Often in order to have a thriving client relationship, both parties (you and your client) have to play their part. Both sides must prepare, plan and organise so that the best work can be achieved. In order to guide your clients through the process and make sure they provide all the information required, you can implement what’s called ‘client homework’.
‘Client homework’ is a way of gaining a bit of extra knowledge about what your client wants and expects from you without having to do a tonne of extra work yourself. It also ensures that both parties stay on track throughout the project. This ‘work’ might include a series of in-depth questionnaires, the transfer of any funds or the signing of contracts.
Let’s say you are a wedding photographer. You client homework might look something like this…
INITIAL CLIENT MEETING
We spoke about client meetings in the past and client homework might be something you want to start bringing in here. You could create an in-depth questionnaire so you can get to know your clients a bit better and hear more about their plans for the big day. Questions could include who will be in the wedding party and their relationship to the couple, adjectives to describe their wedding day, the inspiration for the day and any family traditions or meanings they are hoping to honour. This doesn’t mean you have to hand the questionnaire over to them but you can bring those questions into the conversation and then note down any answers.
Tip: You might want to follow this up with an email including any contracts you need signing and telling clients how to transfer a deposit. Many wedding photographers require a non-refundable deposit in order to secure a couple’s booking.
THE ENGAGEMENT SESSION
Soon after this initial meeting, you might contact your clients to book an engagement photo shoot. This is another chance to give your clients some ‘homework’. You might want to send over some questions about what type of engagement session they imagine if they met anywhere significant or any activities they particularly love – anything that you might be able to include in the photo shoot.
THE WEDDING DAY WORKFLOW
You could send another questionnaire to your clients nearer the wedding date when their plans are a little more in place asking about the flow of the day itself. You might want to ask them about what type of ceremony they’ve planned, where the bride and groom are going to get ready, the distance between ceremony and reception venue and the timings of the whole day. This will also give you a chance to work out your timeline for the day and share it with them so that your clients know what to expect.
HOW TO SET IT UP
You could set up client homework in multiple ways; either by creating Word documents and then emailing them to clients or by using Google Docs which is by far the most popular technique.
In Google Docs start by making a ‘parent copy’ of your client homework in a new document, adding the main questions and formatting the content. Each time a client books your services you can create a copy of the original document by opening it in Google Docs, going to File > Make a Copy. Make sure you change the title to include the client name, therefore making it easier to find in the future and then share the document with your client.
By using Google Docs you and your client can edit the document content at your own convenience rather than having to email Word documents back and forth for weeks or even months on end. This will improve the client relationship greatly as you will not have to waste time emailing regularly and clients won’t feel like they’re bothering you with any extra details they wanted to add.
Tip: Make sure you send any questionnaires or requests a few weeks or months in advance so that your clients have enough time to work through everything. It’s a horrible feeling to be sent some ‘urgent’ work and only have a few days to get it sorted and sent back. It’s easier to nudge before a deadline, for example, ‘don’t forget I need your reply back before Thursday’ than nudge after the event e.g. ‘I needed your reply last week and now we have problems’. Obviously, if clients are late getting back to you, it’s fine to give them a gentle nudge.
Speaking of emailing clients, if you struggle to keep up with all the back and forth take a look at Streak. Streak is a programme that allows you to manage and keep up with all your emails by compartmentalising them into client folders.
Do you use client homework in your business? Do you think client homework would help streamline your business processes?