Managing Client Expectations

One of the biggest struggles a small business owner can have is when a client expectation isn’t met and they are upset. It’s the one thing that you hope doesn’t happen and dread when it does. A lot of times, these issues arise because of a lack of communication and the best way to avoid situations like this is to manage their expecations from the very beginning. Here are the areas you should communicate clearly to your client to create a smooth, issue free experience for your clients!

Initial Contact

When a client first contacts you about being interested in a shoot, make sure they have all of the information they need to make the decision to book. That means making sure they’ve seen your current work and they know what sort of style to expect. Tell them about the experience of how the session will go. How long will it last? Where does it take place? Do they get outfit changes? And lastly pricing! Give them a pricing guide that has the packages/products you offer and what is included in them. Do they get digitals in each package? How many pages are included in the book? These are things they should know up front before booking.

Booking: Contracts* & Retainer

Once they decide they are ready to book, walk them through the steps. Point out anything that is important in the contract (such as payment schedule and when to expect their products). One of the big issues photographers run into is getting behind on images and not fulfilling their turn around time on images. If you tell a client 2-3 weeks, but maybe longer in busy season all they are hearing is “2-3 weeks”. So make sure you under promise, so you can over deliver and give yourself extra buffer time if needed.

*Side note: If you aren’t doing contracts, even if it’s a simple one for portraits please, please, please do it. Not only does it protect you AND your clients, it’s a major tool for spelling out client expectations.

Preconsultation & Helping Your Client

We’re not suggesting you meet with every single client before a shoot. For some photographers, there really isn’t enough time in the day! However, being there for your client as they prepare for their shoot is huge in helping them have a great experience. Try sending out a “Preparing for Your Shoot” pdf guide as part of your workflow a couple weeks before their session date? Or you can send a questionnaire to help get to know your clients and what’s important to them. What are the kids interested in? Are they shy? Does your couple love to go to a certain spot on their dates? These are all ways that you can build a customized shoot for them and will provide you with tools to be successful. (These are tasks that you’re able to do in your Iris Works studio management software!)

Product Delivery

Although we touched on this earlier, be sure to give a reminder of when they can expect their images. When it comes to print, albums, canvases, etc. have your clients give final approval of the design of their product. That means confirming no additional edits to the photo need made, have them double check spelling of names on albums, confirm color/size/page number. Spell everything out for the in emails and on their invoices, this way there will be no surprises when they receive their final product.

In the end, you have to put yourself in your clients’ shoes. Walk through your whole process and make notes of areas where you could be more clear to avoid problems down the road. What happens when you still find yourself with a miscommunication and an unhappy client? Tune in later this week where we cover Part 2: How to Deal with an Unhappy Client.

Have you had a situation where expectations didn’t line up? How do you handle managing expectations? Let us know in the comments below!

Read more on this topic with our blog post on Showing Clients Your Value.


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