It’s Business: Quotes via Email?

As professional photographers, we got into this business because we love to create eye catching, mouth watering photos for our clients. There is a certain thrill and rush that we receive when we click the shutter at the “decisive moment” and capture our vision. We love it when people pay for our skills to take pictures and organize a shoot. We have a skill and we have a vision in which our clients don’t possess. They hire us in the first place because we are visual communicators.
However, as professional image makers, who own our own businesses, we come across a multitude of challenges.  Sales can be difficult! How much do I charge? Is licensing dead?  How can I compete with an iPhone or the MWACs (Mom with A Camera) and DWACs (Doctor With A Camera)? Should I quote prices via email ?  What does it really mean when my client says “let me think about it.
The aim of this column is to address the issues that we face as business people, so let’s start with one question.

“Should I quote prices via email?”

Frequently, I get an email from a potential client that reads something like this:
Hi Michelle –
I came across your website from a Google search and I would like a price quote for a headshot.  Please tell me how much it would be and what is your availability.  Thank you.
Client X

My response is generally a letter like this:

Hi X,

Thank you very much for contacting me regarding your photo and/or video needs.  How did you hear about me ?

Before I give you a price, it is best if we have a brief phone conversation or via Skype so I can ask you a few questions and better understand your needs. 

Would you be able to speak  at X date at X time ?  If that doesn’t work for you, please let me know what time would be convenient for you.

 I look forward to hearing from you.


Now, you may ask, why did I not just send Client X a price and call it a day ? There are a multitude of reasons. I wish it was as simple as spitting out a price. It would be if what I do was a commodity and I was a widget seller. However, I am not. There are a lot of factors that go into pricing photography.  There have been plenty of books and blog posts written on the subject.

“but….you can get all the details of a job via email.”

Yes, you can. I won’t argue that. As great as email is, it is best used as a communication tool once the job has been secured.

Photography is not a commodity, it is a service, and a very personal service at that! How can we determine if we are a good fit to work together, if we don’t have a brief conversation or, better yet, a face to face meeting? Secondly, as much as I do have ballpark prices for packages for certain services that I offer, the majority of the work I do is custom specific and tailored to the clients’ needs. Many times phone or face to face discussions will actually save the client money because it helps me better understand what they want and what I can do fit their needs and budget. As I tell my clients, “I am a boutique, not a mass producer of photos.” I find that when potential clients won’t take the time for a brief phone call, they are generally not serious prospects anyway and are making their buying decision based solely on price.

When a client is making the decision to invest their time and money in working with you, they are investing in a personal and unique product that cannot just be assessed by a response to a quick email saying “yes, thanks for contacting me, the price of this project will be x.” A brief phone conversation or face to face meeting will save you from lots of confusion and frustration and money down the line.

Before you reply to quote request received via email: get on the phone, do it the old fashioned way, and start building a relationship. Photography is a relationship business, and that’s how you set yourself apart from the MWACs and DWACs.


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