What worked for me

 

As a new year starts I always like to reflect back how I did in the past year. Personally, I achieved the goal of visiting 30 countries at the age of 30, visited my Malaysia family twice, became a sister-in-law, had my first Halloween makeup, celebrated 14 years of courtship with Yong and finally got a Kansas state driver's license. Yay! Professionally, 2015 was a tremendous year for me. Let me put it this way, if 2008 to 2014 were the years I acquired knowledge, skills, experience for my photography business, then 2015 was THE year I pieced everything together. Here I would like to share with you the top 5 things that worked for my business. 


1. Make real connection with my clients

One of the most rewarding decisions I made last year was to make real connection with the women I photographed. As a woman myself, I know that there is absolutely no "one size fit all" photography package for my clients. We all have unique taste and expectation for photos and I would not want a woman to book me before knowing that we could be a good fit. Therefore I insisted that my potential clients should be invited to my studio for a face to face meeting. We talked about what brought them to me, how they felt about their bodies, and how to pose for the most flattering images and how to hunt for wardrobe. Of course they also got a complimentary studio tour so that they could see the things that inspire my photography style with their own eyes. 

I feel like by doing all these I could better understand my clients' needs and it helped me to carve them a dream photoshoot. Clients were more engaged, more excited for the shoot, and that's the perfect buildup that I need prior to the actual shoot. After the initial meeting I also followed up with personalized Pinterest board, emails, text, video conference, and whatever communication means to help them make the best wardrobe decisions, book their desired hair and makeup artist and make sure everything is on track. Making real connections required a lot time and attention, but does it all worth it? Yes! They trusted me, they knew that I would make them look great. When I requested them to "smile just with your eyes", they would do it for me even some of they didn't know how, and they all ended up getting killer smiling eyes shots. 

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2. A nice and versatile home studio

After I made up my mind to focus on just photographing women, I knew I needed a studio space. I had very specific requirements in mind (high ceiling, white wall, white floor, independent makeup room and bathroom) and it took me five months in 2014 to find my dream home that would also allow me to dual purpose it as my studio. 2014 was all about exploring the perfect spaces for photography. In 2015, I found hundreds of ways to photograph women at different corners of the studio. I also figured out how natural lights change with seasons, and what kind of shadows and shades I could get! Now that photo spots are everywhere in the home studio, I have to make sure that the the house is always clean, the showroom kind of clean (hence the no shoes policy).

3. Hair and Makeup policy

All women look good with some makeup and with professional hair styling and makeup application they would look even more fabulous. Don't believe that? Check out the before and after portraits of my clients. In 2015, I made a studio policy to use only professional hair and makeup service for my clients. I want them to be taken care of professionally and feeling beautiful throughout the entire photo session. I frequently reach out to local hair and makeup artists and am happy to report that I found some that I really enjoyed working with. How did I pick who to work with? My general guideline is that the artist must capable of styling hair and applying makeup, have pleasant personality, punctual, efficient, helpful and professional. Also, I value hair styling skill slightly more than makeup because hair is often the break or make factor. I can always retouch a flawed makeup in post-processing but with a flawed hair there is nothing much I could do.  

4. Commitment fee

Imagine the night before a photoshoot, I did my homework on the shoot, prepped my studio, booked the hair and makeup artist, just about to go to bed so that I could wake up fresh the next morning. Then I received a text message from client, telling me that she has changed her mind, and not quite ready for a photo session. That feeling sure doesn’t feel good does it?  

Starting from 2015, my studio policy is that I collect a $300 commitment fee from my clients that is fully refundable upon completion of the photoshoot and reveal session. Paying the commitment fee encourages my clients to commit to the dates booked, and it gives me peace of mind to prepare for their appointments. Not a single client forfeited their $300 fee since I started doing this, it has been working great for the studio! 

5. Branding and packaging

Few years ago when I was visiting Paris I picked up a Chanel pouch for my cousin.  I honestly have forgotten how the pouch looked but I still remember the wonderful service that I got from the sales assistant. She meticulously wrapped the pouch in a fancy box and decorated it with cute ribbons and paper tissue before putting everything in a very nice bag. I had a great experience and felt valued as a customer.  I want my clients to know that I appreciate their business with me, therefore for packaging, I also wrap their portraits in boxes with my brand embossed together with other handpicked packaging materials to compliment their products. These little details are what make me happy and I hope they make my clients feel appreciated too.

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How was your 2015? Share it with me?