I use Bark.com to get leads and build business while it takes time to break into the cosplay scene. So far, out of all my paying appointments to date have not been in cosplay or geeky by any stretch of the imagination. I appreciate my clients' open-mindedness to work with me and understand that I am versatile and can do quality work outside of my niche. Working outside of my niche helps me build capital to put toward my business and also, the people I worked with were so nice; I really am glad to have met them!
What I don't appreciate is the customer who lied to me. He was almost a customer, but the lead fell through. That's the challenge of using a service such as Bark or Thumbtack; it helps professionals and clients get in touch, but can't guarantee that I will get the job. I usually get one job per pack of 5 leads worth of credits.
I thought I had one, a proposal on top of a ritzy Memphis hotel that will go un-namned (because I may be a geeky artist, but I'm not psycho and about to call out a client) on a certain date. It was kind of last minute and I thought I was their only hope at getting someone to take the appointment. I was very happy to have such a shoot scheduled.
We had it all planned out. I talked to the client and planned to be there at the site half an hour before the time with a Second Photographer (they were getting a good product from me) and we were going to take pictures of him, my photographer friend, and his family and do our own thing while keeping and eye on the couple, and jump out from behind the proverbial bush when Client pops the question to his beloved.
Client was going to get two photographers in one, we had a smooth setup. I was true to myself when discussing the setup with Client. I joked a bit, was kind of excited to have the project, and mentioned my autism when explaining I needed to figure out in advance how to do this smoothly.
The client seemed serious about hiring me. He sent me a picture of himself and his beloved; they look like actors they're so beautiful. Definitely not geeky other than that he could star as a superhero and geeks like superheroes; that's kind of a stretch. He looked at my Instagram story, so I had a link to his profile. He told me the date, time, and location. So, in theory, I could show up no matter what. And I almost did. Because my photographer friend thought it would be cool to hang out anyway and get pictures of his family. It was cold and my one-year-old daughter was not feeling it; so (foreshadowing) fortunately that didn't happen.
Then I got a text saying that the client couldn't fly from Texas because of the storms and maybe he will propose closer to New Year. I told him I understand, congrats anyway, and let me know if you still need me later. I canceled with my friend, which was a bummer, but it was all well and good.
Later, I decided it was a good idea to follow up with my potential client and see if they still needed me later this month. I didn't want to be a sucker and ask if they already got engaged, so I checked out his profile.
The first picture on his profile was of a big sparkly ring while he and his beloved's hand! Another photographer was credited, so I checked out her page, Liked her picture (because that's about as passive-aggressive as I'm going to get), and looked at her site. The picture was posted on the date Client gave me and at the same location! Either there were no massive storms in Texas or he never had to fly out in the first place!
The other photographer's candids were good, but they looked like something I could do too. I mean, there was no fancy lighting or anything, just the natural nighttime setting.
Maybe I made a mistake along the way. Maybe I just wasn't what the client was looking for. Either way, I'm not going to get my feelings hurt. I'm a professional. I have worked in customer service long enough to understand that a client is one step above stranger. They are not meant to be my friend. How they choose their photographer is about them, not me. My feelings are not hurt; even if they were, the client will never find out. The only thing I'm upset about is that he did not need to lie to me. I can take a reason and choose whether or not to apply it as constructive criticism.
There has to be a reason. I will never know the real reason, but I talked to my photographer friend, Jessica, and my mom and explore some potential causes for the cancellation.
Maybe he didn't like my personality. Maybe he thought I would not make the experience as happy, or cool, as he wanted. I have an over the top, extroverted personality. I joked around a lot and joked about jumping out from behind a bush. I also made it clear what my plan was and why it would work. I was going to take pictures of my friends and act like I was there for my own reason until the couple proposed. I even had a second photographer for the couple! This was a good deal and plan. Maybe it wasn't what he was looking for.
Maybe he doesn't like my niche in the geek scene. I am a cosplay photographer. While I specialize in cosplay and highly creative art, I am versatile and capable of shooting pictures for "normies." My traditional samples are in my profile too. I am pretty sure my potential client looked at my website before booking with me. I am not inhibited by an unfightable urge to put a mask and cape on anyone I want to take a picture of. My camera doesn't break at the sight of people outside of cosplay! I don't really understand this being a reason.
I'm autistic. I revealed to my client that I am on the autism spectrum. Maybe this put him off. Maybe he couldn't picture me having the social skills to subtlety pull the proposal off smoothly. My mom thinks this is definitely the reason. Jessica thinks this is definitely not the reason. It's 2021; it shouldn't be the reason. But, I do get it and it's sad.
I undercharged. Maybe the client is wealthy and couldn't take me seriously at $200. That's kind of a stupid reason. I charge a discount when something is my first project of its kind... The other photographer charges $4000 for a single wedding.
I don't have experience. Maybe the client wanted to guarantee good pictures by going with someone who has done this before. I get that. Once again, I think this is an easy project, even with posed pictures. Oh, well.
I should have taken a retainer payment. That was a mistake Jessica pointed out. It would have helped a lot. I would end up with some money after all, and maybe the client would have felt the need to keep whom he hired.
No matter what the reason is, I'm never going to find out. Honesty goes a long way and I appreciate the next client who turned me down; she was very communicative. There was no need to lie to me.