October 11, 2021
In person sales (or IPS) as a photographer can be an awesome experience that will give you the opportunity to serve your clients, share your love for photography and make more money as a photographer. It can be challenging to make the shift from “shoot and burn” to IPS but in this episode, I’m going to share what you need to get started with IPS so you can maximize your profit from each session!
Hey everybody! Welcome to how to get started with in-person sales as a baby and birth photographer. I am really excited to chat about this with you today because this has revolutionized my business!
IPS stands for in-person sales. Basically this just means you’re meeting with the client after the session to place their order instead of sending over the digital files when you’re done editing.
Most photographers who do IPS use a session fee model where the client pays a session fee that doesn’t include digital files or prints of any kind. Then, at the ordering appointment, they order what they’d like from the session. It’s as simple as that!
I love in-person sales! I started out as a shoot-and-burn photographer in 2012 all the way to 2014. Back then, in-person sales wasn’t really a thing that people were talking about, but I had heard about it a little bit and I thought I wanted to give it a try. When I switched over to in-person sales, the craziest thing happened – I went from making about $250 per session (including the session fee, digital files, etc.) to making a $2400 sale from my very first ordering appointment.
To sit there and being able to make 10x the amount of money that I make from a normal shoot-and-burn session definitely piqued my interest. At first I thought that maybe it was just a one-off thing, so I did another ordering appointment, and I got a $1200 sale. You guys, I was used to making $250 per session, flat. I had another ordering appointment and made an $800 sale. And so within 3 sessions, I had made about $4000 and my mind was blown! I honestly couldn’t believe that people would pay that amount of money for photography because it was so different than what I had been charging.
Before we dig into IPS super deep, I just want to say that there is no right or wrong way to run your business. I’m not here to say that you HAVE to do in-person sales to be successful, because I just don’t think that’s true. But I do want to help you understand the benefits for you and your client, so that you can make an informed decision, especially because this is something new to most of you.
I will also say this: I did lose clients. Those clients who paid me $250 before, most of them didn’t come back to me. So, I just want to say that I definitely reach a new different level of clients.
I just want to say that there is no right or wrong way to run your business. I’m not here to say that you HAVE to do in-person sales to be successful, because I just don’t think that’s true. But I do want to help you understand the benefits for you and your client, so that you can make an informed decision. I will also say this: I did lose clients. But I definitely reach a new different level of clients.
1. IPS does save time
One of the things that comes up about IPS is that it seems like it’s going to take so much extra time because you are going to have to do extra things that you are not used to doing, but here’s a different outlook: when you have just one appointment to make a purchasing decision, it eliminates so many back and forth, re-opening of galleries, and questions with clients.
At the ordering appointment, the client gets to preview all of the images and order their favorites. This saves a ton of time for both parties and allows the client to have complete control over what they order right then.
2. IPS gives you more interaction and touchpoints with your clients
It gives you the ability to build a relationship with them. You get to interact with your clients more AND hear what they like from the session.
This is huge! When you get to hear which images they liked and didn’t like from their session, it truly does make you a better photographer. Because when clients come in and identifies favorite poses, you get to see clearly that you are doing well with certain kinds of poses and you know to continue to do those.
If I was just sending them a gallery and I wasn’t there with them to hear what they like, I will not have an idea what their favorites were and I could be shooting thing that didn’t even like! Being able to hear that immediate feedback from is so, so valuable.
3. IPS gives you the opportunity to sell more and make more money from each session
If you are somebody who just do a session fee and digital files, that is the most amount of money that you can make from that session. If you are charging $400 including digital files, $400 is the most you are going to make.
But if you are doing in-person sales, they have the opportunity to add prints, a grandparent album, or a gallery wall – that increases your overall order value. With digital files only, you are really capping yourself compared to doing in-person sales, which is limitless!
You don’t have to make a big announcement! This is a huge mistake that I see a lot of photographers make. They feel like they have to go tell all of their clients from the past that they are changing because it feels like a big deal to you as a photographer, but to your clients when you say, “Hey, I no longer going to do things the old way, I’m going to do with this new way”—the “new way” to them is different and complicated. Chances are it’s going to be difficult in an announcement format to get them to understand the value. So I do not recommend making some type of a big announcement.
You do not have to have a studio when you do IPS. I did not have a studio when I started with IPS. I either met them at a coffee shop or I met them at their home. And here’s the thing you guys, meeting them at their home is a huge advantage for the client, they don’t have to leave especially when they had a new baby, and you’re there in their home and you are able to hold up a sample of a canvas and say, “Hey, here is how this size would look up here.” That’s a huge advantage that you could give a client.
So do not think that you need to have a studio. I think that’s a big misconception when it comes to getting started with IPS.
Start with new clients only. I highly recommend that you don’t go back to your existing clients and say like, “Hey, I’m changing everything,” you just from here on out start doing in-person sales. I highly recommend approaching this like a scientist – just experiment with new clients. Don’t go back and change everything with your old clients.
1. Decide what products you want to sell
You can still sell digital files after you switch to in-person sales. Then it’s just a matter of what other products do you want to sell. Do I want to sell canvas, prints, albums, or digital files? What products get you excited? Start there!
You do not have to sell anything and everything you could possibly imagine. You do not have to look at everybody else and overwhelm yourself by feeling like you have to provide anything and everything.
I’d would much rather see you just get started and offer prints and digital files or framed prints, canvas, and digital files, than let yourself start feeling overwhelmed with needing to offer everything.
2. Get a way to deliver slideshow
You can do this with a laptop or an iPad and an HDMI cord to plug into a TV. This is what I used to do when I go out to people’s homes is I had an HDMI cord that I’ll plug into my laptop and it would play a slideshow on their TV.
3. Samples of products
If you decide to do canvas, I would love to see you get at least 1 or 2 sample sizes of those canvases to bring to people to show them. It’s going to be more challenging to sell products when you don’t have an example to show them in real life. At least one album and one canvas just so they can touch and feel it. A huge benefit of in-person sales is that you can hand over the product samples to clients and they can touch it and feel it, and it’s so much easier for them to buy in to products than just put up the products online and give them the details of the products. It makes a huge difference when they are touching and holding the products.
4. A way to take the order and take payment
When I started with IPS, literally I have an order form that I just mainly fill out by hand and I bought a PayPal swiper, which at the time is around 40 bucks, that plugged in my phone and attached in my PayPal account so I could swipe their card. That was it.
I think a lot of time we are making things a little bit more complicated than they need to be because we have aspirations of what we want to be someday or what we want to do someday. Let’s just start with the basics – you can start with just an order form and write down the orders. You do not need to have a fancy CRM to digitally type in an invoice.
Hopefully that helps for you to see like what you actually need to get started with IPS!
Better Service for Clients. Think about how you’ll show up to your clients when you know that you will have to sit down and take a look at the photos with them. That might make me sound terrible and I’m just being honest.
I think about the fact that later, after the session, “I’m going to have to sit down with my clients and look at these photos with them.” I don’t just get to have a mediocre session and throw digital files at them and run away. I’m gonna sit down and we’re gonna look at them piece by piece. So truly it has made me a better photographer.
Better Products for Clients. And also think about the improvements as a photographer when you get to hear what they like and what they don’t like.
Clients can actually enjoy the photos. Here’s the thing – people think they like digital files, so it’s easy to give that to them. But if you can show them how and why printed products in addition to digital files are better, you are shifting their mindset. And that is how real relationships, connections, and loyalty are made.
Honestly and truthfully, a lot of people can take photos and deliver them digitally. Doing in-person sales elevates your service and your brand because they walk away with something tangible and archival. No more digital files collecting dust, figuratively.
Q: “Can I do IPS for births?”
A: What a lot of us do is that we photograph birth and we also photograph newborn and other portrait sessions, and so it was like I get how it makes sense to portrait sessions, but does it make sense for birth? Here is what we do (but you can do whatever you want!)
I personally have never done in-person sales for birth and here’s why:
First of all, I like for them to be on a payment plan, so by the time they came to their newborn ordering appointment they’ve already paid for their birth and that kind of money forgotten. Secondly, doing in-person sales for birth is a lot because we do newborn sessions as well. If we do, it’s going to be like, “Okay, come in for your birth ordering appointment. Come in for your newborn session. Come in for you newborn ordering appointment,” this can be kind of A LOT for families.
So, YES you can do IPS for birth, but that is why we don’t.
Q: “Can I still offer digital images?”
A: 100% YES! I think it is a huge misconception that people think if they want to do do IPS, they can’t offer digital files. We still offer all the digital files. We just offer them in conjunction with the prints. And they can still purchase all the digital files by themselves. It’s just more expensive and it makes more sense to buy a print with it. But they can still do that.
Q: “Do I have to change or increase my prices to do IPS?”
A: I do not think that you do. I think that you can absolutely do IPS with the prices that you have now. You really are just meeting with them to help them pick put their pictures. That’s all that it is.
Q: “Can you do IPS virtually?”
A: Yes. I don’t love it though. We did it all throughout the pandemic. Actually, Stephanie on my team was the one doing it, and I had never done it until a few months ago – and it was bad. It was not my favorite, honestly, if I can be totally honest, because the client had a hard time seeing the photos. On the screen, it’s difficult, she can’t really see them. So she placed kind of like a small order for us. And then once I sent her her files, she was like, “Oh, actually can I order the large files and can I add this?” because she was able to see them bigger on her computer. And I thought, “Okay, we gotta go back to in-person.”
So can you do IPS virtually, YES. we’ve done it for the last year and a half. Is it my favorite? No and we’re back to doing in-person.
Q: “If you had a newborn client who has baby #2, would you treat them like a new client and do IPS?”
A: Yes, in that situation because it’s a new baby, I would go ahead and switch over to in-person sales if that’s the direction that you want to go. And it’s not the end of the world, you guys, if you try IPS for a few months and you’re like, “Actually this is not for me, I don’t love it.” You can always switch back. You really can. It’s your business.
Here’s a big takeaway that I want you guys to have hopefully from all of this: if you act like it’s a scary, big thing that’s stressful, your clients are gonna feel that. They’re gonna feel that it’s a scary, big stressful thing that they shouldn’t want. But if you feel like, “This will really give my clients a better experience. It really is serving them,” and you really feel that way, that’s gonna come across in how you market and message it. So really just get into like why do you want to do this and do you really feel like it’s a good idea? Hopefully that helps
Q: “What is you appointment workflow? I have social anxiety and I’m nervous to see salesy or stumbling through my first IPS appointment tomorrow. Thankfully I have all samples and supplies that you mentioned, but I’m nervous of the actual presentation or flow.”
A: It’s super simple! As far as the “feeling salesy” part, we’re talking to them before their ordering appointment about the products that they’re interested in. So on our questionnaire we’re saying like, “Hey, have you thought about the kind of products that you’re interested in?” We’re not bombarding them with information at the ordering appointment for the first time. We’re talking about it leading up to it, so I think that is an important piece.
But if your appointment is tomorrow and you haven’t already followed up with them and said, “Hey have you thought about what products you are interested in,” I might shoot them an e0mail today and just say like, “Hey, I’m preparing for your ordering appointment tomorrow and I’m just curious have you thought about what products are you interested in? Here are a few of our most popular things.” That way when you go to the ordering appointment it’s not just like all of these information that they weren’t ready to receive, if that makes sense.
And that gets rid of the salesy feeling because they’ve already kind of like pre-softly-committed to what they want to buy, so when you get to the ordering appointment it’s really just a matter of being like, “Oh hey, remember when you said that you wanted an album, here are the album options, here’s the price, let’s pick out the photos for them.” Hopefully that helps.
Okay, so let’s talk about the flow of what we do. Basically, when the client comes in, I turn the lights off, we watch a slideshow of all of their pictures set to music. I have like an intro screen that has like, “Welcome to the world, (insert baby’s name)!” I turn the lights on and I ask them to go through the images one-by-one and tell me their favorites. So we do – yes, no, maybe. And that is so critically important, because it helps me understand as a photographer, what we talked about earlier, which photos they like and which photos they don’t. And as I start to do this multiple times, I can see across session to session, what people are interested in.
So then we just go through and pick out their favorites and then I talk to them about, “Have you thought about what you want to purchase from your session?” And I just go over all of the options. I hand them a pricing PDF or I have it like in a book, but you can literally just print it out on a piece of paper. I know your appointment is tomorrow, so if you just print all your packages on a piece of paper and just hand it to them, just go over everything. Once they go through it and be like, “Actually we were thinking about an album,” then I sit there with them and say, “Okay, an album comes with 20 images, so we’re gonna sit here and go through each photo and you’re gonna say ‘yes, no maybe’ for the album.” So we’re gonna pull up all of your yeses. So if there’s more than 20, we’re gonna get it down to 20 for the album. And I always reassure them that those files do not go away. They will still get all the digital files, because the way that we have it, they purchase the album and the digital files together.
So what products did I start with? Honestly, I started with kind of what we have now. We have a pretty basic lineup when it comes to the products that we offer. We do digital files, albums, canvas, and prints. And I’m 90% sure that’s what we started with too. So it really doesn’t have to be a big thing.
I’m so glad that hearing the flow of everything is helpful and hopefully it helps to demystify this a little bit. It really is a lot simpler than most people think, when you really just think about it from a service point of view.
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My friend, if you have a passion – it’s not an accident. Not everyone loves photography, or event planning, or real estate… whatever your passion is, it’s there for a REASON. What are you going to do with that passion? Get out there and make it happen! Have a great week y’all!
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