The fo­lio meet­ing

Christina Force runs through es­sen­tial di­rec­tives to help make the first meet­ing with a po­ten­tial client a suc­cess

The Shed - - Column -

Pre­vi­ously, we’ve cov­ered the steps to take to get to the re­la­tion­ship-build­ing process, and once you hit this step it will in­volve a face-to-face meet­ing. If you’ve man­aged to se­cure a meet­ing with a dream client — con­grat­u­la­tions! If you’ve taken on board my fo­lio-build­ing ad­vice, you should have some­thing lovely to make that meet­ing worth­while — not just for you, but for the per­son who’s gra­ciously taken time out of a busy day to meet with you.

Meet­ings can make or break your chances, so here are some point­ers for a suc­cess­ful get-to­gether with a po­ten­tial client.

Firstly, try to have a chat. Talk about the things you have in com­mon — ideally, per­sonal things you found out when you were re­search­ing, such as sports in­ter­ests and mu­tual friends. The more re­laxed and easy you make it for them, the more likely they’re go­ing to think, This pho­tog­ra­pher’s a nice guy/gal — I could cope with be­ing on a shoot with him/her.

Re­move your fo­lio from cum­ber­some bags, cov­ers, and cases, and place it in front of the client so they can start look­ing when they’re ready. En­cour­age them to start when they want to. This is where a beau­ti­ful cover comes into its own, as they ad­mire the fin­ish and are com­pelled to im­merse them­selves in your im­ages.

Let them guide the pace and let them turn the pages. It’s OK if they go quickly. Ex­pe­ri­enced peo­ple can look through fo­lios so fast you won­der if they even saw any­thing, but, trust me, they gen­er­ally ab­sorb ev­ery­thing they need to know. They’re usu­ally look­ing to get a feel for your work, to as­cer­tain the mood and tone of your im­agery. If you keep try­ing to stop them to ex­plain how some­thing was made, you’ll in­ter­rupt the show. So please ab­stain from this, no mat­ter how badly you want to im­press them with your shoot­ing tech­nique, or how many boxes you ticked on that shoot.

To make this eas­ier, and to al­low them the free­dom to go at their own pace whilst you chat, talk about how you work. Do you like to cast real peo­ple, or do you like to play with the shots in post? Do you gen­er­ally set up your shots from scratch, or do you cap­ture mo­ments? Do you like to col­lab­o­rate with clients prior to the shoot be­ing fi­nal­ized? If so, let them know they are wel­come to call you to dis­cuss ap­proaches.

Bet­ter still, share your ‘why’. What are your val­ues? What do you care about? Why are you a pho­tog­ra­pher, and what is your vi­sion? You’d be amazed at how this will prompt some great dis­cus­sions and con­ver­sa­tions. The fo­lio view­ing may stall tem­po­rar­ily, but, for the sake of a re­ally good re­la­tion­ship-build­ing chat, I wouldn’t be con­cerned.

Share pro­ject ideas, and tell them what you’re work­ing on. In­spire them with your ideas. Be ex­cited and pas­sion­ate and they might join in. They might even of­fer to col­lab­o­rate, pos­si­bly find­ing a client that would be in­ter­ested. I’ve seen this hap­pen. It’s ac­tu­ally amaz­ingly com­mon.

Ask them ques­tions — per­haps about their work, but show you know a bit about them. For ex­am­ple, don’t ask what ac­counts the agency has — you should know this — but do ask what they’re work­ing on cur­rently. Ask them how they dis­cov­ered you — if you didn’t con­tact them first. Ask them for feed­back on your web­site. Which shots in­spired them to meet with you? You’ll learn a great deal and be in a much bet­ter po­si­tion to progress with the meet­ing by un­der­stand­ing where they’re com­ing from.

Re­mem­ber to tell them you have pro­duc­tion sup­port. If you don’t have an agent, it’s cru­cial you let them know about your re­sources. In fact, if you don’t have an agent and you are not very ex­pe­ri­enced with pro­duc­tion, I sug­gest you talk to one or two rep­utable pro­duc­ers prior to go­ing to your meet­ing, and de­cide on a pro­ducer with whom you most con­nect. Ask the pro­ducer how they like to work, what they do, and how they do it so that you sound like a pro when you talk with the client. You can then let the agency cre­ative know who your pro­ducer is, which should give them peace of mind. You could even ap­proach the agent you want to rep­re­sent you and start a re­la­tion­ship sim­ply by ask­ing them if they could pos­si­bly help you with pro­duc­tion sup­port. If they like work­ing with you, you’ll be top of mind when they have a space. I’ve seen this work many times.

Fi­nally, and cru­cially for all meet­ings, know the out­come you want. This will help you shape and di­rect con­ver­sa­tions, mo­ti­vate you to be en­thu­si­as­tic, fo­cus on the pos­i­tive, and ul­ti­mately leave your clients feel­ing like you’re some­one they re­ally want to spend more time with — some­one who in­spires them, and whom they want to com­mis­sion for the next job.

So, what are you wait­ing for? Go and win them over.

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