How to Write Effective Client Emails

boring-photographer-text

It’s as easy mistake to make. You’re writing an email to a client late at night. You’re sending them the link to their files, and you type out something quick without giving it much thought.

I mean, you created great images, and got them done on time. That’s what should matter right? A quick email isn’t worth worrying about.

Wrongo.

Or maybe it’s the text you’ve put up on your website. After spending days, or even weeks, meticulously choosing all the images, the template, and the colours, most photographers leave the text as an afterthought.

We’re picture makers, after all, not wordsmiths. Our clients will judge us by our photos, not our words.

Wrong again.

As much as your images matter, your words matter as much, if not more.

While your images show what you can do, it’s your words that tell people who you are, why you do what you do, what you can give to them, and why they should trust you. Yeah, they’re maybe a bit important.

I know this can be scary, especially if you’re not one for writing (there’s a reason we tell our stories with cameras, after all!). But today I’ll share with you the biggest mistake you need to avoid, and a super simple way to ensure you’re writing to your clients in a way they’ll appreciate and connect with.

The Big Mistake

Raise your hand if you’ve ever written your bio in “fake third person”. You pretended to be someone else writing about yourself. I’ll raise my hand first, because I’ve most definitely done that.

Why do we do it? Because we think it makes us seem more important. If someone else would take time to write nice words about us, we must be a big deal right? Our clients will think so, and feel like they’ve found a real professional and be more likely to hire us.

This desire to impress clients can affect your writing even more than your third person bio. It can be as simple as using fancy words, or a formal tone, to seem more professional.

It’s not a bad thing, to want your clients to trust you and respect you as a photographer. But the way so many of us go about it is just all wrong.

The big mistake is trying to sound like a “professional photographer”.

First off, there is no such thing as “the way professional photographers sound”. If you stumbled across one in the wild, chances are they’d sound a whole lot like you do, when you’re speaking like a normal human being.

But when we’re just getting started we are scared. We think people won’t take us seriously because we don’t have much experience, so we try to prop that up with big words, and stiff language.

Unfortunately the message that actually sends is that this isn’t a real person, and if they are real, well, they just might be really boring.

Not exactly the image that will get potential clients stoked to work with you.

A Related Mistake

Along the same lines of writing too formally is failing to put enough energy into your writing.

If there’s one thing that I’ve learned over the course of 10 years of writing online it’s this: most people greatly underestimate how much energy is required in your writing to get people excited.

The internet strips a ton of personality out of our writing. With no facial expressions or body language, no tone of voice, or even the personality of your hand writing to lend a hand, all you’re left with is completely generic letters on a screen. Letters that are probably being read quickly while the recipient is doing four other tasks. You rarely have their full attention. Your energy tells the reader “Hey! I think this is important and you should too!”.

Even if you grab their attention, your energy needs to stay high. You’re not just trying to get them in the door. You’re trying to keep them there long enough to hear your message. Do you realize how many people stop partway through your article? Or your email? The answer is usually “most”.

(High five to you if you’re still reading this, by the way! I appreciate that!)

So if you write boring, formal words, what’s the chance that that person will a) want to keep reading, and b) be actually excited about what you’re telling them?

Low. Very low.

The Simple Fix

Luckily the fix is very very simple. It’s so simple that you’re going to probably keep hunting around for the rest of it. But here it is, in it’s entirety.

Write the way you talk.

Yep, that’s it. Write to your clients, current and prospective, the way you would talk to them in real life.

Ok, I’ll give you a bit more here. To make it even better, let’s add three more words.

Write the way you talk to your friend.

Imagine your best friend – the person that brings the best out in you, that you’re comfortable around, and that you love to chat with. The way you talk with them is good representation of you at your funnest and happiest and realest, and that’s a very good image to present to clients. It instantly makes them connect to you and like you. After all, your friend connects to you and likes you for a reason!

(Now, a super quick disclaimer. These are still clients, so let’s be a wee bit more specific and say “the way you talk to your friend, politely“. :)

So when you’re writing out that email, or your bio, or the welcome blurb on your website, imagine you are sitting down with that friend for coffee. Heck, you can even use a voice recorder and talk it out if you are having trouble translating your spoken words to your writing. I promise you this will get easier and easier over time, and soon you’ll “write the way you talk” naturally!

An Example

I reckon an example might make this all easier to wrap your brain around. Let’s take a look at that “file delivery email” and see how we can make it more friendly and add in that energy that’s so important.

The Boring Way

Dear [Client],Enclosed please find the link to your images. You will receive 50 photos in two different sizes: 50 are prepared for web use (Facebook, email, etc.) and 50 are prepared for print use.http://www.yourcoolphotosarehere.comThe file size is 3.6 GB so it may take a considerable amount of time to download. Please ensure your computer’s “energy saving” preferences are set so that it does not power off during the download.If you have any additional questions about your images, please feel free to contact me.Sincerely,

Boring Photographer

Wow, doesn’t that just get you SO pumped up to check out your photos?? I know I’m excited!

Yeah not so much.

Now, this is an essential email for the client to read, and they will get all the important details. But think for a second about how they feel when they read it. Ambivalent at best. Nervous at worst. Our clients are totally freaked out at this moment when they get to see their files for the first time. Was their huge investment worth it? Do they look good? Or did they just waste a ton of money and had something in their teeth the whole time? Scary.

Your email at this point can do so much more than convey the facts. It can get them excited to see the photos, and it can even reassure them that the photos were, in fact, awesome. It can connect them to us further, and make them more likely to be repeat clients (and referring ones at that).

Do you see just how incredibly important our words are? They are powerful, powerful things!

So let’s see how we can rewrite that!

The Enjoyable Way

Hey there [Client]!Hope you’re having an awesome evening! I sure am because I just wrapped up working on your photos, and are they are fantastic! I am so excited for you to see these, you’re going to love them. There’s a shot of your kids all together that just melted my heart, I hope you have some Kleenex around ;)Ok enough talking, let’s get you those files because I bet you’re just itching to see them!Here’s the link to grab them. Just click on it and they’ll start downloading right away. Easy.http://www.yourcoolphotosarehere.com

Now I’ll take a second to explain what you’ll be getting. You’ll be getting 50 beautiful photos, and I’ve gone ahead and given them to you in two sizes. There are web sized files that you can use to share with all your friends and family on sites like Facebook or in emails. And then there are the print sized files. These are the high quality files so make sure to use these ones when making prints!

And just a little heads up, the file size is actually pretty big (3.6GB of gorgeous images), so it might take a while to download. You’ll want to make sure to change your computer settings so that it doesn’t go to sleep while downloading. It should be easy to do, but if you have any troubles just let me know and I’ll help you out!

Well, that’s everything, so I’ll leave you to it, and let you go check out those photos. Once again, I had such a wonderful time with your family, and am so happy with the photos we created together. Can’t wait to hear what you think!

Chat soon!

Excited Photographer

Ok, so that’s how I’d write it. I’ve been know to grossly overuse the exclamation point, but it’s not because I yell all the time. It’s because I want to really put a ton of energy into my emails, in the hopes that it transfers over to the recipient. I imagine you felt quite differently after you read that one than after you read the first one. You might have actually been eager to click on the link and see those gorgeous photos!

Here’s the trick though. The way I wrote that? It might not be the way you should write it. Why? Because I’m not you. My photographer personality is enthusiastic, energetic, and upbeat. I use words like “super”, “awesome”, and “stoked” all the time, especially when I’m shooting.

And that might not be you. You might have read my email and cringed.

And that’s ok!

The key is simply that you recognize that you need to write in your own voice. Not pretending to be a “professional photographer”. Not pretending to be a “super cool photographer”. But being yourself. That example was how I talk to my friends. So how do you talk to yours?

The best part of all of this is that the more you work on developing your authentic writing voice, the more your own personality will shine through everything you do with your clients. This will help you to find the right clients who will appreciate your own style. From the moment they check out your site, through all interactions with you, up to that final email, they’ll be getting to know you and connecting to you like a friend.

Don’t believe me that this can happen, just by writing like yourself? Well, Rob and I developed a word while we were wedding photographers: flient. It meant friend/client, and was how we described our clients who became our friends. They were many, and some of our closest friends to this date started as clients. It just goes to show how authenticity in your business can translate to meaningful relationships with your clients. Or flients!

So go and check the writing on your website. Your marketing materials. Your emails to your clients. Does it sound the way you do when you talk? If not get to changing it up. Add your unique voice. Your clients will be all the happier for it.

Lauren Lim

Hey friend, I’m Lauren! I’m a photographer and head ninja here at Photography Concentrate. I’m downright obsessed with photography, and love sharing it with super cool folks like yourself. When I’m not shooting, or writing, you can find me cooking (and eating!), traveling, and hanging out with wonderful people.

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Comments

14 Comments // Leave a comment

  1. This is exactly what I enjoy the most about Photography Concentrate. You make it feel like I’m learning from my friends. Keep it up…you guys are awesome!

  2. As always, a helpful article and very relevant for me at the moment as I’m working on creating my photog biz site and social media pages, and have sat to write some content for them.

    Can you recommend a site to use for providing clients with their images? Also, for the print size images, something I’ve been wondering is, what size to provide? I’ve been sizing to 6×4 (regular album size) then saying if they decide they would like to enlarge some to let me know which ones and I’ll give them the bigger files. So a little bit of back and forth, do you provide the full size images or?

    • Lauren Lim says:

      Thank you Sarah-Louise, glad you enjoyed it!

      We use USB thumb drives for our clients and give them all the files on there. Easy to use, and then they have a copy of the files to keep as a backup. We encourage them to make multiple copies just in case! On the rare instances where we wouldn’t give them the USB drive we would use our own webspace to deliver the files, but as Peter mentioned below, Dropbox is a good option.

      As for file sizes we provided web sized files so they could easily share them online with family and friends. These were around 900px on the long edge, 72 dpi. Then for the print sized files we would give them the full size JPEG files so that they could do enlargements on their own. It would have been a lot of work to keep going back and forth every time they wanted a larger sized file, especially years later!

      Hope that helps! :)

  3. Maybe Lauren will still answer this, but I’ll have a go, if I may.

    Not sure what editing/processing software you use, but there should be a “proof quality” and “full quality” export. The proof quality is more than enough for 4×6 prints and the files are generally under 1MB. I find I can print proof quality for up to A3 and the quality is great.

    For bigger jobs (eg weddings) I like to give the client his images on a flash drive. I find that often this is much easier than online, because the upload and download can take ages. You can always email a handful of the best images, so they receive something straight away to share on FB etc.

    For distribution, many people probably use Dropbox. Dropbox has a nice feature that allows the client to add your folder to his Dropbox, which is very convenient for downloading a lot of photos, ie via syncing the shared folder to his computer.

    I really like the slide-show feature in Skydrive, that’s fantastic for the client, because he can lean back and enjoy the show. The Skydrive web page also really look attractive, that’s a big plus.

    So far I have been able to use the free space I have with Dropbox, Skydrive and Google drive, I actually didn’t need to buy online space yet.

    I have experimented with some photo sharing websites that I hosted from my own web space. One great feature is a “Lightbox” that allows you to click/mark a lot of photos and download them in one ZIP files… however, have never found a software that had all the features I’d like to see, like user control/privacy, slide show, bulk upload and download, attractive user interface. I guess I’m still looking, this would be my ideal = hosting this myself.

    You can also buy a Cloud Drive (eg a WD MyCloud, which I have and love). This allows you to copy the photos on the drive via your LAN and the client can download from the net… but this may clog up your internet connection. On the long run this is cheaper than paying $’s every month for a pro Dropbox account, so something like that.

    I think you really have to experiment a bit and see what works for you.

    The easiest, by far, in my experience are flash drives given to the client in person.

  4. Heeeey! Oh boy, I was grinning like an idiot reading this while at my workdesk. I can feel your energy and personality through all your blog posts. I smile all the time but I am sure my co-workers are wondering why I am still smiling while looking at my computer… I loved this post and it made me relax a lot. I am also an avid exploiter of the exclamation point, and now I won’t be afraid to use it if I know other people are too. Thanks for giving me some confidence today, Lauren!!

    Have a gooder!

    • Lauren Lim says:

      Haha, oh Priscilla you’re too funny! I think you are such a pro at this “writing like you talk” stuff, your writing is so much fun to read! Exclamation point lovers unite!

  5. Great advice Lauren. As someone who started out as a writer before she learned how to use a camera, this is advice I have heard before and it’s something I really try to stick to. Writing the way you talk, though, is actually not as easy as it sounds. I battled for years to work out whether what I was writing actually sounded like me. And then I learned another great piece of advice. Read what you have written out loud. If it sounds stilted and awkward when you read it, then it will probably come across that way to others. But, if, when you read it, it sounds natural and exactly like something you would say, then you’re on to a winner!

    PS I, like you, have a tendency to overuse the exclamation mark. I just can’t help myself!

    • Lauren Lim says:

      Hi Sarah! So glad you enjoyed the article, that’s very big praise coming from a writer! Excellent tip about reading what you’ve written out loud, I use that trick often and it definitely helps!

      So glad I’m not alone in loving the exclamation mark!! :)

  6. Great article, Lauren, as always! :)

    I’ve got a couple of questions, though. My website is launching next month (hooray!) – by the way, I’ve started studying photography 1,5 years ago thanks to you guys. Also, discovering you (Lauren) and Rob, and Andrea Hanki was groundbreaking! I can truly say that it shaped my as a photographer. You guys are such a huge inspiration, I can’t thank you enough.

    But back to the questions :). I’ve resized images meant for the website 650px, 72 on the long edge. Does 900px make them better quality? Because I would usually make them 250px or 300 for the print, and they looked much better online, the 650px ones are a bit pixilated.

    Also, would you post the memory stick with the images to the clients or give hand them out in person?

    Thanks in advance!

    • Lauren Lim says:

      Hi Julia!

      Thanks so much for the super kind words! And a huge congrats on the upcoming website launch, that’s so exciting!

      For web sized images I generally do 900px on the long edge, 72 ppi. And when I export them from Lightroom I choose to sharpen for screen which helps them look crisper.

      Then for print I make them full size, at 300 ppi.

      The big reason to make your web sized ones smaller is that it will make them load faster on the web! Putting full size, 300 ppi images on your website will make it load super slow for visitors.

      I personally have been starting to export at 900px on the long edge because so many websites are starting to show really big photos (I used to do 600px but it’s starting to be too small). But there’s a chance that your website needs even bigger images, which is why your 650px ones are looking pixelated. If they aren’t big enough, the site might be stretching them, which would cause them to look pixely.

      So check what size your web site template requires, and then export at that length, 72 dpi for web!

      As for the final files on the memory stick, we generally gave them to our clients in person, so we could take one last opportunity to thank them for their business in person! :)

  7. Thank you so much! This article really helped me since I normally hate writing emails to clients. Your advice should help me get out of the boring zone. Thanks again!
    Joe

  8. Hey there Lauren!

    Didn’t want to be an archeologist by commenting on such an old post, but I couldn’t hold myself! Everything that you’ve written here is so true! It took me a while to understood this and I still have to change a lot of things on my website, but I totally agree with you here! Great article!

    P.S. I was actually looking for a completely different thing :D

  9. Thia was a superb article! very well written! thank you so much :D this helps me a lot!

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