I stare at the mailbox, willing it to open. In my mind’s eye, I can hear the postman’s footsteps on the path outside (You can hear things in your mind’s eye, right? Or should it be mind’s ear?), the brief moment of silence and then the squeak of the hinge on the flap and the swoosh of the envelopes brushing against the door as they cascade down onto the doormat. Amongst them is not a single brown envelope containing a bill or invoice.
Instead they are all crisp and white and I know, I know, that each and every single one contains a signed and completed wedding photography contract. And as the postman’s footsteps retrace their way back down the path, I can relax, safe in the knowledge that I do have some confirmed bookings for this year, and I won’t have to resort to robbing banks. Again.
That was the old me. The old me that wasn’t particularly efficient, and was at the mercy of the postal service when it came to having my contracts returned to me and bookings confirmed.
Wedding photography contracts are important. You need to have one in place for each and every wedding that you shoot. Not only does it go some way to protect you in the event of some catastrophic act of God, but it also sets out for the client what they can expect from you. I always try to exceed my clients’ expectations, so knowing where the benchmark lies is very useful! For instance, my contract states a six week turnaround time, but I know that 9 times out of 10, the couple will receive their edited images before they are even back from their honeymoon. They are over the moon, and they’re sure to share that happiness with their friends – my next potential clients.
[REWIND: Photography Contract Template]
I always make it clear to clients that the booking is never confirmed until I’ve received a signed contract, hence the agonizing over the postbox as mentioned above. These days however I usually have the agreement signed, returned and filed within twenty four hours of the booking, and I’ve saved on paper, ink and postage costs. Here’s how to go from agony to bliss in five simple tips.
Five Tips to Speed Up Your Wedding Photography Booking Process:
1. Be Prepared
As with everything in life and business, it pays dividends to be ready to move at a moment’s notice when it comes to getting your contract out to your client in the first place. The easiest way to get ahead of the game is to make sure that you have all the details necessary to issue the contract the second that you receive the booking. At the initial inquiry stage, make sure you collect all the personal details you’re going to need: first and last names, telephone numbers, address(es) and the wedding or shoot date. At the very least, you’ll be able to use these details to follow up the lead, and
if when they book, you can have the contract out to them quicker than they can say to all their friends (my potential clients) “My photographer is the best!”
2. Create a Sense of Urgency
Make sure your potential client knows that the date is not set and the booking is not confirmed until you receive the paperwork. Often times, brides seem to always pick the same days, resulting in multiple inquiries for a particular Saturday in June. Make your potential brides aware of this and they know that they could lose you (her dream photographer) to someone else.
3. Go Digital
Forget the postal service. Sure, it’s nice to receive hand written letters, and you’ll want to use them perhaps to send your information pack and welcome gift, but when it comes to getting your contract signed quickly the Internet is the place to be. There are various services available out there, but I use Echo Sign from Adobe. It’s completely free as long as you send less than five agreements within a 30 day window; and if you require more than that then you can probably afford the $14.95 a month for a basic account! Simply upload the file in PDF or Word format, indicate where you would like it signed, and then input the client’s email address(es) to send it straight to them. You’ll be notified as soon as they sign.
This has really helped my business become more efficient (and no, EchoSign didn’t pay me to say that!)
Whenever I send out the digital contract, I also send a SMS message from my studio management system – just a short note to let them know how pleased I am that they’ve decided to book me, and that as soon as they’ve checked their email (and paid the retainer), then the booking will be confirmed.
5. Follow It Up
9 times out of 10, the first four points above are more than enough to ensure that I know where my next job is coming from. But, it’s worth making a note on your calendar to follow things up in a few days – 2-3 days is my general rule of thumb. If they haven’t signed by that point, then you can give them a gentle nudge. If they have, it’s a great reminder to yourself to send them your welcome pack, welcome gift, or just a note to say thank you!
These five tips have streamlined my booking process. They work, and they only require small changes to your current system. Your clients will love your amazing customer service, the ease with which everything is done, removing the hassle of having to mail back copies of a signed contract. And best of all, you won’t be in limbo without a confirmed booking. You’ll have the peace of mind of knowing that your bookings are secured and that you don’t have to wait around to receive the post.
Would these tips help to streamline your business in 2014? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below – particularly if you’ve got a similar system that works, or you’re thinking of making some of these changes yourself.
For tips on speeding up your post processing workflow, check out the Lightroom Workshop Collection over in the SLR Lounge Store. With speeding up both your booking process and your workflow process, what are you going to do with all of your newfound free time?