It’s true. more and more schools, sports leagues and childcare centers are ready and willing to sign multi-year deals for 2, 3 or even 5 years. Many of your competitors are already doing this in an effort to lock you out in the future. Getting your accounts to sign a multi-year commitment helps protect you from the turnover of client decision-makers and provides peace-of-mind that you can bank on the cash flow next year.
Your clients will also appreciate you offering them a multi-year deal. It’s a hassle for them to evaluate and select photographers every year (as some feel an obligation to do) with the corresponding uncertainty of their results and the fact that there’s a new learning curve (on both parts) when a new photographer is hired. Clearly, if you’ve done a good job for your clients, offering them a multi-year commitment may give them relief from this hassle and lock you in with them for a longer time.
While some accounts will agree to a multi-year deal just by asking, offering a “Signing Bonus” to do so may make it easier. Make a special incentive offer if they sign up for three years. It could be a cash donation toward their fundraising ($100-$250, depending on the value of the account) or some complimentary service or product above and beyond your typical service. For example, complimentary photo Bag Tags for each player (.50 each from Marathon Press) or team Banners are a nice incentive to book multi-year deals with youth sports leagues. Just ask them what kind of additional support they need and provide something of value to encourage them to sign.
Multi-year deals will also help protect you if you’ve underperformed a bit this time. Maybe you had problems this year, and your customers didn’t get the high level of service you usually provide. Rather than risk getting fired because of it, your accounts will feel an obligation to stay with you through the term of the agreement. This will provide you some time to fix any problems and get back on the good side of your clients before next time.
What if you’re the new photographer who just got the account? If you’re new, they will probably be reluctant to offer you a multi-year agreement. After all, you haven’t proven yourself yet, so why would they want to commit to you for more than this year? Chances are they won’t, but here’s how to handle this.
Acknowledge that while you’d like to ask for a multi-year agreement, you understand that this might be premature given you haven’t proven yourself yet. Instead, ask them this: “If we exceed your expectations this year, will you agree to extend our agreement for 2 more years? Isn’t that fair?” If they agree, get a handshake to close the deal. While it’s not as concrete as getting a firm 3-year deal, it’s better than walking away without any commitment to extend based on your exemplary performance. Signing more multi-year deals will take a lot of worry off your shoulders. Today is a good time to start.