You've made an appointment to meet with a couple. You lay out marketing materials and your price list. Your demo is in the player ready to be viewed.
When the couple arrives, don't expect these documents to do the talking. As essential as it is to have professional materials on-hand, it's equally important to make the clients feel welcomed, comfortable, and confident that you are the right videographer for them. Good communication skills are absolutely necessary.
Start the conversation by asking questions about their wedding, how they met, and other personal details that will help break down any communication barriers.
After they've watched your samples, the work will open up a whole new dialogue. At this point it's crucial for you to listen carefully and take good notes. Always have a notepad and pen and jot down items such as their likes and dislikes regarding what they saw in your demo. Did they comment on whether they liked or disliked black & white, soft focus, sepia, letterboxing, fast-paced, slow-paced, music choices, and the like? If they book you, recalling the preferences they revealed in your first meeting will help you in both pre- and post-production.
Have a copy of your contract available and go over the terms of the agreement together. Make sure they understand all the essential details, and that there's no confusion about the binding nature of the document you've placed before them. Any extras you offer or that the clients have requested should be well-documented in your notes and on the proposal/contract. Before a client signs a contract, make sure everyone agrees on what is to be expected.
In many cases, a contract is signed a year or more before the event. Within that time many things can change such as location, time, add-ons, etc. Your clients may no longer want black & white, slow motion, or other details that were important to them a year ago. Failure to document these items will cause you extreme frustration and leave you to deal with unhappy clients down the road.
Changes to the original agreement may be discussed via telephone. Write everything down and repeat it back to the client so you are both in mutual agreement. Reiterate everything in an email or other written correspondence and always request that they acknowledge receipt. Amending your contract is another option and will require their signature as well as yours.
We've all experienced clients who try or expect to get something for nothing—either by manipulating or twisting our words, or because they have genuinely misunderstood the agreement we have entered into with them. If you have an iron-clad contract, personal notes, and a paper trail of every conversation, your clients will have no opportunity to take advantage of you, nor will they have any legitimate reason to believe or claim you have taken advantage of them.
In this article (over the next three pages), I will be sharing some of my forms that I use to help facilitate good communication between my clients and me. My intention in presenting them here is to give you a basis for producing your own by revising them to suit your purposes.