When I started my boudoir studio, clients had the option of purchasing an album or digital collection of my favorite images. I didn’t want to do online sales after experiencing a serious pain-in-the-ass factor with other portrait sales online, but I didn’t really have a place to sell in person. Then one day a client asked me to come to her house to show her photos, and all of a sudden I sold my middle album and a small canvas. I had no idea what I was doing, but I loved being able to see her reaction to her photos and help her pick them out.
About 8 months later I’d set up my home studio. I decided to switch to in-person sales, so I created a makeshift sales area in one of my studio areas. Even though it didn’t look luxe, my sales were higher. Clients told me they appreciated me sitting next to them and holding their hands–sometimes literally–through that “down the rollercoaster” feeling of seeing their photos for the first time. Over time, I made the area prettier, purchased more samples, developed my schtick. Then, about 4 months ago I kicked my husband out of our shared office and moved my sales room in. I love it! My office is 10×12, but my actual sales space is 6×10. Bonus: I’ve been using the couch as a new, casual set.
I would never move away from in-person sales. Ever. It’s part of the “high touch” experience I offer, and it allows me to serve my clients (rather than sell to them).
In-person sales is usually a hot topic on the various Facebook boudoir forums. Everyone does it a little differently. Here’s how I do it.
- A 32-inch LCD TV mounted to my wall. I cast my PC desktop to the TV using an AppleTV device and an app called AirParrot (thanks to Dave Doeppel for that solution.)
- Slideshow creator. I use Windows Movie Maker
- Product samples of everything I offer
- Quickbooks Online
- A printer
Step 1. Simple slideshow of all color photos set to music
I make my slideshows in Windows Movie Maker. It takes me about 10 minutes to insert photos into my template, set the animations and transitions, and save it for high-resolution display. I show clients this slideshow to start so they can sit back and see all of their portraits before they have to make any decisions. It’s a great way to break the ice and put the client at ease. Other boudoir photographers might use:
- Animoto slideshow
- Reveal wall of select printed photos in photo mats
- Small prints spread on the table
- Nothing–not everyone does the initial reveal this way
Step 2: Selecting favorites using Lightroom
I create a Lightroom catalog for each client, which makes it really easy to show their finished images during the ordering appointment. I show every photo in color and black and white so she can pick her favorite (and sometimes not pick and put both in her album). I create Smart Collections for album picks (flagged), wall art (1 star) and desk art (red label).
Keep it or skip it. I use a “keep it or skip it” process. Keeps get flagged for the album smart collection. Skips are skipped. I like the simplicity of this system because it makes the appointment go faster and allows clients to use their gut to pick.
Finalize the album favorites. Once we’ve gone through the gallery once, I select the images they skipped for one more look. Sometimes they’ll add more photos. Then I go to their keeps smart collection and go through the images in sets from each outfit. I give them an idea of which photos I might put together in an album, which might be full spreads. I tell them not to hold me to it though. This step also confirms they want each image in their album. If we’ve picked 42 images, for example, and her budget covers my 35-image album, we’ll eliminate from the keepers.
Select wall and desktop art. I then ask her about purchasing wall art. If she’s interested, we go back through her keepers and pick her favorites, this time changing the label to red for the Wall Art smart collection I’ve created. When we’ve gone through the images, we narrow it down to her favorites, and pick sizes.
I do the same thing for my desktop art–I offer 2-image folios and acrylic prints. I use a 1-star rating for the smart collection.
I then go through each smart collection, get the client to verbally sign off on the images in each, and save a screenshot in her client folder. I learned this the hard way. It’s a “CYA” measure that has paid off on several occasions.
Important note: I present a professional printed product menu and have at least one sample of every product I offer. I have canvas and metal print wall art collections that sell themselves on my walls. I have multiple samples of each album and desk art product I offer. You show what you sell. If you don’t have dedicated space in your studio, shoot in hotels or at client homes, it’s important to have at least one sample of the things you want to sell at your ordering appointment. It’s a pain to lug everything around, but it’s beneficial.
Other boudoir photographers might use:
- Printed photos
3. Create invoice in Quickbooks Online
I love Quickbooks online because it is so much easier than the full desktop version and prettier too. After we’ve rounded out photos for each art display, I add it to her invoice. I note the cover choice for album and the image numbers for covers canvases and desk art. She gets to see exactly what’s she’s spending, including sales tax, and can make educated decisions about her products. We sometimes revise her order at this time if it’s outside her budget. When she’s good with the order, I walk though each line item, the subtotal, sales tax and final cost to once again confirm the sale. I can take payment directly through Quickbooks Online using a card swiper. (You can also use Square, Intuit GoPayments or your regular credit card payments and import the payment later.)
If the client is going on a payment plan, I create the contract and take the deposit at this time. I keep the credit card on file so I can charge it on the dates we specify in the contract. I print everything out and put it in an envelope for her.
4. Permission Slip
I ask every client to sign a permission slip that spells out her permission for me to show photos in my portfolio. Here’s more information about how it works: How I get permission to show client photos.
5. Burn digital collection to flash drive
If she’s purchased a digital collection, I burn it and package it now. Clients L O V E being able to take their images home with them at their ordering appointment. (It’s also a good sales incentive.) I also include a print / use release and copyright at this time.
6. Discuss next steps
We talk about the album design and approval process, timelines and order pickup back at my studio. And then, we hug and I send her on her way.
This whole process takes me about an hour, depending on the number of product choices we need to make and how decisive she is. If she brings her significant other or friend to her appointment, I plan for an extra 15-20 minutes too.
Living in Denver, I attract clients from all over our large state, Wyoming, Nebraska and New Mexico. If a client lives more than an hour from me, I offer to do her ordering appointment using Skype. Skype allows you to share your desktop with the other person. My process is almost exactly the same for Skype ordering appointments. A few differences:
- I upload her slideshow to a private Vimeo post with a crazy-secure password that changes for each client. I immediately delete it after she’s viewed it for security.
- If she purchases a digital collection, I send it by WeTransfer. I am simply not comfortable with shipping a flash drive.
- I drop-ship physical products. I require a signature on all drop-shipments. If she’ll be hard to catch at home, I’ll send it to her local FedEx store.
- Instead of a written permission slip, we mark the images she’s OK sharing in Lightroom, print them in a contact sheet (under the Print module in Lightroom) and use an online form. I send her a pdf of the contact sheet via email.
I’ve learned some important lessons–often the hard way:
- The client must be able to do the ordering appointment on a laptop or desktop computer. Tablets and phones render the photos too small.
- The client must have a microphone. Showing her the photos online and talking on the phone is cumbersome to me.
- The client must be able to stream Netflix. Not that I use Netflix in my appointment–this tells me if their Internet speed is fast enough to make the appointment flow. I have had so many issues working with rural clients who have spotty Internet service.
- The client must have Skype installed at least a few hours before and test the connection beforehand.
- Discuss a backup plan if this all fails. I recently had a client pay for her digital collection, sent it via WeTransfer.com, then did her entire ordering session by text because a storm blocked her satellite DSL signal.
- Confirm all of this with the client at the end of the photo session.
And in case you’re wondering, I don’t require prepayment for Skype ordering or watermark the images she sees. I believe that you attract what you think about, so I’m not afraid a client is going to screenshot her images and “steal them.” I develop solid relationships with them so that we have mutual trust.
If you do in-person sales differently, I’d love to hear about it in the comments. I’m sure our readers are really interested!