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