show the back of my camera to my client and say something like “Oh my gosh! This is THE shot that we’re hanging above your dining table.”
If I got a wonderful picture of the kids I would show it to my client and say something like “Oh my gosh! These would be perfect as 8x10’s to gift to Grandma.”
This method gets the client involved in the process in a way that still has you in the driver’s seat. It’s getting them excited and expecting to buy more later.
CREATE AN ADDITIONAL EXPERIENCE
Where do they buy these things you ask? In this VIP Viewing Session. Although this kinda exists in the SAB Method it’s definitely not VIP...it’s simply a viewing session. The SAB client views their gallery alone. On their computer or most likely their phone. Without you there. Lame sauce.
The VIP client has a complete additional experience to see their images for the first time. This is where the magic happens. There are a few key things I want you to note here in order to make your first Viewing Experience amazing.
The viewing sessions need to happen no later than 2 weeks from when you wrapped their shooting session
They need to happen in the evening, at their home, where no kids are present (typically once they go to bed)
Anyone that’s purchasing images or collateral needs to be present
You need to bring product samples and a treat (I’ve brought cheesecake and wine in the past)
The purpose of those stipulations is that you’re creating a high-end, intimate, grown-up, viewing experience. Everyone involved knows that there will be money spent in these sessions so the tone needs to be right for that (that’s why no kids!).
TELL THEM WHAT THEY NEED
So now we’re in the Viewing Session. Dessert is getting eaten, wine is getting drunk and mom is tearing up over the gallery you’re playing on your iPad. Right on schedule.
As the client is viewing their images, try to make a note of which one she’s particularly ohh-ing and aww-ing over. After they watch your slideshow once go back through it again and pause on the images you deliberately captured for that gallery wall she talked about putting above her dining table.
Show her the options for that gallery wall. Does she want to go with canvas or prints in frames? Awesome. Walk over to the dining wall with her. Let her know what size you’d recommend getting in that canvas due to the size of her wall. Awesome. Now, let’s pick out what the other images are that will surround this staple piece.
Notice that you are expertly guiding her through what choice she should be making. Remember that you are the expert here! You know what sizes images need to be. You know how small an 8x10 looks on a 2-story wall. You know that gallery wrapped canvases look better than foam mounted prints.
Your client is trusting in you, the expert, to tell her what to do and what to get. Every buyer innately needs this guidance. It’s your job to provide it. And if you do it right, the pay off will be great.
To complete this process you simply need to collect payment, order their products and get them in your clients hands. Those four steps that I outlined above are absolutely crucial to creating a true VIP Experience for your next client.
It will be the thing that can enable you to 30x your client spend. But it not only brings in more money, it brings a better experience. For the client and you. The fulfillment I, as the photographer, would get when I started offering the VIP Method vs. the SAB Method was tenfold. I began to find more joy in my work. More purpose. More drive.
I challenge you to make these simple tweaks in your process for your very next client. And let me know how it turns out for you. Come back here and leave a comment with your results or questions.