How to Get to Know Families Fast
So they booked. You roped 'em in. I know look at that face, right? She's like what? She's all why did we book this session mom? So they booked, now what? Okay so now what happens? We're still educating. If for the only reason that you educate is so that they're not sending you 500 emails, then let that be the only reason. Because my clients never email me, you guys, it's glorious. They book, I send them all this education, I tell them exactly when they can expect to hear from me again, and I don't hear from them again until then. It's perfect. And that's because I'm busy. I don't have time. I don't have time to be answering emails. You do not want to get sucked into the email game, okay? So once they book, the education continues. And I am going to send them to my welcome site. And when I say welcome site, all it is, is an unlinked page on my website where I lay down all the meat and potatoes of what is happening. Now, some people like to send out a PDF, like a welcome PDF, that would ...
work just fine. Whatever you wanna do. I prefer to just keep everything online, it's so much easier that way. I'm never having to grab it, just send a link. I actually have an email template for this. Where if they book, then I just send them that email template that's like thank you for booking, don't forget to put this on your calendar. Here's the link to my welcome site. So it's all very, it just kind of runs itself and it's because I've got these systems that I've kind of created for myself. So if you educate them well, like I was saying, this is gonna save you time. They're not gonna send you questions. You already answered them. You wanna think about what questions they're gonna have before they have them. They're happier because of that. You're happier because you're not getting pestered by your clients, okay? They know what to expect. So what is included in my welcome site? So I couldn't, my producer's like you can't send these little tiny, I didn't wanna give you guys little screenshots of it, 'cause it's so much information, but here's the general what's included in my welcome site. Starts with my why. Yes again, I know I keep talking about that you guys, but it's so important. You want these people to really really connect with you and appreciate this really intimate and deep style of photography. The next thing I tell them is what kind of communication that they can expect from me and when. It's so funny, because if you don't, so I do, what I tell them is that I will email them the Monday before their session and if I forget, you better believe I get an email on Tuesday. They are waitin' for that communication. But if you don't tell them that, you'll have them 10 days before the session or two weeks before the session emailing you, I was wondering about, you know, whatever it is they're wondering about. So I tell them what kind of communication they can expect from me. I talk about how to decide on their location for their session. Here's client education again. I have a blog post that I made that's out on the interwebs, it's really great for SEO, but that talks about all of the different kinds of locations that I shoot at. I'm not giving them a choice. I say we can go urban, we can go field, we can go mountain, we can go forest. So I give them the different types of locations that I offer so that they can make a choice that is gonna work for them. We don't actually confirm this until that date, that week of the session. It's not important. We don't really need to know, if you're going to be in control. We talk about the time of their session on my welcome site. I explain that we are starting at golden hour, it's important that they're there on time. If your client is late, it's probably because you didn't educate them on how important it was to get started. Okay, my clients are never late. I explain to them how long the session's gonna be. We talk very briefly about what to wear. I don't care what my clients wear. I don't know if you've noticed, like yeah some of my clients just bring it and they're like, super styley. Some of them are wearing like Patagonia jackets and jeans. We live in Seattle. I don't care what they wear, it doesn't matter. My hope is that you don't notice what people wear. When I take photographs, my hope is that you notice the feeling. So we talk about it a little bit, some clients are a little more fussy about it and worried. But that's on my welcome site. We talk about props. I explain to them that I don't use 'em. I say it right there on my welcome site. I say if you have something really special that you think you wanna bring, we'll talk about it. But I don't use props and I tell them why. Because I think it distracts from the connection that we're trying to capture with their family. It would be weird for someone to ask for a prop though, when they see my website and there's no props. So again that portfolio needs to really sell what you're selling. We talk about their children. So this is this is a question that I get a lot, where people say how do you deal with moms who are constantly scolding their children, who are constantly asking their children to look at the camera, how do you deal with unruly children? This is how I deal with it, right here, in client education. I tell the mom, I'm gonna worry about your kid's behavior, you don't have to. Your child is perfect just the way they are. We're gonna have a lot of fun. This is gonna be really laid back. I am never gonna ask your child to smile. I say that, never. If your child smiles at a session with me, it's because they were actually happy. Period. Done, you're done with that. They're never gonna ask you that again. That's a pretty powerful thing to say to them and they get it. They're like oh, okay. My clients are never doing that. They're never in their face like smile, smile, because if you see me at work too, I like really pensive pictures of children and so that's what you're gonna get. Okay? So it's a lot. The welcome site is meaty. I send them to this again, that week before the session. I send them to the welcome site again. Sometimes if they email a random question, I send them to the welcome site. I don't answer it in the email. I link them to the welcome site 'cause every question is answered here. Okay so how do we get to know these families fast? I'm telling you, we're gonna do this deep and amazing thing with these people that we don't know. It sounds like a pie in the sky, right? Okay so I'm gonna tell you how I do it. So I ask them, I have a session form like I said, and I ask them one really simple question. Now, of course I ask them the ages of their children and I ask them to tell me any behavioral traits that they think that I should know about that child. And it's amazing because they'll tell you, you know like, so-and-so doesn't like the camera, so-and-so is gonna be hard for you to photograph, they really will tell you. They want a successful session experience so they're gonna help you out. But the most powerful question, where I get these amazing answers and I'm not making this up. I'm bringing you an actual one. I keep showing this family because I love them so much. I see them once or twice a year. They're like my people. They keep coming back. So very first time she inquired, I said, the question is tell me about your family. And this was her response. And I'm gonna tell you, I wanna read you the response and then I want you to see what's happening here and be like okay, now I can see how we could make a, like a map of how that session was gonna go based on this response. So she says we moved to Washington six months ago from New Zealand. Jason is a kiwi, and both Tigerlily and Atticus were born at home overseas too. Interestingly enough, I'm a home-birther and I get tons of home births. You'll get the same kind of people, it's kind of amazing. Stella and Pierce are both natives to California and Everest born at home right here in Washington. Jason is Pierce's step-father. So now you're getting some dynamics. Okay, we have a step-child. She's a home-birther. We've got lots of babies in a short amount of time here. (clears throat) Okay. Where'd I go? We bought the house in Redmond only a little over a month ago. We had family and newborn photos taken when Everest was born. Though they were done in a studio, not my ideal shoot, and somehow we managed to neglect getting a picture of the six of us. With Pierce on the brink of returning to New Zealand for University, I'm keen to get a photo of all of us. Pierce is so excited, not, but willing. So this is Pierce, her teenage son, right. So he's about to go to college. He's a quiet person, but with some attention, his character really comes out. Play with it. Jason isn't used to having his picture taken, but does well given directions. This is her husband. He doesn't like traditional staged photos. Something more creative that reflects him being hands on and into his family. Tigerlily has a lazy eye, which shouldn't matter much in this shoot because I'm not lookin' for family photos of us looking at the camera. Atticus is busy. I mean busy, and his temperament is probably gonna be the most challenging for you. Everest is the sweetest, but in saying that, Murphy's law, fingers crossed. Stella, the mom, I hope to capture some fun today. It's not like me to book a photo shoot this quick. In general I would have had my hair done and all of those things but I don't think that I'm gonna have time for that fresh makeup, etc. We'll see. So she's kinda like candid. I can just tell her personality, right? She's kinda funny and like. But with so many kids who has time? It's sort of fun winging it. So she ended up, she booked, and I had an opening and we got her session on the books pretty fast which doesn't happen a lot with me. But just with what she said, okay. So what did she tell me? I know that we've got a step-father situation, so I'm probably not gonna get this teenage son up right against his dad. If it were biological, yes. I'm like all about the dad-hugs, okay. But I'm probably not gonna do that, now I know. If she hadn't told me that, I wouldn't of known, right? I know that she's got one that has a lazy eye, so we're gonna think about that. I actually captured it, I love it. I think it's awesome. It's a little beautiful thing about this child that I capture every year. But she's obviously self-conscious about it though, right, so she told me about it. She tells me that one of them is gonna be wild and crazy and that I'm gonna have the hardest time with him and about this sweet baby. She tells me about dad. So I have all of these things, but what I can tell is the tone of her family. You can tell, she's kind of laid back, she's kind of silly, she's like gonna go with the flow, I could feel it. I knew she and I were gonna get along great. And we have had drinks since. She is like, I love this woman, okay? And this is a client. So asking them to tell you about their family. It's a simple question. You have to really read into it. So now you can go into that session and think about okay I'm gonna be a little bit more careful with this guy, because he's gonna be maybe a little wild and he's not gonna want his picture taken. Dad, he does well with direction. That's cool, good to know. So you're getting these little nuggets of information. So you have to kinda study it, right?
Do you tell your clients that they will get that grandma shot as well as the lifestyle shot?
I don't. I don't say anything about that, no. I'm trying to remember if maybe I sneak it in a little bit, I think in my welcome site one of the exact things that I say is I'm not looking for a photo of everybody looking at me, we might get one, but that's not my goal. So they're not expecting it. And I've had full galleries where we didn't get one. But I have the freedom to do that because they're not expecting it.
And do you ever meet with clients, with your families before in person? Like have coffee, etc?
Nope. Time is money. If you're doing that, you have to make sure you're charging enough. We're gonna talk about that in pricing. But nope, I'm all online. My people are as busy as me. Which is great, so they don't want that. I know that that's a business model for some people, that would never work for my people. They'd be like are you kidding? I can barely make the time for the session. I'm not gonna come get together with you. Yeah?
Do you make your phone number available for them to text you or call?
No! No, no, no. Don't give them your phone number. I give them my phone number that Monday before the session and that's it. And I say text me if you have any last minute questions or like if we get, 'cause we're usually meeting at a location or whatever, so when you get there. But I do not give them my phone number before that.
So going back to the calendar thing, when you're talking about inviting them to look at your calendar, how far in advance are you showing them? And how do you deal with people who say well I'm only available on da-da-da date?
So I actually book out a year in advance, almost 100%. And that's, like I said we're not going super business strategy right now, but usually my fall books out about a year in advance. And how I now deal with that is that my clients just expect it. And if they wanted another date and it wasn't available, I would just let them go. Because it's really important to me to keep those boundaries. I have three children of my own. And I've many different facets of my business, and so I would just say I'm sorry this isn't gonna work let me recommend one of my great friends for you because I do have some amazing photographer friends in the industry. So that's just how I do it. Now I know that when you're just starting and you do have more areas open up on your calendar, you can be a little more flexible. But I do invite you to start creating those boundaries as soon as you can because you can let your business run your life if you aren't careful. And trust me, I used to do that. So speaking from experience here.