@DJStevie nice. Ya, I think that's a lesson we all learn early on. How do you manage your contracts? Do you use a service, something similar to how I do it, or do you require a paper copy?
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I've seen and heard of a lot of pros get burned on payment because they didn't get a contract signed or a downpayment upfront.
I'll be real with you... even I've been burned. Getting someone to sign a contract digitally is kind of confusing, especially if you and/or your client is not tech savvy. Plus, I hate taking notes while on the phone; especially, if I'm driving or at a public place and don't have anything to take notes with. So, I came up with this way so that I NEVER forget a scheduled job or what I quoted them for.
This is how I do it:
Once a lead contacts me to discuss hiring me for work, I setup a phone consultation and quote them over the phone and schedule the work. Before hanging up the phone, I tell them to text me their email so that I can send them over a contract.
I go to my gmail account and click on "Google Apps" --> "More"--> "Forms".
I select my "Contract" --> "Send"--> enter in my new client's email --> then, I click "Send".
It's that easy!
Now, what does that all do?
My contract is actually a questionnaire that lists all of the contract criteria while having some "fill in the blank" fields that are required to fill out before completing the contract. Those fields are:
Agreed Upon Fee
Address of Job Site
Date of Work
Time of Work
Type of Work (I, personally, have a dropdown menu of selectable job types)
"If you agree to all of the terms of the contract above, please type you full name here"
"If you have additional information you would like to add to the contract details, please state so here"
What happens with the contract when they fill it out? I'll give you the simple answers here:
I get an email stating that a contract has been filled out.
I open the email and review all the entered information.
I add the agreed upon time and date to my google calendar with a 24 hour and 3 hour notification of the event.
I send them a digital invoice (I personally use invoice2go) with a 50% downpayment due prior to the date of the work. (I can go into detail on how this works in a future thread)
This... is... awesome! Now, I don't have to review consultation notes, I don't forget conversation details, and I never miss work... ever. Plus, this filters out the bad clients that are trying to trick people into free work.
What else does this do??? I build a database of all my previous clients I've worked for in a google spreadsheet and I use that information for email marketing! I'm actually to the point now that 20% of my monthly work is from previous customers!
Can this get any better??? YEP! (warning: for the very tech savvy only)
I use a service called Zapier... (Another Warning: This is going to blow your mind). Zapier is an automation service that you can link separate programs to each other to create a string of actions based on initial actions. This is how it works:
The client fills out the contract.
The contract details are automatically entered into a google spreadsheet.
I built a Zapier link between my contract spreadsheet and my Google Calendar so that when information is updated, it automatically creates an event for me in my Google Calendar automatically. (BOOM!)
I also have a Zapier link between my Google spreadsheet and my digital Invoice service (Invoice2go). It creates the invoice for me, unfortunately it doesn't automatically send it. I have to do that on my own. But, all the details are there and ready to be sent. I just go to the Invoice2go app --> select the newest invoice --> click "send". And, that's it!
That's how you build an extremely simple and easy-to-use contract system that is more than just a contract. It's contracts, customer data, job details, etc.
I hope this information helps all of you pros by making your contract signing process more simple for you and your customers. If you have questions or comments, please don't hesitate to reply on the thread here.
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@DJStevie You're absolutely right. I completely understand how our industries and our perspective clientele range wildly different. I have still had some issues with the calendar bit, but I believe I found the reason as to why they keep booking me during blocked hours/days. (I'll let you know as soon as it's confirmed) I completely agree with you about the notification piece. We are paying for the service, we should be afforded the opportunity to read patch notes when changes are made. That is something I've made as a suggestion myself, among others. About the new system vs. the old system. Have you looked for other DJ's using the new/old systems in other major cities and contacted them about what they're doing? I would reach out to them directly and see what information I could trade with them to increase my chances of getting hired in both systems. The issue of when clients choose you but don't respond after that, do you follow up with your clients regularly? I do... but, I do understand the argument of not having time to sit around and watch for notifications/follow up with old leads. Now, when you say that notifications are coming in groups or in a group of leads in one notification, I think that may be a settings issue. I get notifications of leads immediately as soon as they contact me. Let me know how that is working for you so that I can better understand the issue. Lastly, I'll check out that article by @MichelleT. I'd like to see what other pros are saying in that format. Thanks for the response! I really appreciate the dialog! Cheers,
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@Bateshandyman I'm glad to hear that! Thanks for taking the time to read my post! I completely understand the issue with the price change. Personally, I took that as a change in the rules of the "game". As soon as their price changed, I knew that would affect my ROI, so I changed my prices. Simple as that. Though a million thoughts swirled around my head thinking I would get fewer leads, it actually didn't change at all for me. I'm still getting the same amount of leads I was getting before I changed my prices. Note: I do understand we're in very different industries and markets/market values vary widely. Good Luck and hit me up anytime!
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Contract and Deposit... Gah, this sucks. I've been here, personally and I hate it when it happens to others. Don't ever fear to ask for a deposit like I did, at first. I thought it would scare away clients. In reality, it does... it scares away the bad ones. Ask for a deposit and you'll always end up getting the second half after the work is done. Again, sorry to hear this happened. PM me if you wanna see how I manage contracts and deposits online. Cheers, Patrick Skinner
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Hey Everyone! Patrick Skinner of CLG Photography Here!
DISCLAIMER: I have not been hired by Thumbtack to write this.
I'm writing this because I see many Pros in here stating they aren't getting a good ROI (Return on Investment) by using Thumbtack. So, here are someone of the things I do to be successful with Thumbtack.
DISCLAIMER #2: I'm a Photographer, I know some of the things I do may not pertain to your particular business/industry. But, I'm going to try to translate a lot of it as broadly as possible.
1.) Your profile reflects who/what your business is... Make the most of it!
I see many people don't take the time to develop solid content for their Thumbtack Business Page(s). If you're not a photographer, then hire one to take some professional images of your business. The more professional looking your photos are, the better. Trust me, it's worth the investment.
Also, if your description is too short, too long, or not very welcoming; then, you should consider rewriting it: I try to write as if I'm having a conversation with that person. I want my description to come off as someone they would be willing to invite into their home because, in many cases, that's exactly what they're doing.
2.) Compare Yourself and Reflect.
Take the time to compare yourself to those that are Pros within your immediate areas. Also, don't be afraid to look at Pros that do what you do in larger and more competitive cities. I'm in Dallas, and it's pretty competitive here but I think I have a pretty sharp edge by comparing myself to those in New York, Denver, and San Fransisco.
3.) Thumbtack is NOT the Enemy.
I see many people posting about how angry they are with Thumbtack about changes they make or about a glitch that cost them money. I'll say this, THUMBTACK IS NOT PERFECT. The best part about that statement is even they know it. Don't be afraid to contact them with all the evidence to the glitch/issue, and you'll almost always get that lead refunded.
Seriously though, I get it... I've spent days completely pissed off because some photography lead cost me $40 on a gig that only ended up paying out $200, because I had a lead contact me on a date that I was already booked for, or I ended up paying for a lead that turned out to be a scammer. This stuff WILL happen sometimes, it's up to you to make sure that you report all these issues to Thumbtack to get them resolved.
4.) If You're Losing "the Game", It's Probably Because You Don't Know The Rules.
I see many Pros say they spend way too much money and don't get enough ROI.
The way I use Thumbtack is as if I were playing a game. If I'm finding that my ROI is low on the amount I spent for any given time period, then I know I'm losing "The Game."
What's the first thing to do when playing a game? Know the rules... ALL OF THEM. Personally, I played the game for almost a year before figuring out all of the rules, but that's because I didn't actively try to learn all the rules either.
What's the second thing about playing the game? Know your opponents. Many Pros spend too much time focusing on Thumbtack like they're the opponent when in reality they're the gameboard.
Lastly, how do you win the game? Know your goals. That's on you. What are your desired results from Thumbtack? Do you plan on always using Thumbtack? If you do, then you need to get REALLY GOOD at using Thumbtack. If you don't plan on using Thumbtack forever, then what's your exit strategy?
5.) Dispute... Dispute... Dispute...
I literally have Thumbtack Support on speed dial.
To the Thumbtack Moderators that may be reading this: I never use the text service/instant message service. Every time I have, I've had a very difficult time conveying what the issue is and the issue ends up taking 2-3 weeks to get resolved instead of within that day. Also, phone calls are just more personal... I'd rather talk to someone despite hold times ranging from 2 to 20 minutes. Maybe Top Pros can get their own helpdesk line? *Hint* *Hint*
My last disputed lead was because the customer put the wrong date, which was a date I was already booked for. It probably took me 2 minutes of conversation and an emailed screenshot of the customer saying she put the wrong date via text message to get it corrected. That was it.
I've even disputed little glitches like leads accidentally being sent to me on dates I was already blocked out for. Again, a phone call and a few screenshots got me reimbursed.
I haven't won every single dispute, but every time I didn't win it was because I usually did something wrong or I didn't know about a rule to "the game."
I'll end this tip with this. Again, THUMBTACK ISN'T PERFECT, BUT they're not the enemy either. It's important to dispute charges so that they can find out what issues we're running into so that they can fix them in the future. It's actually pretty rewarding to point out a glitch in their system and see it get fixed... it's kinda like, "Hey... that was because of me!" Lol.
6.) Know Your Numbers
If you say to me that you don't get enough ROI, I'll respond, "What's your current ROI percentages per services Monthly and Annually?" If you don't know them, then how do you really know you're not getting enough ROI?
I spend hundreds of dollars of Thumbtack per month, but I also make a significant amount to offset the cost. If all you're looking at is how much you spent without looking at how much you made, it's easy to think it's not worth the ROI. Here are some examples:
Leads / Earnings Percentages:
Leads cost me about 11% of what I make from Thumbtack. No earnings from outside leads are included in this percentage.
Lead Style Count:
This shows me how many leads I'm getting contacted for per photography category. *hmmm... just noticed sports photography isn't showing up... I'm going to have to fix that... *Facepalm**
This shows me out of 100% of all my hired leads, which ones I get hired for the most/least.
So... Why are Lead Style Count & Sales Percentages important? Can you think of a reason? Look at the numbers and see if you can solve it before you continue reading:
I'll give you a sec...
Just a few more seconds...
Ok! 63% of my purchased leads were for Event Photography, but Event Photography only made up 33% of my hired jobs?! This means, out of all the photography styles, I was contacted for Event Photography the most without getting hired.
This could lead to two possible reasons with several possible solutions:
Possible Reason #1:
My profile doesn't reflect my capabilities as an Event Photographer, so they end up hiring someone that has a profile that shows off their Event Photography style better.
I decide I don't like doing Event Photography that much, so I lower my budget on that category or I turn that service off completely.
I step up my profile game for that category and start showing off more projects, videos, and images of Event Photography that I've done in the past.
Possible Reason #2
That category, unfortunately, has a lot of people that are just looking for quotes but rarely hire.
Make sure your price is displayed so that they don't bother even contacting you if you are already more than they can afford.
Still getting contacted, but not hired? Raise your price so that people that want the quality work and can afford your services are the only ones contacting you. You'll definitely get fewer leads contacting you, but it will definitely drive up your ROI percentage.
So... what did I do? I raised my price. That was DEFINITELY was the best decision. I went from getting hired for small little parties that I was only getting me 80% ROI to getting hired by large companies like Microsoft, DHL, and Amazon and getting 95% ROI. I did do fewer jobs obviously because of fewer leads, but I ended up making more money per month.
If you made it this far and read my entire post, then... I love you... lol. Seriously, I appreciate each and every one of you that took the time to read this and I really hope it helps you. If you have questions, please don't hesitate to add them to this thread.
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I'm also a Veteran turned Photographer. What a transition it's been. Loved your story and thanks for the tip on SCORE. Interested in finding a similar group like this in the Dallas/Fort Worth Area. Cheers, Patrick Skinner
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