You thought about it. There was just something about that client in that first interaction, that first email or phone call, that triggered your photographer spidey senses. They told you, “This one could be trouble! Swipe left on this one!”
But you swiped right. And now the problems have escalated.
Here’s five common situations and how to handle that terrible, horrible, no good, very bad client. The overarching theme can be summed up in the adage, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Avoid these situations from ever happening by putting in place effective management and habits for your business.
1. Trying to Negotiate your Policies or Change your Contract
The first way to prevent that client from trying to bend your rules is to have a contract that clearly states your procedures and is presented at the first inquiry and before any money changes hands. Have your client initial each policy and keep a copy of those rules she has agreed to. She will be much less likely to question policies if she has read and initialed her agreement to those policies. And if she does? Politely refer her to the agreement she signed. Is she trying to change your policies still? Don’t take her on. Seriously. Anyone who pushes for unreasonable accommodations even after a polite explanation is going to be more trouble as your business relationship continues. Save yourself the heartache. Time you waste with this troublesome client would be better spent cultivating good people to your business.
2. Horribly Behaved Children
Your tiny little client is a huge pain in the neck! What to do? Bribe with candy? Threaten a time-out? Can a photographer even DO that? Not likely. First, keep in mind, that one of the main reasons children behave badly is because they feel frustrated and powerless. Make your client a partner in the process of taking their picture. For example, show them the different background choices, and let him pick out which he likes best. (Make sure the choices you give him will all work with what he’s wearing.) If outdoors on a location shoot, make the child your helper in setting up. Your wee client will turn around his behavior guaranteed. And who knows, you may be training a future assistant!
3. Constant Calling or Texting at all Hours
Again, prevention is the cure. First make sure your business hours are clearly stated in the portrait agreement that your client signed. Then make sure YOU follow them as well. No texting or emailing late at night (more on that here). Obviously, if you’re sending off missives at all hours, you’re giving your client the okay to do the same. And with multiple clients asking for this and that around the clock, your work-life balance will go out the window. And believe us, you NEED work-life balance to sustain a business as much as you need backup drives or a good accountant. If you must email after hours, use an email template to further save time, but don’t send it until morning. Meaning a reasonable morning hour when the sun is shining.
4. Not Ordering
A client hating their images and refusing to order is a rare situation. But it does happen. And the problem has rarely to do with the photography. Here’s some possibilities:
Is the client familiar with your style of photography? And are you consistently showing that style on your website and blog? For example, if you loath the perfectly posed family shot with everyone looking at the camera, not a hair out of place and prefer capturing relationships between people, do not show those static, idealized shots. Talk with your client about their expectations for the shoot. Recommend clothing choices. And talk about your own goals for the session.
Did the client know your prices prior to the shoot? Along with having the client sign a portrait agreement, be sure and send along information or link to your studio look book showcasing the products you offer: albums, canvas galleries, framed prints. Be sure to include prices. Not only will this allow your client to start planning financially for her investment, but it will also get her to thinking about where she’d like to display your images.
Most clients are terrible, horrible, no good, very bad clients only because there has been either a miscommunication or a lack of communication on your part to relay expectations or policies. Do everything you can right now to set a foundation for success so you rarely, if ever, have to left swipe that.
On your clients, that is. Left swiping in the field of dating is beyond our expertise.
I fell in love with documenting the stories of couples, when I realized I never wanted anyone else to feel the way my husband and I do about our own wedding images. We describe them as "really nice pictures of other people.” There’s nothing about them that feels authentic.
That’s when my work became more than a pretty picture.