The Boutique Photographer: Paperwork
By Sara Frances, M.Photog.Cr.
Once you’ve acquired the skills and artistic voice to launch a boutique photography business, it should be easy to price jobs and write detailed, binding contracts for a limited number of clients. I’d like to be able to report that high-rolling clients are always agreeable, easy to please and flexible, but my experience proves that a gentlewoman’s oral agreement is no more valuable than the paper it’s written on.
A raft of specific paperwork should accompany big-money events and portrait commissions. No client likes surprises, so prepare for situations that are otherwise guaranteed to cause aggravation, escalate costs and lower satisfaction, such as location weather conditions or inevitable change-order fees before, during and after the job. The photographer without safeguards could become the victim of his own job, scrambling to meet each new client demand and to maintain his trust.
For weddings, you have to find out who’s the boss, the one who makes the hiring decision, controls the event in progress, writes the checks for it all. Is it the mother of the bride, an event planner, the bridal couple together? With the potential for interacting with multiple players, be prepared to peel away layers of relationships to reveal the info and gain the cooperation you need.
Quoting a price before knowing the scope and pertinent details of the event is usually disastrous. The first must-have paperwork is the complete job information, beginning with the date, time, place and number of people. Save minute details like clothing options and the color of the tablecloths for later information gathering. At the point of sale, what you really need to know is the significant participants’ tastes and relationships to one another, the purpose of the photographs and how they’ll be displayed or made into gifts.
Doing business is all about the client. Get people to divulge their feelings and expectations so you’ll know how to meet their needs and become a trusted problem solver who fulfills their dreams. Think in ranges of cost; build your suggestion for the right package in logical steps and in terms of finished products and enhancement services. Avoid shocking the client by quoting a high price up front if you haven’t established your value in the mind of the client (as through your reputation and personal referrals).
Before your wedding clients sign here, make sure your contract is as trustworthy and valuable as they hope their marriage will be. Image ©Sara Frances Photography