I received an enquiry last week from a couple wanting to meet with me to discuss photography for their wedding. We arranged a suitable evening and time. Unfortunately they were surprised when I mentioned I would send them directions on how to find where we are, as they believed that I would go to visit them. The couple in question cancelled their appointment yesterday with the reason that of the four photographers they had contacted I was the only one who expected the couple to travel to meet with me.
Don’t get me wrong, me travelling to visit a client is not a problem at all and I have no issues with travelling to meet with a client prior to their wedding, whether it be for a pre-wedding meeting, conducting a pre-wedding photoshoot, or staying later than initially planned on their wedding day. I do not however, unless situations dictate otherwise, visit “potential” clients for their initial meeting before they have booked my services, and I will tell you for why.
There are several reasons why I do not do this, not least of all economic.
Take the example above where the client had arrange for four photographers to come and see them. If we take that as an average, as I photograph 30 weddings per year, you could assume that if I visited every client then I would need to visit 120 potential clients in order to gain 30 bookings (1 in 4). To load up my car and drive to their house would take on average 1 hour. The meeting takes on average 1 hour, and the drive back home and unloading the car takes 1 hour. That is a total of 3 hours per meeting. So for 30 bookings I would have to visit 120 potential clients totalling 360 hours of time.
Each meeting is likely to be on a separate day, with only a small number of meetings held on the same day which is in effect 120 days of seeing potential clients, and that is for their initial wedding consultation only, prior to a booking.
Add to that the cost of travelling to see potential clients, lets say each visit rather optimistically costs a total of £10 in fuel and wear & tear on my car. That is £1200. None of this has taken into account my time and the requirement when running a business to be able to account for that time in financial terms. If on average my time is charged at £300 for 1 day of work (8 hour day, £37.50 per hour), then the amount I would have to try to earn back in order to spend 360 hours, visiting 120 clients, in order to gain the 30 bookings I need for the year would equate to £13,500. So in total adding my time and and travel cost the total cost of my visiting clients for their initial meeting alone would come to £14,700. This money has to be accounted for one way or another and would have to be added to the cost of my services for those couples who do book my services. This is a significant unnecessary cost of £490 to each of my 30 clients, and is significantly reduced if clients come to visit me.
Add to that the fact that I regularly work not only locally to Yorkshire, but nationally and from this year internationally, there would be some serious distances to travel to see potential clients, with no guarantee that they would book my services.
I have over 25 wedding albums showing weddings photographed at different venues, some wet weather wedding day albums, different styles and sizes of album, along with framed and canvas prints. Although I do not show all these albums to clients, I can tailor what I show clients to what they are planning on their wedding day. It is not easy or practical to take the variety of albums I need to a clients home, and with the cost of the albums being several hundred pounds for me to purchase, they are not something that I would be happy constantly taking in and out of the car to various clients houses, as the wear and tear on the albums would take its toll on their appearance before too long.
Ambience & Environment
To visit a client in their own home, I, as a photographer, have little control over the environment and ambience in which we can have a meeting and I can show my work to its full potential. We have invested a lot of time in our home studio to ensure that the environment is comfortable, and the ambience is just right so that clients have the best experience they can get from meeting with me. A clients home is potentially subject to the telephone ringing, people visiting, and the television being on in the background. I have a PRS music license so that relevant music can be played as background music to help create an atmosphere that is relaxed and welcoming to our clients.
You may say that having a studio location increases the cost to clients and normally I would tend to agree for most businesses. However our studio is part of our home. We have built it with a studio in mind but it has a dual purpose. It doubles up as a garden room which we can use when not being used as a studio. It is also an asset to our house and as a result the costs of running the studio are minimal and do not in general incur any additional costs for our clients.
Our home is located in the beautiful estate village of Myton-on-Swale, easily accessible from the A1 and A19 north of York. It is easy to get to yet is a very quiet and picturesque village, and our house is a the former Post Office, a lovely cottage which we have, and are still in the process of, sympathetically restoring. The location sets the tone for our lifestyle and style of photography.
Seriousness of Potential Clients
We have found that clients willing to visit us are more serious about potentially wanting to book my services, and are serious about having the best photographer for them for their wedding day. They are willing to travel and we regularly have people visit us from further afield than Yorkshire. Where I have in the past visited potential clients in their own homes I find potential clients are less serious about my specific services and the number of visits I would have to make per initial meeting would be far greater than in a situation where potential clients visit us. I average approximately a 3 in 4 booking ratio when clients visit me at our home studio (75% of potential clients who visit us book our services), though there is no hard sell and the majority of people who come for their initial meeting go away to talk it over and possibly see other photographers before making a decision about my services.
In the example above therefore the number of initial meetings I need to have in order to achieve 30 bookings per year is only 40 meetings as opposed to the 120 required if I were to make that initial visit. That is a total of 40 hours only as opposed to the above 360 hours scenario, with no travelling costs incurred. If you take the £37.50 per hour of time to be made back in increased costs to my clients that equates to a total amount of £1500 spread over the 30 wedding bookings, which is £50 per booking. A significant difference to the £490 calculated above. I can therefore invest in a higher quality of wedding album for our clients, as well as better photographic equipment, so clients get nothing but the highest quality of photography and album of their wedding day.
For a client to show their seriousness by visiting us for their initial meeting I am more than happy to arrange any pre-wedding meeting they require, or pre-wedding photoshoot, as they have already made that commitment to me and my services. I stay from bride’s preparations through to the first dance on their wedding day, and if timings change and I am required to start earlier or finish later then there is no additional cost incurred to the client. Not many photographers offer this and a lot of photographers only stay to the beginning of the meal, some of whom will stay later but only at an additional charge.
Not incurring the time taken to visit all these potential clients I am able to devote significantly more time to the clients that do book our services. On average one wedding accounts for four days of my time, and I can spend significantly more time working not only on the wedding day, but also in creating some of the stunning album designs I create. Please read some of the testimonials that past clients have sent me on our website. I have many more unfortunately not practical to show all on the website.
For couples who have shown that commitment to me by booking my services I go out of my way to ensure that their experience of using my services is a good one, and not only meets their expectations but exceeds them.
I was disappointed that a couple cancelled their initial consultation meeting with us, and I do wish them well for their wedding day and married lives together.
If you would like to find out more about my services then either use the contact page on our website, or contact me using the details below. Visits to our studio are strictly by appointment only.
Damian James Bramley
Address: The Old Post Office, Myton-on-Swale, York, YO61 2QY
Telephone: 01423 360553
Mobile: 07944 742241