Since writing Easy as Pie, I’ve received loads of photographers’ questions about online ordering. How long do you leave your gallery up? How do you enforce this policy? How do you collect the gallery republishing fee? What if my client’s dog died and they need an extension? Read on to find my answers!
All client galleries are posted online for four days. I have come up with a system with my clients that ensure that they fully understand the 4 day ordering time frame AND they stick to it. Each step is very important.
#1 – When a client is on the phone to finalize the booking for the session, I go through a rundown of how the process will go with me after the session.
Our call goes something like this: “After your session, I will post sneak peek images on my blog for you to see. Then, you will receive your online slideshow to view all your images within 4-6 days. (The faster you turnaround your clients, the happier they’ll be!) You will also receive access information to your online ordering gallery with your slideshow. You will have four days to place your order and during this time, never hesitate to call or e-mail me if you need any help.”
Keep it simple- don’t overwhelm them with too many details. Just basic information, but verbalize the time frames that you will be working with so that have an expectation of you that you will hold yourself to. Clients need to know that you have a system- you aren’t willy-nilly. Your business has policies that are in place to ensure profitability. If you have been lax on enforcing your policies – stop it! Stop it right now! You want to have a high end business, so treat it as such. Your clients are very important, and their expectations are just as important.
#2 – Get a signed contract before you begin shooting.
That’s right, before you even start shooting – whip out your policies for them to sign. I prefer doing this in person instead of sending them in the mail for them to send back to me. I can just briefly run over a few different points that I want to emphasize and then ask them if they have any questions about any of the policies. I have my policies on my client web-site, so they do have a chance to go over them before I show them at the time of the session.
This is another chance to remind them that they will have 4 days to place a portrait order. This time, include your section about the fee involved for republishing their gallery if it expires. I also mention that in my policies, after the gallery is republished, only a la carte pricing is available. (In other words, the savings offered in portrait collections is unavailable.) Encourage your clients in every way possible to order during your designated time frame. Make sure they hear you say these things!
#3 – Remind them of the time frame after the portrait session ends.
When I wrap it up, I again tell them the process. “Alright! Tomorrow, I will have a blog post up for you so that you can get a sneak peek of the session. Then on Monday, the 4th, you will receive an e-mail from me which will include the link to your slideshow as well as your online ordering information. You have 4 days to place your order- are you able to finalize your order by Thursday evening? Or is there a better 4 day time frame for you?”
This dialogue shows clients that you are set on time frames, but you are flexible to work with them for what works best for their schedule. This gives them the opportunity to tell you that Wednesday would be better or next week is ideal. They’re agreeing that they will have their order placed in 4 days because you worked with them and their schedule.)
#4 – Blog a sneak peek and remind the clients of the time frame once again.
First, please consider creating a blog sneak peek for each of your clients. They love having the peace of mind after a session that all went well. The waiting time between session and receiving the ordering gallery will be a lot more bearable for them, too.
The day after the session, I e-mail my client letting them know that the blog post is up (including link) as well as thanking them for hiring me to shoot and just a chance to reassure them they are going to LOVE the images that I captured from their session and how excited I am for them to see them. Remind them that on Monday, the 4th, they will be hearing from you again with their slideshow and online ordering gallery.
#5 – Prepare online ordering gallery and get ready to click ‘send’ the morning before gallery delivery.
The Night before you promised the slideshow, have everything ready to go so you just press SEND first thing in the morning. I have clients that wake up and the first thing they do is go right to their computer to check their e-mail. Beat them to it if you can! I love thrilling my client when they have it waiting for them in their inbox and they aren’t waiting on me. This goes above and beyond their expectation. They expect it on Monday, but they don’t really know what time to expect.
I started getting in the habit of sending my e-mails (which were saved as drafts) right as I would go to bed so that I could have my clients surprised in the morning. Make sure that you specify which day that their ordering gallery will be expiring and contact you if they need any help placing their order.
#6 – Check in and make sure client questions are answered.
The day after you’ve sent the slideshow and ordering gallery, send your client an e-mail or give them a quick call to ask if they have any questions for you. (I usually do this during a time that I assume their voicemail will pick up.) Just check to make sure that they received all the info and let them know that if they have any questions about placing their order before X day, you’re available by phone or e-mail.
#7 – Remind one last time.
The day before their gallery expires, send them another quick e-mail reminding them that the gallery is about to expire. Remind them that the fee to republish the gallery is $X and it will only have a la carte prices available. Again, assure them that you are there to help them if they need it with placing their order.
By this time, your client should have placed their order. If they have- Congratulations goes to you! You’ve successfully guided your clients through a challenging task and you completed the task with flying colors.
What if they still haven’t placed their order?
Well, there just are those clients that take forever and money is no object. I have had one client that it always lets her gallery expire. Usually at least 3 times. She pays the republishing fee without blinking and ordering only a la carte doesn’t phase her. She is a rarity- but even if she is one in a million- you may have have one just like her.
Be firm about your policies. Call the client and let them know that when they are ready to order, the gallery will be waiting for them. Make sure that you collect the republishing fee up front before you activate it for them. I always do this over the phone taking the CC#. These clients have no one to be upset with but themselves. (Remember that!) You went above and beyond in helping them stick to this…if you followed all the above steps, you mentioned the expiration date and your expectation of them at least EIGHT times. You even went so far as to make sure it was during the best time for them so the ball is entirely in their court.
What if their dog died/their turtle was missing/they had to work overtime?
If you get a client that comes to you with a sob story or a horror story of why they couldn’t place their order, look at it case by case. The wonderful thing about polices is that they are there for your protection,. There are clients that I think are giving me poor reasons – or even no reason, just asking me to republish without the willingness to pay the price. These are the ones that I stick to my guns about my policies with. But there are sometimes legitimate reasons why- and this is your opportunity to give them even more excellent customer service by asking, “Would an extra 2 days help? Would it be better if I waited to publish the gallery in the next week for 4 days?” I always lead with what I’m willing to do and what would work best for my business. I don’t ask open ended questions like, “How much time do you need? When would you like this?” etc…
You are the business, you are in charge. Be flexible, be understanding. But be profitable, too!
*I use Photocart for my online ordering system. I think this system is the best one online ordering system out there for what it is capable of doing as well as the price that you pay for it.
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