How to Use Your Contract to Close the Sale
Learn how a contract can propel your professional career.
“If you make a sale, you can make a living. If you can make an investment of time and good service, you can make a fortune.”
- Jim Rohn
With each year working as an attorney in the wedding industry, an unexpected aspect of my profession has made itself abundantly clear: working with multiple businesses owners within the same industry has resulted in a seemingly “bird’s eye perspective” on what sets not just the “successful” businesses apart from one another, but the good from the best.
That defining factor? Professionalism.
What sets apart the high-end from the rest is more than just talent; it’s the level of professionalism that the business owner employs. Our clients regard our businesses the way we teach them to, by their observations of how we conduct ourselves as professionals.
This is also proven true: the more “high-end” my client, the longer they want their contract to be. They are not intimidated to run their business with the utmost protection, and do not care if a contract might “intimidate” a client. In fact, they’re not willing to think this way. They view their contract as a tool of stewardship for their business. By protecting themselves and their clients to their fullest capacity, they do so in service of their clients, which in turn makes it a tool for networking.
So how can you use your contract to your “professional advantage”, as a subtle tool to uplevel your business?
Be willing to negotiate your contract with your client. This is not synonymous with giving them everything they ask for, but knowing what you are and aren’t willing to give up. This will require an in-depth knowledge of every provision of your contract.
Refuse to act as anything other than a consummate professional. Your business should be able to provide your services and/or products not just to the best of your artistic ability, but in a way that protects both parties, rather than exposing either to additional risk or liability.
Ensure that your contract is complete, thorough, and strong. There are many facets to this discussion, but a few in particular that I want to highlight today.
Your contract is the first impression that your client has of you.
Prior to booking you, your clients were drawn in by the beauty and unique nature of what you’ve captured on film. I say that as someone who literally budgeted their entire wedding around the film photographer I wanted to shoot my wedding. I went so far as to work two extra jobs throughout my entire last year of law school just to work him into our budget. All that to say-the level of your artistry matters.
At the same time, I never would have put in those hours of work on top of my daily hours of study if I did not trust him to match the level of professionalism I had to employ to even afford him. I was working two jobs, finishing law school, and studying for the bar exam at the same time. I had to trust him with every penny I took the time to give him.
And trust him I did, and why? His professionalism. He communicated with us clearly leading up to our wedding, he conducted every aspect of his work flawlessly...but that all occurred after I had booked him.
So what convinced me? His contract was thorough, and his ability and willingness to entertain negotiations with me made me trust him. It displayed his level of care. His professionalism made such an impression on our family, in fact, that he shot my little sister’s wedding the following year, which was the highest compliment my entrepreneurial father could give to a professional.
Professionalism is doing the right thing by your client, because you genuinely care about them.
If you’re shooting film, you are already one of the most skilled in your industry. Your business acumen must match your creative talent; otherwise, something will appear to be lacking, which creates distrust.
Your contract is what will close the sale with the high-end client, not your instagram account.
I’ll be the first to admit, even I recognize that the legal side of business will never be the “fun” part of being a business owner, but that doesn’t mean it’s to be ignored. Liability, etc, aside, doing so exposes an inbalance between your artistry and your business skills, and the more you ask your clients to trust you (financially), the more this will be exposed. The good news? The majority of business owners will shy away from the perceived discomfort of facing business legalities head on, which simply widens the advantage that the professionals hold above the rest, and results in businesses that endure the natural ebbs and flows of business.