In this guide, I show you how to choose who to pitch, how to find the right contact information, and how to craft a winning pitch.
I am a food + product photographer & educator specializing in eco-friendly and sustainable brands. When I am not working with clients, I empower creatives to start their journey by sharing my knowledge on the business of food + product photography.
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Having an effective process to onboard new clients is a crucial step in your client experience. It will set the tone for the whole project. When I started out, I didn’t have a process in place, and I didn’t really know what it meant to onboard new clients.
Picture this: you reached out to your favorite brands, tapped all your connections, talked to all the local restaurants. And then one day, it finally happens. Somebody wants to hire you. You found the client! The hard part is done, right? Now what’s next? Crap. You don’t have the first idea where to start!
Believe me, I have been there. When I started, I had no idea what to do with my first client. So I did a little research (aka stayed up all night – that’s before I had a kid) and sort of figured out the next step.
For the next client, I was a little less terrified (I said a little) but I was still pretty clueless. As the years went by, I tried a lot of things, and failed a lot. But I finally put together a simple process to onboard new clients that works for me.
You may need to tweak and make minor changes as you go, but I am hoping that this post will help you come up with your own perfect onboarding process (it will take time). In the meantime, this will help you waste less time and feel a little bit more confident as you onboard new clients of your own.
I started using a CRM pretty early in my business and it quickly became a critical step to onboarding new clients. I started with 17Hats, then recently moved to Dubsado. (I also wrote about it in another blog post if you’d like to find out more!) It keeps all my clients’ information and documents in one place and makes my life a lot easier.
One thing I started recently is to embed a contact form created in Dubsado on my website. Every time a potential client fills the form out, the information is collected in Dubsado. This is a game-changer as it allows you to create actions when a new lead comes in, but also keep track of said leads.
I’ve set up a workflow that starts immediately after I receive a new inquiry. The workflow triggers an email answer with my welcome packet. This is the first step in my process and it creates a great first impression on potential clients. They don’t have to wait until I return to my desk to get the information they need. They get it delivered almost immediately and in a beautiful way.
The welcome packet includes all the details of my process, how I work, and what to expect. It also gives my price ranges so that if we are not on the same budget, we do not waste each other’s time.
The first email also includes a link to my calendar so they can book a call. This is a fabulous feature when onboarding new clients. It saves a lot of time going back and forth by email to find a time that works for both. You choose when you are available to take client calls and the clients can just book directly through the link you provide them with.
This is an important step guys, so don’t skip it! Scheduling a phone call with your potential client will allow you to ask all the questions about the project (and save you a lot of time of back and forth by email) . It will also allow you to explain in detail all the products and services you can provide, and set expectations for the project.
This is also very important as it will help you evaluate if you want to work with this particular client. I know when you are getting started you’re willing to work with anybody, but as your business grows you will have to be more selective and say no to the clients who are not a good fit.
I am a pretty shy person, so I used to avoid talking on the phone at all costs. But I now know how important it is and I try to get on the phone with all my clients.
After the call, if it sounds like we would be a good fit, I send a proposal. I use a proposal template very similar to what wedding photographers use: it is meticulously designed and relies a lot on beautiful images.
It includes details about what type of images I shoot and how it can help their business, a few case studies from other businesses/brands I’ve worked with, and a mini About page.
The last page includes my pricing. I usually offer 3 different packages so they can choose based on the number of images and investment they want.
Once we have agreed on a package, I will send a contract. I purchased a contract online from a lawyer specializing in photography when I started and had a limited budget. I later had it reviewed in person by another lawyer when I was able to afford it, just to make sure everything was okay.
This is an important step. The laws of copyright for photography are very specific and most clients are not familiar with them. Heck, a lot of new photographers are not familiar with them. Make sure to do your research about copyright and find a legit contract for photographers.
The Lawtog, for example, has some great contracts and model releases specially drafted for photographers.
Along with the contract, I send an invoice for a 50% deposit. The client can pay directly online by clicking on a button in the email (another perk of working with a CRM).
Both contract and invoice are created in Dubsado and sent from there. If you don’t think you need a full-on CRM tool, you can create your invoices directly in PayPal, or use a tool such as Freshbooks, which will also allow you to create a payment plan.
Before I start shooting, I always do some research to find out what the client has been using in terms of pictures so I have an idea of what they like. This is the last step in my process to onboard new clients before my favorite part: creating beautiful images for them!
First comes some research about their competitors to see what they do so that:
Then I do some research for inspiration and gather images to create a mood board for my client. The images will suggest a style and feel for their images as well as the color scheme I recommend.
After the client approves the mood board, I create a shot list that I submit to the client for approval. Once I have the confirmed shot list, I can start planning the shoot.
If it is a food photography client, I have a few more steps that include grocery shopping, some test cooking, and my exact process on shoot day. You can find more information about my Food Photography Workflow here.
And there you have it, my step-by-step process to onboard new clients. I hope you’ve found this information helpful and that you are ready to go set up your own client onboarding system. It will make you a lot more efficient and will help you feel more confident.
Furthermore, having a streamlined process creates a seamless experience for your clients. That will help you build a stellar reputation in no time! Check out my Instagram account to see some of the shots I created using this process and tag me in your new images! For more information you won’t see on my blog or anywhere else, be sure to subscribe to my email list as well.