back to the basics of customer service
This article was in my New York Institute of photography alumni News letter. Of course it is written specifically for photography, but the lessons actually apply to any self employed person
Stop Acting this Way Around Clients
By Michelle Ecker on August 11th, 2018
If you’re an aspiring photographer, there are several genres worth exploring as you determine the professional niche you’d most like to join. From landscapes and travel to portraiture and photojournalism, there are plenty of fields where you might find yourself working one day.
Some artists are particularly drawn to fields such as nature photography specifically because of the solitary nature of the work. If you happen to choose something like weddings or portraiture however, you are going to be spending a great deal of time working directly with clients. Considering this, interpersonal skills are going to be a crucial element of your success (or lack thereof) in the business. That being said, we thought it might be helpful to share a simple list of “what not to do’s” when it comes to your behavior around clients:
While photographers are often self-employed and therefore used to working on their own schedules rather than clocking in at a desk job, when it comes to working with clients, you need to see these people as your temporary “bosses” in terms of accountability with your schedule.
If you book a family photo shoot on Saturday at 10 am for example, you need to be setup and ready to start working when this family arrives at your studio on Saturday at 10 am, no exceptions. If the group shows up and is made to wait while you’re driving over from home or in the back room getting setup, it’s impolite and reflects poorly on you as a professional. Although one of the great perks of photography careers is the fact that you are your own boss, don’t use that as an excuse to get sloppy with your everyday professionalism.
When it comes to family photo shoots, specifically those involving children, time commitment can be a tricky thing to navigate. We’re most specifically talking about the length of the session here. Any seasoned family photographer will tell you how stressful and complicated it can be to complete an hour long shoot when a toddler throws an inconsolable tantrum 30 minutes in.
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Be sure to have a very candid conversation with your clients about what they would like to do if this situation arises. Some families are absolutely relieved when a photographer is willing to end a session early. Just like you have made a time commitment to them, they often feel like they’ve similarly made one to you. They might feel bad or embarrassed asking to cut the session short, knowing you’ve set aside time in your schedule for them. So just make sure to be clear about expectations. What you should not do is sit there without having spoken on a game plan for this situation, billing for your full hour while the parents try to calm a screaming child as the clock runs out on their session.