There are so many similarities in business practices among different creative fields, that I constantly pick up great advice from brilliant people of completely different professions than my own.
I am a big fan of the great blog for writers Write To Done and their new article Writer Alert: 5 Ways To Alienate Clients made so much sense that it inspired me to translate it into our own industry specifics.
Just like for writers, repeat business is good business for retouchers. In fact, I personally have been working for a handful of repeat clients for the past couple of years. They love what I do for them, I love them for loving what I do and paying me what I believe my work is worth – a win-win situation for everyone involved.
But lots of retouchers (and photographers) out there don’t receive as much repeat business as they could because they unknowingly annoy, alienate and completely frustrate their clients, losing a lot of potential jobs and leaving a lot of money on the table. Those easily avoidable mistakes are:
1. Missed deadlines
Missed deadlines are at the top of the list of annoyances clients have to deal with. No matter who you are working for – a private or commercial client – you must deliver on time. Missed deadlines are frustrating and can cause unpleasant consequences and monetary losses for your clients. Needless to say, you won’t be hired again by the client whom you’ve once let down.
If you’re not very organized and not good at meeting deadlines, be sure to build a safety net when setting them. If a project will take a week, tell the client 10 days just to be safe. That way, if you complete the work within a week you can present the project earlier than agreed (you under-promised and over-delivered – clients love that!). And if you’re behind schedule, you should still meet the deadline because you built in a little room for maneuvering.
2. Infrequent/poor communication
Everyone likes to be kept informed especially when it comes to business and money. Your clients like to know exactly what’s going on, can you blame them? It is very simple to send a quick email to update your client as to where you are in the progress of the project. Even if you do it every few days, your effort will be appreciated.
If you realize that you might not meet the deadline a couple days before the job should be done – email your client right then, don’t wait until the day they expect you to submit final results.
You may not think it’s necessary to update clients, but if you receive an email asking you for updates, you definitely need to respond in a reasonable time frame. There’s no excuse for not responding to your clients’ emails. It’s rude and completely unprofessional.
3. Poor quality execution
You must always stay on top of the job requirements. Pay full attention to your client’s brief and additional requests when accepting an assignment.
Needless to say, you have to do your absolute best when retouching for a client. No matter how busy you are, how tired you are or how insignificant this client may seem to you – everything you put out there can make or break your reputation. A half-assed job for a small client can backfire when you least expect it and you might not even know it.
I personally always get the job done 100%, and send a low resolution preview (may do a few closeup crops of different parts of the image) to the client for their approval. Some ask for little fixes, but some just roll with it, ask for the high resolution files and move on with what they got – for that reason alone, every single piece of work you send out to your clients must be in a state that it can be published – whether you consider it the final version or just a preview.
Always make sure to ask your client where the images will be used (web or print), what maximum size of the print they need, and what file format they prefer for the deliverables. This way you can fine-tune the format, size and resolution of the final files and ensure the best output quality for the images you submit to your client.
4. Being unreceptive to revision requests
It’s a fact of life that as a creative professional sooner or later you will have to do revisions for some clients. That’s just how things are. Don’t be sluggish to respond to revision requests, and don’t attempt to contest every last revision with clients.
It is normal that your clients have their own vision for the images you are retouching for them. That’s what they are paying you for, and if you get angry and defensive at their revision requests – that’s a sure way to lose them forever.
The customer is always right (well, almost always), so where possible you should make all revisions promptly and professionally. Do this and your clients will return to use your services time after time!
5. Financial matters
Unlike writers, retouchers almost never ask or receive bonuses upon completion of an assignment. In fact, we often charge less than we should. This is a topic for a whole another article, but at the end of the day you should make sure you don’t charge less than it costs you to sustain your business if you are a full-time freelancer.
No matter how much we like paying less, to many people cheap almost always means “not valuable” or “poor quality”, so don’t try to beat the competition by lowballing. Calculate how much time and effort the project requires and give your client a fair quote based on your rates. If they can’t afford it, they are probably just not your client.
But no matter what, one thing that you should avoid doing at all costs is charging your client much more than you quoted after the job was done. It’s a very unprofessional way of dealing with clients, and will definitely break your relationship with the client.
When I was in my early 20s, I was working in Egypt as a tour guide and was fortunate enough to visit the Pyramids in Cairo a few times a month for a couple of years. There were local fellas with their camels around the Pyramids, inviting tourists for a camel ride for just $1. Happy and naive Europeans, Russians and Americans would climb up onto those huge animals, which stood up to 7 feet tall, only to find out that to get back down to the ground would cost them 10$.
Such shady tactics are not considered a good business practice in the civilized world. Don’t stick up your client with a huge bill after the service have been provided, unless that’s what you quoted initially or your client asked for a lot of extra stuff and you notified them that those things would cost more.
Now that you know the major ways in which a retoucher alienates clients, you can make sure you avoid them and rake it in, as your repeat business booms!
Have I missed anything? Is there anything else you think you’ve learned from your own experience – please share with us in the comments below!
Check out more Business & Marketing articles on Retouching Academy.
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