Question: My main concern seems to be with new clients trying to book so late in the season. As photographers we think about Christmas way back in September; however, most people don’t start thinking about Christmas until after Halloween has passed. I try to shut down sessions on November 1 in order to have enough time to process orders to have back in time for the holidays. I am just having a hard time turning new clients down and feel bad disappointing them when I am unable to fit them in to my schedule. They are unaware of my holiday schedule because they are new..Any thoughts, advice? Thanks! ~Susan
Answer: First off this is a really good question and one that I know many of us am/have faced! There are a few ways to handle this predicament but they all start with one basic and very important step. Educate. Susan nailed it when she said that while we think of Christmas in September, our client do not! Sometimes I hear photographers rant about this kind of stuff like they are all annoyed and it always bothers me a lot. It’s not our clients job to know what we know, it’s our job to teach them. So we send newsletters out well in advance, we blog about it, we create mini session campaigns that we begin promoting in September. We do all that is in our power to help (at least) our current clients know how to help us create the best possible holiday experience for them that we can. That is step one. Now I know what you’re thinking, ‘this would have been helpful yesterday… No make that in August’. You’re right, it would have. I’m sorry I didn’t write this then but pull out your 2012 calendar and start marking up September, October and November (right now) with when you’re going to start sending out the newsletters, publishing the blog posts and penciling in the day’s you’ll be setting up the holiday mini sessions.
Now here is where the road forks: You can go 1 of 2 ways after that!
Road #1 is really simple in theory but very difficult in reality. You just say ‘no.’ You simply do not allow any more shoots after your cut off date. Even if that last session with the Smith family produces 3 raving referrals. You made your deadline and they will just have to wait till after the holidays. Now there really are some of us who are okay with doing that, or at least a variation of that. (i.e. sure we can schedule your session but no guarantee for Christmas delivery).
I recognize that most would feel more uncomfortable with that road then a honey covered elf on an ant hill. …So let’s take a look at our second option.
Road #2 takes a little planning but is also very doable. Create one or two more shooting days that you don’t announce (these are top secret). You plan to not use them but you’re ready just in case. If your phone starts ringing with new clients hoping to squeeze in their holiday session you’ll be armed with the power to read (wait that’s super why) I mean the power to say ‘yes’. Here’s how you make the details work. You plan in advance for these days to be mini shoots. You and the client will need to PRE PLAN before the session, what they are hoping to do with the images (i.e. holiday cards, gifts, etc.) this way you know exactly what you’re shooting for.
So let’s say that the Smith’s refer the Jones Family. They call tomorrow really hoping to get in a Holiday Session… You’ll respond, “you’re in luck, I have one more available day on my 2011 calendar…” This will be the day you planned to never use and the conversation will go like this…
OKAY WORDPRESS WOULD NOT LET ME LOAD THE VIDEO BUT FACEBOOK WOULD SO YOU HAVE TO GO LISTEN TO ME PRETENDING TO BE ON THE PHONE (how random am I???) ON FACEBOOK.