How to Business When You're Not Business-Minded - Part 1 | Emily McGonigle Photography

Now I'm going to start this off with saying that I've never been to school for business or marketing, I don't have a degree or any special business accolades... But what I *do* have are happy clients, a sustaining business, and a *general* sense of organization.

Owning a business can be stressful, and if you’re like me and you already deal with issues like anxiety, it can seem downright daunting on some days. But being a business owner is one of the most full-time of full time jobs, so you have to find a way to deal on those days.

I’ve written a 3 part mini blog series on how to deal with four major topics:

Customer Service
Mental Health
General Good Business Practices

In the paragraphs of all 3 parts you will find advice on how to deal with clients, how to make your business life feel a little more organized, productive, and healthy, suggestions for tools to make things easier, and pricing.

In today’s blog post we’re going to address the overall topic of how to deal with Clients.

Customer Service

Having good customer service is arguably the most important thing you could do for your business. This seems like common sense, but after being in photography forums and Facebook groups for years, I’ve seen a surprising amount of bad customer service stories, or stories where the photographer simply didn’t think to do something simple that would have made their client’s experience exponentially better.

Set Proper Expectations

Most of the issues that I read about can be boiled down to one simple concept: Set proper expectations.

This goes for *everything* you do with your clients. Make sure they know your full price list and what they’re getting into, before they book. This doesn’t mean you have to have it displayed on your website, or that you have to send it fully in an email or run over it via a phone call. Whatever your pre-booking method is, just make sure that before that retainer is paid, and that contract is signed, your clients fully know what to expect from your service, product offerings, and pricing.

There’s nothing in the world worse than sticker shock or that email from a client telling you they’ve changed their mind about their purchase, because they felt pressured to buy more than they could afford, due to not being aware of pricing.

Make sure your clients know what your contract says. Don’t leave it up to them to read on their own, they won’t. When was the last time you read the terms and conditions portion of any service, software, or product you’ve purchased? We’re all guilty of it. I don’t read them either, so why are we expecting our clients to read our long contracts before signing? I always go over the contract with my clients before asking them to sign. I verbally condense it into laymen’s terms, but if they have a question about something, we’ll go over the actual text and I make sure they understand and are comfortable with everything.

Always be upfront about your creative process, your shoot workflow, and your turn around times. This might sound insane, but before your client books, make sure they like YOUR work. In this digital age everyone and their mother has a digital camera and some app or piece of software that can add pretty filters to their photos. Because of this a lot of inexperienced clients will assume that since you’re a photographer, you can do (or want to do) anything and everything they ask, and will shoot and edit according to their specifications. 

Go over your website with your clients. Make them point out what they love about your work. Make sure they’re down with the way you shoot and edit, because if they’re not, everyone is about to find themselves having a bad time.


Overpromise, Underdeliver

Listen, I know you can edit a session in two weeks if you have to, but here’s the thing: Telling your clients that you’ll have their stuff back in exactly two weeks can result in problems for you.

When you start to get really busy and you have two sessions in one week, now you’re not having to edit one session in two weeks. Now you have to edit *two* sessions in two weeks. You’ve just effectively doubled your workload (and thusly your stress-level), by not overpromising and underdelivering. 

Tell your clients that your turn around time is four weeks instead of two weeks. This way, you can edit your first session right away, and when it takes you two weeks instead of four, your first client will be thrilled they got their photos back early. Then your second client will, at the very least, get their photos back within the quoted four week time. Or lets say it only takes you one and a half weeks to edit the second client’s photos, they’ll *still* be happy that they got their photos back a little earlier than expected. 

Don’t do yourself the disservice of quoting EXACTLY the amount of time you think it’ll take you (unless we’re talking about a rush/priority job… that’s different), and make sure that you’re allowing for time off, multiple clients, and unforeseen circumstances like computers crashing, software issues, etc.

Don’t just say no, give options

I had a conversation with a friend who was describing a situation where a client wanted him to edit their photos in a style that wasn’t consistent with my friend’s brand. He asked me for advice on how to handle this type of situation and I told him that rather than telling his client, “No I won’t do that”, he should should tell his client what he *could* do for him. 

I actually put this into practice when clients ask for certain services or products that I don’t offer. I’ve been asked serval times if I do mini shoots from clients who are looking for just a few portraits to walk away with. I don’t do mini shoots, but my response to this question isn’t, “No, sorry.” I always answer with, “I don’t have a mini shoot option, but all of my products and images are sold a-la-carte, so you can essentially create your own package to fit your needs and budget”. Then I also let them know that if I’m not a good fit for them at this time, I’d be happy to refer them to some of my colleagues. I give them options.

The same thing occurs often when a client wants to shoot at a specific location that charges for photoshoots. I let them know what the fee will be to shoot there, and then also let them know that there are some similar options that may fit their budget better. Instead of a “No, they charge too much”, I give them their options and let them pick what they’d prefer.

Next Time On the Blog…

Those are just some customer service tips that I use frequently that work well for me, and have worked well for my colleagues. If you have any questions or other tips that you think might be helpful to your fellow photographers, I’d love to hear them! Leave a comment below, or feel free to shoot me an email!

The next blog post in this series will deal with the overall topic of Organization. Stay tuned until next time, to see tips on making your business feel a little more fluid. 

Thanks for reading!


Emily McGonigle Photography is a Franklin Senior Portrait Photographer, and can be contacted for booking inquiries here.