March 3, 2021

Sending a Welcome Guide To Your Clients

5 Reasons You Should Send a Welcome Guide To Your Clients

After a client is officially booked for a photo session, the next thing you should do is send them a welcome guide. Sometimes welcome guides are also called “client guides” or an “introduction guide.” It is what the name implies—a collection of compiled information generic enough to apply broadly across your client base, but specific enough to field most questions right off the bat. The guide should provide insight into next steps, what it will be like to work with a professional photographer, questions to ask themselves as they delve deeper into the planning process, and suggestions for planning their event. 

There are numerous benefits to sending a welcome guide to your clients—I firmly believe it is one of the most important steps you can take to improving your business and adding value to your service. If you don’t have a compiled guide yet, or if you’re working on putting one together, you need to keep reading! This post will help explain the practical applications of a welcome guide, thoroughly go through the step-by-step process of crafting one, and even offer you the opportunity to access a customizable template where 99% of the work is already done for you!

If you’re searching for ways to:

  • Enhance your clients’ experience
  • Avoid answering dozens of emails with the same questions
  • Ultimately increase the value of your services while decreasing the number of hours spent on mundane repetitive tasks

Then a welcome guide is the answer! 

You should be spending your time wisely, and if you’re still unsure how this one addition to your workflow will make this much of a difference, here are the 5 reasons you should send a welcome guide to your client: 

  1. It Sets Expectations & Avoids Miscommunication

It’s important to a successful working relationship that expectations are clearly outlined—what each party expects from the other and exactly what services are available. Sometimes, couples don’t have a clear understanding of what it means to work with an elopement photographer (or any professional photographer)—it will save a lot of time and avoid miscommunication by providing detailed answers to their questions and preemptively answering questions they don’t even know to ask yet.

The guide is an opportunity to outline, in exquisite detail, next steps in the planning process, what to expect the day of their event, and what to plan for when everything is over and done. It is also a way to tell you clients again what you’ve said over consult calls—that you are a location scouting expert, have a network of vendor contacts to recommend, and that your wealth of knowledge is worth tapping into before they solidify certain decisions. 

  1. A Guide Provides Value & Speaks to Your Experience

Providing more with your paid services is literally “more bang for your buck” in the mind of clients—by giving them exclusive access to a guide packed with information, you’re already providing good work for the clients before you ever photograph them. The timing of when you send this guide can also be super beneficial! The moment right after someone spends a lot of money is when they are most likely to have feelings of remorse (hence: buyer’s remorse)—by sending a welcome guide immediately after a client has booked you, they are immediately seeing a return on their investment.

A lot of what you know about elopements isn’t common knowledge to couples getting married. As wedding photographers, we live in a bubble that sometimes makes it seem like everyone knows what is possible for a wedding day because we’ve been a part of dozens (or hundreds) of days like that. By providing a client guide that breaks down all these possibilities into easily understandable prompts that get couples considering their perfect day, you are helping them avoid saying, “I wish we’d thought of that!” 

  1. You’ll Have Better-Prepared Clients

Not only is it easier to work with clients who are fully up to speed on the potentials, options, and services you provide—they are more likely to craft their dream wedding with all the tools at their disposal. The last thing you want is for a couple to regret a missed opportunity because they didn’t realize the true breadth of options available for their elopement or intimate wedding. Preparation prevents seemingly obvious mistakes like wearing flip flops to hike a 14er in Colorado and presents more complex ideas like eloping overseas via a commitment ceremony to avoid legal red tape.

This preparation prevents snags. If your clients are already well-versed in the concept of special event permits for public lands, then that conversation about obtaining permits gets shorter and easier. Not only is lack of preparation a safety concern—like when a client from a warm climate thinks an early spring wedding in the mountains won’t be too cold—it’s also the main reason for client frustrations. Obviously you want to provide 5-star experiences for your clients, and the first step toward doing that actually has more to do with their understanding of the situation than your direct efforts. 

Let me give you an example: you’ve heard the phrase “the customer is always right,” which obviously isn’t the whole truth in any situation. But, as a service provider, “the customer’s perception is your reality”—which means that whatever they think is true will affect your ability to provide your service and eventually make its way into their review of your work. By preparing clients for the reality of the situation, you’ve done the work to align your perceptions and can therefore take steps to ensure they have a positive experience. 

  1. It Becomes an Easy Reference for Future Questions

You can always reference this guide in the future as your clients need vendor recommendations, want to see timeline examples, or have other basic planning-related questions. Just because you sent them 100 pages of valuable information doesn’t mean they read it all or that everything will stick with them in the coming months. But having a reference to point at when these questions do come up will make it easier for you to provide solutions and easy for them to reference the guide rather than send you a dozen emails. Even if they did read through the guide thoroughly, repetition is sometimes what it takes to make information stick. 

By referencing the guide throughout the planning process, you have an easy way of reminding your couple of things they’ll find useful—“I love that you’re beginning to think of other activities to incorporate into your day—did any of the suggestions listed on page X of the planning guide stand out to you as something we should look into more?” Now, they’re likely going to hop back to the guide and maybe remember, “Yes, the helicopter tour sounds like a really fun idea! But we don’t even know where to start looking for a pilot.” BINGO! Now you can make a recommendation for something they might not even have considered before but now will never forget. These ideas within the guide will help them exceed their initial expectations for what an elopement or intimate wedding can be.

  1. An Information-Packed Guide Makes Your Job Easier

Rather than sending out email after email answering the same questions for each client, a guide that is generic enough to be reused over and over again will streamline your workflow and make your life much easier. The more all-encompassing you can make your guide, the better it is for you AND your clients. By ensuring that you’ve passed along answers to your most frequently asked questions and provided even more insight based on your experience as a photographer, fewer things are likely to be missed. Simply put: you can only have the same conversation with so many couples before something slips through the cracks.

A streamlined informational workflow, beginning with a client guide, is essential to providing equitable service to each client. A solid workflow will save you a lot of time by onboarding clients with all the information they need to skip the most basic questions and begin making personalized decisions about their elopements.

How to Craft A Welcome Guide & Fit it Into Your Workflow

Do you use a CRM? If not, I highly recommend checking out Dubsado. Some of the workflow benefits I’m going to be sharing with you are most easily implemented with a CRM, though of course you’ll still save time using whatever current workflow system you’re using.

The first thing you should do when crafting a welcome guide is create a list of things you wish clients knew. Then, add information you know will benefit them and help them craft their dream wedding—sometimes, this means preemptively offering suggestions to answer questions they don’t even have yet! Draw from your experience and use your expertise to offer insight that is truly invaluable.

Some things you should include in your client guide:

—How to create a timeline

—Vendor recommendations

—A list of vendors to consider including

—How to find their perfect elopement location

—Considerations when choosing  a location

—How to decide the number of people they will invite

—How to elope with friends and family, or how to do it just the two of them

—How to get legally married and what a commitment ceremony is

—Prompts to get them thinking about what they really want their day to look like

—How to tell family & friends about their plans

—How to decide on the length of the celebration

—Lists of potential activities to make their day special

And that’s just a good place to start! If it all seems a bit overwhelming, that’s the reason we put hundreds of hours into crafting The Elopement & Intimate Wedding Client Guide Template. Whether you write your own from scratch, or build your guide off of a template design, you still  need to incorporate it into your workflow effectively.

If you use a CRM, a “workflow” is literally the automated (or semi-automated) set of emails, forms, and questionnaires that you can turn on at any point in the booking process with a client. If you don’t use a CRM, your workflow is whatever common process you’re used to that begins when you get an inquiry—your first emails, how you send the contract, how you obtain the retainer payment, any followup emails you send, etc. An effective repeatable workflow is essential to running a successful, professional business. You shouldn’t be starting from scratch with each client—not only is that a waste of time, it basically ensures your clients don’t have equitable experiences working with you. 

We have incorporated the welcome guide into our workflow for booked clients—right after someone has signed the contract and paid the retainer, they recieve a “Welcome, You’re Officially Booked!” email. Within that email is a link to our guide, with clear steps and instructions for how best to utilize the information within.

The Elopement & Intimate Wedding Client Guide + Design Template

If you want all the benefits of an intentionally written client guide, without putting in the time to start from scratch, you’ll definitely want to get & download The Elopement & Intimate Wedding Client Guide + Design Template. Amber, Tori, and I spent (literally) hundreds of hours over the past couple years putting this thing together because we saw a huge gap in the market—plenty of templates for sale, but they all applied to big weddings or used generic “Lorem ipsum” text. Buyers were still forced to write all the copy, and often it would feel like so many changes were made that you might as well have crafted the whole thing from scratch anyway. 

The guide is a 100-page InDesign template (or Canva’s also available) covering over 30 topics relevant to your couples pursuing an intimate wedding or elopement. It includes all of the written words, you just need to input your own images & vendor recommendations and personalize it for your own brand—and it’s ready to send to your clients. 

It pairs perfectly with the information included in The Elopement Photographer Course if you’re looking for a beautifully designed & really informational “welcome guide” for your booked clients that’s specifically for intimate weddings & elopements—and the skills to really follow through & deliver that incredible experience.

But this guide isn’t for everyone—meaning, to keep it valuable, we require that it cannot become readily available online as a free guide. The Elopement & Intimate Wedding Client Guide + Design Template is only for booked clients. Below, I’ve answered some questions about what’s in the guide, how best to use it, and which clients will benefit from the contents.

Here’s everything you get with the guide template:
  1. 100+ pages of beautifully designed, epic content (words included!)
  2. 3 different cover options to choose from
  3. 30+ Included Topics
  4. 100% inclusive language for all couples <3
  5. Adobe InDesign (.indd) file template (U.S. Standard Letter)
  6. Adobe InDesign (.indd) file template (European A4)
  7. Canva template
  8. Copy-only Word Document (.doc)
  9. Fully Complete PDF Example (.pdf) from Adventure Instead
  10. All font files used in the guide with commercial use included
  11. A “Guide to The Elopement & Intimate Wedding Client Guide + Design Template” which explains how to get the most out of your guide, from recommendations on how to customize it & ideas on how to share it with your clients

What topics does the guide cover?

This step-by-step elopement and intimate wedding planning guide is written from the perspective of “you,” the photographer, speaking directly to your clients with advice to aid them through the process of crafting their dream wedding. They are prompted to ask themselves questions, prioritize what is most important, and get the best photos from their day while having a stress-free experience. 

A few of the 30+ topics that are included for couples are:

  1. How to dream up your best experience
  2. How to decide who to invite, how to involve them, and how to tell them
  3. How to pick the right location, backup location, & permit reminder
  4. How to book travel, lodging, choose vendors, activities, wedding attire, footwear, layering, extra gear, etc.
  5. Timeline tips: How much coverage time they need, sunrise vs. sunset considerations, getting ready, first look, ceremony ideas & legalities, portrait tips, and timeline examples
  6. How to get ready to go and final pre-wedding considerations
  7. How to have the best day & what happens next

What file formats does the template come in?

The guide comes in both US & European sizes in Adobe InDesign (.indd file type) and also Canva—a free online graphic design platform. There’s also a Word Document (.doc) version included that is text-only, as well as a fully completed example PDF (.pdf) that we created for Adventure Instead.

How easy is it to use & how much time will it take me to get it ready to send to couples?

I designed this template to be as easy and quick to get ready to send to your couples as possible. All you have to do is to put in your own images, fill in your vendor recommendations, read it over and tweak or delete any pages or sections that aren’t relevant to your brand. I’d say for most elopement & intimate wedding photographers, it should take less than an hour to get ready to send to clients. It’s also easy to customize to aesthetically match your brand if you want to change the colors, fonts, etc.

To make it easier to edit, I recommend compiling a folder of your favorite images from elopements and weddings, plus a couple portraits of yourself (I’d recommend between 120-150 images total). This way you can easily input the images as you edit the template. There are a couple of “text” edits throughout that you’ll want to tweak, like the name of your business or your name, but I specifically wanted this guide to not need any rewrite to be functionally useful. 

Does it only apply to adventurous, mountaintop elopements?

Nope! This template was written to be broadly applicable to all types of elopements and intimate weddings. The language is inclusive, gender-neutral, and easily edited if you want to make one or more sections more specific to your style of photography. There are a few pages you may want to customize if you shoot only urban elopements or 1-hour beach elopements—but the vast majority of the guide will be completely relevant and require no tweaking if you photograph elopements and intimate weddings of any style in any location.

When should I send this guide to clients?

This guide is not something you should be putting out there for free on your website or sending to people who just inquire with you. This is specifically a VIP guide for your booked clients. If you’ve seen my “Free Elopement Planning Guide” on Adventure Instead’s site—that’s not at all what this is. This client guide is really only effective for clients who are officially booked—it’s step-by-step advice on planning their day, your personal vendor recommendations, advice about locations, and much more. This level of value is something that will really “WOW” clients as soon as they book you and make them feel special.

I suggest sending this guide to clients as soon as they book you. Psychologically, “buyer’s remorse” is highest right after someone makes a purchase—so sending your couples this incredible, thoughtful, and super valuable guide right after they’ve booked, will immediately relieve any wariness they have about hiring you and make them feel confident in their choice.

Are there any rules about how to use the guide?

DO use this template and it’s text in part or whole and modify it in any way for printed or digital guide products for yourself or your contracted clients.

DON’T resell, redistribute or share these templates or their included text in whole or in part for any reason; or claim these designs as your own. You may also not reproduce the template in whole or in part in any way that is freely accessible to the general public and non-contracted clients (for example, blog post, social media post, website page, or free guide).

In short, you can use it however you want for printed or digital use for your contracted clients (only), but don’t sell it, redistribute it, or share it publicly in any form (like on your website or social media).

If you’re looking for something to add to your business workflow that clients will love, and make your life easier, you should invest in a client guide! Your clients will benefit because of the value-packed guide filled with advice, recommendations, and answers to questions they might not have even thought of yet. Sending a guide early in your working relationship will help you avoid miscommunication later by laying all the expectations out in an easily digestible format at the beginning—and it becomes a simple reference for when questions do arise through the planning process. For clients, buyers’ remorse is strongest immediately after signing the contract and paying the retainer—you can help them move forward confidently by immediately providing them irreplaceable value that will make their wedding or elopement easier to plan. Ultimately, you’ll be speaking to your experience while also developing better-prepared clients, which is a win-win for everyone!

Written by

Maddie Mae

Award-winning Destination Elopement Photographer + Business & Marketing Coach

Founder of @adventureinstead

I help wedding and elopement photographers discover what sets them apart—and make that their “secret sauce” to building a thriving business.

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