As a wedding photographer, I shoot a lot of luxury weddings and work with incredibly talented planners and designers. They tend to have a ton going on detail wise. While this can be amazing, it can also take a lot of time to get all of the shots needed to cover all of the details. A few weeks ago, I decided to try a new system, and it worked!
I have always prepped my shot list with a little “Details of Note” section. Here I listed anything special that me and my team need to know about, whether it is decor or little details throughout. This means the list is not just the basics like “the wedding cake table”. But more like, “whiskey station”. Things that are unique to that particular wedding.
However, this last year I have had a few occasions when my team members have missed something important. And these are incredibly talented, experienced, and capable people. So I know I needed to make a change!
Frankly, some weddings have A LOT of DETAILS and sometimes it’s hard to see the woods from the trees (or this case the trees from the woods). When I recently shot a wedding with a lot of special touches, and many details from the creative bride, I knew I needed a way to fix it. I didn’t want us to miss anything she was poured her heart and soul into! These details are important to me, too my clients and to my wonderful vendor friends and colleagues.
How did I solve it? By creating a complete detail checklist. In fact, this wedding had 2 full pages of detail shots!
First, I review the planning documents that were sent over from the planner. I pulled together areas from the layouts, the rental lists, and the questionnaire.
Next, I put that all in a GoogleDoc, and reached out to the planner to review. She was able to take a look, and make sure all items were covered.
By taking the time prior to the wedding to see the layout and rentals, and confirming with the wedding planner, I am ensuring I get each and every shot. To provide the best service for my clients, I need to make sure I don’t miss a single detail. And while this isn’t something you have to do at each and every wedding, it is important to do for the detail-heavy weddings you shoot.
Everyone’s business should always be a work in progress. It’s important to always evaluate and look at ways you can tweak your systems. For more information on the coaching services I offer, visit here!
Although I have over 10 years of experience photographing weddings and have managed to see and work through every possible scenario, I still get pre-wedding anxiety. My heart races and I become a bear on the morning of a wedding! A wedding is a huge event, and no matter how many you do, there will be some stress involved. These are my top three tips to manage pre-wedding anxiety!
Pack the night before so that you’re not scrambling the day of, and forgetting something. It’s important to not wait until that morning – do it the night before! This will prevent you from forgetting something very important.
Create checklists lots of checklists! I have one for my everything I need to bring to a wedding, which includes my gear, client products such as a bridal portrait or guest book I need to bring, snacks, an extra change of clothes, styling kits, my lighting gear, EVERYTHING!
I have a checklist that I prepare seven weeks prior to the wedding day. This is my photographic timeline and shortlists that I have at every event. This includes groupings, as well as the little things that I need to remember on the wedding day – such as take a break and snack!
Arrive early. And I mean really early, like an hour early. Running late causes me so much stress! So being there early to take my time to unpack and get my head straight and look around and start slow helps reduce stress. That extra hour gives me time to really focus, get my gear ready, and go over the timeline again. It allows me to decompress before the chaos of the wedding day.
I am grateful for this stress – it’s what pushes me to do better! And it means I care and want to do the best job I can. And what I have learned over the years, the people who are at the top of their game also have this stress that pushes them to do the best they can.
I don’t want to get to the point where it’s debilitating stress. But some stress is good. It helps us to react to the pressure and perform do our best. By having some strategies in place prior to the wedding day, you will ensure that you are not overwhelmed on the day of, and can do your best work.
Sometimes life happens, and you get behind on editing. That might mean late image deliveries! I have helped photographers in this same situation, so here are some strategies! I recently was helping a client who was SIX months late delivering images. This person had gotten themself in a situation and needed to get out of it. So I was there to help him manage this crisis and wanted to share some of the tips that I shared to help him.
Set yourself up for success and add a few weeks to your promised delivery time. If you are promising photos in six weeks make that date close to 8-10 weeks. My delivery is for 12-15 weeks. This has allowed me wiggle room over the years for life’s unexpected moments and when the season gets super busy.
This year I managed to have a baby and still deliver photos within the promised timeframe because of that wiggle room. Your personal deadline should be BEFORE this buffer deadline your clients are expecting.
First, contact your client NOW with an update. Like RIGHT THIS SECOND. If you have been burying your head in the sand and avoiding contact because you are embarrassed of your tardiness – this is the time to head the problem right here right now. A personal phone call is best when it comes to late image deliveries. But, if you just can’t bring yourself to this, an email with do.
1. Say hello and put their fears at ease – when you are late delivering, clients fear that you may be lost the photos or they didn’t turn out good. Their brains can go wild with fears. Put these to rest by reassuring them the photos are safe and look beautiful.
2. Acknowledge the problem.
4. Set expectations – set a date when they will be done (and then you better deliver 2 days before that!)
5. Offer a thank you remedy for their patience. This could be prints, more album spreads, etc. This doesn’t have to be defined right now. You can even just say you are going to make sure they are taken care of.
6. Listen if they are upset, and let them know you hear them and apologize again. Listen, apologize, state how you plan to fix it …. repeat.
7. Repeat that you will be in touch on x date
Then my friend – GET TO WORK. You have got to get this done. And you have to have it done BEFORE the deadline you set.
Once they are done and delivered – you need to surprise them a special something. Send some unexpected prints to their doorstep or offer to send prints to the parents. One or two portraits and the family photo usually does the job. Something that can be in their hands super quick.
From here on out… you respond to every email within the same day – immediately if possible. And you go above and beyond in your customer service experience. If they ordered an album – get the design done ASAP. Or offer print credit or discount code. You are on damage control but it’s possible to bring this situation back around and having your clients love you and their experience.
I was talking to a friend today, and was shocked at the pricing that my talented friend was starting at. While they are in a building phase of their business, their work and experience are worth a much higher price point.
What they were missing was better marketing. I did the same thing when I started out! I knew I was working toward the higher price point, but knew that I was new, and wasn’t quite there yet. These are some of the lessons and tips I have learned as a wedding photographer when it comes to pricing strategy.
Instead, put your pricing where you want them to be at eventually in a year or so and offer discounts and incentives until you are at the point in your business where you can raise. It’s so much easier to establish your value early on vs creeping up slowly.
It is important to raise your prices steadily, and strategically. Don’t be a $1500 photographer now and put a $10k investment guide out there! Increasing your rates by 75% at a time is not a good idea. That jump is crazy and sends out red flags. My suggestion is to increase your rates by 25%-30% at a time. I personally like increments of $250, as my pricing strategy.
For example, let’s say you start at $2500. Put that $2500 package up to $3000 or $3500. Then when you email out that pricing guide, offer $500-$1000 off.
I know I just said that above but this is more detailed. Try to offer a free portrait session or additional hours valued at that price point you were going to discount. This way you are at least getting a certain higher minimum and upping your average sale.
For example, offer those discounts or add-ons for weddings less than six months out and for low season dates. Give your full pricing a chance on those higher demand dates for a little while. If you still get no bites, you can always offer the discount again because you know that date is popular and you are going to get more leads for it. It is important to be strategic with the timing of your offers. Always keep your cash flow in mind, and what you can do to improve it. This will help with your overall pricing strategy.
You should always line item every freebie add-on and every discount in your quote. This way they see and understand what they got extra. Even if it’s just something you say in passing or you stayed for an extra hour. Send an invoice for zero dollars if you have to.
Clients need to know when they are getting a deal. I hear so many complaints from business owners saying they did ALL this extra stuff and clients don’t realize or appreciate it. You gotta toot your own horn! When you go above and beyond that is something of VALUE (not just your customer service standpoint) you need to let your clients know.
Using these tips will allow you to not just start your pricing out correctly, but increase it over time.
Let’s face it… a big challenge in the wedding business is that there is a wedding season. It can be feast or famine depending on how compact your season is. Some seasons you may be booked every weekend, while others you might go weeks without a wedding or event. This can cause stress on you business finances, and your cash flow.
One of the ways you can help manage your cash flow a bit better, and make these mountains and valleys seem like gentle rolling hills? Break your payments up more.
Most photographers require two payments – a retainer (either a set amount or 50% of the package) and a final payment before the shoot day. But what if you could just add even just one more payment in between to break this up a bit more. Wouldn’t that help your cash flow quite a bit?
I recommend for weddings more than 9 months out, you take 3 or 4 payments. I personally love 4 payments. But I realize sometimes that is a lot of check writing for a client so I always give them the option. This way you get a few checks in the off-season months. This can also give your client more time to save the money needed to pay, and help ease their wedding budget.
In addition – It’s actually better for both you and your client. Why? It reduces the risk to both of you in case of a cancelation. Have you ever had a client cancel their wedding right before that second payment was due…hurts right? Well, it won’t be so bad if you are only collecting the last 25%. By having more payments, you are able to feel less of the burden if they do cancel.
You can also spread out the payments as needed. This is a great way to have payments due during your slow season, so you are still collecting money when you are not photographing. You could have one payment due at the time of booking, another due in January or February (when you are slow!) And the last due 3 weeks prior to the wedding.
I personally do 4 payments. 25% retainer, 25% due six months out, 25% due 3 months out and last payment is due 30 days out. Each payment is considered non-refundable. This allows the client to pay off their larger expenses in smaller increments and protects me from a canceled wedding.
Do you know your hourly rate?
No…not the hourly rate to your client…your real hourly rate. The amount of money made divided by the real amount of hours worked. Those hours late at night, those hours on weekends, the hours you spent working on your business. That rate. That number is hugely powerful to know for two big reasons.
First, knowing your hourly rate can help you determine what to charge for a product or service. The easiest example is an hour shooting. The time involved includes the hours prepping plus the hours editing etc. It is more than just showing up for the shoot – it is all of the hours before and after!
Another example are albums. Creating albums for clients is not just about the price of the book itself, but all of the design time, time to make changes, and time to prep the order, as well as managing it.
Perhaps the most important reason to know your hourly rate is that it can help you make important business decisions. And the biggest decision is helping you decide what tasks are worth your time, and what you should outsource.
For example, let’s just say conservatively you want to make $60k a year. And let’s say you are giving yourself 2 weeks vacation and working 40 hours a week. That is $30 an hour. Then, if you can outsource a task for much less than that, you might want to think about it. Or if you can hire an assistant for $15/hr.
$60,000/yr ÷ 50 weeks/yr ÷ 40 hours/week = $30/hour
The other day I needed some simple graphic design work to be done. It would probably take me an hour to figure out and do myself. But I could go onto a site like Fiverr and get it done for $5 then. That makes it totally worth it!
The big outsourcing tasks for me is outsourcing the bulk of the editing for wedding photos. It’s a task that takes me way too long, and I am not the best at large batch editing. I am better at putting final touches on a photo. So that is where I choose to spend my time. By hiring someone to do a bulk of the editing, I am able to save hours of time, and use that in other places of my business. It is important to start looking at what you love to do, and what is taking you too much time.
And keep in mind, this doesn’t just have to be items in your business! I have hired someone to help with household items, like laundry. It is not worth my time to fold laundry for hours every week! So I have outsourced that task, so I can spend more time working or enjoying family time.
As a bottom line, if you want to make $100K a year, then your hourly rate needs to be at least $50 per hour. This will allow you to have room to cover expenses and outside costs that might be associated with each wedding (gifts, editing, hiring a virtual assistant, etc.)
By taking the time to look at your numbers, and figure out the correct hourly rate, you are able to set up your business for success – and profit! It will also let you set goals for your business, and give you a clear understanding of how many weddings you need to book every year, and at what price.
Want to know what is my most recommended and valuable software you need in your business? CRM’s! (Client Resource Management) Believe me, a few of my friends have set these up kicking and screaming…complaining the whole way. But boy, has it made a HUGE difference. Trust me on this.
If you haven’t heard of a CRM, its the one spot where you bring your clients from the very beginning of their initial contact with you all the way to the very end and last product deliverable. It’s incredibly powerful and useful.
How do you know if you need one? I recommend if you have more than 10 weddings a year or 20 portrait clients, then the pay off is undoubtedly there. And these days you can get a CRM for less than $20 a month.
1. A good CRM will help you keep track of your new potential clients and enables you to walk through the steps for following up and then booking those clients online and getting your retainers paid.
2. Automatic invoicing – This was the game-changer for me. Do you often ask yourself, “I don’t know when Ben and Sally owe their third payment?” You can set these systems up to automatically send out invoice reminders to your clients and keep bugging them until its paid (we all need gentle nudges in our busy lives). 1 and 2 alone were enough for me to adopt a CRM early on in my business.
3. Questionnaires – Most industry-focused CRMs let you set up questionnaires for your client. And guess what! You can set it up to send them out automatically or remind you to send them out at a certain point before their wedding. Way to keep on top of that!
4. Keep all your email correspondence with each wedding. Not every CRM has email integrations, but some do. So you can easily have ONE place to find every email back and forth with that client.
5. Workflow checklists – How this function is different for each CRM. So it’s worth researching finding which one suits you. And this was a big reason I chose one CRM over another. But for the most part – you can set each step by step process you go through in your workflow and have a way to check off tasks and see where you are in the processes.
6. And finally – the BIGGIE! Financials and Cashflow. Remember how the CRMs keeps track of invoices and payments. Well….that turns out to be VERY valuable data. Your CRM can tell you how much money you can expect to come in each month for the next 12 months. So hey…January is looking a bit dry…maybe I need to watch my spending or try to bring in some more revenue that month, perhaps photograph that corporate white party 🙂
There are lots of CRMs out there – they exist along lots of different industries (not just photography!). Here is a list of my top 3!
Tave’ – This is what I use and love! It’s very robust. Susan Stripling uses Tave’.
17 Hats – This is what several of my colleagues use, and I have recommended it to them. It’s a little easier on the eyes and intuitive.
Dubsado – Also used by a few acquaintances who seem to love it as well.