The first rule of thumb is to ask your client when he or she is planning to make a final decision regarding your estimate. Be aware, though: Those dates don’t always hold fast, and many times decisions get delayed because of last-minute copy changes, decision-makers being out of town and unable to sign off on the final numbers, and other factors.
I believe a phone call and an email is the best way to ensure you get a reply. A simple statement – “just checking in with you to see if you were any closer to making a decision on the Acme Adhesive shoot. I’m sure you’re very busy, but any information you can provide would be most appreciated” – can have a profound and direct effect.
If you genuinely have another client holding those same days, you should mention that and let the potential client know that a timely decision will ensure he or she gets the shoot dates he or she desires. If you don’t have days on hold, don’t say you do – this always backfires as the client releases you from the hold and you are left with nothing. It’s best to be honest, but persistent.
Another helpful tool in getting clients to make a decision is to provide some additional ideas (location/talent/wardrobe/lighting) to let them know that you’re still thinking about their job and not merely waiting for the purchase order to be approved. The more you can engage a client during that “hurry up and wait” period, the better chance you have of getting job.
The caveat here is not to appear desperate or needy. Your thought process here should be, “I want the job, I am the right person for the job and I will do an amazing job, better than any other photographer.” It should not be, “I need this job, I know I can keep the client happy and on budget, but if I don’t get it that means I have nothing on the calendar for the next month, so now it’s time to panic!”
I know it’s easier said than done, but don’t let them see you sweat. Show your interest and enthusiasm without acting clingy. Don’t offer to drop by the office unless you’re asked for a pre-pro meeting; don’t send a thank-you gift, and don’t offer to drop your price.
Have faith that you are the right person for the job, and believe it! If you do, good news will follow.
John Berthot has over 15 years of photography experience, and an MFA in Photography from the School of Visual Arts. Among other positions, he has been a Photographer's Agent at Stockland Martel and an Advertising Director at Magnum Photos. He has been a creative consultant for the last two years, founding Focus in 2009. He brings his extensive experience in assisting photographers on all aspects of commercial, editorial and fine art photography.
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