How To: The Client Work Flow
Images and words by Babb Photo
It's not a sexy subject but the way you administer your business and the processes you have in place have a significant impact on your clients' experience of working with you.
What happens when and does the client KNOW what to expect? How do your processes support sales? Are your clients' expectations managed through out the process?
My workflow works pretty smoothly for me and my couples, so I thought I'd share my processes with you today. I use Light Blue to manage my client admin work and I have a workflow for each type of shoot set up. Light Blue collates pending actions as a to-do list, which is really useful.
I also use Trello to manage wider business tasks and within Trello I have three lists - one for tasks that need to be completed urgently, one for tasks that have a longer due date and one for wish list (i.e more strategic) items. I spend a bit of time every couple of days prioritising Trello tasks and I go through my Light Blue workflow weekly.
Here's my workflow from the start of the process.
Auto response sent to client thanking them for their email, explaining my I'll reply within 48 hours and directing them to check out
- my most recent blog post
- my planning section
I know an out of office can feel pretty impersonal but I try to use friendly, upbeat language that's reflective of me and my brand. I often can't reply for several days if I'm away from the office shooting so this reply manages expectations, points the couple at more of my work (which increases their engagement with it) and also directs them to my planning information which positions me as an 'expert' and also adds value for them, as it contains a whole load of free advice.
When I reply to the enquiry I check out the details they've provided, so I can respond enthusiastically. My contact form collects quite a lot of information about the day, so I can reply and tell them what I love about their plans so far. I also send a link to my online brochure and suggest we arrange a Skype chat to talk about their plans.
I host my brochure via Postwire. It's more of a collection of items really and it includes:
- A pdf which talks about me, my couples and the service I provide
- A pdf that explains pricing
- A pdf about albums
- Several highlights slideshows from previous weddings
- Links to key posts on my blog like my 'best of 2015' post, this post about my 'why' and testimonials from previous couples
Note: the enquiry stage is a crucial opportunity to further increase your potential client's engagement with you and your brand. It's also a chance to filter clients that are looking for something outside of what you provide. By the time I chat to potential clients they usually have a really good idea of what I do and how I work, so our pre booking consultation feels more like a chance to get to know each other a little better.
It's also worth noting that a lot of people strongly recommend getting the couple on the phone as soon as you can. I agree with this in theory but I HATE speaking on the phone, so my way works for me.
During the consultation we discuss:
- them and their plans
- what they want from their wedding photography
- their timeline
- my approach, including the amount of time I'll need for portraits and family group shots and the best time to schedule these
- key terms from my contract, including copyright and image use for promotion (i.e on my blog etc)
- any questions they might have
- any other specific issues / circumstances that apply, for example if they're having a church wedding or a winter wedding
Note: I ALWAYS chat to a couple before they book. I want my couples to be absolutely certain that I'm the right photographer for them and I also want to manage their expectations from the start of the process in terms of what I need to do the job.
To confirm the booking I send an email confirming all of the details we've agreed, along with an invoice for my booking fee. I also send their contract via Adobe Sign.
Note: it's worth noting that Light Blue also offers digital contracts now and I'll be switching over theirs in the near future, if the functionality works for what I want. I haven't had a chance to check them out yet but I've heard good things.
Once I have their signed contract and booking fee I send out an email confirming their booking. The email includes:
- the time line from this point
- a reminder about my office hours
- a reminder that they can chat to me at any time if they need any advice / support with their planning process
- a list of my favourite suppliers
- information about booking an engagement shoot and why I think they're great
When they're all booked in I send out a little pack with some branded badges, a branded hand written thank you note, some business cards and a little book of some of my favourite Instagram pictures.
Note: this is more brand reinforcement and the Instagram book in particular reinforces that I'm a creative photographer / artist.
The Planning Process
Three months before the wedding date I email to start the planning process. At this stage I send over my planning form and their final invoice.
Their final invoice is due two months before the wedding and as soon as they send back the planning form we schedule a Skype chat to go over the details of the day, or I combine a face to face meeting with their engagement shoot if they're having one.
Note: combining the engagement shoot with their planning meeting helps me to maximise and manage my time and also cuts down the couple's wedding admin.
In the meeting I focus on:
- Timings, any pressure points I've identified and how we might manage these
- Group shots - I brief them to arrange for a helper to round up everyone in their group shots directly after the ceremony
- My travel logistics including parking
- A wet weather plan
- Any questions they might have
Note: I work really hard on the planning side of things because I find it pretty stressful on the day if I don't know what's happening. Having a really comprehensive plan in place lets me focus on taking pictures.
The Week of the Wedding
I drop the couple an email right at the start of the week of the wedding, just to check in and see if there have been any changes.
Note: I used to get couples emailing me to check 'is everything still ok for Saturday' so I added this simple step to my workflow to pre-empt this and provide a better service.
The Week After the Wedding
After backing up my images (we'll be sharing a post about back up processes very soon) I edit a selection of previews the week after the wedding and I send this to the couple via a hidden page on my website. Here's an example. When I send the email with the previews I include:
- my heartfelt congratulations and a little bit about how much I loved working with them
- a reminder about when they can expect their images to be ready
- a link to my blog info form if I think I'll blog the wedding
Note: reminding them about image turn around time helps to manage their expectations and avoids those 'when will my images be ready' emails.
I offer £25 worth of prints as a thank you to anyone who fills out my blog form. Getting the couple to complete the form is great for the write up, as it means you don't have to come up with the copy yourself.
Around 4 - 6 weeks after the wedding I cull it using Photomechanic and send it to my editing lab for colour correction and basic adjustments. I use ShootDotEdit for my base edits and then I carry out my creative edit when I have the files back. Before uploading images to my client's gallery I run them through JpegMini, to make sure the files are a manageable size for both my clients and for me.
Clients that work with me (as oppose to my associates, whose collections are slightly different) receive a highlights slideshow for their first viewing of images. It's set to music and I instruct them to watch it together, free from distractions, with a bottle of something sparkling (or a cup of tea). I add the highlight slideshow to the same page as their preview images.
I use Fotomagico for slideshows and The Music Bed for slideshow music.
My couple then receive their full set of images around a week later. I run a month long 50% off print sale for the first month their gallery is live. At the end of the month I email everyone who's logged into the gallery to let them know the print sale is ending.
My turn around time in the middle of the summer is up to 8 weeks.
I send a follow up email 2 - 4 weeks after I've sent over the full gallery, thanking them again, asking for any feedback and asking them to leave me a Google review.
I blog the wedding with a short intro from me, followed by the couple's write up. I send a link to the couple and ask them to share it on social media and I also tag all of the couple's suppliers in my posts, to facilitate sharing and engagement.
Thank You Gift
Around six weeks after the wedding I send out a surprise gift - a two page duo portfolio with two of my favourite images from the wedding.
That's my wedding photography client workflow in a nutshell. How does it compare to yours? Do you do anything differently? If you have any comments or questions let me know in the comments