Step 1: Dream it

DREAM IT is all about dreaming up ideas of what kind of session you want to focus on and WHEN. I suggest focusing on ONE type of mini session to begin with, otherwise it can become confusing to you & your clients if you offer a variety of sessions and dates.

Mini sessions should work WITH your current stream of sessions and your shooting style, not against it. How can you serve your existing clients right now with mini sessions, attract new clients, and make it work for your brand style?

Start thinking about which session you'd like to focus on the most right now.

Example: If you get a lot of mini session requests around Christmas time and Mother's Day, try to think of how you can incorporate that into your schedule without conflicting with your existing sessions and clients.

I highly recommend to ONLY offer these sessions once or twice a year - otherwise, you might not get as many regular bookings because people will just be sitting around waiting for you to offer a mini session. Even though you can be just as profitable with minis, if not more, working with a surplus of clients on a regular schedule can lead to burn out and neglect to your full paying clients.

Step 2: Plan it

Now that you have a specific mini session idea in mind, now you can start the planning process!

Planning your mini sessions should be strategic to ensure a high earning success rate. Going into these sessions with a solid plan with help you be more organized and more profitable.

I like to plan and start booking my mini session events MONTHS in advance - not only to promote them, but to give them enough time to fill all of my spots.

Here's what you should cover before you start booking ANY sessions:

  • Session Pricing
  • Dates & times
  • Plan with your client
Session pricing

NOTE: This part is very important if you want to be profitable and make your time worth it with minis. There's one thing to keep in mind when you go to price your minis: THESE ARE NOT DISCOUNTED SESSIONS.

If you can think of minis as a smaller, bite-sized session (instead of a discount that will only attract bargain hunters), then it will be much easier to price these in accordance to your normal prices.

First, start with your normal pricing structure, figure out how many clients you can serve in that allotted time frame, and then, condense.

Example: Let's say that you typically charge $400 for a 1 hour session that includes 15 digital images. You are running a mini session event and can allot 20 minutes per client which ends up being 3 sessions in 1 hour. Now, you just divide your normal pricing and package by 3 clients. So that turns out to be roughly $135 for 5 images. 

Also keep in mind that you will be spending more time communicating with even more clients before, during, and after the sessions, so your time spent on that should also be taken into great consideration.

I highly recommend keeping the image count in your mini session package very small - and very bite-sized. Mini sessions are a good way for new clients to test drive your services, so if you include too much or make them too similar to your normal prices, then if sorta defeats the purpose.

I personally have great success with only giving 3 & 5 image packages and these sell out like hotcakes!!!

Another reason to keep the image count in your packages small ( I don't recommend any more than 10 images) is that this gives you room for your clients to upgrade down the road. If they only get 5 images and you provide them with a gallery of 25 amazing photos, it's going to be very hard for them to narrow down their picks.

With the upgrade option, you have the potential of making more sales and turning a small, mini session into a regular priced session with less work and planning.

NOTE: Make sure your pricing structure is SOLID and work with your normal pricing structure. It's okay to offer your upgrade images on a sliding scale or at a slightly discounted rate from your normal pricing since they are minis and your clients have less control of the session, but don't discount too much!

Revenue goals

Another thing to keep in mind when planning your mini sessions is setting revenue goals. If you go through all this trouble to promote mini sessions and you have no idea how much money you want to make, then you aren't really making the most of the event.

I like to set my mini session pricing first, revenue goal second, and then go on to figuring out how many spots that I need to fill in order to make it happen.

It's not unheard of to make over $2,000-$3,000 for a single mini session event when it's planned properly.

Let's say that your goal is $3,000 and your packages are set at $150. You will need 20 spots filled to make that. If you can only fit 2 in an hour, then you'll need to work 10 hours. If you can make them quicker, then you will end up working less.

I personally don't like to plan more than 3 per hour - they are quick enough as is, and I like to ensure that I have enough time to get a solid gallery taken for each client to better my chances of selling upgrades after the session (and generally speaking, over half of my clients end up upgrading their galleries).

Under this price structure, I would need to set aside 7 hours of shooting to accommodate this goal - AKA a full 8 hour day with a lunch break.

Dates, times, & location

Now it's time to bust out your calendar and start looking at dates.

In full transparency, I block off my mini session dates at the beginning of my year so I know that those dates are off limits to normal sessions. Not only does it help me to avoid booking conflicts, it also gives me ample time to plan the sessions so I can book all of my spots!

Do you want to run these for multiple weekends or would you rather pound out an 8-hour day mini marathon?

There is no right or wrong answer here, but I will say, getting them all done in one fell swoop has many of it's own perks. Less time traveling, preparing, and giving your calendar more open spots for regular priced sessions.

Once you have your date picked out, you can choose a location and start setting aside how many time slots you want to offer and draft those out.

*make sure you give yourself a break if you end up planning a full day event. It's a lot of work running around photographing people all day long*

Opening up time slots: You can do this the old fashion way (on paper), or you can use an app or booking software to help streamline your workflow - whatever works best for you!

Software like Honeybook & Calendly are available if you are planning on booking high volume and need the extra organization (I have seen successful photographers use these systems, but don't ask me because I do the paper route!)

Tip on location: consider choosing a location that allows for flexibility in weather conditions (if you are planning them outdoors). If you are dead-set on an outdoor location, consider choosing a back-up date and making sure that your clients are on board and available for BOTH dates before booking any sessions. It can quickly become a logistical nightmare when your perfectly planned mini sessions become ruined by inclement weather and your client's availability becomes a tangled mess.

Don't forget...

Your time and talent is the most valuable asset in your business because NOBODY can replace it! So use a system that works best for you - your time and effort is worth it!

Step 3: Book it

Book it: This is a simple booking protocol that I HIGHLY advise you to follow. It keeps the entire process very organized and it WORKS.

Now that you have all of your ideas in mind and on the calendar, it's time to book the dang thing!

1. Plan the details

Make sure you write down the details of the session - the location, the style, the vibe, and even how you envision your clients. If you are looking for a particular location and you don't have any samples, then go out and get some taken!

Mini sessions will always be more profitable if your clients know EXACTLY what they are signing up for. And this is easiest to accomplish when we have a sample image(s) or even full gallery of photos to share and show.

If you don't have any photos of what you have in mind for these sessions, then go out and take some!

Refer to the profitable portfolio protocol to make some $$ while simultaneously creating images to use as samples.

2. Share the details

This is where you put your offer out into the world. I strongly recommend creating a landing page or blog post to direct any traffic or interest BEFORE anyone contacts you.

You should lay out all the details on this page BEFORE you make your offer and start booking sessions. This helps answer any questions that they have ahead of time and also helps keep communication to a minimum (and with minis, you will be busy working with more clients - so the more info you give upfront, the less you will be responding to questions and emailing clients back and forth)

Things you could include on your landing page:

- type of session/ mini session offer

- date and times available - be specific! (I like to keep all the times and dates on the landing page and cross them out as they are booked. This displays urgency on the client part and makes you book faster since they won't want to miss out!)

- what the session includes (and what it doesn't include)

- PRICE & packages available

- what to expect after the session (will you send them the photos or meet in person so they can choose their final image and purchase more?)

- HOW to book with you

- further pricing information (you don't have to share your full up-sell pricing, but make sure that they know a good starting point or the average of what a typical client spends)

- first come, first serve booking process. Take full payment upfront to weed out wish-washy clients and to fill your mini session event

- be firm and give ALL the details on what you'll need from them in order to get on your demanding schedule

Be as detailed as you can and make sure you don't glaze over the important things like what's included and further pricing. Your sessions will NOT be a positive experience if your clients end up feeling like they didn't know all the details and what exactly they signed up for.

I have found that when I place direct & clear booking information and what I expect of them, I get clients who follow my instructions without any tugging. You can refer to how I lay out my mini session offer here.

Helpful tip: If you have past clients who have booked your mini sessions, consider reaching out to them first BEFORE offering them to the public. They will be thrilled that you thought of them first, AND you will most likely start off the booking process with some filled up spots (making it even more enticing for others to book!).

3. Take payment

Without a doubt, my BEST mini session events happen when I take FULL payment upfront.

When you are working with so many clients, it can be such a time-suck to keep track of split payments and retainers, so I like to simplify the process by making the full payment mandatory - no exceptions.

I easily do this by sending them an invoice through Square so that they can pay with their credit card quickly. They have 24 hours to pay, otherwise, I will not hold their session time.

This might sound stern and a little bit mean, but this is business and you don't get on my calendar unless you pay up buttercup! (and I'll have you know that I noticed a huge shift in the type of clients I started to attract when I got serious about my business policies, especially regarding money).

Once the payment has been cleared, then you can officially add your client to your calendar and cross that spot off the list!

RINSE AND REPEAT.

4. Call or meet ahead of time

Now this solely depends on you and how you prefer to run your business, but I like to get my clients on the phone before a session. And more times than not, I even meet them in person.

This helps to break the ice and it also gives me a good idea on how I can interact with them at their session, how many people to expect, and all of the ages of who will be participating. Knowing this information ahead of time helps me plan ahead so I can be fully prepared (even for squirmy kids) and run these sessions in a timely manner.

For some people, it's super easy to talk to and everything just flows, but there are others that can make it tricky (and need I say awkward) to hold a conversation with. So by talking to them ahead of time, it's better prep for me and makes the session run even more smooth.

Plus, a 5 minute phone call is way easier and saves much more time than emailing back and forth for days.

Whatever you do, make sure that the both of you are on the same page. Go over the date, the time, location, wardrobe, etc. and get everything nailed down. This is also a good opportunity to run through your contract and model release forms to get signed.

Other than that, planning these sessions with your clients should be very similar to what you typically do with your normal sessions - just on a quicker, smaller scale.

Helpful tip: If you're pressed for time, consider creating a landing page with a recorded video of you introducing yourself and going over the session details. Once your client books with you, you can send them the link to the video to run through everything they need to know, along with any other information on the page (session guide, event day instructions, paperwork, etc.). This will save you time if you don't want to talk to everyone on the phone or answer a hundred emails.

Step 4: Do it

DO IT: Pretty self-explanatory, right?

Here's a mini session workflow that you can follow or use as inspiration in your business to help you work faster and more efficient:

1. Confirm the session - call or email the day before to confirm the session with your client and make sure everything is set to go. This is also a good time to discuss make-up plans is the weather is looking sketchy. Remind them of your session terms, timeline, and ask them if they have any last-minute questions.

2. Collect all of your client details and have them organized ahead of time. If they have any special posing requests ahead of time, make sure that you write those down so you don't forget. I like to take a checklist with my client's names, info (phone number to call or text) & session time so that I can easily check them off or contact them if they are running late or need help with directions.

3. Show up to the session event and have fun! Mini sessions go quick and the energy is always so high, so use that to your advantage to make a great impression and awesome shots!

4. Thank your clients - I like to write personal hand-written notes to my clients and drop them in the mail the day after a session. This keeps them excited and it really makes a huge impact in your brand image!

5. Edit photos & share sneak peeks within 1-2 days (I generally share 2-3 photos per day from the session event the week after. I also like to link back to my website if I have any spots remaining for the next wave - as many of my client's friends will be seeing these photos and want to book a session too). I don't take more than 15 minutes to edit a single mini session gallery - otherwise I'd be editing all week!

6. Schedule a time to meet with your clients to view the photos (if you are doing in-person sales) or send over the gallery.

7. Show the photos either via watermarked gallery or in-person. If sending off a gallery, set an expiration date so they make their selections quickly and also send over your upgrade options and pricing. I have found that clients will sit on unlimited timed galleries for as long as you allow it to go on.

8. Once their selections have been made, send off new invoices, update their download gallery, and send their final images. Make it clear to them as to when they can expect to get their photos.

9. Deliver and thank your clients again for a wonderful experience! (after a few days, check back and make sure they got their photos. This is also a good time to ask for a killer review)

If it helps, you can use this client workflow checklist to help you keep track of your clients and tasks. While there are many types of workflow software and apps available to do this, sometimes good, old-fashioned pen and paper works just as well.

That's it!

Now it's time to put what you've learned into action because nobody else can do the work for you!

Step 5: Up-selling & beyond

Post-session up-selling

You've planned, booked, and photographed the sessions, now it's time to capitalize on your event even further!

Yep, you can make even MORE money!!!

Remember, mini sessions should be just that - MINI, bite-sized sessions so you have the opportunity to up-sell either immediately or at least down the road.

Plain and simple: If you give away too much, your clients won't have as much reason to buy more from you. If they have 10 photos, that's generally enough to make a mini session worth it to them, so if they only get 3 or 5 (and there's 30 AWESOME photos to choose from), but they want more, then this is their chance to get more (and your chance to earn more).

Here's a fairly straightforward pricing breakdown that you can use as an example to base your prices off of (but always run your CODB and be fair to your current pricing structure as well!)

Normal package pricing:

1 hour session

gallery of images to choose from

15 final images

$450

Mini session option:

15 minute session

gallery of photos to choose from

3 final images

$150

Mini session upgrade options:

$75 - 1 file
$150 - 3 files
$250 - entire gallery

*with the upgrade options, the mini session prices still remain lower than a regular priced session, but still close enough that it remains true to your normal pricing.

When you send off your final galleries to your clients, now's a good time to share your upgrade options - as they WILL ask if they can purchase additional photos.

I use Pixieset to send off galleries and keep downloads locked along with putting a watermark on the photos. This keeps the photos safe and not as tempting to screenshot so they buy more!

Make sure you refer to your swipe files for a canned email response for sending off your galleries.

Beyond the minis

Now you have officially finished your successful mini session event - you should feel proud and accomplished!

What's even greater is that now you have a larger pool of clients to stay in touch with and market to between sessions. This is when you can deeper your relationship with them & provide immense value so you become the "no-brainer" photographer to hire down the road.

Here are a few ways that you keep a good relationship with your new mini session clients:

- add them to your newsletter (with permission)

- Invite them to join your private Facebook group or follow your pages

- Follow them on social media (like, comment, & interact with them on a regular basis)

- send them a card on their birthday

- send them holiday cards

- ask them for an honest review on Facebook or Google

- invite them to start your referral program so they can earn a free session or discount for the next mini session event

There so so many ways to keep in touch with our clients, so pick a few that are aligned with your personality and your business and don't let this opportunity go to waste! Once you have reeled them in for 1 mini session event, it will be easier to book them in the future - and when you go to market your next round of minis, make sure you reach out to them first before taking it to the public!

Sign up for a FREE account and
search thousands of checklists in our library.

Sign up for a FREE account and search thousands of checklists in our library.