I’ve mentioned before that it’s always a good idea to set expectations up front. When you bring on a new client, it’s important for you and the client to understand how you operate. What can they expect you to do or not do at the property? What’s the next step after the photos are taken? How do they make the requested payment for your services?

These and other questions can be answered up front to kick off a successful business relationship with new Realtor clients.

The FAQ

You are basically going to be putting together a FAQ for new clients. Over time as you build your business and on-board new clients, you’ll start to hear the same questions being asked over and over. You’ll also start to find out that clients expect things of you that you might not want to perform as part of your real estate photography services. Write these items down and put them together in an email that you can send to new clients so all expectations are understood.

Let’s first go over the pieces in my welcome email to new clients, and then I’ll go over other things you might want to consider adding into your own email.

  1. Thanks
    The first thing I do is thank the client for contacting and scheduling me for a photo shoot. I tell them I’m excited to work with them in marketing their properties, and ask them to please take a moment to read the below information so they know what to expect when hiring me as their real estate photographer.
  2. Scheduling
    I explain how they can schedule with me for future shoots, and I also discuss the importance of giving me advanced notice when scheduling. I’m a one-man shop and I have a client-base who is busy selling homes. Thus, I’m busy! So I need as much lead time as possible in order to schedule a photo shoot on the agent’s requested date.
  3. Staging
    I’m not a stager. I repeat, I’m not a stager! A misconception of real estate photographers is that we should all be stagers because we “know what looks pretty”. My photos might be beautiful, but I don’t have the slightest clue as to what accessories should be on tables and over fireplaces. I have no idea where furniture should be placed for the best flow through the home. I don’t make beds, nor do I want to make a bed. I don’t clean bathrooms, which includes touching/moving toothbrushes that should never have been left out in the first place. It’s important that my clients understand what my job is and what my job IS NOT. The last thing I want to do is set a precedence that results in having to clean properties all day to get them ready for photos – and I tell new clients this.
  4. Photoshop
    It’s so easy. Everyone does it! Can you photoshop this basketball hoop out of the front? No. Can you photoshop the cracks in this wall? No. Can you remove that treadmill with photoshop? No. Like staging, it’s necessary to explain this to Realtors so they understand that I’m not there to make up for their seller’s inability to properly prepare their home for sale. Or more likely, I’m not there to fulfill a stager’s job that the Realtor didn’t think was necessary to hire in the sales process. I take photos as-is and I run my business with ethics in mind – I’m not out to fool anybody.
  5. Cheat Sheet
    After all of the bad news is out of the way, I do offer my Realtor clients a cheat sheet they can hand off to their sellers. It’s in the form of a website on how to prepare a home for sale but I find the majority of sellers don’t take it seriously.
  6. Cancellation / Reschedule Policy
    I list what’s acceptable for cancellations and reschedules, and what fees will be invoiced should they not meet my guidelines.
  7. Inclement Weather
    I prepare my client for the process of what happens when bad weather hits. It’s not my fault and its not theirs. But it happens! So be prepared and let your clients know how you are going to handle it.
  8. Website Access
    My clients all get an account on my website to handle photo delivery, payment, etc, so I explain the payment process and account details.
  9. Cost
    Depending on what the client purchases, I describe the cost for that package. If I think they’ll potentially purchase other services in the future I’ll add those costs as well. I link to my pricing page on my website so they can verify I’m telling them the current pricing info.
  10. Turnaround
    How long until the photos are edited and delivered? I let them know my turnaround time and I make sure to note that I’m delivering a quality product. I’m not going to sacrifice quality just to get photos out 2 hours earlier – it just doesn’t make sense.
  11. Lockbox Access
    I am an affiliate with my local association of Realtors and I have access to lockboxes (Supra). I make sure new clients are aware of this access, as it means I can get into properties without requiring them to meet me there.
  12. Thanks #2
    I thank the client again for trusting me in helping them market their property, and I reiterate the importance of quality real estate photography to attract the attention of buyers who are shopping online.

Additional Items

My list isn’t perfect. I add to it whenever I think of something that’s important that I want to be sure all new clients have record of. One thing that you may want to add if you find it important to your business process, is the legality of copyright. Explain to your client who owns the copyright to the photos and how they can use them. Can they use the photos on print material? Can they use one of the photos as a header graphic on their website? Can they give the photos to the seller/homeowner of the property?

You might also want to add a short section on commercial work, or portfolio work. A lot of times a Realtor will list a property and the builder will see the photos and want copies. State that the photos are to be used for marketing the listing only, and that you have packages available for purchase if builders would like portfolio work done. Some builders will want tighter shots on architectural details in the home so they may just re-hire you to take additional photos. Letting the agent know ahead of time about your policy will help prevent them from giving away your photos to someone like a builder because they simply weren’t informed.

Update 6/13/2014

I just added another segment to my New Client email – trip charges. If you service a big area and find yourself booking shoots that are far away, come up with a list of cities that trigger a trip charge. This way clients know you will go to those areas if need be, however due to the location, they will be subjected to a trip charge.

Your Turn

What am I missing? What do you think I should add in my new client expectations email that will increase the likelihood of successful, long-term business relationships? Reply in the comments below!

Pssst – you can find my entire new client expectations email content here.

Bonus Pssst – I use GMail’s Canned Responses (under Labs) to quickly dump this template into new emails.