By Michelle Knowles
The calm before the storm of the holidays is the perfect time to update your portfolio, website and social media pages. The holidays seem to bring a whole new batch of clients and pets to groom. Many of our colleagues still do not have a portfolio of their work, barely have a working social media presence and some still don’t even have a website. New technologies now allow us to snap a picture or take a quick video at the push of a button. Building a working, professional portfolio is now easier than ever!
A portfolio is the snapshot of your skills. It is a visual resume that can make or break the faith that a new client may have in you. It should include before and after pictures of pets you have groomed, highlighting the dramatic difference between the dirty pet and the finished style. This is also a terrific way to keep track of products that worked for you and maybe also the ones that didn’t. A portfolio makes a connection between you and your work in the eyes of the client.
When a new person comes into your shop to inquire about scheduling, fees and your experience, there is no ice breaker like opening up a book and showing them what you are all about. Imagine having all of your certificates that you have received for seminars, webinars, special training or certification workshops all in one easy to reference place. It is also a good idea to have letters of recommendation from your clients, supervisors or veterinarians that you may have worked with. A portfolio can also create a discussion between the groomer and the client that will help identify the trim that the client desires.
I feel the most important reason to keep a portfolio is to have solid documentation of your skills and accomplishments so that a prospective employer or client can see evidence of your experience and the level of education within your field that you have achieved. It should be standard practice to get permission from the client to take pictures of their pet during the grooming process. This can be a line included on your grooming permission slip or a separate form that you devise. Get in the habit of snapping a picture when the pet is first put into the tub or put on the table.
Many times, I have lamented the fact that I have many more before pictures than after pictures. I get caught up in the finish and get busy with phone calls and releasing pets that I forget to snap the ever important after picture.
Here are some of the ways that have helped me to remember to take pictures and build a successful portfolio:
Make yourself a sign and put it in a place that is eye level where you must read it before continuing to another task. I put a sign on the shop vac, as this is a task I do after every pet is finished.
Hang a silly or stern picture of yourself for a funny reminder. Change this often, the brain can learn to tune this image out.
Remind your colleagues and ask them to remind you to get the after picture. If you work with others, develop a system of reminders so that all pets are documented and photographed before they leave.
Some people have even gone so far as to create elaborate backgrounds in their salons so that all pets get a “glam” shot before they go home. Make a special place or backdrop for your table to create a habit of completing your portfolio set of pictures. This can be as easy as hanging some bright or patterned fabric up on a curtain rod on the wall or as elaborate as making a picture taking station that everyone uses before the pets go home.
Take the time to photocopy your certificates and include them inside your book. These are certificates you sat through education classes for. Including these in your book gives you an opportunity to talk with your new client about the things that you learned and how this knowledge can be applied to their pet.
Gather your letters of recommendation. All the letters and cards you have received from clients can be added to your book and, using document protectors, can be changed out as you get new ones. Letters from co-workers, colleagues and veterinarians are also valuable documents that can boost your credibility.
Clients are always looking for value for the money they spend. These photos can also be sent to the client through text messages or shared directly on the client’s social media page. These pictures can be shared by the client many times and are a good way to spread the knowledge of your skills.
Update your resume and keep it filed in the back. Life changes happen, it is better to be prepared for change than to let it overcome you. An updated resume can save you time and hassle when seeking employment with a new salon.
Write a mission statement and a code of ethics to stand by. This is your opportunity to let your clients know what you stand for and can be a powerful statement detailing how you groom and the methods that you believe in. There are many ethical mission statements out there and if you belong to a certifying group then you have one readily available to use, if not, then find one you like and modify it to suit your style.
The great thing about technology is that now you can even have your portfolio in digital form! If you can upload a photo, there are many programs and apps that will assemble your images into a cohesive montage to be viewed by your clientele and to keep for your future viewing pleasure. Be sure to save your digital portfolio on an external hard drive just in case something happens so you will always have a copy of your work.
Make the time in your hectic schedule to document the things that you do, the benefits are immense. One of the greatest gifts to give yourself in the coming season is having a collection of portfolios so that you can see where you were and how far you’ve come in your journey of grooming discovery. ✂