Last year, I did something a little radical in my business: I stopped doing wedding photography consultations. Kinda crazy, right?! If you’re in the photography industry or have planned your wedding, you probably know just how common consultations are. They’re industry standard in the wedding world!
I get a LOT of questions of exactly how I did this, how to know if it will work for you, how to make the transition… and every question in-between. If you are super curious how I do this, this blog post is going to break down exactly that!
Before we dive in, I do want to clarify something first. Getting rid of consultations shouldn’t be an excuse to get out of work. To be honest, it definitely saves me time but it’s almost a different kind of work. Instead of having your couples meet with you to know they want to book you, it’s figuring out how to display your brand and personality online. The goal? That they are SUPER comfortable with you before they even chat with you!
I recognized pretty early on in my business that meetings weren’t necessarily my strength… Of course, I could do them, and I did for awhile! But what I was even BETTER at was building a personal brand online. I built it to the point where couples were asking to book without even meeting with me. In around January of 2019, I started transitioning to not push couples to meet with me… And, since then, I’ve done a grand total of ONE consultation (and it was a video call). Plus I have continued to meet my booking goals every year!!
Where are you in your business?
Before I actually share HOW to make this work, I first want you to think about what SEASON of business you’re in. From my experience and the different seasons I’ve been at in my business, I think moving into not doing consultations (in-person or even a phone call!) is ideal for those with:
- A higher price point. Of course, this doesn’t mean you need to charge $10k, but I would probably say at least a starting price of $3k-4k. When you’re starting out, you’re probably going to be competing with a lot more photographers because of the lower price point. And in my experience, lower budget brides usually are shopping around. Meeting with you is way more of a priority to them, and you might NEED meetings to also wade through potential clients who aren’t a good fit for you. If you are still in the beginning stages of your business, keep reading for my top tips on how to move towards this OR how to tweak the way you do meetings to still save you time!
- An established brand with lots of social proof. Social proof comes in many forms, but lots of amazing online reviews are so key. Having them in many places that AREN’T your website, like on The Knot, Google, and Wedding Wire is so important. I would even argue they’re maybe MORE important than the ones on your website! They add to your credibility way more than the words you added to your website! A couple other great ways to get social proof is by being published in online publications or magazines. Finally, having great sources of word of mouth referrals is definitely great social proof.
- A targeted ideal client. When a potential client lands on your website and it feels like you’re just SPEAKING to her and totally understand her, she is immediately going to feel even more connected to you and confident that you are the person for her. If this is something you want to read more about, click here to read another blog post I wrote about this!
- A strong personal brand online. This one is HUGE! My couples feel like they KNOW me without having to meet with me because they connect with me on a personal level. This is one of the most important aspects of moving into not doing consultations. If they feel like they know you as a person, they’re not only going to be willing to invest in you over someone else, but know that YOU need to be their photographer!
The whole idea behind all of this is to get someone to fall in love with YOU and what your brand stands for with only seeing your online presence. This is mainly through your website, but also Instagram and other social media channels. This might take a couple of years to build up, but you can always be working towards that!
Okay okay, so you’re reading all this and thinking, WOW, I wanna try this… I say GO FOR IT! You can ALWAYS go back to pushing meetings, but if it sounds like you’re in a place where this will work well, it can’t hurt to try to see how it could transform this part of your business!
Here’s some of the practical HOW to start doing that:
Step 1: Stop pushing meetings to inquiries.
Instead of immediately trying to get them to set up a meeting with me, in my response to an inquiry, I start asking questions! I ask a lot of questions that I might normally ask in a consultation. These might include if they want to do a first look, what they’re looking forward to on their wedding day, and more about their love story.
BONUS TIP: If you want to make sure your couples you’re emailing are legit, I will often look them up on Instagram! If they respond back super interested, a lot of times I will follow them and start to get to know them on there!
Step 2: If they don’t bring it up first, I suggest a booking proposal.
If they haven’t asked to book after 4-5 emails back and forth, I suggest a proposal they can look over if they’re ready to book. I tell them it’s super low pressure, of course! But if they have a collection in mind and would love to work with me, I can send it over!
Step 3: Your couples book!
Most of the time if we’ve emailed that much and they also followed me on instagram and have fallen in love with me, they tell me UM YES I’M READY!!! And then we move forward with the booking process!
Okay, so if this freaks you out a little bit and you want an easier transition… try changing what you call your consultations. For 2-3 consultations before I started doing what I just explained, I had a short phase where I called my consultations “celebration meetings.” I explained it was a time to get to know each other and celebrate the fact that we get to work together! I found that I easily had couples committing to these celebration meetings. This signaled to me that they were likely ready to book without even meeting with me.
Meeting Your Goals
Another thing I want to share here that is SO important is to think about your shooting goals and how you’ll get there. Do you NEED to shoot 40 weddings per year to pay your bills? If you start making this switch and you’re not hitting it, you might need to really focus on your personal brand. Or, think about ways to up other marketing avenues… This might be things like connecting with more vendors, changing your Instagram strategy, or blogging more strategically. If you’re not booking how you want to, it’s okay to add consultations back in to reach your booking goals!
One cool thing that’s actually happened from eliminating consultations is how it’s actually been a SERVICE to my couples. They have busy lives too! And, if you’re at a place where they KNOW they want you, you’re actually helping them. Trust me, they love not having to attend yet another wedding meeting. I found a lot of my couples (especially out of town couples!) really appreciate that about my process!
Want to keep consultations?
Now I want to speak to the person who is maybe thinking, “I don’t really think this is for me”. Or, the person who’s new in their business. Here’s some tips for restructuring your consultations to be booking the way you want to and save time:
- Do NOT drive to them. Make them come to you! It is COMPLETELY okay to ask couples to drive to the Starbucks right down the street from you. I don’t think they even expect you to come to them! It’s a nice gesture, but personally, I haven’t seen a higher booking rate because I drove to couples. In fact, my booking rate from consultations went up after I implemented this. (Honestly, likely because of other changes in my business, but the point here is that it doesn’t affect it at all!)
- Do video calls instead. If a couple now asks for a consultation (which is rare) I tell them I currently offer them via video call! I’ve had no complaints and I think they appreciate the time saved driving back and forth too.
- Set an expectation of how long they will last. When I used to do in person consultations, mine typically lasted around one hour… sometimes longer! When I do the video calls, I tell them it will be 30 minutes long. This sets the expectation that it won’t go on forever. I encourage them to email me more logistical questions that are easier for me to send over via email. And, then our call can be focused on getting to know each other and chatting about the wedding experience.
- Use a calendar system to schedule meetings. When I did do a lot of consultations, I set up a Calendly calendar and ya’ll, this was a LIFE SAVER!!! I just set when my availability was for meetings, a limit to the number of meetings per day and how much time needed to be in-between a meeting… and all I had to do was send them the link. SO easy.
When it comes to reducing consultations, I want to encourage you that it doesn’t have to be a forever change. If it doesn’t work, you can go back to meetings! However, if you find that your strengths aren’t meetings and you know this would be an amazing change for your business, I invite you to take the chance! See how it can change your business. It was so eye-opening to me the hours I had to pour into growing my business once I eliminated meetings!