I had a good idea, now I need to manage it! HELP!
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Old 12-04-2010   #1
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Default I had a good idea, now I need to manage it! HELP!

I apologize in advance about the long post but I need some help. I lurk here often, frequently without logging in, and I have learned so much, but I cannot find any good answers by reading other posts that will help me.

Part I: First of all, I have just restarted my photo business this year after a few years off. I have mostly done packages for a dance school and some daycare centers. My pricing is "budget but not cheap" and I am trying to maintain that position. I believed the quality of my work and my prices are competitive for my area.

Part II My daughter has started doing pageants, and I am easing my way into this market. {NOTE: I am strictly talking natural and low glitz pageants. Full Glitz is out of my range on edit and retouching.} The girls that compete frequently need head shots and "crown" shots on a regular basis. My work for my daughter and a couple of her friends has been competitive and I am starting to get inquiries about more work.

Part III: I pulled a statement directly out of my behind one night talking with a few folks at dinner after a pageant that is really taking off and I need to determine how to manage it. I said, "I plan on hosting a "Crowns 'n Gowns" day at the studio {My wife's dance studio does double duty as my photo studio} so that I can have multiple girls there and they can rotate camera time and you can have multiple hair and wardrobe changes at a lower sitting fee. This was originally intended as a fun time for my daughter and her friends as well as the pageant moms, where I could make some money while they get new photos and network. It has now expanded to 6 definites and 4 more possibles for the day, and it may grow more after they all chat on the parade circuit this weekend. {Pageant Queens around here LOVE Christmas Parades and hit as many as possible.}

I cannot let this drop because it looks like a good way into a market that consistently spends money on photos on a regular basis. The name I made up alone is generation lots of interest.

Notes:

I have space to hang multiple backdrops and just move lights as needed.
I have a separate space where I can set up a dressing room.
I have plenty of lobby and bathroom space.
I have a kitchenette off of the office/lounge/storeroom area.

The questions/problems:

Should I set up a group size and manage multiple groups?
Do I set up snacks/drinks for the folks?
How would you price it relative to your normal sitting fees?
Do any of you that do pageant photos have a feel for whether this will boom or bust?
I could list 12 more questions but you get the idea.

You don't have to directly answer every question but are any of you willing to take a quick stab at how you would try to manage something like this so I can gather some ideas to work with?

Thanks

David Musick
Synergy Photography of NC

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Old 12-04-2010   #2
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Default Re: I had a good idea, now I need to manage it! HELP!

You've bitten off quite a bit if you have never done this sort of thing before. First question would be how do you plan on letting the clients proof the photos? Are you trying for that night? Or at a later meeting?

If it's later, the main challenge is keeping interest so that they still want to order prints or pics. If you are trying to generate orders that night, well, that becomes much more difficult. Do you have an assistant that can edit the files? Do you have access to a printer? Can you shoot tethered? Do you have a projection media that can be shown?

Basically, you need to define the expectations and what each person will have at the end on the night. Then you need to define what they will have at the end of the week. Then you need to define the end result. And you absolutely need to make sure that every person at your event knows all of those expectations and limitations. If you over-promise and under-deliver, it's going to be a nightmare.

Break it down into groups...Let's say you get 10 people. Can you stage an intermission that will allow you to edit and display 1 shot from each of those groups? If you can't, can you set it up as a two day event with the viewing on the second day? Can you get an assistant so that you can do a slide show of one 'best of' from each group? Can you schedule a sit down meal, recital, or rehearsal to give you time to edit at least one from each group?

For me, I would try to have one finished photo for each person by the end of the night and a way to view it on a projection screen in front of everybody. I would then schedule a later meeting with each person to proof their prints.

The picture part shouldn't be difficult...trying to keep interest and generate orders in a timely fashion is the part that requires some planning.
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Old 12-04-2010   #3
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Default Re: I had a good idea, now I need to manage it! HELP!

Good points, I do have to consider that none of them will need mass quantities of these prints, but there is the potential for a good wall portrait from the crown shots. So I have to move quickly.

I have one mom that is a close friend so I will bounce time frames off of her and see as far as delivery. A couple that are more experienced did assume it would be a few days to see proof due to the level of editing usually done.

I was potentially going to have a "proof pack" in a week and they keep the proofs with a specific $ order.

I will look at intermission with snacks so I can edit one best of each girl. Projection media may be a challenge but is doable ......... I think.

Anyone else want to jump in?? Just this one response is helping me orgranize my thoughts. Keep it coming.
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Old 12-05-2010   #4
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Default Re: I had a good idea, now I need to manage it! HELP!

Did you mention the "lower session fee" when you pitched this? I'm not sure I follow that all completely, but it makes me wonder if for this event you can charge a little *more* than your normal session fee if they're getting a value of multiple wardrobe changes that they wouldn't otherwise get.

Or, you could charge a session fee + cover charge if it will feel a little bit like a party. Or you could charge a higher session fee and say it covers the session + admission to the event for the child and up to 2 adults, plus some amount more for each additional attendee if you want to allow that. This would help you cover the price of snacks and anything associated with the general craziness that it sounds like there will be.

Here's something for your consideration. I'm wondering (without knowing anything about you or your capabilities!) if you should take a conservative approach to this event, by which I mean don't try to get the proofs the night of. George is surely right that you want to move as quickly as you can to get proofs and maximize sales. He also brings up a great point that you haven't done this before. If you do this right and don't honk anyone off, you can always do it again down the road. You already have your hands full putting on the event and taking photos. Why don't you use this opportunity to make sure you do those things right. If you think you can handle day-of sales next time, go for it. You can send people home with a gift bag prepared ahead of time and that will be fun and keep you in their heads during the week until they get their proofs.
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Old 12-05-2010   #5
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Default Re: I had a good idea, now I need to manage it! HELP!

I would join zenfolio and proof them there, with links/passwords, up the very next day. Tell them orders have to be sent to you by 3 days after the event, and you'll have them filled within 10 days of receiving the order. Then work your tail off to get the orders to them even faster.

Yes on the snacks, if it's going to be a few hours, but nothing drippy or messy or that will stain teeth or gowns. Maybe just some seedless grapes and Sprite or 7up, or some granola bars, and coffee for the parents.

If you have 10-12 girls, I'd do it in 2 sessions, morning and afternoon, and plan the sessions to be a couple hours each, with a lunch break for you in between. Run 5-6 girls through in the a.m., lunch, finish the last 5-6 girls in the p.m.

Sitting fee, I think I'd cut them a break. Let's say you charge $100 for a sitting fee for an hour. You have 10 girls coming, spending 4 hours, I'd give them a sitting fee of $75 plus 10% off their orders if they order more than $$ amount.

Hope that helps. It's something you'll have to twist and shape to your style and needs.
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Old 12-05-2010   #6
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Default Re: I had a good idea, now I need to manage it! HELP!

Joel;

This is still a rough concept that still has to be worked out, so I will ramble a bit and see if it makes sense to either of us.

With the rough ideas that are on my note pad, I am planning to charge less than they would expect for the number of wardrobe changes they will get, the two moms that were at the table that night threw out numbers that would allow me to charge more than I have in the past, while still allowing a modest discount below their expectations for an event of this type. If I actually add up the fees, and the amount of time I spend I will still be net more money even after snacks, gifts,etc; because I will be getting let's say 6 fees in the amount of camera time that I normally would put into 4 people for this type of work. I realize the edit time will not actually change. Does that make any sense ??

I also put it out there that with the level of editing etc required these prints will not be discounted below MSRP and/or files would be at premium prices, and they did not blink an eye. {What started all of this is that my prints have scored well against some folks that are significantly more expensive than I am, so I am jumping on this chance to move up a notch or two in pricing.}

The more I read you comments about a conservative approach, the more convinced I become that I have to agree with you. I believe I should plan to work hard on editing to be sure they get proofs in a timely manner rather than doing less than my best to show something instantly.
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Old 12-05-2010   #7
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Default Re: I had a good idea, now I need to manage it! HELP!

Rain Lily and Scrub, you are right, it doesn't make sense to charge more for the session fee, because you are already getting a large number at once which covers your one-time cost. I don't know what I was thinking!
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Old 12-05-2010   #8
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Default Re: I had a good idea, now I need to manage it! HELP!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rain Lily View Post
I would join zenfolio and proof them there, with links/passwords, up the very next day. Tell them orders have to be sent to you by 3 days after the event, and you'll have them filled within 10 days of receiving the order. Then work your tail off to get the orders to them even faster.

Yes on the snacks, if it's going to be a few hours, but nothing drippy or messy or that will stain teeth or gowns. Maybe just some seedless grapes and Sprite or 7up, or some granola bars, and coffee for the parents.

If you have 10-12 girls, I'd do it in 2 sessions, morning and afternoon, and plan the sessions to be a couple hours each, with a lunch break for you in between. Run 5-6 girls through in the a.m., lunch, finish the last 5-6 girls in the p.m.

Sitting fee, I think I'd cut them a break. Let's say you charge $100 for a sitting fee for an hour. You have 10 girls coming, spending 4 hours, I'd give them a sitting fee of $75 plus 10% off their orders if they order more than $$ amount.

Hope that helps. It's something you'll have to twist and shape to your style and needs.

Between your comment and Joel's this is starting to take some sort of shape. You analogy is exactly what I was thinking as far as the savings for them on the sitting. They pay less per person, but my total fees for the day is higher.

I was planning on using BIG proofs if I do them in print, but I may combine ideas and offer some freebies with a minimum order or something. I started a zenfolio account that has been somewhat unused, but I think I will get to work on it so I would have that as one of my options

I do like the idea of limiting the group size and possibly running two groups.

Still lots of decisions to make but like I said, it is starting to take shape. I know my replies sound like I am all over the place, but you guys are being very helpful and I appreciate it.

I guess the other thing is that I have to reserve the right to change my mind about any and everything right up to the point I order sell sheets, since right now it is happening every 10 minutes or so.
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Old 12-05-2010   #9
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Default Re: I had a good idea, now I need to manage it! HELP!

Quote:
Originally Posted by jfklein13 View Post
Rain Lily and Scrub, you are right, it doesn't make sense to charge more for the session fee, because you are already getting a large number at once which covers your one-time cost. I don't know what I was thinking!
You were probably thinking what I was that night.......... never pass up a chance to make more money doing something you love!!!!!
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Old 12-05-2010   #10
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Default Re: I had a good idea, now I need to manage it! HELP!

I don't know how you keep the interest level if you do not proof these in person. You got a good hook to get the clients through the door for the sessions with the special day, name and rate. I think you need a way to get them all back en-mass for the proofing session. Might you consider having a clinic day with coaches or vendors. If they could provide something in say half hour segments, your folks wouldn't be bored to death waiting for a proofing session and the proofing wouldn't interfere with a feature presentation. You might work out a cooperative venture that works to mutual benefit. Remember, the stronger the overall interest in pageantry the stronger the business of photographing pageants will be.


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