Photographers - Use Your Photo Shoot Estimate as a Selling Tool

Your Photo Shoot Estimate Is An Important Marketing Tool

Your estimate is an opportunity to help you get better jobs, to do a better job on each assignment, and to put your career on the fast track to success.  How can your estimate do all those things?  Your estimate can guide you to a well thought-out approach to an assignment, it can set you apart from your competition, it can insure that you have the resources to do the job to the best of your ability, and finally, an estimate can make sure that you are building a quality reputation rather than one that speaks of mediocrity or even worse.

The best possible photography for your client

The first thing many photographers do with their estimate is try and save the client money, or to get the job by coming in at a low price.  That is exactly the wrong approach to take.  Your job as the photographer is not to save the client money.  Your job is to provide the best photography for your client.  To do that, you need resources. Resources cost money and time.  One way to find out what resources you really need is to thoroughly create the job on paper as you create your estimate.  Before you can create a proper estimate you will need a layout, a drawing or some sort of visual representation of the proposed assignment, and a written description of that assignment.  Resist the temptation, even with intense prompting from a prospective client, to throw out a “ballpark” figure.  The desire to please a client is intense, but the practice of providing any estimate off-the-cuff is always a bad idea! Instead, have a ready-made excuse to get off the phone, our out of the office, or whatever.  You will need time to think through the process of doing the job right and what that job will entail.

Every detail is important

Once you have a layout and a written description of the job, go through the job step-by-step.  Every detail is important.  If there is an aspect to the job that is eluding you then you need to find out more information.  Having a detailed approach worked out for doing the job provides you with several advantages.  For example, let’s say you are having your bathroom remodeled.  You get three estimates.  The first contractor comes in and looks at the bathroom.  You press him for a “ballpark”.  He thinks about it for a moment, and then says it shouldn’t be more than $3,000.00.  The second contractor comes in and resists the temptation to give an immediate estimate.  Later he faxes an estimate to you.  His estimate comes in at $4,000.00. He mentions that there might be dry rot around the tub.  His estimate will go up if he has to repair that.  He also includes a list of expected expenses with time and materials.  If the numbers look reasonable, the odds are that you will go with him rather than the first guy…that is if quality of your finished bathroom is important to you.  Now remember, the Art Director’s reputation, and maybe even job, is resting on the outcome of the photo shoot!

Getting the job

The third contractor gets back to you and asks a series of questions:  Do you want Kohler faucets, or a less expensive brand?  Do you want natural stone on the floor or ceramic tile?  He goes over the advantages of one vs. the other.  He suggests a very economical radiant heating that will warm the bathroom floor.  When he finds out more precisely what will work for you he prepares a detailed estimate with itemized prices for materials, a thorough written description of the process, his approach, and how long the job will take.  He includes steps he will take to prevent damage to the carpeting leading to and from the bathroom.  In short, he makes you confident about him and result of the work.  He helps you crystallize your vision of the project.  He gets the job even though he has the high bid of $6,500.00. 

Building confidence, getting resources

That is what your estimate should do.  Make the art director confident in your approach and in your thoroughness.  Help him come to the conclusion that you are the best photographer for the job.  At the same time, the well-thought-out estimate will insure that you have the resources to do the best possible job.  And doing the best possible job is the best possible thing you can do for your career.  More about that in my next article.