You’ve got your work online, and you’re getting lots of inquiries. Yay!
However, many of those inquiries are for services you don’t provide or asking for heavy discounts. Bah.
What’s the nice way to say “No way, Jose” in a tone that won’t make you come off as a douchebag?
First, assess the (potential) client’s level of douchebaggery. If he or she is fishing for discounts and coming off in a way that makes you all irritated — and all you did was read their e-mail — then walk away. Respond with a firm “No” and then forget they exist.
If, however, they seem kinda cool — it might be worth a chat via phone or e-mail. Below, my recommended responses to a slew of scenarios.
1.) Sorry, I can’t, but _______________ can.
I get all sorts of wedding inquiries, even though I don’t shoot weddings. I send each client a ‘Sorry but…” e-mail recommending three peeps who DO shoot weddings that I absolutely adore. Clients e-mail back to say thanks, and the door is still open for hiring me at a time when what they need matches up with what I’m willing to do.
2.) I’d love to hear more about your needs/wants/desires.
Sometimes a client thinks they need eight hours of coverage at their nephew’s bar mitzvah, when what they’re really asking for is a studio portrait session with good ol’ Aunt Jane. One is outside the realm of what you do, and one isn’t. A quick phone call can make absolutely certain that the client actually wants what they say they want.
3.) I can offer a custom quote if you’re willing to chat.
If a client is on a tight budget and wants to work out some kind of wedding package involving a few hours of coverage and X album — and they’re asking six months in advance of their Wednesday wedding — why not chat about their offer? Off-season and off-peak rates might mean you’re scoring a fun job, and all you had to do was pick up the phone.
4.) I’m thrilled to offer you X gift with booking.
The client who’s coming as a referral from X is shocked to find out that your prices have gone up since 2008. Instead of responding with ‘Of course they did,” offer a token of appreciation for taking client X up on their kind referral.
Yes, my prices have increased with demand, but I’m thrilled to offer you this super special gift if you choose to book my services. The super special gift can be a custom-designed sign-in mat for their wedding, a bridal portrait for display at the reception, or an accordion album mailed to their doorstep after completing a portrait session with you. High-value, low-cost items make a world of difference in easing the sting of sticker shock. (And booking the client.)
5.) Of course, that’ll be an additional $x00.
Is the issue that you don’t offer custom album design, or that you want to be fairly compensated for custom album design? If you typically offer albums with a single matted print on each page, a custom design will take more time and money. So offer the option the client wants at a fee that makes you both happy. Same goes for rush delivery and meeting insane turnaround times — they all have a price.
Saying “yes” to a client request — even if it’s a nuisance fee that’s moderately to extremely absurd — means the client has the option of taking you up on your offer. (Where taking you up on your offer = more cash in your bank account.)
P.S. Confidence is key.