I love it when clients spend $3,000+ with me. I love having that money in my checking account. I love the idea that the energetic exchange of my time/talent/love is equal to the energy of the investment of their financial investment in the art we create together.
Sometimes, though, I have a client in my ordering room who is so in love with the experience and her photos that she wants everything, but her financial situation does not allow her to have everything. Sometimes, the tears of joy, the gratitude expressed and the transformation in her attitude about herself are equal to those dollars she is not passing my way.
Today, that was the situation. Mrs. O recently lost 50 pounds, putting her halfway to her weightloss goal. She booked a boudoir session with me because (as she told me), she fell in love with my images on my website, and felt like she already knew me when she called me. Of course, that’s incredibly flattering to hear, and I want to hear it from every client. She was nervous, but even with a still plus-size figure, she LOVED how she looked. After talking with me on the phone, she told me that she knew I would be the right person to make her boudoir portraits.
On her session day, she killed it with her willingness to show up and be vulnerable for me. She brought outfits to honor her husband of 17 years, who is career military. She even opted for my low-key nudes as a set, which she said was “very brave of me, but very easy, too.”
She was already in tears when she arrived for her ordering appointment this morning. Not only did she find out that her husband is being deployed in about three weeks (and his last deployment lasted for 18 months), she has just learned that she was not going to receive money that she expected to receive to pay for her products. She had hoped to purchase my biggest collection.
She wound up selecting 42 images for a book, and she wanted to add on her entire digital collection. When I showed her the order total (over $3,000), she sank into herself. I could feel the sense of longing and overwhelming sadness that she was not going to be able to get everything she wanted … or close to it. I worked out five different options for her so she could keep the 42 images she selected, keep the book she wanted, but still, that $2,000+ range was significantly more than she could spent. We talked about payment plans, but the monthly payments made her uncomfortable.
This is where the notion of “serve-don’t-sell” showed up for me. Some of you might be thinking that I should start giving away things. Instead, I remembered my one mini-session collection, which would allow her to have 17 images in a Little Black Book, plus an app with her album images. She was able to cut her selections down to 20 images–no small feat. Her book with flow beautifully. (Here’s a gallery of all the images she selected for her book.)
Even though my installment agreement stipulates that I don’t design, order or give any product until the agreement is paid off, I decided to send her the app now, which made her light up with joy. She’s SO excited to share her portraits with her friends, her mom, her teenage daughter, and knowing that it is literally no money out of my pocket to serve her in that way (I use Sticky Albums, which is an annual subscription service that’s part of my overall studio overhead), it brought ME joy to offer it to her now.
In the end, her order total with tax was $1,242. That’s almost $1,000 less than my average sale. I could feel disappointment. I could feel resentment. But instead, I’m glowing. I feel honored. I feel so fucking good because Mrs. O NEEDED this boudoir session. She needed this experience and these portraits for herself. She needed to see herself through someone else’s eyes, and to recognize her worth, her sensuality, her beauty … all of the things I want for every client. She is my mission brought to life. And that knowledge is worth every single penny (and image) she left on the table today.
PS–Exquisite retouching by Jen Swedhin of Jen Gets Shit Done: Photographer’s VA