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There is greater demand for retouchers now more than ever, yet the lack of business and pricing information leaves many photographers and retouchers unsure of how to price for retouching, how to estimate and bid on commercial jobs, and how to communicate with clients and ask the right questions. This lack of confidence and understanding of the business of retouching leaves many photographers and retouchers burning themselves out, losing time and money throughout multiple rounds of unnecessary revisions.
In this comprehensive business tutorial, commercial retouchers Sef McCullough and Earth Oliver unpack their proven business workflow and strategies from client inquiry to final delivery. You will first build a foundational knowledge of the retouching industry, then follow along through a case study of a real life commercial retouching job as Sef writes emails to clients and assesses, estimates, prices, and bids on a project from start to finish.
Then take your knowledge of the business of retouching and join Sef and Earth as they talk with other working pros of the industry including professional retouchers Lisa Carney, Jordan Hartley, and Peter Hunner, and photographers Clay Cook and Rob Grimm. We’ve never put so many industry pros in one tutorial!
Welcome to The Business of Retouching with Sef McCullough & Earth Oliver. In this course, follow 2 seasoned veterans as they describe and define the business of retouching. Identify 5 retouching personas, examine client management and communication, and define a set of principles to guide your retouching career.
Retouching Personas (10:12)
To begin this course, learn how to identify your persona as a retoucher. Retouching involves a vast skillset with a variety of positions and opportunities across the photography industry. Develop a clear understanding of those positions and their hierarchy to help quantify your skills. Build a solid foundation for a retouching career with a pathway towards growth.
Retouching Essentials (6:00)
With a solid foundation on what it means to be a retoucher, build on your persona identification. Learn about the essential tools and necessities that a retoucher needs to be successful within the industry. From hardware, software, accessories, client communication tools, file transfer and backup, consider your workflow to be an effective and efficient retoucher.
Business Workflow (16:13)
After identifying a persona, a retoucher’s toolset, and a direction for your career journey, build a workflow for business communication and client interaction. Learn the importance of client communication, ongoing dialogue, and setting specific expectations to define a project scope. Learn how to educate your client and use informed decision making to build a professional and repeatable process for any project scale.
Client Inquiry (3:06)
It’s time to get more specific. Dive into a case study to examine the process of winning work, to final project completion. Follow high end retoucher, Sef McCullough as he examines a potential client project via an e-mail inquiry. Learn how to examine the inquiry, assess client needs, and position yourself to accept or potentially reject a project. Define an approach and mindset the creates proper expectations. Learn when to reveal your project rates and lead your clients to a mutually beneficial agreement.
Gathering Primary Information (8:56)
Client management is not an easy task. Learning to master creative and technical skills takes time, patience, talent, and a willingness to never stop learning. Business interactions are no different. Learning to communicate with your clients is essential. It’s not just about winning work. Managing client expectations throughout the creative process is integral. In this section, focus on how to gather as much information about a potential project opportunity. Learn how to ask specific questions about the project scope, type of work, number of assets, and final delivery.
Client Response (2:59)
After sending a first email response to the client inquiry, learn how to evaluate a client response. Take a detailed look at how to assess the information a potential client gives you and measure your response. Evaluate project parameters and continue to refine your questions to get as much information as possible to create a successful outcome.
Project Assessment (7:21)
With a good base of information, you can begin to develop a sound estimation for a bid. Follow Sef as he uses a custom job calculation worksheet. Implement a solid and tested method of calculating your time and cost to price your work with confidence. Learn how to build an accurate pricing model while also learning the appropriate time to reveal that information to the client. We have included Sef’s calculation worksheet in your support documentation for this course, so don’t forget to reference that as you learn.
Gathering Secondary Information (6:46)
Having a built a solid bid estimate, learn the process of responding to the client and continue to ask key questions to create clear project expectations. Clarify asset quality, project timing, legal considerations, and establish the primary points of contact for the review process. Learn to ask directive questions to understand and extract the client budget information. Create a method for protecting your rate while bringing the client considerable, measurable value.
Preliminary Bid (7:27)
Evaluate the client’s response to your questions for secondary information. At this stage, identify the project look, deliverable assets, finalize legal parameters, and learn the main points of contact for the project review. Also, identify the client’s target budget to assess if that matches your initial bid estimate. Learn to finalize the project inquiry and move towards closing the business deal. Learn to craft a carefully detailed, concise email communication that restates the project parameters, affirms the budget, defines the project scope, and initiates the project work agreement.
Formal Work Agreement (11:00)
Congratulations! You’ve won the client. But just like details matter in any retouching workflow, the same is true for business interactions and agreements. At this stage, learn how to finalize the formal work agreement. Define the importance of having this type of agreement, what it contains, and how your business becomes less complicated by implementing it when accepting a project.
Lisa Carney Part I (14:25)
You should now have a firm foundation in building a business workflow for retouching. Make the transition with us, into a series of sit down interviews with some of the industry’s most tenured and exciting new faces in the world of retouching. For this first interview segment, join retouching artist and experienced veteran, Lisa Carney. Hear about how she got her start and has developed into a world class retouching artist for feature film, television, and commercial clients. Listen as photographer, Rob Grimm, and retouchers, Sef McCullough and Earth Oliver discuss the challenges of working in a collaborative medium with tight deadlines, budget constraints, and ever changing client expectations.
Lisa Carney Part II (18:04)
Join photographer, Rob Grimm, and retouchers Lisa Carney, Sef McCullough and Earth Oliver as they continue to discuss industry dynamics. From communication, to fixing mistakes, to the different perspectives of production vs. post-production. Learn about how to navigate managing client expectations, the importance of your rate in the context of long term thinking.
Lisa Carney Part III (9:26)
For this final segment interview with retoucher, Lisa Carney, hear her insights about breaking into the retouching industry and winning new work. Listen as she addresses the importance of gaining a visual vocabulary of the environment you want to work in. Gain a proactive approach for effective industry informational interviews. And learn the prerequisites of building a solid retouching foundation to build the basis for a solid career.
Peter Hunner Part I (15:07)
Transition to another industry perspective with New York based agency principal, Peter Hunner. Listen as Peter discusses his industry experience from higher education, to starting as a digital tech, working his way through the personas to become an agency principal.
Peter Hunner Part II (15:15)
Continue following industry voice, retoucher and agency principal, Peter Hunner with insights about what it takes to be a working retoucher. Hear about the value of having an eye for design. Understand the importance of both creative and technical skillsets to be an effective retoucher. And build a portfolio with rock solid organization to impress and win work within an agency environment.
Peter Hunner Part III (11:55)
For the final segment with retoucher and agency principal Peter Hunner, listen to the ebb and flow of agency growth and contraction as the business model continues to evolve. Hear the value of finding balance in your personal life and creating fulfilling work. Learn what factors defined the decision to make a market change for Peter’s business. Become skilled at identifying who the key hiring personnel are within an agency structure. Consider the importance of a strong and customized creative deck with which to approach agencies and clients.
Jordan Hartley & Clay Cooke Part I (13:02)
In the final series of industry voice segments, join retoucher, Jordan Hartley and photographer Clay Cook as they discuss their professional partnership. Hear how Jordan began his career as a retoucher, developed his skillset and began winning client work. See the perspective of an entirely self taught, freelance retouching artist. Listen to photographer, Clay Cook’s perspective, as he shares what is valuable in a photographer and retoucher’s working dynamic.
Jordan Hartley & Clay Cooke Part II (14:50)
In this second segment of industry voices with retoucher, Jordan Harltey and photographer, Clay Cook hear about the prospect of working as a remote retoucher. Listen as they discuss working together across national borders, how often they can collaborate on set for a production, and how having a collaborative partnership can lead to more work.
Jordan Hartley & Clay Cooke Part III (18:13)
In this third and final segment of industry voices with retoucher, Jordan Hartley and photographer, Clay Cook, listen to their strategies for finding new clients and work. Here how Jordan, developed a portfolio from online raw resources, and devised an initially broad but progressively more curated email strategy to gain clients from a remote market. Consider the importance of personalized email marketing for your photography and retouching business, to develop a client base. Learn about following through and the importance of personalization in your communication. Hear what photographer, Clay Cook, considers to be relevant information from retouchers seeking work
Closing Thoughts (1:13)
Congratulations! You have completed The Business of Retouching with Sef McCullough and Earth Oliver. By now, you should have a solid foundational understanding of what it takes to work within the retouching industry. From agency personas, to business workflow, to core communications skills, to pricing valuation - your gained knowledge and industry insight, we hope to see you thrive in your pursuits. We would love to hear your feedback. Please join our online community and reach out to instructors and community members with your successes and areas for growth. And don’t forget the support documents included with this training series. They are packed full of additional insights and questions that you can use to leverage your business of retouching.
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