"Know your worth."
"Value yourself and your work."
We creatives strive ourselves on mottoes like these. They say to attract your ideal clients; you must showcase who you want to draw.
But sometimes it's not enough, let's be honest, we have bills. January has been excruciating slow for me. I had over ten inquiries for 2019, and none of them have gone forward to finalizing the details. When this happens, you ask yourself, "Is it me?", "Is it my pricing?", "Am I offering enough?".
Recently I had a hard dose of reality, be prepared this is going to be a long post.
In December I met with a couple (Couple A) who wanted a date in April, everything went well, and I was 100% they would go with me as their wedding photographer. Weeks went by when I heard nothing from them; couple follow up emails later, I've decided to accept the loss.
A month later I met with another couple (Couple B) who was interested in the same date as the previous couple. Usually, when this happens, I would give a heads up to any of clients that there's another party who are interested in the same date. Again, because Couple A disappeared, I didn't mention them. Couple B was a little tricky, to begin with, they had a budget that wasn't near my starting price. But I figured if I quoted them the hourly rate I would be able to accommodate their needs.
I met with them and to be honest I had a very awkward vibe despite them being very sweet. Couple B asked for RAW files, which is a huge no-no, also to replace a complimentary engagement session for an extra hour or discount (their already discounted) price, and to change my editing style.
On paper, they were the epitome of what we call "not an ideal client." But they were students, and I genuinely did enjoy them, so I thought why not? I even threw in an extra 30 mins for them. Overall I was ready to send over the official proposal. Unfortunately, this meeting was in the evening, and I still had two meetings and a conference call after them. So I decided to wait until the next morning to send over the official paperwork. This is where it get's ugly, literally while I was writing their contract, I get a notification in my email that I received a retainer. Confused, I checked and Lord and behold, it's Couple A.
Because I'm in a business of a first come, first serve basis, I had to let Couple B that I wasn't available for their wedding day. I sent the following message,
Thanks for meeting with me yesterday I truly did enjoy getting to know you and your fiancé. I have some unfortunate news, as I was drawing up your proposal a couple that I met a month ago just paid their retainer for _____. I thought they were going to go with someone else until this morning. Because this is a first come, first serve basis, I won't be able to attend your wedding. I can put a word out and send you some referrals to photographers who could fit your needs. I'm so sorry for the inconvenience!"
She responded that she would've paid and signed the contract during our meeting, but neither of us caught the memo.
10 mins later I get an upset message from her fiancé. Let's just say he was very upset by the news and expressed it accordingly.
So, what did I learn?
Couple A took a month to book without any updates. Because of this, I am now going to implement a time frame for potential clients to make a decision. We try not to be "pushy" when it comes to selling a product or a service but time is money and time is something we can't get back.
I know, I know. We hear this on every business podcast, every motivational quote. But it's there for a REASON. I could've written to Couple A that I'm going to return their payment because of Couple B., But let's look at the facts:
Couple A: Willing to pay full price, loves my editing style, didn't try to discount pricing, or ask for RAW files. They saw my worth and see that I add value to their special day.
Couple B: Asked for a discounted price from the get-go, asked to change my editing style, didn't see my value only a price tag.
An ideal client for me would be sharing the same beliefs that marriage is more important than flowers and glamour. Cherish family values, enjoys corny jokes, and view my work not only as photos for the gram' but as art. I want their kids to see their mother like a princess in her gorgeous gown, that their dad was the prince who swept her away and lived happily ever after. To share beautiful imagery for many generations to come.
Please note that I'm not trying to say Couple B were terrible people cause they weren't. They were a lovely couple both majoring in music. We laughed, and I think we would've worked great together despite the red flags. But on paper, they weren't my ideal clients.
If I'm going, to be honest, I was quite upset with Couple A for taking so long to respond back. But besides their lack of timing, everything about them defines my dream clients.
When I received the first email from Couple B, I should've just said no from the beginning. This lesson kind of ties in with lesson two, when you give discounts, you're undervaluing yourself as a business. When you own a business, you're going to have the highest of highs and lowest of lows. You're going to feel lost and confused, one second you're booking x amount of weddings, the next, you're not booking anything. Slow season is a real thing, but it's only tempory. I once asked a very famous wedding photographer on a Facebook Live workshop, "What do you think about discounts?" Her response and I shit you not, "Discounts? Never. It's like the plague."
It's to not only educate fellow industry peers but also to clients. Us small business owners will go above and beyond to make sure our customers are not only satisfied with the service/product but to give exceptional client experiences. We strive to provide 1000000% customer satisfaction; your happiness is way more valuable than a piece of paper with our past presidents. WE GENUINELY CARE ABOUT YOU, and we mean it with every piece of our soul. I want to build a relationship with you, and I want to be able to call you and ask, "Hey! How's that married life treating you?" Relationships > Customers.
But we are human too. We make mistakes, and with those mistakes, we learn from them. And trust me, we will remember Every. Single. Mistake. So it won't happen again. And if they're anything like me well then, they're probably losing sleep cause of it.