10 Essentials to Go the Extra Mile (for Your Clients + Crew)

extra mile 1Hello, readers! Megan here, Producer at Chase Jarvis Inc. We’ve just returned from an amazing 6-day shoot in Aspen, CO. You perhaps read about it here, here, or here. It got me thinking about client/crew relationships and customer service.

One of the ways you can set yourself apart as a creative professional is to really go the extra mile for both your client(s) and your crew. This applies to YOU, whether you’re a photographer or director producing your own jobs with a small crew, or a producer wrangling a hefty crew with a lot of moving parts. Here are some things to think about before your next shoot:

1. Flights: We do a lot of traveling around here, and we all know that flying can be a pain in the you-know-what. Lines, waiting, more lines, more waiting. Knowing whether people prefer a window or aisle, bulkhead or exit row, goes a long way to make the experience that much better. Be sure to include frequent flier numbers, when applicable. Also, how is everyone getting to the airport? Can you arrange for a car service to carpool some folks that live close to one another? Or should everyone cab it individually and bill the cost along with their final invoice?

2. Hotels: Whether you’re staying in a 3, 4, or 5-star hotel with tons of amenities, or a low-budget motel off the highway, providing the front desk with some details about your stay can really help things run smoothly.  Be sure to let them know how many of you are traveling together and if you have any special needs (early check-in, late check-out, meeting space for your pre-pro, printing capabilities, wi-fi access, breakfast, gear storage, etc.). Ask for dining recommendations or the location of the nearest grocery or drug store. Additionally, since you’re perhaps spending a serious chunk of change with the hotel, you might be able to wiggle into a few extra benefits as well that could help your shoot – early breakfast, discount rates, or extra rooms for gear/meetings. Also remember: the front desk is there to help, if you let them. You can show your appreciation by generously tipping the staff, the shuttle driver, bell hop, housekeeping, etc. Upon checkout, we like to leave an envelope at the front desk for housekeeping. Generally, the rule of thumb is $2 to $5 per day per room.

3. Rental cars:  Think about what kind of space you need:  you may be traveling with so much gear that an SUV is a necessity or maybe even a cargo van.  Or maybe your client wants a convertible if you’re shooting somewhere warm and tropical. Which company should you use?  There’s a balance to be found between price, convenience and reliability. We are usually hurrying off to a pre-pro or a scout and need to know that our car is ready and right. Whenever possible, we go with a company with whom we have a preferred account for fast service and a location in the main terminal.

4. Food: I could go on forever about this one. Food is often an undervalued aspect of a shoot. Keeping your crew well-fed and watered can go a long way to making a tough day feel less tiresome.

  1. Know food allergies and/or preferences. Is anyone allergic to nuts, gluten-free or vegetarian?
  2. Snacks are an easy way to make people happy. Our crew likes Peanut M&Ms, red Swedish Fish, beef jerky and string cheese. What does your crew like to have handy?
  3. What kind of restaurants does your client like to eat at for dinner? Sushi? Mexican? Find out so you can make a reservation in advance. We always love a spot with a private room for large parties. In many restaurants, there’s not even an extra charge!

5. Community: Make sure you get to know your clients and crew well; nothing brings a crew together like an off-duty meal. It’s a fantastic opportunity to talk about things other than the j-o-b and really get to know everyone on a personal level. Your client’s wedding anniversary is next month? File that tidbit away so you can be sure to send him or her a card and perhaps a bottle of wine.

6. Follow-through: Make sure everyone has received and read the call sheet you emailed by following up with a phone call to confirm. It sucks when a key member of your team calls bright and early on shoot day frantic because they don’t know where to go and when.

7. Organization: If there’s one skill that every producer should have honed, it’s organization. It can be tricky to keep track of all the moving pieces, but if you have a good system in place, it can help out tremendously. Try centralizing your information into a production book, with the creative, contact info, schedule, shot list, talent, locations, permits, calendar, travel confirmations, etc. that you can constantly reference. Not only is it super helpful for you, but it instills confidence in your client that you know what you’re doing and that you have everything under control.

8. Details: You know what they say, the devil is in the details. It’s often the little things that make the difference between an okay shoot and an awesome one. Is there a concierge we can leave our skis + snowboards with at the hotel? Is there a hotel shuttle available to take us to the location? Did you remember to get that radio to the 1st assistant? Or make sure everyone has their lift tickets on them? There are a million of these little details to think about on any shoot. The more you can anticipate in advance, the smoother your shoot will go. And the more you’ll impress your clients.

9. Communication: Words to live by, friends, “over-communicate.” Make sure everyone is on the same page and knows what the expectations are. Just had a conference call with your client? Summarize what transpired and who’s responsible for what in an email. I promise you, this will save your behind at one point or another during your career. This is also an effective way to make sure nothing slips through the cracks.

10. Be (sincerely) nice: This might seem like a no-brainer, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten myself out of a jam by simply being really nice. I’m not suggesting that you overdo it on the saccharine; in fact, no one likes a kiss-ass. This can sometimes be easier said than done, but don’t forget that we’re lucky to be doing what we love for a living. You’ll find that people (both clients + crew) are a lot more eager to work with you on a long-term basis if you just be nice :)

Thanks for reading! For more production tips, be sure to check out Kate’s awesome post here.

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20 Responses to 10 Essentials to Go the Extra Mile (for Your Clients + Crew)

  1. KennTaylor March 15, 2012 at 10:03 am #

    I love the idea of making a call sheet, where everyone gets the same information without having to speak over a large group. Most of my shoots have been small productions but this will definitely make me feel more comfortable when planning a larger production team. Which should be soon. I can’t thank you (everyone over there) enough for sharing and uploading the content that you do. Much love. Kenn.

  2. Kevin McGloshen March 15, 2012 at 10:08 am #

    Sometimes, for me, the hardest part of any assignment is getting the client to TALK. Being open, and a good listener goes a long way, but I find myself just making decisions for them because they don’t know what they want. Most times, I’m happy to take care of everything. But those few times when you finish a shoot and the client is underwhelmed, I just want to say, “well, why didn’t you express to me that you wanted _______.”

    As a rule, I also always try to give the client more than what they were expecting. You never know when the little extra is going to lead to another job or a new client from a great recommendation.

  3. Moritz March 15, 2012 at 2:21 pm #

    thanks for that. always nice to have a well organised shoot.
    especially the off-duty meal i think is great to get to meet your team/ clients and nice to be together not working and have a laugh (think thats important on any job not just photography)

    have a lovely weekend

    moritz

    http://www.mostphotography.blogspot.com

  4. Matt Timmons March 15, 2012 at 2:53 pm #

    Megan, when it comes to the crew meals, does that get billed to the client or is it just something that has to come out of the photographer’s expenses? Thanks,

    Matt

    • Megan March 16, 2012 at 11:17 am #

      Hi Matt,

      Generally speaking, we try to build crew meals into the budget (less alcohol), but it’s nice to treat the client to at least one meal over the course of a shoot as a thank you for the work.

      -Megan

  5. TroyK March 15, 2012 at 8:36 pm #

    One word of caution on #2 – a well know secret in the hotel industry is that if you ask someone to give your money to another person as a gratuity it probably will end up in that first person’s pocket. If it does make it back to housekeeping it won’t be split fairly. I always leave a tip on the pillow each day.

    • Megan March 16, 2012 at 11:22 am #

      Hi Troy,

      Thanks for the insight :) Good to know for future travels!

      -Megan

  6. DanielKPhoto March 16, 2012 at 5:55 am #

    Very nice post Megan! I picked up a lot of helpful tips and I’ll make sure to memorize them well.

    Daniel

  7. bitkiler March 18, 2012 at 10:51 am #

    well know secret in the hotel industry is that if you ask someone to give your money to another person as a gratuity it probably

  8. Johnathan Nissan March 18, 2012 at 1:46 pm #

    It all comes down to one excellent sentence: “don’t forget that we’re lucky to be doing what we love for a living.”
    Let your crew/clients enjoy the “work” as much as you do and every thing falls in to place.

    Grate post.
    J.

  9. Jen @ Yellow Bird Blogs March 18, 2012 at 4:35 pm #

    Love this post, Megan! Such a good reminder that the “little” things really do add up to make a big difference in everyone’s experience (positive or negative).

  10. Walter March 21, 2012 at 12:41 pm #

    Megan, this was an excellent post! thanks for sharing your ideas!

  11. dem April 6, 2012 at 3:09 am #

    thanks for that. always nice to have a well organised shoot

  12. NG Production Films April 11, 2012 at 1:51 pm #

    Great post. Sometimes the smallest things that you can do for a client go a long way. And good food always puts people in a better mood during a shoot!

  13. Meg Davis October 9, 2012 at 8:52 pm #

    Great tips! I’m gonna write these out!

  14. Nathan William March 20, 2014 at 5:56 am #

    These are really great tips about photo or video production.

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  16. J. David October 27, 2014 at 11:20 pm #

    Nice and well crafted article. This inspire me to continue on providing excellent service to my clients. I will definitely check here more often.

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